During my week of vacation this summer I went to Burning Man (BM). I was on the fence about it for a long time. Similar to last year, I waited until the last minute to get a ticket. However, like last year, it was no problem and all the puzzle pieces seemed to naturally fall into place. Even after getting my ticket I waffled about whether or not I should go. Burning Man is a time and place where you get little sleep, there’s a million things to do, it’s hot and dusty, and the extremeness can be overwhelming and exhausting. Perhaps, I thought, it would be better to have a stay-cation and rest?
A friend of mine who I spent a lot of time with at BM 2012 called me on the phone. We had discussed camping together this year and were trying to coordinate plans. Her and her boyfriend had purchased a cheap car and had gone on a camping trip by the Yuba River. On the phone she explained that the car was more or less dead and it wouldn’t make the journey. No problem, I assured her, I would take them. And just like that I had committed to Burning Man 2013.
Panicking slightly that I had offered to be their ride, I told her that I was more than happy to make the drive out to Black Rock City with them. I was pumped to camp with them, too, but I wanted some level of independence and flexibility. I didn’t want them to depend on me for a ride home in case I freaked out and left early. I had been looking forward to this vacation for a long time and I wanted the autonomy to do what I liked when I felt like it. The last thing I wanted was to feel guilty for abandoning my friends in the middle of the desert. Luckily for me, my friends are badasses who have no issues making shit happen.
So that was that. I was going to BM, for better or for worse. The thrill of the trip sank in and kept me up at night. I only managed to pack the day before I planned to leave, stuffing rolled socks and lacy underwear into plastic bags, hoping that less was more. Last year I was with an organized camp, whereas this time it would only be the three of us and I wasn’t quite sure how it would all work out.
Even though I now had arranged to camp with my two friends, I felt as though I should approach the event as though I was going it alone. I did not want to rely on them as a couple for company and I definitely did not want to resent them for that either. I also wanted to mentally prepare myself for the tsunami of FOMO (fear of missing out). I desperately wanted to grant myself permission to do BM at my own pace with the least amount of comparison or pressure possible. I had been mulling this over for weeks and had no idea how I would feel once I arrived on the playa. It almost kept me from going, but the adventure was set in motion and the excitement was mounting. I was grateful to have friends as company and build a camp with and pleased that I was freewheeling.
After a 6am departure from Davis, CA and 7 hours of waiting, we made it through the long dusty lines and began looking for a spot to set up our tents. It took a while, but with some patience we found people who welcomed us with open arms. We were very limited in our supplies and incredibly under prepared compared to our neighbors. I felt like a gutter punk kid who was going to sleep in the dust all week choking on gas fumes while our fancy neighbors ran their generator next to my cheap tent. But it didn’t matter. I took pride in the simplicity of it all.
Despite all the back and forth, the worry of being unprepared, and insecurities surrounding loneliness, it was blissful to spend a week on the playa. I take pride in my ability to see the value of showing up and being present in situations, even when it is difficult and challenging. This is also how I ended up doing CrossFit. I often tell myself, when I meet resistance in attending a new class or event, that all I have to do is go – I don’t have to excel or do anything crazy, I don’t have to dance or make a new friend. As long as I bring my body and smile once, that can be enough.
So rather than staying in the bay area for a week and hiding out at my parents house to recharge, I committed to going to BM. I knew that I would regret it if I did not attend and I also knew that ultimately, the option of a good party and friends would be more valuable to me than spending 7 days alone in Palo Alto. All of my last minute decisions lead me to an “Oops, I did it again” moment, where I realized that I felt limited in my ability to contribute at BM and that may cause me to treat it more as an experience than a participatory community(!?) What I am saying is, that while I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way to do BM, it relies heavily on people who whole-heartedly care about the city and build it from scratch. Then they return it to the same state the desert was in before we were there. That’s a shit ton of work.
Not only that, the culture of BM is maintained by those who are committed to practicing open mindedness and gifting. Approaching others in the spirit of non-expectation is no small feat and requires vigilance. As an organization, there are people working year round on creating this bedazzling parallel universe and I do not take it for granted. For this reason, I would like to acknowledge that there are endless opportunities to contribute to BM as a place, an event, and as a community. While I set multiple intentions for myself this year, they were very personal in dealing with my own emotions. I am planting the seed that the next time I go to BM, I would like to contribute more towards the experience as a whole and to a group at large. In this way, I am contemplating the core principles of the event and meditating on my own ability to shape experiences for myself and others.
After a weeks vacation in the desert, I have come back refreshed. I am satisfied to say that, despite the harsh conditions, I am rested and healthy. I am grateful for the art, the music, and the friends I bonded with. With my birthday only 2 weeks away, I’m excited for new writing material and bringing a fresh perspective to another year of life.
I enjoyed this assignment because this is exactly the type of exercise I get nerdy over. I can play this game for hours. I came up with plenty of my own questions: How am I not myself? (I Heart Huckabees reference DUH)
Am I committed enough? Can I make it work? Where? Where should I live? Where should I start a business? Where should I travel to? Do I settle in? Do I settle down? Do I run amok? Am I running away? Am I running towards something? Can I have a home base and still travel a lot? How can I make money doing something I love? How can I make money? Will I have enough? Will I ever stop comparing myself? Why do I feel guilty? If it’s never a a good time is it always a good time? What does true balance feel like? Will I be able to move past the fear?
One of the exercises that we did with our groups over the weekend, was going around in a circle and each choosing one question that seems to resonate with us in the moment. Group members helped each other to decipher which one seemed most poignant. For me, we chose “Why do I feel guilty?” Ouch.
Damnit. That rings true. Stab stab. What am I afraid of?
I believe I mentioned something about how a lot of people are afraid of receiving so much attention. He responded with that not everyone is nervous or afraid for the same reasons, nor is everyone afraid of receiving group attention. What is it for me?
Something funny about this situation is that my default mode of responding is frustration, like: “FUCK!” Gah, I feel like I know the answer, but it is getting all stuck and jumbled up inside of me! I react with faux frustration. Wait, it’s not fake, but it’s dramatized? Here I am, floundering, once again to figure it out. It’s funny because it is actually exactly what I want. I want someone to push me. No, not just a little push. Really fucking push me, like you care. I want the attention, I want help figuring it out. I want the group/my friends/my family to be a part of my process.
So what am I afraid of? With a group of 20 people looking at me, what makes me nervous? It shows up in my body as a fluttering. It is some kind of vibration that ripples through my body. I wouldn’t even describe it as bad necessarily. Overwhelming, sure, but it is also a nervous excitement. I am scared of looking stupid, like I have said before. I am afraid of being judged. And you know why? Because that is what people do. They judge. I judge. I am at Interchange and I am judging. Perhaps because I know how un-compassionate my judgments of others can be, I figure others do the same and I am terrified of being the target.
I used to pride myself on not caring about what others think, but I am officially throwing that out the window. I am coming to terms with the fact that I care about what others think of me. I do not see that as a bad thing, though I am feeling guilty about it… I see that I need to reconstruct my thought patterns around this if I want to feel less scared and less guilty and more empowered in front of groups.
What do we have so far?
My unanswerable questions: Why do I feel guilty? What am I afraid of?
Some resources around those unanswerables: Judgement, boundaries, self-love
Resources I can work on: Self-acceptance
My group came up with self-acceptance as a resource I should develop further. This came in our discussion around my fear of receiving attention from the group. Part of me is thinking “What? I totally accept myself.” Shit, do I? Now I’m confused. Wait, I just wrote a whole post about if I am confused, I should contribute instead of focusing on myself. But I’m not done yet! What is self acceptance anyway? Then I find myself asking, if no one else loved me, would I still love me? Then I remember that just a couple of days ago I was sitting in the park outside my work, crying to my sister on the phone, asking “what if this is it? What if this is all I ever accomplish?” Do I accept myself? How do I not accept myself?
I have trouble accepting that I still weigh more than I ever have in my life. Why haven’t I lost weight like all the other girls at CrossFit? I am trying to accept that I am working in the restaurant industry despite saying that I don’t want to work with food. I struggle with living in the United States when I have an E.U. passport. I hate that people say “do it now, while you are still young” because I start having an anxiety attack that I am doing “it” all wrong. I can’t decide if I feel great single or if I am constantly judging my self worth by men being attracted to me and being in a relationship. Do I mind not going for a masters degree? Am I a failure compared to the rest of my family? How can I accept myself through these things?
Guilt and fear are alive and well in all of the above. What happens now? I need actionable items. I am looking for my resource: self acceptance. How do you accept yourself? How do you show up in groups? I want a “Hell Yes! I am a badass.” Show me yours, and I’ll show you mine.