This past week has been completely overrun with two activities. The see through-tanning, internet-searching, hair-pulling minutia of planning my epic summer and a knock-down, drag-out, full blown, gloves off bout of RA fatigue. In the seven or eight hours per day that I’ve actually been awake, I’ve been starring at the internet and trying to guess which french apartment looks more accessible from high angled, fish-eye photos, or which of the nine gazillion discount airfare websites has the best deal.
This is the type of planning that is impossible to complain about. I am deeply aware of exactly how rad it is that I get to travel the way I do. However, the actually organization of trips I take is so profoundly less glamourous than the trips themselves, that I can’t help but harbor a secret wish for a movie montage. This fatigue flare had me desperate for the same thing. If only the last one hundred and sixty eight hours of my life could be condensed into a tight five minutes where I make sexy-thinking faces in front of my laptop, cut with me sleeping like a fairy tale princess, my hair neatly arranged, my face composed angelically. I would allow thirty seconds for a stylized cringe to indicate the pain of inflammation, you know, for realism. I want to skip these bits and spend the remaining hour and fifty five minutes of my movie posing majestically on mountaintops and having charming and/or meaningful interactions with the locals. Preferably whilst bathed in the golden light of sunset, thank you very much.
Of course, I can’t have a montage. No one can. Not even Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lundgren get real life montages. This evening something has dawned on me. As travelers we aren’t formed on peaks. If you condense the hard and the boring, you erase everything that makes our successes meaningful. Ask a climber about their most epic trip. I guarantee you will get a story about horrible weather, or nightfall coming out of nowhere, or broken gear and misery. No one will tell you about the time everything went exactly as planned. Those times fade from memory surprisingly quickly.
This is a good thing. We become ourselves in the sharp, unfair, difficult, ugly and sometimes just mind-numbingly dull parts of our lives. This is where we do the untidy sort of broken down by the side of the road with no help for miles, so we better figure out how to change that tire learning that sticks with us. This is where the edges of our strength is laid bear. Of course, that makes it a messy and chaotic place. Maybe that’s OK. Maybe that’s what makes it a universally human place. Have you ever met anyone whose life was a glory of success without effort or struggle? Even if the answer is yes, they can’t have been a very interesting conversationalist.
This week, in my montage, I learned that if the productive part of my day is reduced to less than three hours I will spend that time arranging travel so that my summer will be majestic. I will exercise so that I will have as much energy as possible to enjoy it. I will read novels so that I might not seem totally dull to the other writers I can hardly wait to meet. I will call my friends so that I can chatter and check in and be bolstered by whatever they have going on. In my montage I learned that what matters most is reaching out and looking ahead.
So here’s the plan. Let’s move out of the movies that play in our minds of what our lives ought to be and, instead, colonize the montage. Let’s start living fully in the desperate and dull moments with an awareness that they are fleeting. They are teachers. They are leading us somewhere. Without them we would have no means of judging what we value.