Still Thinking About Some Things...
The jury is still out for me on fate and coincidence. There was a time in my life when I believed that every event in life prepared us for something else, that we moved along according to a great “master plan”, etc…I don’t quite believe that anymore, but I don’t believe that life is just a series of random events, either. I feel like I’ve seen a bit too much to believe that. And there were a number of events during the summer I spent in BC that just prepared me a little too well for the years after. I wrote about some of them in a book of essays that I published about five years ago. It will soon be available through this blog for those that are interested, so keep your eyes open.
But back to British Columbia, and the summer of 1998.
Camping By the River
One night, my friend Andrea and I (who I’d known in high school) hiked a mile into the woods with her friends for a night of camping. We set up the tents and sat by the river, talking and laughing. Someone had brought a pie, which we eagerly ate.
And then Doug got very quiet, and motioned for us to be quiet. He explained that he could hear something just off in the bushes. Andrea whispered to me that Doug had practically grown up in the woods, and had been tracking animals his whole life.
Even after we’d started talking again, Doug’s attention was elsewhere. He eventually said that he was puzzled, because we wouldn’t even hear a cougar and a bear would have “fucked off by now”, which led to a discussion of which animals were on Vancouver Island and whether a person could fight off an Island bear or cougar (both being smaller than their mainland kin).
Not long later, thoroughly freaked out, I helped Andrea rinse the pie plates in the river. We only had backpacks. I had granola bars in my pack, assuming that the cars were going to be closer and that we’d be storing food in them. I’d been brought up on the idea that you always secure food and dirty dishes in a car when camping in bear country, and the packs were just going in the tents. No one else seemed concerned, but I was terrified that we’d heard a bear earlier and that food smells were going to bring him back through tonight.
Realizations in the Dark
So, as the others slept, I weighed my options. I really was terrified. I considered walking out to the car, but I knew I’d never make it up the trail in the dark without getting lost. I wasn’t insisting on rigging up a food pack from a tree branch when no one else seemed concerned. There wasn’t anything I could do.
And it suddenly hit me: There wasn’t anything I could do. If a bear was going to waltz through the campsite, he was going to do it, and no amount of worrying on my part was going to change it. Morning was going to take the same amount of time to come, whether I laid here all night freaking out over what could happen or whether I went to sleep.
I got to choose what my experience was going to be.
So I might as well choose the more pleasant alternative, and go to sleep.
And, after doing some deep breathing, I did.
I Always Have a Choice
One of my best friends says that if she got a tattoo, she’d get words “Are you sure?”, in a place that she can always see it, to remind her before she acts that everything isn’t always as it seems. I think that if I got tattoo, I’d get, “You always have a choice”, to remind me that I can choose my own experience – not always the events, no, but how I’m going to react to them. It’s a theme that came up continually that summer, and that continues to come up in my life. It was one of the things that got me through the hard times in recovery, and that still gets me through hard times. Some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met seem to agree that there’s something to it, so I figure I must be on the right track!
And even if I’m not – I figure that if believing in it has gotten me this far, it can’t be that bad a thing.