So much of my life is comfortable, soft bed to sleep in, easily accessible food whenever I’m hungry, air-conditioning and heat on demand. My life is cushy, and I appreciate the conveniences of my life. I also love adventure and the outdoors, but cushy, comfortable and convenient doesn’t normally lead me to things I’ve never seen before or good stories. I like to be open to the possibility of not just getting outside my comfort zone, but staying uncomfortable long enough to see, feel and experience the extraordinary, to experience things that others don’t often experience because they aren’t willing to be uncomfortable long enough.
I’ve been playing in Beaufort, NC with my good friend Betsy Bertram and a few of her friends for the July 4th holiday week. Over the weekend we decided to go adventuring. She pulled a few rickety beach cruisers out of the shed and after pumping the tires and making sure the breaks worked (or at least worked enough) she and I threw our legs over the seats and began to learn how to precariously ride a big, old, slightly rusty tandem bike together. I wasn’t completely sure of being the lead on a tandem, and this thought crossed my mind “this sure isn’t the safest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s certainly fun”. Given the choice of playing it completely safe and doing nothing or doing something slightly risky and having a lot of fun, I’m going to choose the latter because the latter is freedom. Nothing is promised in life and I know it’s my own responsibility to make the most of the one beautiful life I’ve been gifted and that can’t always mean making completely safe choices. I remind myself; “no risk, no reward”.
After 6 hot sunny miles, we dismounted our bikes stickier and sweatier than when we started. We were parked at what looked like someone’s halted dream of developing a subdivision gone bankrupt. We wondered out loud if this had gone south circa 2008. What should have been lots for homes had returned back to its previously wild state. Blending in easily with the live oak trees the only two things now giving away the dream that this land had been heading for a subdivision are the lamp posts marking what probably would have been the end of the driveway for each lot and the man-planted magnolia trees.
We began trekking down an unmarked path of pine straw under the tree’s canopy. It wasn’t so much an actual trail as it was just where we happened to be walking to get us to where we needed to go. I saw hornets flying close to the ground and I tried not to think about them as I walked. I was wearing old Chaco sandals that have no buckles, basically flip-flops. Normally sturdy shoes, but probably not the best choice for this particular expedition, I hadn’t realized what I was getting myself into when we left the house. As we walked I noticed the insurgence of horse flies. They began landing and biting, the pain of the bites was startling. We picked up the pace as Betsy led us deep through the woods and finally out onto a clearing. Long grass with strong briers was all that stood between us and the sound. None of us complained we moved forward towards what Betsy said was a special spot. My bare feet and legs itched uncomfortably as the tall grass scrapped my legs and I tried to keep my mind off what bugs might be crawling on me. Have you ever noticed how sometimes discomfort is the best part of an adventure? I focused on the feelings, the itch, the bites, the tiny cuts in my legs. I wasn’t just fine, I was alive, I was in the middle of nowhere and it was great.
Betsy had led us to a small cemetery right on the edge of the property. So close to the water the breeze seemed to deter the horse flies and inexplicably the small cemetery it’s self was well manicured. Someone was still caring for their ancestors or loved ones. A skeletal looking tree rose up between headstones, possibly a beech birch, but I’m no tree expert. Some of the tombstones were from the early and mid-1800’s. The Parent’s had been buried there among their children with a regal headstone that read “Chadwick”. I smiled because Chadwick is my mother’s maiden name. The synchronicity seemed like a nod from my ancestors, a sign that I was on the right path, a welcome hello from distant relatives even though I’m sure there was no relation, a reminder that magic is all around us.
I was struck by the headstone for a child who had not made it a year, and I had the sense we were in a truly special place. A reminder that death is a beautiful part of the circle of life even when life is breathtakingly short. We would not have seen this sacred gem if we hadn’t been willing to walk through horse flies and brier patches. Noticing the scrapes, and the briers and the allergic reaction I was having to the tall grass brushing my bare legs, I embraced how uncomfortable it all was. I allowed myself to feel it and relish it aware of the power that being uncomfortable has to invite us into the present moment.
Allowing yourself to get uncomfortable, allowing yourself to not just take a road less traveled, but one that is rarely traveled at all will give you freedom. Freedom isn’t just found in doing enjoyable comfortable things. Freedom is found in discomfort, in taking calculated risk and also taking responsibility for its outcome. Freedom is found in cemeteries that strangers or distant relatives still care for, and freedom is found in embracing being uncomfortable.