The Ugly Truth about Living Life to the Fullest

I hear it all the time … “YOU truly live life to the fullest!”
Yeah, way to go, Roaming Bobcat! You are such an inspiration. Way to be free from society, jobs, obligations and Old World expectations, roaming by the will o’ the wisp in your valiant Catmobile, all smiles, gratitude and high vibrations.

Well, I’ll tell you what: I DO live life to the fullest. And it is not all you’ve cracked it to be…

2 days ago. My facebook status read “Sometimes, I feel so blessed, that my only hardship is humility.”
Last night. A friend offered I sleep in his driveway because I was cold, hopeless, and crying.

Crazy Free - new cover from Scott.

“Hi. I am doing a study on the homeless population in Sedona. May I ask you a few questions.”
The lady with the clipboard picked me first. Maybe because I was standing nearest the entrance at the Food Bank, waiting for my number to be called for a free bag of food to sustain me for the week. Maybe because of my three layers of down vests and jackets, the classic look of those of us without a heated space on cold winter nights. Or maybe it was my matted hair – she couldn’t guess of my choice to grow dread locks to celebrate my passage through menopause. Or something about my unhurried pace – letting mothers and people with jobs get ahead in line. I have nowhere else to be, and nothing else to do.
“I’m not homeless.” I told her. “I live in my truck, so I always have my home with me.”
She had a checkbox for that on her form. Vehicle dwellers count as homeless.
“No, I have no income.”, “No, I don’t have health insurance.” “No, I don’t pay taxes” “No, I don’t have electricity.” “No, I don’t use any substance, no drugs, no alcohol” … She had a checkbox for each of my answers.
“Well, I’m not your typical homeless person though,” I could hear the defensiveness in my voice. I mean, I live the way I live “by choice.”
She had a checkbox for that too.

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2 days ago, the Catmobile and I pulled into Slab City, California. The “City” appears on Google Maps as a small cluster of square blocks, complete with streets (Loners on Wheels Rd, Tank Rd, etc.) and neighborhoods (East Jesus, West Satan, etc.) But, in fact, it’s little more than a haphazard congregation of  “homeless” people of the wheeled kind, a mingling (not mixing) of nomadic hippie artists, air-conditioned northern sun-seekers, off-season disoriented burners, and Alexander Supertramp followers.


I fall slightly in all categories, but mostly in the latter.
The first time “Into the Wild” landed in my hands, I was a National Science Foundation Fellow with more annual grant money for my geophysics research than all the paychecks and under-the-table money I have earned combined in the 7 years since I threw caution to the wind and leaped into this strange life I now call my own. That book sparked something wild and unstoppable in me. I didn’t see the tragedy of a troubled young man’s untimely death; I read of a vibrant explorer with the balls to go for it, explore the edges, and follow only his own footsteps, to whatever end.

In time, I’ve become my own Alexander Supertramp. I’ve lived as I pleased, following nothing but my own wishes. I’ve run out of money, repeatedly – to a documented low of $2.62. I’ve slept in the dirt (as a thru-hiker) and on sidewalks (in Cuba). I’ve forgone showers and piled hundreds of thousands of miles on my odometer. I collected friends all over the country, with names as strange as Last on the Bus, the Big Elf, Grey Wolf, Weathercarrot, Quest or Rapunzel. Enough money has always appeared when needed, and not once did I use any one of my 4 college degrees. I taught yoga, posed as a nude model for art classes, worked as a Grand Canyon guide, painted buildings and houses, restored historical windows, dug trenches, shoveled pig and chicken shit, weeded organic gardens, trimmed marijuana, wrote a book about my adventures, and lived off the royalties for a while … and, I’ve had to borrow money, dumpster-dive (mostly for pies). I’ve sung Hare Krishna songs for a free meal, and occasionally relied on food banks and the kindness of strangers. Like Alexander, I joined the ranks of society’s misfits, roamed the desert southwest, and even moved to Alaska.

But our parallel stops there. Because his life stopped then, and mine hasn’t.

salvation mountains

Standing on top of Salvation Mountain, I sent Alexander Supertramp my love and gratitude for the inspiration. gratitude for all the adventures, the friends and the overwhelming freedom inherent to living life this way – our way! I then parked the Catmobile among my misfit peers, and basked in the glow of a gorgeous sunset from the comfort of my pillow. I felt like the Grand Winner of the Jackpot of Life, and fell asleep fully contented about everything in my world.

Alexander was older now. He was walking through the desert, but only I could see him. The rows of RVs had their generators going. That was in the world. So, the noise from the world was in my dream. I was relatively sure this was a dream. I could date Alexander since I could see him. He’d be my invisible boyfriend.
“You died just in time.” I told him. “If you had continued on, you’d have run out of steam, eventually.” He wasn’t listening, but he held my hand as we walked. “All that freedom, it’s exhausting after a while.” Still not listening. “It’s like having so many options paralyzes you, because how can you choose when everything is available?”
There was a banquet for a wedding. A table covered with delectable meals. All of which I had tasted already. He sat and ate.
“Alexander, I think I don’t want to be homeless anymore. I want a kitchen, and a bathtub, a garden to grow my own food, a room for my sewing machine, and a yoga studio nearby where I can teach, and a steady income to buy gear and pay for adventures.”
“Then stop.” He kissed my temple just before I drifted elsewhere, to another dream.

supertramp
skinny slit separatorThere were no restrooms anywhere in Slab City, and no bushes thick enough to hide behind, so I left before sunrise, at the urgent request of my bowels. Then I drove 2 hours and almost ran out of gas before finding both gas and a bathroom.

“Then stop.” he had said. Well, but, I can’t. Just like I can’t stop in Slab City if I need to poo. There’s this urge to always move on. A fear of missing out if I don’t. I can’t go back to where I was before I got on this journey, because, at this point, it’s so far ago and I’m such a different person that I wouldn’t even fit at all “back there.”
And, also, I don’t want to stop for the sake of stopping. I want to stop because I find a spot or situation that I deem worthy of stopping. I’m not just gonna pull in the middle of the desert and say “I stop here. Here’s just fine.”

And what if I did stop? There were towns along the way where I’ve considered stopping, like North Conway, NH or Sedona, AZ. Would I build a peaceful hole to call my own? Get a steady job? A job would bind my daily hours, and the assorted taxes, insurances and utilities would bind my income. So I’d have the money for adventures and gear, and no time to partake in them. The eternal dilemma … I think I’d just shrivel up under the weight of a life ill-fitted to my particular genetic makeup. In fact, I’ve tried to stop in each of these towns. It didn’t take.

When I finally pulled into Sedona, and caught my first glimpse of Thunder Mountain, tears welled up in my eyes. Tears of sadness. An overwhelming sense of stagnation washed over me. I was here again. I always returned here when I didn’t know where else to go. Why? Why always Sedona? Because it’s easy. Because I know I can camp out in the desert, and get my mail at friends’ addresses, and meet people for tea, and hike trails I’ve hiked a hundred times without having to buy a map or ask strangers. I have a “spot” here. Just having this “spot” made me feel stagnant. So, not only I can’t stop, but I can’t return too often either. A pretty dire case of wanderlust!

Then I drove through town – for the first time in over a year. My favorite yoga studio is now closed, as is my favorite coffee shop. Most of the pullouts in the desert now have “no camping” signs, and worse … there is a “camping” sign on my secret road, leading straight to my secret spot – “My” spot, where I have spent months, where I know each cat-claw bush, coyote song and firewood pile. There was a massive camp in “my” spot, with enough water to last an entire season.

So, here is where it stands. The Sedona I always return to no longer exists. It changed while I was gone. So, I can stay here and pretend it’s a new town. and I know I’d discover new “spots” and meet new people. I could even find work here – I have contacts- and save enough to hike the CDT – my next dream adventure.

Oooor … I could go somewhere else, someplace new. Anywhere. I can go anywhere at all. I can go soooo anywhere that I don’t even know where I’d go.

And THAT is the ugly truth about living life to the fullest. How do you define who you’d like to be when infinity represents the boundary of what you can create? How do you narrow it down? How do you remain content with your choices when you can just look over the fence and see the green grass of a small home with a kitchen and a bath? How do you ward off stagnation when movement becomes your norm? How do you reconcile growing your own organic vegetables when you are addicted to the view outside your 32 square foot window to always, always, always be different?

What would Alexander have done, if he hadn’t died?

desert

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P.S: So … I started writing this posted “The Ugly Truth about Living Life to the Fullest” intending to write about how, often, people think I live in a state of La La Land-happiness about how awesome my life is. And anyone on Facebook could easily think that, because I only post when I’m happy. The “Ugly Truth” I wanted to write about is that life comes with great joys and deep sadness, moments of despair and confusion, the whole gamut. The key to “living fully” is NOT to be happy all the time, it is to live everything that happens. Reject nothing, it’s all good … that’s what I came here today to write about, and then, my fingers wrote something else entirely. Probably something I needed to read myself, to know where I’m at. Live Blog Therapy, of sort.

And also, this morning, as the story was writing itself, I got an offer to go live in a cob house with a friend in Colorado. I’d still have the truck as a bedroom, but there would be a kitchen and bathroom, and a wood stove, and a room I could make into an office to finally record that audio book I started years ago. And it’s in a spot I’ve never visited before. So … ??? Stay tuned.

Thank you for reading! XOXOX

[drawing of the two ladies on the cliff by my friend N.Scott Driscoll as a potential new cover for Crazy Free]

 

 

 

 

 

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AT final debrief. And the next adventure …

I finally updated the AT 2016 stories page, linked to the menu above. Here is a prologue of sort to the next adventure …

I had the means, the time and the gumption. I was going to hike the Appalachian Trail (the AT), all 2,200 miles from Maine to Georgia. My plan was to start at the summit of Kathadin in early July and roll on down south to Georgia for Thanksgiving.
But you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and bobcats … I made it to the top of Kathadin, across Maine, New Hampshire and half of Vermont. 500 miles I walked. Then I landed in the hospital. Here are the stories of my hike and its unexpected left turn –> here.

As I update this page in the fall from my temporary home in New Hampshire, I now know that the sickness that landed me in the hospital was a gift. This is still 2016. The year when I asked the Universe to “surprise me”. It might even surprise you … but hold on a little bit. The next chapter is being written, and I don’t have a full grasp yet of its extent. For now, I’ll tell you that it comes with delicious green eyes (or grey, or orange, depending on the weather) and an air of certainty, of game-change, of uncharted territory.

So, stay tuned. The adventure ain’t over yet, even if the AT is temporary (or permanently) on hold.

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Flow: An interview with TheBobcat

We join The Bobcat on this rainy Halloween for a status update and reality check. A jasmine tea brewing, Railroad Ave as weird as we had left it, laptop is plugged and ready. Let’s catch up …

Good morning Bobcat, it has been a while since you last wrote and some of your readers might be wondering about your whereabouts. How is your post-PCT reintegration into real life going? 

Well, Bobcat, since I am both asking the questions and answering them, this might be a bit of a redundant interview, but as you know, I am not reintegrating.

You mean you are resisting reintegration? 

No, I mean I don’t believe in “reintegration”. Reintegration implies that the trail was an adventure outside of what you just called “real life” rather than an integral part of it. I think some people might feel this way because on the trail a certain flow is established that seems unnatural, almost magical. This is reflected in the terminology. On the trail we speak of Trail Magic when our needs are fulfilled effortlessly, of Trail Angels when strangers show us kindness and so forth. I believe that the magical quality of the trail is actually a quality intrinsic to life, it’s just that on the trail people expect it and are therefore more attuned to it. Even pragmatic hikers who argue vehemently that magic doesn’t exist believe in trail magic; I had the pleasure of meeting one of those hikers. So, rather than “reintegration” to some separate, less magical reality, I am living my post-trail life as an extension of my trail life.

Mmh. Interesting. So, what does “living a trail life” actually mean in the day to day? 

The basic premise is a blind trust that all is well, all is as it should be, I am always exactly where I am supposed to be and the Universe is benevolent and loving in all situations.

It seems if all is always well and you are always exactly where you are supposed to be that you easily could be stuck somewhere. Wouldn’t you lack motivation to grow and explore if you are always content with where you are? 

If that were the case, I would not be The Roaming Bobcat, now would I? One aspect of trail life is to follow one’s heart. This is a cat with many names; anything from God, Allah, Jehovah, Inner-voice, HigherSelf, Intuition, etc. We actually know what we need, even when we don’t know that we know. If it were right for me, I would feel great joy at staying put, but as it is, my own heart, in recent times (everything always changes, including this sentence), has found its greatest joy in random meanderings.

I see we are going to have one of those “higher” conversations this morning. Would you take it down a notch and give us some examples? 

Sure. You want specifics … While I was on the trail, I really longed to be back in Bellingham. I felt it was my home. I even passed on applying for a park ranger job in Death Valley, which had my name all over it, to return to Bellingham. When I pulled into Bellingham the day after finishing the trail, however, I felt a clear pull to continue on south. Despite numerous reasonable reasons to stay in Bellingham, I got in my truck and drove to Portland. Many times on the trail I felt that my heart was inadequately small to hold the magnitude of joy I felt. This is how I felt on the drive down to Portland. I was moving to Portland to become a yoga instructor there and felt absolutely sure that it was the right move.

But that’s not what happened? 

No, as indicated by my presence here, that is not what happened then. I had a lovely week in Portland with my friend Weathercarrot, but at no point did I feel a drive or excitement for yoga job searching of any kind. I resisted the urge to judge myself for this, even after balancing my checkbook and discovering that my credit card was maxed out. The trail cost me a lot more than I had anticipated.

This doesn’t sound like a “need fulfilled” sort of situation …

Our lower earth-bound-selves, or ego, are not in a position to judge what needs are fulfilled in most situations. The fact that I had no money was the perfect backdrop to test out my hypothesis that my needs would be fulfilled without any pain on my part if I just believe they would. I am not very receptive to subtleties  and the Universe knows this, because I am of It (Its creation, you might say, though that is only a pale reflection of the bigger picture), so it is easier for me to see the inner-workings of the Universe in contrast to a dire financial situation, if that makes sense. I’d like to return to the topic of money later, but let me tell you what happened next.

You got money? 

Yes, I did. A friend of mine from the trail, Siddhartha  got a job near Ashland and asked me if I could cat-sit for him for a week. This was a blessing  because the day I was to start cat-sitting was the day Weathercarrot was flying out leaving me without a place to stay in Portland. At the last minute, however, Siddhartha got a job in Portland and no longer needed a cat-sitter. As a joke, I texted him “can I have your job down south then?”. He answered “let me check”. A few minutes later, I got a text from another trail friend, Threshold, saying “You are in. We leave in half an hour”. And that is how I got a job working on an organic farm near Ashland. That made me giggle, a lot. I drove overnight south and started work at 8 am the next morning. It was so different than anything I had ever done. I loved working with the plants. I loved the people, the landscape, the long crazy physically hard days (from 12-15 hours a day; our longest day was 17 hours). It also paid pretty well. I worked at four different farms while I was down there. Food and lodging was covered, so any money I made went straight to my truck’s glove-box (I had no pocket). I was there for about three weeks. Just about when my back could no longer take the work, Threshold said she needed a ride to the Breitenbush Hot Springs, where a friend of hers worked. I was the only of the transient employees with a vehicle, so I drove her there. Soaking in hot springs was exactly what I needed, especially for free. As an extra present from the Universe, the day after we got there, an advanced acro-yoga class started. I was told that it is almost impossible for staff guests to get into classes, but I don’t believe in ‘impossible’ or ‘almost impossible’, so I got in the class effortlessly. I suppose it would have been fun, but when I woke up the next morning, I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt in my heart that I was moving on from there.

How did you know?

I could feel that immense joy invade my heart at the thought of getting back in my truck and heading north.

But you missed out on staying for free at a very expensive resort and doing a serendipitous acro-yoga class … 

I could answer this on several levels. At the most basic physical level, I think it was wise of me to not subject my body to the rigorous workout that a week of advanced acro-yoga demands. Working on the farm did a number on my back. On the highest level, I would say, there are no rules and who cares. If I feel more joy by leaving than staying, then why stay? This falls under the “if it ain’t fun, don’t do it” rule – with the caveat that there are actually no rules, not even that one. Again, everything changes. Still, as a starting point, following the fun is a good rule.

Okay, so you drove north with some cash and a broken back. But you don’t have enough to cover your credit card debt and you are still not looking for work. So, how is THAT helping with your needs? 

Money will come to me, in a form or another. I think that free-will really only applies to the world of form. I mean, we create our own reality with our conscious and unconscious intents and as a reflection of the energy we put out, but the higher Self underlying needs are still fulfilled. We choose the question, not the questioning.

Whatever that means, mumbo-jumbo-hippy-girl … I guess your readers can see that super-hippy new leather-patch coat you found in a free box you’re wearing. You look like a caricature. 

I am quite pleased with the free coat, yes, thank you for noticing :-). What I mean is that nothing matters. I will not be financially broke because I do not dwell in “financially broke” energy. I live generously and the Universe matches me. If I return south and work some more at the farm, my credit card debt will be taken care of, if I drive away from the known source of income, my underlying energy remains, so necessarily the Universe aligns itself to match my energy. I think that is what “manifesting” essentially is, but I don’t claim to know how it works. I’m just experimenting, as I said earlier. And it could all fail, and I could go broke, and that’s fine. I’ll keep on assuming things work out until proven otherwise.

So if you are not working at the farm, what money-making activity will you engage in up north? 

I don’t know. That’s the beauty of it. I have been working very hard at “not creating”. It’s pretty obvious to me that I always get what I wish for, so I am trying not to wish. I feel that way the Universe has free reign, unbound by my potentially misguided earthly wishes. I am bypassing the “be careful what you wish for, you might get it” energy.

And how is this working out for you? 

Not so well, actually. It turns out my brain is a mad wishing machine. I have 100 dreams a minute. The less I know where I am going and what I am doing, the more I come up with plans to fill the void.

But isnt’ you forcing a void a form of resistance? Shouldn’t you accept the fact that you have dreams and plans and wishes? 

Maybe. As I said, I’m experimenting. I don’t really know how it works. All I know is that I wake up everyday with peace and gratitude in my heart. Maybe dreams, wishes and plans are like thoughts, they should be observed but not taken to be absolute truths. Or maybe our conscious dreams are irrelevant, our higher-Selves dreams are those being fulfilled, and those are never wrong. Or maybe I’m just a hippy in a leather-patch 70s jacket with a giant tear on the back arm. It’s all good. I’m exactly where I am supposed to be, wearing exactly the jacket I am supposed to wear.

And this perfect life, do you plan on continuing living it solo or are you looking for a life-mate, or do you already have someone in heart already? Some of your readers have been wondering and trying to find clues to your love life in between the lines. 

Ah, yeah … Oh, look at the time! I’m supposed to go meet Megan 30 minutes ago. Sorry, that’s all I have time for. It was nice chatting with you. Thank you, readers, for putting up with my randomness. Love to you. More soon …