Soul Food

Written and Submitted by: Miranda Rae Shaver

If we are going to live solely just to survive, what is the value?

Adults will tell you that adulting sucks. They often will tell you how much they wish they were 22 again so they could skydive, but now they’re too old and have a bad back.

They will talk about their home life as if it’s a ball and chain. If you look closely enough at the veins surfacing their wrists, you may even see coffee pumping instead of blood, because on a good day, they get 5 hours of sleep.

Maybe they stand before you with red eyes; a result of the perpetual fight with their spouse about money.

The very same people I take direction from are people who live for the weekend to come when it is only Tuesday morning. I am destined to follow in the footsteps of people who fail to see “opportunity” as anything more than monetary value, co-workers who only find connection through their common hatred for a boss, and those who think they will only be able to relax once they retire.

Well let me tell you this: My dad is a fifty-nine-year-old badass who joined me skydiving.

Oh, and I should also mention that he has a chronic illness called Multiple Sclerosis and is celebrating 9 years sober tonight after facing the tragic consequences of addiction and alcoholism. He went from being homeless, to owning a successful business. He survived a grossly abusive childhood and now travels all over the world with reckless abandon.

So while the cynics produce excuses, the alive will produce experiences.

One day, I had the most cheese-ball experience of my life that caused a shift in my perspective about what being “high” means…So cheesy that I would never admit to it out loud, for I am just a little bitch behind a computer screen that is working on vocal expression.

I listened to a song ~ without words might I add ~ and about twenty seconds in, I started to cry as hard as I did when I broke my ankle in the fifth grade (I slipped on the school bus stairs and did that “holy-shit-that-hurt-so-fucking-bad-but-everyone-is-watching-so-I-have-to-be-cute-and-laugh-this-off” laugh). The instrumental was powerful and spirited. My heart was participating in the energy. I stopped in my tracks and was overwhelmed with emotion as the song progressed. I was high.

I have always been incredibly connected to all forms of art. I began playing instruments at a young age. I attribute catching on quickly to having a strong passion for creation. I had to know the basics before I could create, therefore I revelled in any opportunity to learn.

Photography had been intriguing to me as well. The fact that someone could cause me to see something ordinary in an extraordinary way had my mind spinning with possibilities. I didn’t truly connect though until I watched the first picture I developed come to life, floating in a tray of chemicals. It was a baby I nurtured from start to finish…a physical sight that birthed a mental vision. It was captured, carefully sheltered from sunlight in the concealed film canister, brought into a room where the reel was fumbled and loaded in absolute darkness, treated in a thirty minute manual developing cycle, hung to dry, cleaned, transferred to paper through the exposure of light, and FINALLY…

I was able to see my image for the first time. It happened like true magic right before my eyes. Every little tedious detail of the process became worthwhile as the solution uncovered my photograph. I was four years old again and emotion pulsed through me from head to toe. I was high.

Adults want to be young again. Why?

Because when we are little, everything around us is a new experience. We are easily impressed, have low expectations, and have more tolerance and empathy in our beginning stages of life than we may ever have again.

What a novel idea it would be to adopt these same characteristics in adulthood! No, my bills and responsibilities won’t go away once I decide to have the spirit of a four-year-old, but who’s to say my negative thoughts and complaints around them won’t? The shift of just one value can completely reform my life. If I shift the value of attaining wealth to the value of attaining enough, I see less hours spent at work and more hours slept. I see time to nurture relationships and develop new ones.

I have the ability to fill myself up with that soul food I’m so hungry for. The hunger seems insatiable, and when I’m not full, I’m hangry. When I haven’t picked up an instrument in days, written or drawn anything, gone outside, meditated ~ I am hangry! My heart is like, “home girl, feed me that good good!”

God damn it, it just wants that good good!

You’ve heard it all before, and so have I. For some reason we’ve become accustomed to viewing these things as a chore. Sometimes I view praying like that one cup that’s in the sink: I keep telling myself that I’ll deal with it later. Next thing I know, the cup is now four plates, a couple mugs, and a pot and HOW THE HELL DID ALL OF THIS ADD UP I’M STRESSED? Oh…right…I got a lot of praying to do now.

Nature fuels me too. On March 1st, 2018, I am beginning the Appalachian Trail. Yes, I am actively choosing to spend 6 months in a tent, living on noodles and gorp. I have been saving for months now. I am beginning to train, and have slowly but surely  been replacing my old gear. I planned to do this before, but I never fully committed. Now, I have done the math and made this dream a tangible reality. I no longer intend this as an escape from anything ~ This is just going to be a part of the journey.

Moving to Atlanta has evoked a small feeling of emptiness . I grew up in the
woods and when I moved to Atlanta I was thrown into a city full of construction, thick air, and artificiality. I’m a true believer that being surrounded by chaos enters me into a state which mirrors that chaotic energy. Even when my apartment is messy, I can’t settle and feel a little on edge.

Or, maybe I’m just anal. You can decide for yourself.

Part of the journey is to feel quiet amongst the disorder, but I will always crave raw nature when I am away from it. My personal serenity is enhanced if I can step outside to see something beautiful. I feel closer to my higher power and more of a sense of oneness with the world around me when I am amongst the still and transcendental power of it. At the summit of a mountain or the edge of a stream, I am high.

In places that seem so beautiful and untouched, I can always feel safe and at home. It is easy for me to feel comfortable, present, and at peace. I am currently participating in a Peace Corps preparation program, doing the footwork to head to Mongolia once I graduate. Working with The Peace Corps is an incredible two-year opportunity to work and live in another country where community improvement is vital. I will be assigned to the environmental sect where I will educate, develop sustainability plans, and find ways to stimulate agriculture in earth-friendly ways. With devoting this time, along with my thru-hike, to simply live and connect with this world, I hope to take full advantage of the opportunities for that are presented before me.

Man, I really don’t want to be an old, bitter bitch. One day at a time, I’m trying to balance adult responsibilities with that soul food I so desperately need.

Today, I went on a hike. I got a lot of weird looks. Not because I was wearing mismatched socks and a Chillba hat, but because my cat always hikes with me on a leash, and she fucking kills the game. I’m high.

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