camping · community · confidence · courage · doubt · grace · insecurity · laughter · love · self-esteem · self-love · serenity

Confidence: How To.

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Think of something you know you know how to do. Something
you enjoy knowing how to do. Maybe it’s making the lightest quiche, or playing
the drums, or changing a bicycle inner tube. Maybe you know that you know how
to plant seeds that germinate, or fix this computer bug, or mix the perfect vermillion. Maybe it’s as simple
as knowing you know how to hug a child, or tell a good joke. Find something that makes
you feel competent and confident.
Experience that feeling. The surge of blood through you, a
sense of guidance, purpose, direction. A sense of being the right person for
the job, in the right place at the right time. A feeling of ease and tension
release, of certainty and even exuberance. I know how to do this – I love
doing this.
For me, about 2 years ago, I realized it was (car) camping.
I know how to do that. I knew when we
needed wood, when we should start the fire, how to put it out. I knew how to
set up my tent, how to walk in the woods, how to avoid poison oak. I knew how
to brush my teeth at the tap, and use my headlamp to find my missing sock. I
knew how to have fun, how to do what needed to be done, how to help others
because I knew how to do these things.
What if… we allowed for the possibility that we could have
that feeling in more places in our lives. If we could recognize the mastery we have in some areas, and allow that
sense of confidence and competence support our less certain attempts. Maybe, it’s just knowing that I know how to
put on liquid eyeliner with deft precision. Can I allow that to fill up my tank
a little? – Come to think of it, can I recognize that I know how to fill my gas
tank! (If you grew up in NJ, you might not!) 😉
But the point, today, is that although there are many areas
in which I am not an expert, and that will always be so, and there will always
be something to learn in the places I want to become more adept… there are also
a host of places that I haven’t recognized I’m doing pretty well.
I think this is what they call, “building self-esteem.” What
a concept.
But, it’s true. People in general, and people like me, tend
to dismiss what we think is easy for us. For me, I have tended to dismiss my
writing when its complimented, since it can be so easy for me. What’s the value
of something that is wickedly simple for me?
Somehow the idea that valuable things are hard things came
into our zeitgeist. This is not to say that you or I needn’t work for what we
want, but it’s about recognizing what we have, and sometimes what we’ve been
given, that we take for granted.
I take for granted that I know how to put on crisp eyeliner.
I learned it, I do it, it’s a part of me. So, I forget it’s not something everyone else knows. I take for
granted that I can write this every day, for better or worse! I take for
granted that I can talk to the children at work and make us both smile. – Well,
that one I don’t. I don’t take the smiling for granted, just the knowing that I
know how to do it.
If I were to go through a given day or week, and take note
of the things that I seem to “instinctively” and “intuitively” know how to do,
how many things would pile onto that list?
Sure, there are blank spots, there are gaps, there are wide
berths of where I want to know and learn and be more. But they’re gaps. They’re
not the whole.
If I tried to recognize that I could feel the same
self-esteem while cooking eggs in the morning as I do when making a teepee out
of wood in a fire-pit; if I could remember to feel adept and facile when I
parallel park my car; if I could allow a sense of ease and confidence for the
simple act of knowing to pause in today’s heavy sunshine,
I imagine that delightful, intrepid poise can offer a
foundation for my less assured endeavors.  

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authenticity · camping · community · confidence · hobby · honesty · laughter · music · responsibility · self-support

Chop Wood, Carry Water.

Two weeks ago, I wrote this in the Grownupness blog:
“I grasp at things I think I want, but I’m not willing to
firm the foundation to get there – to mix the mortar, lay the bricks. Chop
wood, carry sticks. That’s where I need to be at. Very simply, I need to lay
hold of qualities and actions that I have tried to avoid.”
And so, this weekend, I carried sticks.
The simplicity of camping, even in the complexity of “car
camping” the bastardized cousin of “real” camping, was so easy. It’s so easy
for me. What needs to be done next? Well, we’re heading out down the river for
the afternoon while others go river rafting (a luxury expense I couldn’t
afford), so what did I need to bring? Sunscreen, towel, book I didn’t crack,
hat, water. That’s it.
It’s turning darker, what do we need to do? Get more
firewood, build a fire, refill the water, not at the mercury-laden river’s
edge.
There are things that I know how to do, and this weekend, I
got to see that very clearly. I know how to build a fire, I know you need something
like paper or brush to catch under the kindling to catch under the wood blocks
that were neatly chopped for us in a bundle wrapped with plastic. I know that I
need to slather sunscreen on myself and wear a hat because I’m paranoid of skin
cancer since my encounter with the Australian sun – the sun won.
I know how to make coffee, and put up a tent and roll my
sleeping bag and to remember to bring earplugs and tarot cards 😉
I know how to camp. At least, I know how to car camp.
When I unfurled my sleeping bag, in it was a long-sleeved
shirt I hadn’t seen in two years, since I was in that tent, with someone else.
I played Ghosts of Camping Trips Past this weekend.
Remembering acutely who I’d been with and when. Each and every one of the even
mildly significant and more significant relationships I’ve been in over the last six
years, I’ve been camping with that person. I haven’t slept in that tent alone
in a long time.
This particular camp grounds, I’d been to maybe 3 or 4 years
ago, when I’d been newly dating someone. It’s a beautiful spot on the American
River, up past Sacramento, and almost to Tahoe. It’s amenitied out the
yin-yang, but that’s alright. I remember the photo of me and that person in
that very landscape, I remember the release I feel when I’m out there. Not with
the person, but out there, knowing and feeling confident that I know even that
little bit.
I haven’t roughed it. I haven’t hiked out into the woods and
set up camp since I was 19 and leading a camp group overnight with our packs
into the Appalachian Mountains. And even then, it wasn’t roughing it – That’s
alright. I know it’s something I still want to do.
I wondered why it was, as I went through my previous
camping trips over the last few years, that each had included a man I’ve been
involved with. Was this my test for them? For “us”? Was I only able to be there
with someone else?
No. The reason, I realized, is because I love camping. And I
happen to go and be invited, and then I happen to invite the guy I’m with.
That’s all. Turns out, camping is a hobby, I suppose. It’s likely the only same thing that has occurred with each relationship I’ve had over the last few
years. The only “adventure” or “event” or excursion that has happened in each involvement. It just points out to me
that this is an important thing for me. Something I love.
A way that I don’t feel I need to be any different than I
actually am.
I feel confident out there (yes, even with the general store
and port-o-potties nearby). But I feel like myself. I usually look like a
wreck, and I don’t care. My hair matted and loved by the sweat and dust and
river mist. Caked in various layers of SPF lotions and supportive sneakers. I don’t
look like Xena, I look like me. Like the me I am in private, with no one to
impress or stun or mesmerize. Like the me I am when it’s just me. Whole, and
unabashed, and unprotected. And capable. I usually feel like a leader, or at least like a competent
person when I’m out there. Something those of you who read this blog with
any consistency can attest is not my normal M.O. out in the “real world.”
I needed that. I needed to feel worthy and valuable simply
for who I was/am. Not for how I looked. Or for how much money I had. Or for what kind of job I worked. Or what cell phone I carried. Or degree I had. I could be valuable for my
contributions to the group, be it building a fire, or fetching the water, or
going off to sit and do my Morning Pages out on a rock in the middle of the
rushing river so that I could be more present and emptied of my junk when I
returned to the group. I could be valuable by bringing Madlibs to do by the
fire at night – which led to so much hilarity, and stupid good fun. I could
be valuable by making coffee the first morning when everyone was still asleep
or grumpy. I could be valuable by breaking out the guitar one of us brought for
a little while, and later, sing along harmonies with her, and remember that I
have a voice.
I felt purposeful. I didn’t question who I was or where I
was going or what I was doing with my life. I didn’t have any profound
judgments or insights. I simply “chopped wood, carried water” (no chopping this
trip, but you know what I mean). If I can take that simplicity, and that
confidence, and that sense of pleasure from being precisely who I was/am into
the world, I think I’ll be alright.
If I can dress nicely and put on makeup, and remember
that it’s just a lens through which to see the whole that I am.
If I can breathe in the fire smoke scent of my balled-up clothing and
recall what it feels like when I’m just me, then I think I’ll be alright.