A few years ago, while over for dinner at my parents house in Silver Spring, Maryland, my Mom said to me, “You seem so calm. You’re not on drugs or anything, are you?” No Mom. Not on drugs. But I did wonder what she was seeing. And I did feel different. But whatever it was hadn’t totally played itself out yet.
That was the year I moved to Crestone.
And now looking back, I understand that this was the beginning of my move away from anxiety and worry and into a different kind of life. And the great irony of it all is that my new calm life is full of uncertainty and unpredictability. I have no job, I have no pension, I have no benefits, and I have no idea where my money’s going to come from next year.
It has taken me a while to find any logic in it. Why would I leave one of the best teaching gigs in the country? Working for some of the best bosses in the history of education? With some of the best co-workers in the history of Social Studies? Working at Blake High School in Montgomery County, Maryland should have been my happily ever after. Even just last year, I missed so much of it deeply. I still do in some ways. I was on the path. The American dream. The career, the stability, the clarity of purpose, and the security of knowing I’d be taken care of on a certain level for the rest of my life. All I had to do was stay the course.
But I couldn’t do that could I. Nooo…. I had to mess it all up.
I took a much more difficult, worse paying job, with way less certainty in the middle of nowhere. And I didn’t even keep that job. I dropped it in exchange for…. nothing.
Now that I had successfully eliminated all sources of stability from my life, I started investing in real estate in this middle of nowhere town. All that wonderful money I had stashed away in the most responsible way possible- through the Maryland State Pension Fund -I blew it all on piles of dirt in the desert. A few of my piles of dirt had some shoddily constructed houses on them, but mostly I own a lot of dirt and prickly pears, and a good supply of firewood if we ever want to clear that land of dead trees.
Even just a few months ago, I was wondering if I had completely lost all sense.
And then I had the revelation- it was the constant hunt for stability and predictability that was making me crazy, because it isn’t real, or you never get there. It turned out that the key to a calm stress-free life was embracing chaos and freedom. Because if I could learn to accept the fact that things are always changing and I will never be certain of anything, well. What else is there to worry about?
Living so close to nature (with coyotes howling outside my door and bears breaking into people’s kitchens and raiding their fridges) has taught me that. We humans try so hard to build for ourselves a life that eliminates the chaos of nature, but it’s all an illusion. And the fear of losing that illusion, of being thrown back into nature and chaos, is anxiety-inducing. So don’t buy into it. Buy a bunch of dirt and cactus instead!