When I was younger I’d spend most summers at my grandparents home in mid-Missouri. This particular small town area is unique as it is the epitome of rural with the nearest towns having populations under 500 (the nearest town has an official population of 54!) but it is not a particularly agricultural area like most rural midwestern communities.
The forests are dense and span hundreds of miles. In the center of 250ish acres of wooded land, my grandparents made their home. A log cabin complete with a massive garden, outdoor cats, and plenty of fishing spots along the nearby river. The nearest neighbor is over a mile away and it just happens to be my uncle. Other than that, the nearest people are 5-6 miles apart each. The closest store is a 20 minute drive.
It is the definition of beauty and serenity in my eyes.
Now as an adult I am living in the suburbs of one of the busier midwestern cities and I’ve recently missed the seclusion and peace I felt in that wooded grove my grandparents made home. I long for the ability to walk to the river on a whim or lay on a blanket in the grass at sunset to watch the stars light up again.
The openness of my surroundings and the purity of the nature surrounding me allowed me to feel spiritually and physically connected to the world in a way that is seemingly impossible in the rushed city life. The disconnection between myself, the world, and nature has never been more pronounced than it is today.
There are a lot of reasons for this disconnect. First, being an adult and parent means I have to work to earn a living which means sitting inside an office 40 hours a week. I take walks on my lunches but working in the middle of the city means my options for routes include crosswalks, busy traffic, and the constant sounds of a world that never seems to rest. Personally, it is challenging to feel connected to the universe and nature when the only nature visible is grass lining the side walk and an occasional fenced off tree. Cement is not very welcoming.
A larger and more prominent problem lately though is the growing fear as dangers of the city feel so much bigger than ever before. Perhaps I’m just older and notice more or having a daughter to protect has made me aware when I used to be happily oblivious. Regardless of why, it’s made me miss the seclusion of rural life even more and crave that simple connection that made me feel so safe and serene.
Having grown up in places like Southern California, the coast of Florida, and even Germany I’ve never been afraid of cities, suburbs, or people in general. In fact, I distinctly recall friends and family being aghast that I was calm and unnerved when living in areas considered sketchy. Today though, I can’t seem to shake off the constant fears and worries that wrap themselves around my mind and squeeze. What if I am in the wrong place at the wrong time and become another victim of circumstance? What if someone tries to take my daughter? What if someone targets me?
Everyday there is filled with more disturbing news as kidnappings, sex trafficking, assaults, and murders are reported. Some say “ignore the news, it’ll just bring you down” but how can I ignore it when that could lead to a false sense of security making me an easy target? Others say “just get your concealed carry license” but how is carrying a weapon going to make me feel less terrified of the possibility I would have to use it someday. Still others tell me I worry too much. Well yeah, I do. I don’t know how not to anymore.
This fear is making me miss so much of life though. I can’t remember the last time I watched the stars or just sat in the outdoors reading a book or sat in the grass on a blanket to take in the calm hum of nature. I feel like I haven’t been outside to enjoy the nature in a lifetime. The disconnection is ticking away at my soul and those fears are filling the cracks. I don’t know how to stop it. How to reverse it. I don’t feel like I have any freedom with this fear dictating my life and pushing me into seclusion.
I don’t know if I am alone in these feelings but I want to work through them and regain the connection, the spirituality, and the peace I once had. Partially for myself so I can be whole and happy but also so I can show my daughter that while there is evil in the world there is also beauty and freedom. So we can both see the magic and wonder that the universe has to offer and experience calm for even just a moment a day in this busy world.
Obviously there are and will continue to be hurdles. For example, the simple answer is move somewhere more rural and secluded. This isn’t possible financially and wouldn’t be the best option for my family. Another easy fix would be install a nice privacy fence around our yard but that also isn’t possible with our current living situation. This will all be possible in coming years but for the time being other ways to cope must be found.
“If fear is the great enemy of intimacy, love is its true friend” – Henri Nouwen
Upon hearing this quote I felt self-reflection was necessary. This fear I’ve described is indeed preventing intimacy with myself for it has diminished my spirituality so could love be part of the answer? Could love be the force to wield in the face of perceived dangers and worries?
The only way to find out is to try.
Loving myself. I hadn’t considered how loving myself or rather not doing so may contribute to the growing qualms I have been facing but I think it may be more prevalent than I gave it credit for. While the world as a whole is more accepting of religious differences today than ever before there is still a large population of people who disagree with or even look down on those who practice paganism. Out of fear of rejection and dismissal, I have effectively hid my spirituality and religious choices from friends, family, and strangers alike without any regard for how it might impact me. Out of fear of ridicule and harassment, I have abstained from or hid my religion at the price of my own spiritual disconnection. I have to accept my spirituality is an integral part of me and stop hiding it for the sake of fear. I don’t have to boast it or advertise it but being willing to do my thing openly is a critical first step to overcoming these fears.
Image credit to Longevity
Loving my home. With the craziness of pushing through school, working a full time job, maintaining a relationship, parenting, and everything else that comes with adulthood in the 21st century I have not made a distinct effort to make my house a home. Part of the reason I loved my grandparents’ home so much was how much of a home it really was. That garden did not appear overnight by the efforts of chipmunks, squirrels, and armadillos (though they all appreciated the garden as much as myself!) and the log cabin wasn’t always there. It took work, hard work, to make that grove anything other than a dense forest surrounding a small clearing. In the same way I need to put in the work to make my house a place I love and feel safe. I need to clean, organize, and maintain a home that I love. Before now I haven’t because I feared failure and wasting valuable resources like time and money. I see now though that this is an investment and any failures will only lead the way to eventual success.
Loving my surroundings. I won’t lie, I am abysmal at maintaining cleanliness around me. I have always been that way. My car especially is a total wreck inside. Perhaps being surrounded by constant chaos and disorder is taking its long term toll on my mind and soul. I don’t love sitting in my car which is where I spend 10 or so hours a week, I don’t love being in my bedroom which is where I spend a hefty time sleeping and relaxing, and I don’t love my general surroundings that I put myself in. Being more aware and conscious of what I treat my surroundings like is a big step for me and hopefully one that I can overcome.
I started writing this feeling solemn, discouraged, and frankly as a pity piece to ease my aching soul only to discover that I can’t change the scarier parts in our world alone and I can’t seclude myself from it either. What I can do though is take steps to find love in the world around me every day to fight away my fears and regain my peace and connection. I can’t guarantee anyone will find me laying out beneath the stars anytime soon still but I can hope that by the end of this journey I will feel more connected and whole again. Let the adventure begin.
Do you face fears in your life? How do you cope with them? Have you experienced anything like this in your lives? I would love to hear your stories and thoughts so please feel free to leave comments or pingback this post with your own stories!
May each of you find some magic and whimsy in your day! ❤