"I was, in fact, homesick for wildness, and when I found it I knew how intimately - how resonantly - I belonged there. We are charged with this - all of us. For the human spirit has a primal allegiance to wildness, to really live, to snatch the fruit and suck it, to spill the juice." - Jay Griffiths, Wild: an Elemental Journey

Monday, April 2, 2012

Wild Inconveniences

I've noticed something about myself lately.  I worry a lot about what other people think.  Specifically, I worry about inconveniencing people.

Last week in REI, Oldman and I were shopping the backpacking section to spend our dividends (yearly kickbacks of 10% of our previous year's spending).  There was a wonderfully helpful employee, Joe, who talked with us about water filtration, stoves, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and tents.  All in all, he probably spent over an hour just with us.  At least three times, I tried to send him away saying, "Thank you, I don't want to take up too much of your time," when it was clear that I still needed his help and had questions.

After Joe finally took his leave, Oldman asked me, "Why do you apologize for taking up people's time?  That's his job.  He's here to help us.  And he was obviously enjoying talking with us about backpacking, so why apologize?"  I don't know why I had the inclination to send him away, but I was sure that anyone else he could be helping was more deserving of his time than us.

That is just a small example, though.  This tendency to worry too much about inconveniencing people led to an embarrassing and expensive consequence over spring break.

After our time in the Smokies, we had the idea to drive eight hours east to the Outer Banks for a few days.  (We ended up leaving nearly as soon as we got there because the weather was not great, but that's beside the point.)  After ten hours in the car (with traffic), we were finally on the long stretch of road that leads down the North Carolina coast to the beach.  It was a small, two-lane road surrounded by woods.  I was zoning out to music, exhausted from the trip, just anxious to get there and find a place to set up our tent.  It was about 11:30pm.

There was only one car behind me.  I was vaguely aware of its presence.  As I drove, I felt like he was edging closer and closer to me.  I worried that I might be going too slow for his preference.  I worried that I was inconveniencing him.  I worried more about that than about the posted speed limit.  I sped up a bit to see if he'd back off.  He didn't.  I sped up more, determined not to get in his way and inconvenience him.

He turned on his flashing lights.  Damn.

I allowed my desire for the car behind me not to "be mad" at me dictate my decision to drive 70mph in a 55 zone.  In case you're wondering, that costs $280 in North Carolina.

I'll pay the ticket.  I earned it.  But I notice this tendency still coming up on a daily basis, and it's driving me nuts.  On the way to work today, I noticed my mind go there immediately.  I thought, Oh I wonder if that parent will try to contact me today.  I have to tell her what's going on with her daughter, but I know it will upset her, so I'd rather just avoid it.  Then I thought,  I left school an hour early last Friday because I was exhausted from sleeping overnight with the 7th and 8th graders the night before.  I didn't have to teach, but I wonder if anyone is upset with me about that.  I wonder if they think I'm doing a bad job.

Readers, do any of you notice this inner monologue of "shoulds?"  Do you find yourself worrying that you're inconveniencing people, or that you care too much about what they think?  Post stories or strategies in the comments section.

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