There are lessons in the stillness, whispering in the wind like the last few stubborn leaves that forgot to fall. It is a faint rattle, you can only hear it when the wind is strong enough to move them but gentle enough to not make much other noise. The stillness is different than what we think it is, nuanced and in high relief with the other quiet places. I have closed my eyes and let the howling wind pierce through my skin on the coast of the Arctic Ocean, and it screamed its own lessons from the inhospitable void.
But this lesson is something different. It is climbing into the same bed for more than a few days in a row, one I paid for long ago and have only rested in for about a fifth of the time I’ve owned it. It is the deafening silence of a Sunday night, after filling the weekend joyously and nervously with things to do and giddy gratitude and convincing complaints.
This stillness is something different, too. It is not the unreal quietude of some massive abandoned lake in the Yukon Territory, nor is it the enveloping nothingness of sunset a dozen miles away from the trailhead. It is the dirty laundry and unvacuumed floors and lengthy list of orders to fulfill, the work staggering, the financials still not exactly favorable. It is leaving one place and coming to another, for some convoluted list of unrealistically optimistic reasons. It is bludgeoning my soul into submission, because its true song is inconvenient and incongruent.
We are told we can only expect so much. We are preached at about gratitude and humility, shown the uniform of respectable society, live in the dizzying cacophony of platitudes like dress for the job you want and if you work hard, you will succeed. Work hard at what? What does a well-rested-yet-well-traveled writer dress like? What job do I even want, considering I was shown a very finite list of possible jobs from a very finite group of people belonging to a different generation?
Life is like a house of cards; you add a piece here and subtract a piece there until it looks more like you want it to or it topples down in flabbergasting fashion. You idolize the concept of homeownership or financial freedom or creative satisfaction, as if concepts are absolute and exist outside the realm of what they actually cost us, which is so very different than the capitalistic pricetag in US Dollars. Owning a home with a view in a place that isn’t where you meant to be, skipping all the enjoyable parts of life to accumulate dollars in an account that could be wiped out in an instant, embracing a fickle muse like creativity, whose innate chorus is dissatisfaction, it all adds up to feeling like the house of cards we are building is more like an ornate jail cell.
It costs us nothing to dream, it costs us everything to learn that we were dreaming the wrong thing.
I know the striated sunsets of the desert southwest are a siren song just like my favorite memories that exist in my mind separate from the rest of the life that surrounded them. And yet, there is something to the tug towards what we are capable of dreaming that feels worth exploring. The rules we were taught to play by were not written to enrich our souls, they were written to enrich our captors. If only I had held that wisdom close when the weariness hit. If only I knew how to write a different kind of “five year plan” and could weather the inevitable storms that come along the way.