I am beginning to think that I have been on a constant search for two magical ingredients. These magical ingredients go by the names of security and control. I never called them this of course. No. Instead these ingredients were labeled having a plan and perfection. These spice jars sat nicely next to my bed. Comforting me as I went to sleep and reminding me of their presence when I woke up in the morning. They became a permanent and nearly invisible fixture. I would often forget about them. The reality was that I was habitually binging on their sweet taste. They brought me comfort. I still feel comfort in their presence but now I can call these ingredients by their true names security and control. I gaze upon these spice jars recognizing their alluring nature. Realizing that I am tempted by the comfort that they provide. Now let me explain how I peeled back these labels.
Ok. Well maybe I won’t explain the whole story right now. or probably ever. That would simply be too long. I have slowly been exposing the guise of these ingredients for years. Coming to Guatemala has been a good practice in weaning myself off of security and control. But sometimes it feels like I have joined an abstinence only program. The reality is that I have plenty of these spices here in Guatemala. They just look different these days. I find these ingredients sprinkled in special hiding places. They no longer sit neatly in little jars next to my bed. It wasn’t until my recently trip to Nicaragua that I recognized how much I rely on the comfort of security and control. I will explain how my recent trip to Nicaragua has helped me to sit with the discomfort of their decline.
Let me give you a little context for this trip before hand. This is Sam.
Sam and I met in Xela during our time at PLQ. In some ways he reminded me of my Papa. Like my grandfather he has a passion for exploring the world. But unlike Papa, Sam has an uncanny ability to articulate his experiences through story telling. He speaks with ardor about his past and future adventures. This is what originally drew me to him. After spending time with Sam he became more than his stories. I saw his passion for growth/self-discovery. I learned that he has a wealth of knowledge about organic farming. I was able to experience first hand how much he cares for those around him. He inspires me if that isn’t already obvious. When Sam told me about his next adventure to Nicaragua and invited me to Zopilote I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
In my last blog post I explored what it felt like living in a completely different and unfamiliar world. To feel like I was an alien. I left that post knowing that I crave the familiar. When everything felt like it was changing I just wanted something stable. Wanting something familiar feels more safe than admitting the truth: I want to be in control. In the weeks leading up to the trip I often left my job feeling anxious. But it was unclear why. Thinking about my short trip eased some of the internal pressure I felt bubbling up. I came to recognize that this release of tension came from the anticipation of being around a familiar friend. I saw this as a red flag, or more lightly something to take notice of. So I sat with these feelings. Curious about my intentions. Inquisitive about why it felt important to be in the presence of someone familiar. I counted down ever second until my trip. I was not sure why going on this trip felt important but I was sure of one thing. I needed some space to breath and process my first three months in Xela.
When I finally arrived to Ometepe, the island in which Zopilote is located, I was amazing by its raw beauty. What I didn’t expect was to be blow away by the beauty of the people living on this island. During my time at Zopilote I met people from all over the world. Some were there on vacation. Others there to work on the farm and learn about permaculture. Many people, like me, were traveling during transitional periods in their lives. I met a couple from Ireland that made extra cash by putting on a violin fire dancing performance. A teacher from the Canary Islands who became curious about being a writer. A masseuse from Costa Rica who fell in love with the island and may never leave. Meeting these individuals reminded that there are many different ways of moving through the world.
On my last evening on the island I found myself on top of a mirador, a lookout. I reflected on the people I met and experience I had. I took notice of the beautiful orange and pink sky. I watched cotton candy clouds that drifted slowly away from the volcano. I gazed upon the lush green farm. I breathed in and out, slowly and purposefully. It was then that a thought came into my head. You have no plan. You have no idea what is to come after Guatemala. I waited for the panic to set it. So I repeated that to myself over and over again. You have no plan. You have no idea what is next. Surprisingly the panic never set in. I sat there for a minute slightly confused, almost hoping for some internal reaction to this statement. I thought… um… ok… this is interesting.
I imagined the kind of world I wanted to begin to create for myself. I welcomed myself to this new world. Welcome to a moment of actively experiencing the present. Welcome to a world where you are truly gentle with yourself. Welcome to a reality where you can see where life takes you. Welcome to a space where you can try to live with less security and control.
I also want to recognize that there are many factors that have allowed me the opportunity to feel secure without a plan. I am reminded that my past. My imagined future. My identity. The privileges I possess because I am a white American with a masters degree. All these factors intersect and allow me the luxury of being able to have access to feelings of security and control in my life. I use the word luxury intentionally. Witnessing the oppression occurring back home in the US has reminded me that having security and feeling in control are luxury items. Feeling safe in the world without a plan is a luxury. I continued to reflect on this luxury once I returned to Xela.
Recognizing my hunger for security and control I decided to try a new way of processing. I wanted to partake in an experiment with myself. I wanted to sit in that uncomfortable space. I tested out different mediums of art that felt less controllable. In the past watercolor and drawing have proven to be uncontrollable and messy. Watercolor bleeds all over the page. The lines are never straight enough when sketching. I chose to process my trip to Nicaragua through mini sketches. This exercise was painful at times. The lines were not perfect. Sam’s hair was beginning to look more like a giant plant and less like free flowing hair. But I recognized this. I gave myself time. I allowed the lines to not be perfect. I practices being kind to myself. I accepted not feeling in control.
This exercise was quite uncomfortable. My first attempt at drawing was messy. My head was in a constant cloud of doubt and embarrassment. Those beautiful fluffy pink clouds I watched at Ometepe felt heavy and grey. Remnants of perfection and control sprinkle the page. The quote I was copying was slowly written with attention to the size of the meticulous script. I would like to share my drawing with you now. Not because I am particularly proud of this work. But because I want to practice letting go of control.
“make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.”
― Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild
I recognize that the magical ingredients of security and control will most likely be invisibly peppered over my life’s work. I accept that. I realize that these spices are not necessarily bad but that before I used them heavy-handedly. My trip to Nicaragua helped me come to the conclusion that I have been masking discomfort with the sweet taste of security and comfort.
Enjoy some pictures from this wonderful trip: