The crazy that California seems to outsiders has proven true.
I’ve joined a cult.
“What kind of cult?” you say. “There are so many options!” you worry.
True that, pussy cat. Options abound in the strange world of the old West but I’ve gone with a simpler approach: The Cult of Busy.
This cult’s techniques are sly as a fox and crazy as a loon (thanks to John Prine and Iris Dement for the perfect description). I did my best to stay away, my best to avoid it, to not look it in the eye lest it sees me and my self-control be lost forever. Yet, alas, at some point I looked up, into the heart of the beast and I myself was devoured.
The Cult of Busy.
The moment we left the woods, it felt as if someone had turned the music up. The walls widened and the opportunities shifted as the road took us to the big city and onto California.
The last two years here, we’ve run about like chickens after slaughter, manically trying to soak in the goodness to the last drop and running ourselves ragged in the process. There’s so much to do and so many people I deeply love that I want to see that every second I had, I scheduled.
This year, we were going about it differently. The pace the prior years was too much and I would end up arriving to somewhere I really wanted to be with people I desperately missed and I wouldn’t actually be there, I’d be worn out and show up as the less than best version of me.
So I started opting out early in Summer to save stamina for California, while also deciding to take it more slowly in the big CA. I realized that I am an Introverted Extrovert and gave myself the go-ahead to turn down the bass and slow the pace. Besides, this year we were better set-up. We would have a 2 month-long home base. No moving every other week, no going out to dinner and driving in traffic every night because we had no way to cook. The busy extras which were what truly kept me busy and exhausted be gone, making room for what I really wanted to do.
The plan worked.
I forgot to factor in the whole culture shock thing.
Our first week here, culture shock was at its peak. We tried to go to a movie, we drove all the way there saw a huge line and a parking lot teeming with people and…we turned around and took our shocked selves back home into the woods.
It took us a week to try again.
I swear, in the 6 months since I was last here, this place has somehow gotten busier.
The 15 minutes I used to allot myself to get into Town now requires 20-30 and the “quick trips” to the grocery store had The Chief returning to me hours later looking like he’d gone through a war.
And…this is the quiet time of year.
The Winter is seen as a time to slow down, go inward, cuddle up and cozy down for a Winter’s rest, no?
Maybe, but the pace is still daunting at first.
The Cult of Busy.
I’m a card-carrying member these days, paying my dues but the thing is, so is everyone around me. I’m not busy solely because of the scarcity of our time here, it’s just busy.
Everyone is busy.
My nephew is busy.
My nephew is 6.
Or so I thought.
Enter: old friends to put a little candor in that Kool-aid.
My girlfriends, nicknamed by my Dad as the Ka-Cas, renamed by me as the Ka-Ca-Ju’s (ALL of their names start with Ka or Ca and then there’s me, Ju) and I were out to brunch (insert snarky bougie comment here) this past weekend. It was the first time all five of us had been together for two years and well, a lot had changed.
For one, we were seven now.
Two of my childhood loves had become mothers, of daughters nonetheless. Our clan is growing and the group is now made of mothers and non-mothers and so, we talked about the differences. The pros, the cons and the reality that they both exist, always and forever in whatever situation you’re in. It made me so grateful to hear all of the possibilities of life broken down and dissected and into their basic form where…they were all, in essence, the same.
Here we were, holding babies and brunching, talking about the ups and downs of life. Twenty years ago we were doing the same thing only different. Talking over cereal, discussing topics like curly vs. straight hair or the pros and cons of divorced versus still married parents.
Twenty years later, everything has changed and at the same time, nothing has changed and it made me realize that we are still who we were as kids, twenty years ago.
It amazing to come home to our number Home 1 of 2 to a brunch of babes, babies and benedicts and…some realizations.
Realization #1: Living in Alaska, I’ve compared and contrasted California and Alaska to no end which has made me appreciate both, but I realize that it’s exactly like that brunch: they are different but the same. Both good, both bad, both life, both busy.
Realization #2: Yup. The Cult of Busy? I’ve been in it the whole time. I was while growing up here (I was an early inductee) and I am in Alaska, it’s just a different type of busy with different options which have taught me to appreciate how things were before I started hibernating in my Winters away from here. People often ask me how I fill up the days in Alaska and I laugh because I honestly don’t know where they travel off to, but they’ve certainly collected some stamps on their passports. And that’s because:
I am a person who is busy.
I have always been busy.
I realize this now.
Nothing like brunch to really pack a reality punch.
It’s not California or Alaska or any state or state of being in-between, it’s a constant. The busy of one looks glamorous from the place of another and vice versa but the grass isn’t greener and the snow isn’t whiter (O.K. but the wine is certainly better in one place. Guess where?!) It’s me. I’m the busy one. Yes, this place has certainly gotten exponentially busier, but me, I’m the same. I’m a busy bee. No wonder my friends nicknamed me The Hummingbird.
While The Chief will carve out time to spend a day reading with the ease of a blade through soft butter, I feel like I’m chiseling a new Mt. Rushmore.
I found the Cult of Busy or the Cult found me but either way, we are inextricably intertwined.
And so, for now, I dive right into this type of busy with a little side of understanding, courtesy of time away, courtesy of Alaska.
My days, for now, are no longer filled with chopping wood and hauling water and hour-long dish debacles and day-long shower set-ups and so, I can work more, chore less and see the place and the people who made me.
From friends and family to world-class wines and restaurants to the sheer awesomeness of quick store runs and street side garbage service this place is stocked full of so many people I love and all the comforts of life one could hope for and I didn’t appreciate it enough until I didn’t have it. Alaska taught me to savor in scarcity and so while in this place of abundance, I feel like a kid freshly paid an allowance in a candy store. Hot water? Hot showers? Dark chocolate with sea salt anytime I like? Hello, Heaven? I must have been good.
So, yes, the Cult of Busy? I’ve paid my dues and the late fees I incurred while pretending I wasn’t a member. I’ve even tried to recruit others to no avail (The Chief refuses). I’m in it and maybe someday I’ll bow out and bid adieu.
So it goes. I started the week thinking I had unknowingly joined a Cult and it turns out I may have been one of the founding mothers. There’s nothing like a gaggle of girlfriends to put life in perspective, to hold a mirror up and say “Take a peek. You’ve been you all along.”
Hats off to you, life. Sneaky, very sneaky.
Cheers to you and yours, wherever, you may be. May the contrast you find bring out the beauty in each place you land.
And to you, Alaska, I’ll see you soon. As for now, I carry you with me.