As I write this, I am currently on a weekend retreat to the countryside and my head feels less cluttered than it does in the city. I have yet to decide whether wage labour and big city life are in any way human. What I do know is that walks in the countryside, exercise in the fresh air, listening to bird songs instead of obsessively following every social media outlet possible, are. Back to nature for this suffering city hipster.
I went to an orthodox community yesterday, randomly. I am staying at this biological research station operated by Helsinki University and as a student (at least on paper), I was eligible to book a room there. I thought it would be a suitably quiet place for Thinking Deep Thoughts and Writing Big And Important Texts (for my creative writing course end assignment and for my first collection of texts, ready for publication in 2030 probably). As I am a very active person who wants to experience things I was unable to stay put at the station. I went into the lovely little town of Lammi to look around and got talking to some locals at the library where the pre-vote for parliamentary elections was taking place (#voteleftalliance). They told me about a nearby orthodox community that was established within a former rehabilitation centre for the developmentally disabled.
There I went and it was much interesting! I spoke to two of the volunteers who have dedicated their life to serving God (I am not sure if I capitalize this word as a non-subscriber to any religion). One of the volunteers showed me a collection of religious art and a chapel one volunteer is slowly painting from floor to ceiling depicting the various adventures of religious important figures (check out the progress on their website here). I was curious to know what it feels like to dedicate your life to serving a higher being in such an immersive way (the place is kinda in the sticks and the boiler apparently kinda doesn’t work and there are only about ten people in the community and it can be kinda quiet….would I be bored to death? Perhaps!). We had an interesting conversation and I noticed myself explaining to the old lady in the black scarf (they looked like nuns pretty much) how I sometimes feel so inadequate as a person, and that the things I do are not enough. Referring of course particularly to work life, but also personal life. The world I live in makes me think I am not enough. Now, I know this to be so and I try to fight against it, but darn it’s hard sometimes. As we were speaking, the lady said her religion informs her of one thing: all humans are worthy, valuable and enough. For some reason, perhaps because I was surrounded by peace and tranquility, I found that to be so comforting in that moment and made a decision to get out of the city more.
A slight problem I have, and the size of this problem varies from no problem at all to quite a big problem depending on the day, my mood, etc., is that I am very interested in doing things. I cannot stay put for a long time (well, unless it’s night time and I have a good series to watch). I end up spreading myself too thin (I love it how literally this language describes one of the the roots of my eating disorder here!). I try to do too much, sometimes exhaust myself, and end up not doing very well in at least some of the things I try to do. Doing a bit less with more energy would probably be a better idea, but it’s hard! Staying at the station all weekend just writing would’ve been too hard.
Again, this is partly a result of a long winter. I am of course referring to my illness, perhaps the last 8 years of it when things were severe rather than manageable. Because I was unable to do so many things when unwell, now I want to do as much to catch up as I can. Partly though, it’s nothing to do with illness, but rather with the kind of person I am. I just like doing a lot, seeing a lot, experiencing a lot. I am very fortunate to have a life of freedom and I want to spend my time wisely.
To end my perhaps largely uninteresting story about a thing I did this weekend, I spent an hour yesterday evening sitting in a swing, in the garden of the biological station, sipping a rum and coke. I had left my phone in my room and went for a little walk without thinking ‘let’s record everything I see for Instagram’. I saw trees and birds. It was wonderful. Today I return to the city knowing that I could not live in the countryside right now, the city offers too many interesting things. However, I am looking forward to yet another good summer of re-establishing my humanimal connection with the earth that I come from and to which I shall return.