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.
Rejection sucks. Whether it’s not getting a job or unrequited love. Maybe it was just an unpaid internship, or simply asking someone out for coffee. Depending on where you’re at, it can feel like water off a ducks back or it can feel gut wrenching to hear “No.” You tell yourself that you have nothing to lose. That it really isn’t so bad. Yet, that wave comes crashing down on you regardless. It pushes you over, pummels you in a rolling tumble and you attempt to keep your limbs from flailing; resisting as the disappointment shoots up your nostrils. You struggle to regain any footing, there is no hope in doing it gracefully.
Rejection sucks because it is disorienting. You have mustered your strength and you are stepping into the world knowing you are about to make yourself vulnerable. With rejection comes self doubt. Did I make the right decision? Why did I stick my neck out? Was it a stupid risk to take? Putting ourselves into vulnerable positions, we walk a fine line between pain and pleasure. There is the opportunity for great reward: ego-boosting, superhero soaring, high-on-life emotions. On the other side, there is a small dog with his tail between his legs. You feel heavy, as though you are sinking, and the surface of the water sparkles as it gets farther away and the darkness engulfs you.
I experienced such a moment this past weekend. I regularly ask myself “what do I have to lose?” and love to boldly step forward towards whatever life has to offer. And I did just that. I gathered my guts, took a deep breath and pretended I was brave for 20 seconds. I opened my mouth and expressed interest in someone. Initially, in those micro-seconds between peoples responses to each other, there was a huge sense of relief for getting it off my chest. But that moment was fleeting. As soon as I had extended myself, he shook his head, frowned and simply said “No.” There may have even been a hand on my arm, and while you would think the physical contact is nice (which it is), the moment makes me sad.
It happened. It came, it went, and was it really that bad? The answer is yes. And the answer is no. I have the right to be ambivalent! It was that bad in the sense that my ego is plenty bruised, largely due to the genuine interest that I can sense inside myself and that rejection can often persent us with hurtful questions towards ourselves (am I not good enough? What’s wrong with me? Etc.) It is not that bad because that moment is over. It is in the past. I did it, I had the balls to do what I had to do, and it was wildly successful in that I faced what could have held me back: fear. And we all know that fear is the mindkiller.
As I move farther away from my rejection incident and more into my week, I have serendipitously come across several helpful resources to deal with any residual pain. I was attempting to clean out my email and opened a video from Marie Forleo. Marie asks “Feeling Lost?” Even though we have heard these little tid bits a million times before, it is refreshing to hear them again. Here are 4 ways to start over when things fall apart:
- Everything happens for a reason.
- Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. Feel the pain without your story!
- Be present.
- Do the basics one day at a time.
As humans, we rationalize everything. That’s fine and in this case, allow yourself to sink into the belief that everything DOES happen for a reason. You are exactly where you need to be. This may be a difficult thing to accept. Feel that. It may help to close your eyes for a minute. What does it really physically feel like to be rejected? Feel the physical sensations without the story that you tell yourself about what happened. This will keep you present. Practice this over and over again. Take care of your needs, do what needs to be done, one task at a time, one day at a time. Simple, surprisingly not easy.
I also received a short post from Leo Babauta at Zen Habits: The Obstacle is the Path. It embodies the four points above. Why are you running from discomfort? Why are spending your time wishing things were different from the way that they are? I want to love my life and myself the way that we are right now. I am still playing the broken record of the moment I was rejected and I am still experiencing the disappointment. However, I keep bring myself back to the present and focusing on the success and opportunity that is a result of taking risks.
Be brave. Be bold. You only live once.
This is how I feel when I am in the moment, doing my best, being present.
I discovered a new mantra today. I was engaged in a counseling session (I was the client in this particular instance) and as I was telling a story to my counselor. With gusto, I described myself saying to someone “Watch me, I’m doing it!” Though the story was actually illustrating the feelings I struggle with in group settings and how to shift my experience, my counselor helped me develop a way I can do just that. She commended me on simply showing up – pursuing my interests and staying consistent – she then reflected back to me what I said and suggested I use it as my mantra.
“Watch me, I’m doin’ it!”
I’m not sure if it will stick, but it resonates with me. There is something about saying this that makes me happy. I like that it can be a bit sassy or a bit more gruff and badass. Depending on how you want to spin it. It shifts my focus from being self-conscious and critical, not only of myself but of others as well, to being more present. I am being active, I am here now, I am making the effort. One step at a time.
“Watch me, I’m doin’ it!”
Love, Strength, & Vigor!