Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Driving the Ring Road in Iceland - Should I Go For This Moon?

In a recent post, I listed as a possible Moon to drive the Ring Road in Iceland. By Moon, I mean something that I deeply desire to bring into my life. In recent posts, I have also written of fears that keep me from driving the Iceland Ring Road, and I have stated that, in light of the current economic crisis, I plan to focus on Moons that do not involve a large expense, as a trip to Iceland would.

Quite recently, however, driving the Ring Road in Iceland has suddenly become much more accessible because a friend has come forward who would like to do this with me. Driving the Ring Road alone is too daunting for me, but driving it with a friend is much more doable. In fact, upon hearing that a friend would like to do this with me, I immediately became excited about the Ring Road and opened myself to the possibility of actually doing it.

Which tells me that my statement about avoiding large Moon expenses in light of the current economic crisis is simply a way for me to avoid facing my fears. I guess it sounds better to say, "I won't spend money on a trip to Iceland in light of the current economic crisis," than to say, "I won't spend money on a trip to Iceland because such a trip brings up some deep-seated fears and I don't want to face them." As soon as my friend indicated a desire to share the Ring Road trip with me, I was more than willing to let go of any hesitations based on the economic crisis, since having a companion would mitigate many of my fears - and it's really the fears that are stopping me.

These fears are present, even when I think of driving the Iceland Ring Road with a good friend. I'll list these fears again, along with precisely how they are activated by the thought of driving the Iceland Ring Road. The complete Moon actually involves driving the Iceland Ring Road, writing about it, and publishing that writing in some way.

  • Fear of being exposed as shamefully incompetent. What if, at the last minute, I completely panic and simply cannot get on the plane? What if I write about the Iceland Ring Road adventure and my writing is shamefully incompetent?
  • Fear of others' disapproval for promoting myself and showing off. What if I write about the Iceland Ring Road adventure and others scorn my writing as immature and show-offish?
  • Fear of being selfish. How can I travel to Iceland when so many people are in financial need? If I have the money to spend on such a trip, why don't I donate the money to those in need?
  • Fear of the anxiety and discomfort of change. How will I ever handle the anxiety I know I'll feel as the trip approaches? How will I ever handle my anxiety on the airplane? How will I enjoy being in Iceland when I know that I have to face the airplane again to get home? What if we have car trouble in Iceland? What if health concerns arise? How will I manage my C-PAP machine for sleep apnea? Will I still need to be taking my blood pressure medications? What if I have one of those rashes that bother me sometimes? Will I be able to eat enough fresh fruits and vegetables?
  • Fear of being injured, especially in a painful or incapacitating way. What if the plane crashes and I survive with horrible injuries, such as complete paralysis or severe burns over large areas of the body? What about the horrid terror I would surely feel if the plane seemed about to crash?
  • Fear of losing all my money. What if I spend the money on this trip and then lose my job or have a large financial need?
  • Fear of losing my solitude, whereby - as an introvert - I replenish my energy. The Iceland trip does not activate this fear.
  • Fear of losing control of my free time and plans by being called upon unexpectedly. The Iceland trip does not activate this fear. However, there is at least one area of service that I feel I should enter into and that could potentially interfere with the Iceland trip because this area of service could involve being called upon unexpectedly, for example, just when I had planned to go to Iceland. This is a conflict for me: to do this service that I feel I should do and risk being called upon when I have travel plans, or not to do this service and know that I am shirking an important responsibility for which others will be carrying the load.

Besides fears, I have also listed characteristics of the kind of Moon I can embrace. Here are these characteristics again, along with the ways the Iceland Ring Road would fit them.

  • The Moon fills me with joy. When I think about driving the Iceland Ring Road with a friend, I feel my heart leap with joy. It's exciting! I feel a quickening of my energy. I feel motivated to read about Iceland - indeed, I've already started doing this. I've begun re-reading the 2008 Insight Guide to Iceland to familiarize myself with the different areas of Iceland and to consider what there is to see and do. I feel excited about being in a country with the extreme geographical position of proximity to the Arctic Circle and the resulting extreme of constant daylight in late spring and summer. The extreme of midnight sunlight attracts me.
  • The Moon promotes health and healing for my soul.
  1. Physical health. I feel motivated to get into excellent physical health and fitness for this adventure.
  2. Creativity. I feel motivated to write about this adventure and possibly to draw about it. I would love to create a small book about this adventure. This creative project energizes me.
  3. Balance. Having this adventure to anticipate helps to put the rest of my life into perspective. My life somehow seems lighter. Specifically, my teaching, which can at times seem heavy to me, feels lighter and more enjoyable simply by bringing this adventure into my life.
  4. Openness. I can feel a tendency within myself to narrow my life as I grow older. To give up the effort of traveling. To give up the effort of going out at night. To take on fewer challenges. To shut down. To let my world become smaller. The Iceland adventure counters that. It opens up my world. It opens me to life. It makes my life more expansive, grander.
  5. Self-acceptance. The Iceland adventure is a way of accepting myself at a deeper level. Of acknowledging and working through fears. Of loving myself enough to put myself into a challenging situation while being gentle with myself. Of loving myself enough to push myself in the direction of joy. Of loving myself enough to see that I do not narrow my world but that I expand it.
  6. Family soul healing. My mother allowed fear to narrow her world and her life. She allowed my father to dampen her joy. She let him limit her creative potential. And yet she taught nursery school creatively, used sign language as well as spoken English with the children, obtained a masters degree in early childhood education in her sixties, conducted and published research, wrote publishable children's stories, designed and taught a land and water exercise program, began a book of exercises, sewed and crocheted and knitted. She engaged in creative projects and yet limited herself because of fear. To travel to Iceland with a friend, to drive the Ring Road, to write about the adventure, to publish my writing in some way - this would be to carry my mother's soul work further.
  7. Friendship. To drive the Iceland Ring Road with my friend would be an enjoyable way to strengthen our friendship.
  • The Moon connects me with God.
  1. Earlier in my life, I would have said no, the Iceland adventure would not connect me with God. I imagined a judgmental God, a disapproving all-powerful and all-knowing Person, who would never approve of spending so much money to enjoy myself in a world where people cannot afford food and shelter.
  2. Actually, this is still somewhat of a conflict for me. I don't really know where the balance is here. I do not think that it is right to skip blithely through life pleasing myself with costly adventures with no regard for the very real suffering of the world's poor. How do I live responsibly in a world where I have and where so many others have not, and also treat myself to an occasional adventure that does cost considerable money? In any case, if I see God as Being itself, rather than as a supreme being, then I can ask myself how I want to participate in Being, for the power and potential of Being is available to me.
  3. This gives me a new idea. I've been seeing the question as either/or: Do I use all the power and potential of Being to address my niche of the world's needs, or do I use all the power and potential of Being to expand my world with joyful adventures and resultant creative projects? Well, how about this: How might I use all the power and potential of Being to expand my world with joyful adventures and resultant creative projects while also acting as a responsible citizen of a needy world?
  4. I feel a rightness about this question. The either/or question pulls me apart, discourages me, closes me up, gives me a shackled feeling. The both/and question expands me, energizes me, feels freeing, fills me with joy. God is a God of joy, beauty, and creativity, and God is a God of compassion and justice. Joy/beauty/creativity is not incompatible with compassion/justice. In fact, either one without the other is unbalanced! Pursuit of joy, beauty, and creativity with no regard for the world's needs is out of balance. But so is pursuit of compassion and justice with no regard for joy, beauty, and creativity - this wears people out.
  5. How might I bring the full power and potential of Being into shaping a life of joy, beauty, creativity, compassion, and justice? In dealing directly with this question, the Iceland adventure most certainly connects me with God.
  • The Moon in some way encourages others. This is an adventure that involves moving toward joy, managing deep-seated fear, working through large questions about how to encompass both responsibility and freedom, shaping a creative project with life material, using writing to understand myself and thereby to grow. Sharing this adventure through honest conversation and honest writing encourages others in all those areas.

AND YET. When I think about not doing the Iceland adventure, I feel relieved - deeply relieved. I feel a different kind of gladness, a gladness that says, "Oh, thank goodness, I don't have to do this. I needn't be bothered with this challenge and all the effort it entails. I can relax and do other things that are less challenging. Remaining nearer the status quo is so much more restful."

And it's important to remember this truth: It's okay not to go to Iceland. It's fine to decide that the Iceland adventure is too challenging and to turn my attention to other things that are also worthwhile.

It's interesting to note, though, the joy and excitement and leap of the heart I feel at the thought of driving the Iceland Ring Road with my friend as well as the deep sense of relief I feel at the thought of not doing it. I believe that this is related to my previous post, titled "To Avoid Pain or To Embrace Joy," where I describe how I've lived much of my life utterly focused on avoiding pain. Fear is painful and I'm afraid of flying, so I'll avoid airplanes for the rest of my life. Fear is painful and I'm afraid of elevators, so I'll avoid elevators for the rest of my life. Performance anxiety is painful and I feel performance anxiety when I play the organ in church, so I'll avoid playing the organ in church for the rest of my life. Having a family can entail considerable pain, so I'll remain single and childless for the rest of my life.

These decisions will not bring me joy, but at least they will eliminate a good deal of pain. I can relax and be pain-free, even though joyless. The trouble is, I can't really relax because one is never assured of being pain-free. I can manage to avoid airplanes and elevators and performance situations and family responsibilities, but since my eyes focus on potential pain - my car goes where my eyes go. My life becomes an anxious effort to spot potential pain and avoid it. If I were to focus my eyes on joy - my car would go where my eyes go. My life would embrace joy, and I would manage to handle whatever pain should arise. If I focus on avoiding pain, I will see my life as pain-filled. If I focus on embracing joy, I will see my life as joy-filled.

I remind myself that these two things are true: (1) I absolutely do not have to go to Iceland, for I can live a joy-embracing life whether or not I go to Iceland. The question is not whether or not to go to Iceland but whether to live a pain-avoiding life or a joy-embracing life. (2) In deciding whether or not to go to Iceland, I would do well to consider how much my decision is motivated by avoiding pain and how much by embracing joy, for the way one makes any particular decision is the way one makes all one's decisions.

And something I notice about the way I made my decisions to avoid airplanes, elevators, performance situations, and family responsibilities is that I made those decisions strictly on my own. I did not discuss those decisions with helpful others. I might do well to enlist the help of others - others who listen deeply and hear me into speech. (Hearing someone into speech is a concept that Nelle Morton discusses in The Journey Is Home. It is a way of deep and silent listening that allows the listened-to person the space and time - the container, as it were - into which to speak her deepest thoughts and feelings, and thus to hear herself.) I am blessed with friends who can do this.

It may be worth noting, too, that I tend to feel the joy of the Iceland adventure in the morning, when I am rested, when I am relaxed, when I am feeling generally good. I tend to feel the relief of the idea of forgoing the Iceland adventure in the evening, when I am tired, when I am anxious about something, when I am feeling generally less than good.

Another thing I notice - and want to avoid - is the tendency to do the Iceland adventure with the attitude of getting it out of the way just to prove once that I can do it. I would then think, Thank goodness I've finished the Iceland adventure. I've shown that I can fly, and now I don't need to fly ever again. But, oh dear, what if people expect me to be able to fly from now on, since they've seen I can do it.

Finally, I need to keep the Iceland Moon doable and enjoyable, not overwhelming. I have a tendency to add so much to a Moon that it becomes tedious rather than joyful. Then, I start to feel that I am on a treadmill, but that I have to keep going and complete the Moon. In East Toward Dawn: A Woman's Solo Journey Around the World, Nan Watkins, who traveled around the world to celebrate her sixtieth birthday, describes meeting two young men who were making a similar journey around the world but who seemed far less excited about it than she was. Nan noticed that these young men were going through the experiences of their travels as they might go through a to-do list, checking off each sight seen, relieved by what was already accomplished, but overwhelmed by all that still lay ahead to see and do. They were approaching their journey around the world as they would a chore. This is what I want to avoid!

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