I woke up this morning to a feeling so distant in my experience that it took me a minute to identify: deep contentment. The flavor is specific, which is why I had to look at it for a bit to know. It’s the contentment of being on a worthy mission, of slipping into a stream of action that aligns with the reason your heart keeps beating.
As a person of high discipline (which has its advantages and traps), I’m able to exercise a fair degree of control over my direction, and shape the outcomes that emerge from my actions. In many areas, it’s easy to conceive a target, hit it, get the rewards, and feel the satisfaction. Brushing my teeth every day oddly comes to mind, or my three day a week yoga practice – effort in, result out.
There are at least two areas that fail to comply with this simple formula:
- Relationships (especially of the intimate variety)
What a pisser that those are the things I care most about…
And for both of them, I’ve found no other way to ‘succeed’ than to surrender to something larger moving through me. My role seems to be to respond when called, not to command.
It’s been a good amount of luck that building a home in the woods evokes this feeling of mission in me. Uprooting my comfortable condo life and moving to Maine was a calculated risk, and the closest I could get to ‘controlling’ for the experience I awoke to.
I’m not yet able to provide clear reasoning why I guessed this homebuilding project would be so meaningful to execute. The process looked like this:
- I daydreamed about going to the woods, building, and recording my progress
- I felt a strong intuitive hit, a f**k yes, to that idea
- I packed up and left Oregon
Now I knew that I liked building stuff, and I knew that I liked the area where I would build. There was some due diligence – budgeting, making a list of pros and cons, etc. Ultimately, though, moving forward was a big ol’ leap of faith – an idea powered by intuition, a bet with no guaranteed payoff.
It’s worth noting that what I’ve experienced so far is not exactly what I imagined. The external elements are pretty close:
- I’m in the woods
- I’m building stuff
- I’m filming and writing about it
But the internal elements, the way I imagined it would feel to be doing those things, that’s pretty different. In my fantasy, it was mostly fun. In reality, it’s been some fun, with bigger helpings of scary, overwhelming, uncomfortable, difficult, and tedious thrown in.
My failure to accurately predict the internal experience comes down to this: I imagined the outcome, and ignored the execution it takes to get there. And boy, is there a lot of it. Almost every small step offers its complexities and challenges – so much so that if any step doesn’t becoming challenging, it seems surprising and novel. It took weeks to simply be able to pull my car onto my property, it took weeks to dial in the machinations needed for a smooth car camping experience, and so on…
Maybe I’ll get to ‘mostly fun’ at some point – this is the start of the journey, and lots more experience awaits as I persist. That would really be an icing on the cake, though. I’ve already been bestowed a great gift – the work has meaning.
It’s melodramatic for the situation, but it does remind me of Nietzsche’s famous quote:
He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.
It seems the dream and the reality need each other. Without imagining some goal, there’s no direction to head. Without the work and sweat, the goal is not realized. And the gap between a thought and the manifestation of that thought can be very wide. For a maximal example, I like thinking of the difference between the thought ‘cure cancer’ and an actual cure for cancer. Huge gap.