🌙 ❄️ 🏮
Honestly, I briskly took these photos because I don't trust my mind's eye with this kind of beauty. More than the scenery, it was the freedom of not being tethered to the unnecessary and instead, existing in your own body, just as it is, despite the mind's endless tirades. That’s what I wanted to remember.
After sneaking these photos in, I chucked my phone back to the locker to give nature the respect it deserves. To give myself attention, because this 2017, I confess to living and dwelling inside my head to the point of overwelcoming my stay. Anxiety isn't anything special, but to those who experience it, it's tangible and real. For me, it's in the vise-like grip on the back of my neck, the clammy hands, the stuttering where there used to be smooth enunciation. It's having frayed, electric edges, and being afraid that the person next to me can hear the crackling. It's not knowing where it started, yet there it is, my physiology betraying me faster than I can take meditative breaths. At the end of the rope, my pride is all I'm holding on to, and that outward sense of composure, even if inside I am trembling violently, riptides whipping against my ribcage.
Don't get me wrong, it has been a year of amazing, ground-shaking growth for me, in many areas. Yet I'm just at that age where big changes can unsettle deeply, because there's already so much at stake. Staying. Leaving. Accepting. Fighting. On some days, it takes all of my reserves to go through a pretty regular day, because I feel everything will crumble with one wrong move. It's irrational, I'm aware, but there it is.
It's consumptive too, especially when combined with plans, ambitions, and hopes. I forget that I inhabit a body, that I am made of moving parts, that I simply can't just think a reality into being. With my body always in flight mode in the face of new challenges and new pressures, I also unconsciously placed my health last. I knew it contributed to the anxiety as well, but it’s hard to make a full stop when you’re in the middle of a mental vortex. The weight piled on disappointingly despite being on a healthy streak the past couple of years. More white hair popped up on my scalp, and my face broke out in a way it never has before. In a rush to “grow”, I forgot to take care of the fundamentals.
A deeply wise friend advised me, in one of my weaker moments, to manage my sanity, and take care of my body. To remember that life isn't a sprint. “Manage your sanity, and take care of your body”—it sounds so clinical, but the simple wisdom of it pierces through.
I knew I had to slow down, to take stock of where I lost awareness. I had to let go of notions that life will always be on an upward trajectory, and accept that sometimes, it will push me down on a slope. I just have to grin, bear it, and look forward again to picking myself up.
It's incredibly trite to have realizations in ridiculously beautiful places, but that is the nature of, well, nature itself. It's to put you in your place, and remind you that there are forces at work here, hopelessly bigger than you could ever control. I was lounging, leaning against a smooth stone, numb to the freezing wind because of the delicious 40-degree water, contemplating the snow quickly disappearing into white or on water, when I realized I felt absolutely contented. I watched my toes becoming small mounds that break in and out of the water's surface. In a moment of delight, I squeezed the snow out of a pine branch, the powdery ice melting into cool absence in my palm, the prickle and solidity of the pine unexpectedly reassuring as I gripped it further. I think I may have smiled. Or cackled. Whichever.
And just like a B-level novel, in that moment? It sunk in what happiness could be, despite the anxiety, the never-ending worries. I've known it all along, I've repeated it many times the past couple of years in an attempt to practice it: be in your body, just as it is, and be in the moment, wherever that happens to be. Just as it is. In Japanese, sono mama. Let the worries exist. Let life happen. But be in it. Be alive. Be better at just being.
Everything is a teachable moment. Just because you already have a piece of wisdom in your hands doesn’t mean that you are suddenly able to put it into practice effortlessly all the time. You will sometimes fail in the application. The past year has taught me that. There is danger in change, but to accept that seismic upheavals are happening and to adapt to them, without losing your core, is to create new realities. Kind of like the moment when molten lava falls into the salty seas and forms new land. Reborn, yet just as it is.
To be in my own body is a never-ending project. I hope to become better at it, with nature as the best teacher.
And what better place than in an onsen to become reacquainted with my body—sono mama? Everyone is naked, in all shapes and sizes. I had spikes of anxiety leading up to the trip, but I didn't have to worry after all. I saw body rolls, uncountable dimples of fat, knots of bone on spines, smooth white skin, odd tan lines, a breast taken out, hair everywhere, hair nowhere, satisfied small smiles, a sense of communion.
Sitting there, I thought that the moment when we are barest is when we are safest. There is beauty in rawness, a ferocity to vulnerability. I felt free, under the dark winter sky. My skin didn't crackle. I was aware of my neuroses, the insecurities that have piled up through the years. I was okay with all of it. I was simply in my body, in a moment, renewed.
This 2018, that is all I want. To experience joy in the process of being. To be.
🌙 ❄️ 🏮