Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Space Gives Perspective

Last week, things came crumbling in around me. No matter how hard I tried, the walls kept rushing towards me, trapping and holding me. My mind screamed at me, yelling, tormenting me... telling me to get away, far, far away from these walls. So I decided to run.
It seemed like the right thing to do.
I was down, dejected, and tired of complaining about the same things.
I also had a good excuse.

My family has been experiencing some personal problems that I have no right to share here. But, I had been promising to come up for a visit. So, it seemed like a good solution. Two birds, one stone sort of thing.

Here's where I teach my readers a lesson. Some may be familiar with this concept, others may not be. You are all familiar with the saying the grass is always greener on the other side. It's true. I knew this before I even left. There is a term I use with everyone who has similar issues: geographical baggage.

Geographical baggage refers to the baggage that travels with you no matter where you go. If you "just want to get out of this town" or "need to get away" in order to "solve" your problems, you are foolishly ignorant.

Distance will not solve any of your problems because the problems you have will travel along with you no matter where on earth you go.
I knew this before I left, but a change of scenery can help you hone into what issues follow you. That's what I wanted to know and see. I wanted to see what these walls (that were closing in on me) were made of. My lack of control of my situation, lack of enough income, and/or lack of happiness in my relationship. These were all potential issues.

It didn't take me 6 hours to realize that there wasn't another person in the world that I wanted there with me, my guy. So relationship was not it.

It took me less than 12 hours to realize that I had plenty of control in my life. This became apparent when my dad took my control away by toting me around in his truck running errands for six hours following my 11 hour train ride. I have plenty of control on my life, I only needed to be reminded of what it felt like to be out of control.

It took less than 24 hours to realize that I didn't need more money, I had everything I really  NEEDED. I also saw people who had plenty of money and were miserable. Money is only a problem if I let myself get caught up in it.  

The truth is, I kinda walked into a hornet's nest without much warning. If this was my dirty laundry to air, I would certainly share, but it's not. Spending time with the individuals in my family was great. I love... LOVE... my siblings, my dad and stepmom. Together, however, it's a bit of a constant power struggle and battle of wits.

And this tension forced me to analyze my own situation even more. If all the potential causes of my trapped feelings were not, in fact, the causes... then what was?

When the tension got to be a bit too much, I retreated into my Nook to read. I'd been reading a book by Andy Christofferson called Peace Corpse. I chose that book to read out of my many others because I knew it'd make me laugh.

He's honest, which is something I needed. The book is pretty much his take on life in the Peace Corps. But, it's filled with what really goes on there. As well as all his musings on life. Some of the things that he shares makes me feel really guilty, ya know, that guilty pleasure you get from sneaking into someone's personal thoughts. Kinda like reading a diary. But better. Much better.

Anyway, I read this book when the tension was getting too much, and I found myself asking all kinds of questions about my life that I don't think I would have had time to ask otherwise. The more I think about it, I felt like he had taken the much longer road I had wanted to. I wanted to get away and gain some ground on my own life. He'd taken two years in the Peace Corps in Africa. I only had a week in DC with my family. All I had to do was read along, and I felt I got all the experience I needed without having to live through them.

Which is a good thing. And I think Christofferson really summed up the idea for me. I didn't have to leave home to get my answers. I just needed perspective. And I did something that he couldn't. I came home early.

I felt a lack of control not because I actually lack the control. It's because I was not utilizing the control I had. I think a lot of people have this problem. The solution is to become more organized and focused. I need to TAKE control of the things I want to have control over.

Relationship problems are wherever you go with whomever you're with. But, when it came to it, there was no one else I wanted beside me on my journey. There was no one else I could think about sharing it with. Boredom and monotony are commonplace when you've been with someone as long as we've been together. And "spicing it up" is ridiculously cliche and really is, most times, forced and equally boring. But, sharing the daily moments is something I had forgotten. I thought about sharing the moments of traveling with him, and I'd forgotten about sharing the daily journey of our lives. And when I say journey, I do not mean the mundane tasks of our days. I mean the real journey.

And lastly, money. In our society, we have a "I want it now" mentality. Okay, I'll give in to that a little. But, as much as I realized there were some things I really wanted, I also realized there were less tangible things that had become more important. Instead of focusing on the material things, I began focusing on what I wanted them for. I want a new phone because I want to be more in touch with people (yes, that means you, the readers!). I want a new(er) car so that I can see more of my countryside and visit family more.

If I focus on those things, I am more determined to do what it takes to get them, while still being at peace with myself for not having them.

All in all, I feel enlightened. Those walls are still there, and I find myself eying them even now. But, I have a plan. I'm going to write down my goals, and I'm going to figure out how to make the changes I want in my life. And all those changes, I intend to share with you.


  1. Wonderful post Ashley. It's full of insight and very well written. I learned a thing or two I can use for myself. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thank you for sharing this with us. I'm really glad you got the perspective you needed. Sometimes we can be far too close to something to actually realize the truth of the situation.

    It sounds like the trip was good for you - so maybe for a little while, running was the right thing to do.

  3. Perspective is sometimes all you need. You can't outrun your problems, and the grass isn't any greener on the other side, but sometimes a change IS as good as a holiday. Getting out of the same old same old can give, yes, perspective.

    As for relationships... they are hard when they are long ones. You do fall into same old same old every day. 'Spicing it up' is rarely as important as the warm hug at the end of the day that makes everything better. Sometimes all we need to remind us of this is a few days without it.

  4. Very well put, Ashley. I've lived on 5 different continents now and while it has helped me get some perspective, the sad fact is I do drag all my problems with me when I move.

    Seems like you figured out a lot in just one short trip, and if my book played any part in that I'm pretty damn happy. :-)

  5. Hey we had a good start and saw this post and read it, which I usually don't. It reveals the suffering I am all too familiar with. One day I just said I don't know anything and headed out the door. I went for a walk down to the cafe and guess what there was nobody there. I took a seat at my favourite table and stared out the window--no writing in my journal, nor playing around with my phone. Staring and staring. I fell into a dreamlike state and felt this bliss. My first reaction was to write about it, but something held me back. Then came the stillness inside and in my head. That is when I felt what it is like to be present in the moment with myself--and i realized there is a difference between being alone and loneliness; boredom and being stuck. I then received an idea: I have no control over anything.

    This revelation which I came to on my own worked for me for over two hours. When I left to hike back up to the house I was hoping this feeling would stay with me. I creatively searched for a way to get into this mode and out came the idea of habit--I had formed the habit of living woe is me; and all that encompasses. If i could change that habit then I could find that feeling I mentioned earlier. I found it by using the force of my will to be exactly where and when and how I wanted whereever and whenever i could. The trick I used was to stare upward. Not too far, but at the point where I line of vision was just a little higher. I tried it as I walked, turning my head to the right and to the left. I let the thoughts that usually come be with me, but my mind was on the colour of a leaf on a tree in the sunlight. And such. After two weeks I could even do this online on Twitter--I would only look at what was on the screen in front of me and find one thing that caught my attention. If I didn't find anything I did an immediate twitter search for the first word that came to mind. Then I paid attention to that one person. I visited their website. I saw what they did and learned more about them.

    The one thing that came from changing my habit of woe is me and still keeping it simple was using the word AWE. I was in awe reading your post because I could relate to it. Here I am sharing with you and in that place where I feel fine. The words flow onto the page and I'm not thinking about editing it or what you might think of it. Its for me--as i said we can't control anything other than our reactions.

    This was my reaction to your post and I certainly had a fine journey indeed. I'm not even sure if what I wrote is associated with YOUR post, but it was YOUR post that got me to focus and to let myself go on truthfully and having fun.

    I can't tell you what to do. All I can do is share what happened to me.

    cheers Ashley