Friday, May 16, 2014

My Simplicity Fantasies, Dr. Oakley: Yukon Vet, and I Heart the Grid

My latent simplicity fantasies have been kicked into high gear recently due to my binge-viewing of “Dr. Oakley: Yukon Vet” on the National Geographic Channel. I love everything about this show: Dr. Oakley’s earthy practicality and fearlessness, (traits that I will never possess but remain perpetually envious of in others), the tough, quirky, living-off-the-grid folks that make up her clientele, the beauty of the Yukon landscape, and the gorgeous animals she has the privilege of treating. And the show is just so…pure. She has three smart, adorable daughters, a doting husband, and a career helping wholesome farm owners care for their animals. Everything about her life seems essentially right and good. It makes sense. She knows at the end of the day that she’s actually accomplished something. She doesn’t have to get up in the morning and slather her face with makeup and try to put together a semi-coordinated outfit and navigate the Metro and answer 73 e-mails before noon while people keep coming into her office needing things. When she is exhausted at the end of the day, it’s the good sort of exhaustion that comes from having accomplished something real and measurable, not from putting out one fire after another and simply trying to keep up on ever-growing list of urgent but somehow intangible to-do’s.

I often have fantasies of ditching city life and moving to a small town with one traffic light, where everyone knows everyone and people bring each other casseroles. (I don’t like casseroles, but they loom large in my simplicity fantasies.) I could get a job doing something easy, like being a clerk at a tire store, or a church receptionist, or a house painter. I would get to know everyone and I would never be lonely and I would show up to all of the barn-raisings and I wouldn’t have to get accosted by meth junkies while waiting for the bus and Mr. Typist and I would live out our lives as small town folk, and when we die, everyone will come to our funerals. Or better yet, we could move to the Yukon, buy a yurt, and live off the grid. (Except that I really, really love the grid and don’t think I could live without it for longer than say, 48 hours.)

The idea that if I make my life less complicated on the outside, it somehow it will fix what is going on inside, is as compelling as it is misguided. The theme to my college graduation ceremony was “Where ever you go, there you are”, and while it annoyed me at the time, I’ve grown to appreciate the wisdom of this statement. The vast majority of my “problems” actually stem from my over-active, anxious, fearful, chattery mind. To a large degree, I’m the one who makes everything complicated—not the Metro or the junkies or the make-up or the job. Not the sweet and lovely volunteers who come into my office wanting a bus ticket or a little well-deserved attention. It’s my inability to be present; my constant worrying, mental chewing, comparing, and tossing myself into the jaws of a future that doesn’t exist, or a past that doesn’t matter anymore. This year is teaching me some hard lessons in being in the present, and while I don’t like it one little bit, I have no choice but to submit to it. And you know what? It’s really not so bad; learning to live and trust in the moment, learning to be present to what is, without judgment, without expectation, and without attempting to run away to live in a yurt.

--Kristen McHenry


John Socrates said...

Love your post. It has a lot of wisdom as well as humor to it. As it is, I once lived in the yurt, and for a very long time (13 years). And I can tell you it is everything it's chalked up to be. And better. I also found that when you change your environment (what's on the outside) it can change what's inside (your attitude and frame of mind). In a positive way. At least it did for me. I found this to be true for the grid (what I call the "urban blight grid") too. When I returned to it in 2007 it certainly changed my attitude and frame of mind. And I guess I'm still adapting to the cultural shock and horror of it!

Kristen McHenry said...

Hi, John

I didn't know you lived in a yurt! Wow, that sounds amazing, actually. While I don't think I could ever live off the grid and be happy, I do think I could look at simplifying things in my life; maybe even considering a move to a quieter place somewhere down the line. All I wanted to do when I was younger was get the hell of the series of small-townish airbases I grew up on and get to a city. Now that I've been dealing with traffic, pollution, and the rampant violence and homelessness of the neighborhood I work in, a small town really doesn't seem so bad!

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