Naked and Afraid

I watched a couple episodes of Naked and Afraid on Discovery channel today. It was a lot more interesting and less silly than I expected. It really makes me think about survival differently. I don’t think I would be too successful at a challenge like that. But I also have no desire to do such a thing.

I and others sometimes joke about how much simpler life might be if we didn’t have the complexities of modern society. What would it be like to live a life of only worrying about basic survival? Of providing yourself with your own food, clothing, shelter, and nothing more? Basically, what would life be like if humans lived like every other animal on this planet? It’s easy to fantasize about a life where no one needs to worry about money or jobs or car insurance.

Even in being overwhelmed with how I will balance things in my own life, I know my location on this Earth alone gives me a great amount of privilege. Through no work of my own, I live in the United States, at a time where I don’t have to worry about being treated like property as a woman, or being enslaved or dealing with segregation. I live in this country at the best possible time in history to be queer. My ancestors and people before me have overcome many obstacles so that I can live a better life than they did.

I also acknowledge that without living in a first world country, and without having access to modern medicine the way I do, I wouldn’t be here. Literally. I was born three months premature. I have asthma. If I were born into a hunter/gatherer type of society, or if I were born in poorer circumstances, I would not have made it this far. And that’s always a sobering thing to acknowledge.

Our modern world is complex. Everything we have now is a product of history. The human race has watched its technologies and ideas grow, evolve, and become more healing as well as more destructive. Our species has accomplished a lot, both terrible and great.

But all of this brings me back to the question of simplicity. Thanks to the way our economy functions, I can have a fairly easy time acquiring food, clothing, housing, and medicine. Provided, at least, that I can afford it and am able to work. I don’t have to grow my own food or make my own clothes. I can spend my time, not only acquiring basic necessities, but also enjoying things like movies, books, dinners, and vacations.

Even in our busy lives, we have so much time that doesn’t have to be spent searching for water or hunting or farming. But I think all of this time that isn’t spent focusing on the basics gets used focusing on things that we perhaps don’t even need. I am perpetually worried about living a life that genuinely satisfies me. Basic survival, having enough food and water and a place to sleep isn’t enough. I want to feel like I’m living a life of purpose.

On Naked and Afraid, the contestants often find themselves feeling a supreme sense of joy and satisfaction when they’re able to take a few sips of water, or when they take that first bite of food after days of hunger.  They celebrate achieving basic survival. I’m fortunate enough to have everything I need in my life. But there are still other things I want, and those things lead to feelings of failure or inadequacy.

But having food, clothing, shelter, a place to sleep…maybe we don’t need to live in the wild to focus on the simple things. Maybe we just need to acknowledge that the simple things are in themselves measure of success.

Being a human can be hard work. And I’ve joked more than once that I wish I could be an elephant or another kind of animal. But other animals spend a great deal of time protecting themselves from the elements and predators, so even though they don’t have to pay taxes, their lives can still contain great struggle. Humans no longer live in the wild, but we’ve adopted new kinds of struggles all the same.

Thanks to the internet, I can talk to people all over the world. We have sent a man to the moon. Human ambition is transformative, and it is also exhausting. I want to be able to feel satisfied, the way a person is with a few drops of water after being thirsty for a few days. It’s so hard to feel happy with the basics, at least when you’re used to having them. It’s so hard to not want the moon.

This show reminds me that it’s okay if you don’t achieve everything. You can let go of society’s pressures. You can just be.

But of course, like surviving in the wild, everything is always easier said than done. Still, these journeys make me look at things a bit differently, which leads me to think this crazy show has done its job right.

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5 tips for hard days

sunrise

Sometimes I have days where I feel really anxious about the future, directionless, and just really out of it. Stressing and overthinking about the future can feel necessary at times, especially if I’m trying to figure something out or make a decision. But it’s important to take care of yourself in the present. If you’re worrying and upset about the future or the goals you haven’t accomplished, you’re not allowing yourself to enjoy your life in the moment. Here are five tips for getting through hard days or moments like this:

1 – Get out of your head. This is the biggest issue for me. I get so caught up in my thoughts and the things upsetting me, and from there I just spiral downhill. Remembering to breathe and focus on the present moment helps me to distance myself from my problems. The grounding method of focusing on the things you can feel, see, hear, smell, and taste is also helpful here. This has also helped me out of mild panic attacks.

2 – Spend time in nature. Spending time in nature is so good for you. When I spend some time outdoors, especially in a beautiful place near water, trees, or flowers, it reminds me that life is about more than achieving everything and traditional concepts of “success.” Sometimes life is just about enjoying beautiful sunrises and seeing little baby birds fly about the trees. Waking up early enough to see the sunrise can also be a major mood booster.

3 – Play music you like and dance. Music can really help you to focus on the present. It can help you to de-stress, feel good, and feel less alone. Dancing is also a fun, no-pressure way to get some exercise. I find electronic dance music tends to make me feel happier, even if it’s just a few moments of focusing on the music and nothing else.

4 – Watch a tv show or read. Diving into a fictional world (or even nonfiction) can be a nice break from your worries in your own world. It’s a good way to remember that you don’t have to be productive all day, every day. I find watching a movie or binge-watching a show to be a good stress-reliever at times.

5 – Drink water and have a snack. Simple things like drinking water or eating a snack can give you a chance to relax and focus on what matters most — taking care of yourself and your body. Taking time to eat something I like without distractions is a good way to be present and practice mindfulness.

When I’m having a bad day, the thing that helps most is to focus on the present. It helps me to go back to the basics, often getting through it by doing the simplest things. Having bad days happens sometimes, and sometimes all you can do is let yourself feel the things you feel.

Naturally, if your struggles are persistent or interfering with your day to day life, be sure to talk to someone and seek help from a doctor or therapist.

We all struggle at times with the stresses of life. Keep some simple rituals in your toolbox so you can find balance again.

Jack-O-Lantern

[This poem is taken from my book of nature poems.] 

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A jack-o-lantern rests

On wooden steps

Guarding the house

With its bright, carved smile

And triangle eyes.

A little flame flickers

Behind its rounded nose

Letting everyone know

That autumn has arrived.

When the sun sets

And the stars come alive

The jack-o-lantern’s light

Is three times as bright.

It illuminates

A familiar path

So that a family

Can always find its way

Back home.

Butterflies in the Garden

[This poem is taken from my book of nature poems.] 

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There’s butterflies in the garden

And plastic, pink flamingos

Standing tall above rows of tulips

As robins sing in the tree branches above

 

Bumble bees visit the daisies

Drinking nectar in the summer sun

And blades of grass

Tickle our bare feet

 

Cool water falls from the sprinklers

We drink lemonade and blow bubbles

Sometimes a day can be simple

And memorable all at once.

Cave

[This poem is taken from my book of nature poems.] 

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There’s a cave

Looking out at the ocean

It’s cool and dark

But sunlight pours into its mouth

Like honey.

Waves crash against the rocks

And the air smells like salt

As spiders spin webs

Between rows of stalactites.

There are secrets here

Drawings on walls

Of lovers’ hands

And an abandoned compass

With a broken needle.

And yet the cave feels

Completely unexplored

Like the ocean keeps all the memories

Hidden in its depths

Always making space

For a new heartbeat to come along

Disrupting the silence

Just by listening.

Sun Shower

[This poem is taken from my book of nature poems.] 

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Rain falls

And the cool drops

Pitter-patter on the sidewalk

 

Birds find shelter

In tall trees

As a gentle wind rustles the leaves

 

The sun shower kisses your hands

And your face

And everything smells like spring

 

Flowers drink up the water

And your worries are washed away

Today is a new day, a fresh start.

 

Dreams

Dreams aren’t always about winning the lottery, getting the promotion, or wearing a ring. Sometimes they’re about moments. Some they’re about seeing the ocean, going rock climbing, or trying a famous ice-cream shop. Sometimes they’re about watching old movies with a friend or dancing the night away. Sometimes they’re about playing with puppies or eating three different flavors of cake. Dreams can simple. Dreams can be fun. Dreams can be giving yourself a reason to smile.