I lay on the ice. Knowing that the ground below me is temporary creates an illusion of privilege. I am a sliver, laying on a slab of morphous, grateful for the moment of support. Grateful to be the sliver.
I gaze up at an expanse of cloud, stars, and sky. The moon is intruding on most everything, causing me to squint. A dart of vibration followed by a hum and boom, reminding me of my place as the sliver.
So many times I have experienced the natural world, the industrial world, the emotional world. They’re very different, but also so similar. I have had the privilege of experience, again and again. Experiencing moments and places and people that are not easy to access. Last summer, I called my car home and transitioned from one experience to the next. I went to countless national parks, from scraggly rocks and fog dominated Acadia, to the sticky and vibrant bogs of the Everglades, to the pure blue glacial lakes of Banff, and onward to the eerily quiet giants of the redwoods. Every day was a new places, filled with new awe inspiring views. The Badlands overtook me in a thunderstorm and gave me a show of a lifetime. The Arches consumed me in heat and made my whole being sway.
The summer ended and I uprooted my partner and I to an urban city. I now take one bus, two trains, and some good old fashioned walking to meet with one human at a time in clinical practice. I stare at faces on the bus and inventory shoes and backpacks on the train. I can spend an hour or more making my way to meet with this other human. I also pass hundreds, if not thousands of apartment complexes and schools, and churches, and clinics. Each little window representing one box of life, one family or person or couple, experiencing a story of their own. I meet with my human, and listen to a minuscule part of their life, themselves allowing me to be a tiny part of their story.
This past year I would initially say I have experienced a lot, but when I truly consider my experience, I quickly and maybe gratefully conclude that I have actually witnessed a sliver.
This past summer I spent every single day going somewhere new. I distinctively remember expressing a feeling of burnout to my husband, shortly after our halfway mark. I cited that I was tired of looking at all the “sites”. I was becoming numb to so many landmarks and natural beauty. When I think about it now, I realize that I was not actually tired of seeing the monstrous mountains and vast prairies, and never ending rivers.
I was tired of feeling small.
Each day we had to decide what adventure to take in , and which one to leave for later, and realistically, maybe even leave forever. My spatial perception was coming to terms with the truth that I was a sliver and my experiences were just as limited. I was trying to make each park and campground and restaurant a life changing experience. And it was exhausting. My smallness was sinking in.
I couldn’t conquer anything at all.
Now, it’s even more obvious that I am a tiny speck. As I consider all of the stories occurring in real time, all around me, my senses dull. Maybe it could be described as tunnel mode, or maybe the opposite, whatever that would be…
As I step off my train and meet with my human, I listen to their story. I am interested. I am engaged, and I am responsive. But day after day of riding that bus and then those trains, and being able to truly interact with so few of those humans, I retreat to my sliver status.
I truth is I loved traveling. I loved seeing so much diverse nature. I loved eating the popular foods of certain regions. I loved climbing on top of our car at midnight and staring into an abyss, not really knowing where I was or what was in store for me the next day. Currently, I love packing my backpack and trekking towards the bus stop. I love imagining what those around me are thinking. I experience joy in hearing new mundane tendencies of a few humans, who I hope find support in me one day. I love walking down a new streets or realizing that I have been oblivious to an amazing brunch spot that I haven’t cared to even look at. I find joy in most of it, and the other parts are fine too, just a part of the experience.
Maybe I like these parts because they make me feel a little bit bigger.
But here I am. Lying on a frozen pond in the middle of Maine, reduced to a tiny sliver. My best friends are around me, whispering in the darkness and slipping around in the moonlight. My back, flat against the frozen ground, and a crack and boom reverberate through the ground a short distance away. I feel lighter than normal, maybe it’s because of the margaritas for dinner, but probably not. The big part of me tells me to hold on, to remember this moment and this view and the cold because it is truly a beautiful experience.
I look up and find it less beautiful because now I’m trying to stay. I’m trying to be big.
In this discomfort, I am able to finally understand what happened in the moments this past summer when I didn’t care to keep going. The world was making me feel small, because I am small. Even my current life as a student and therapist may be powered by my desire to be big. To know more and to know what’s going on in another’s life. To feel from afar. It’s worked to a point, but when I board that train and look down the long line of laughter, and gazes, and grimaces, I’m reminded of my smallness.
I am content being small. I will continue to trek around, gaining new perspective and experience, but just maybe I can experience more of the world as a tiny grain of sand. This makes sense to me because when I really think about it, the most memorable moments in my life have not been times of “bigness” but times where I have only listened and watched, merely existing.