How Do You Stay True To Yourself?

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The other day, I was asked, how do you stay true to yourself, live a life that is connected and creative?

I replied that I’m not sure, but I understand it to be a daily practice of dissent.

And then she asked, what is it you mean by dissent?

I paused for a moment, attempted to bring up the formal definition in my mind, but it continued to desert me.

Dissent, I began, is the constant process of deconditioning. The daily re-commitment to what’s important in your heart and in your mind.

And I recognize, I faltered, that to even consider this conversation means I am answering this question from a place of privilege. That I have the choice to be something, to do something, in ways that many others don’t.

But as I’m answering regardless, let me take you on an adventure of my yesterday.

Yesterday, I woke up already feeling not ok. I was tired, the cumulative result of broken sleep. My mind was tight with all the things it was usual to be concerned about. The pressures of running a business, the constant feelings of keeping up. The responsibilities involved in caring for people other than yourself.

In that moment, as tired tears started to roll, I thought to myself was what I really craved was space. I wanted to go sit on my log in the back paddock and talk to trees.

Wanted to remember my own unimportance, to reduce myself in the context of the natural to my meant for and intended place; as just another creature treading this earth in this human, animal skin.

And a voice piped up, “well you can do that. You can go and do that now.”

So I’ll take you with me, together now, on a walk of nothing and everything, a day filled with much the same.

A re-commitment to what’s important in what I first described as counter-intuitive, but that’s not really right at all. What it is is counter-conditional; all the conditional beliefs that attempt to wield and rule my day.

As I walked outside, I saw a parrot, her body heavy against the horizon and resting on the flax. Before this year, flax has always been just that- flax. But I took up the habit of nature journaling and drawing and I see her now as so much more.

There is the mountain flax, herself a different colour to her low lying cousin friends. The more olive-y greens juxtaposed around the burnt red and brownish hues. Each plant a universe, an ecosystem, providing sustenance for birds and animals alike.

As the plants break into blossom it’s the nectar feeders that come first. The Tuis, the Bellbirds, all feasting on the sugar. But now with the flowers gone, the parrots break into the pods.

Later, when feeding the horses, I walk pass, analysing the seeds. I can see where strong and sharp beaks have made their entry, of the seeds that lie within.

I’m walking now, up the hill and over the crest of a gentle rise. Below me, I see the movement of three of my horse friends. They are all following each other, nose to tail, and one by one, they turn to face the sun.

They see me, acknowledge me with their eyes, and I call back in adoration, walking on.

The next paddock that contains life holds two more horses. They nicker to me as I make my way up the path, with the expectation of hay and feed. The next ears and eyes I see are Ada and Merc. We commune, scratch and breakfasts are doled out in the expected order. The air feels with the happy munching sounds of horse’s eating hay.

Now on to my intended destination, Bear’s log that sits within the paddock we call the twisted gums. My eyes relax here, take a long soak in the green of the surroundings. I notice a feathery grass I cannot name that I have not given much attention to before. In their sea of family kin, they all look golden, but on closer inspection, I can see the edges tinged with pink, as though gently dipped in watercolor paint.

I look down at my feet; my shoes now feel inappropriate. I take them off, my socks too, and lie down on the log. It doesn’t feel right so I get up, and start to walk on further still, making my way to the farthest corner down the back.

Despite the rising heat of the day, each place atop the land has its own specific temperature. At first I walk amongst the grass covered with dew, the cold so clear and strong that my bones inside my feet begin to ache. I think two things:

I am so glad we are no longer cutting hay. The days with intermittent rain and the mornings with already present dew would guarantee a seasonal headache.

Two: This cold feels like the sea. A plunge, a surprise, a body that reacts.

And then warm. Up the rise and the grass feels in comparison like hot pools. It’s not surface level heat, but underneath. The earth feels like freshly baked and newly taken out cookies. My legs fill with gingerbread delight.

I hear sounds of birds I cannot place, and I look upwards. I can tell the birds are many, but I can’t make out exactly what. My eyes and ears do their best to strain together, but today that knowledge is not theirs for the taking. I thank them and continue on my way.

My hand reaches in the pocket with the expectation of my phone but it is absent. Left, on purpose on the bedside table many steps away at home. I look at the watch I quickly borrowed in it’s place: 8:12 am.

I need to go. I have a call at 8:30, a commitment that sees me turn in the direction of my home.

When I speak of dissent, this is what I mean.

Not necessarily outward flourish. No big announcements or protests that involve the masses or stepping somewhere else other than the place you currently stand.

It’s really simple. A remembering. A recommitment. An action in support of both those things.

The daily practice of your smallness in the vastness of the land.


❤️ Jane

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