Friday, April 20, 2012

the freedom that comes from constraint

(so this started off with me trying to do the memory exercise again and turned into a bit of a free association ramble/pondering thing as well...)

I remember, a couple of years ago, some day during the summer...meeting up with a few friends and going skating on Governor's Island in NYC. It's a really nice place to skate and bike, a large loop around the island, smoothly paved, no cars to have to avoid... We were joking around, beeing silly. I found some kind of rope type thing, and kept turning it into restraints, a pseudo-noose, or leash, horsing around until I made them nervous enough to take the thing away from me. It was silly, all of it, but a very nice day.

For a while after that I wanted to go back, go skating there again, but all of us coordinating schedules around work and other never seemed to happen. The next summer, again, hey lets go skating sometime, and we'd agree, and then it wouldn't happen. I spent days stuck in my house, gripped  by a kind of ennui, paralysis, a certain lack of energy or motivation to do much of anything. I kept wishing that someone would please drag me out to do something fun. Finally, one day I just put my rollerblades in my bag and made the commute, took the two ferries needed to get from where I was to there, and spent hours and hours just going around the island by myself, enjoying it, enjoying that I could go on as long as I liked, until my body physically refused to go any further. I didn't have to stop, to wait around for someone else to catch their breathe, to leave before I wanted because everyone else had had enough.

Having done it once, enjoyably, there was the freedom of the realization, backed up now by experience: I can do this whenever I like. I don't need to sit around, waiting for anyone else. Being alone is not, in fact, a constraint.

And so it is, that fact about the situations that bog you down, that get you stuck. The fact about difficulties, and constraints, and limitations and obstacles, whether without or within: without them, life would be easier, more pleasant. By overcoming them, we grow. Academia is this card for me to a large part, it feels like, right now. Every time I finish something, drive myself to the very edge of physical and mental exhaustion to get something done....I turn and there is more, more still to be done. Stuck in the school library, in front of computer screen night after night...and yet, I wanted all this. I knowingly chose to go back to school, to go back to this reality.

You can learn a lot from simply reading books. I could have stayed at my unchallenging dead end, but relatively comfortable job longer, going to the bookstore up the street after work to read, read, and been satisfied with that. doesn't challenge you the same way. It is pleasant, and certainly educational to read a book about a subject you do not know much about...but it just doesn't force those mental cogs to spin at their full potential, not the way that reading several different sources, and having to critically think and apply larger concepts, and create a well reasoned thesis, and argue it efficiently in a set number of pages to be done by a certain time does.

When I feel tired, sick, so stressed I cannot really eat for days, when my tooth still hurts and I have all these other things I need to deal with, and I must still show up for work...and when I have to do those academic  things...the feeling of being pushed to the very edge of capabilities...the swords, closing in around you, the binding voice that says you cannot, cannot handle it all...when you in fact do...the feeling of accomplishment, is something that just reading a book on your own in free time, and saying yay, now I know about this...just doesn't match.

It makes me think of the much larger 8 of swords kind of situations/issues in my life...the question of who I could be, what I could do if I somehow managed to extricate myself from all of THAT...

And yes, the freedom of learning that doing things alone does not have to be a limitation. That is also a big one for me, being a solitary sort much of the time. I the process of...potentially arranging something that, if it worked out...I would be off by myself in a certain North African country for ten weeks, quite soon actually. In a way that is pretty intimidating...especially since there is so much societal messages around 'women shouldn't do ____ alone" which pretty much includes travel to foreign, developing, muslim countries....and yet, it's such a silly thing to be limited by because...where would that leave me? If I have no friends or partner that share my interests or ambitions I should simply never go anywhere interesting, when in fact I do enjoy adventures on my own? No, I don't thinks so...

So yes, the 8 of Swords scenario...perhaps never pleasant in the moment, but in the larger scheme of things, not necessarily a bad thing at all. Having spent all that time tied up, stuck in one much more amazing will it feel afterwards, to be able to run?


Inner Whispers said...

Hi Bonkers,

This was a beautiful post! Wishing you luck and fun in your adventures, whether of the mind, on skates or of wider-ranging travel. Reminded me of a post I wrote nearly two years ago about yoga and not over-thinking things (if you're interested:

Bonkers said...

thanks, and shall def give that a read :]

Alison Cross said...

Bonkers - another great post that had me going 'Yes, YES!!! I know that feeling!!!'

If you want to go to that certain north african country - start planning! I completely agree - not having friends or family around that shares your love for something ought not hold you back.

My hubby loves his motorbike to death and gets himself along to track days and meets up with like-minded people and then hurtles himself (and the bike) around for hours.

Yet I don't feel that I can do that. Which is really stupid. I let my own fears of 'what if?' hold me back. And now I'm not prepared to do that any more!

Come on - get mobilised and get to North Africa! And send us all postcards!

astronautica said...

What a beautiful story to come out of such a negatively perceived card! And a wonderful deck too - after reading your posts I stumbled upon it in my local tarot store and am completely absorbed by them!

My friend gave me some wonderful advice about making travel plans - once you've saved enough money for plane tickets, buy them! Then you have no choice but to go :)

Bonkers said...

appreciate the encouragement,!

also, astronautica, glad you found the deck took me ages to get it/get with reading with it because of large size, but it really is quite fascinating/lovely to work with :]

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