How I reviewed my life one year at a time
By Christopher Nyerges
[Nyerges teaches classes in practical survival, is the editor of Wilderness Way magazine, and the author of "How to Survive Anywhere," and other books. He can be reached at www.ChristopherNyerges.com]
My new year came Sunday, January 11, my date of birth. So that’s my personal New Year. As has been my custom, I did a birthday run where I run one lap around a track for each year, and review that year as I run. In a sense, I run through my life, looking back at where I started, where I went, what’s happened in between, and seeking whatever lessons I can.
This year, I didn’t do laps around a track, but ran up and down a dirt driveway for each "lap," a distance of about a fifth of a mile.
For me, 2008 had been a year of pain – losing my dog of 17 years on Easter Sunday, and losing my wife of 22years in early December. Christmas and New Year’s burned by in the time warp I was in, not wanting another close person to be gone. I focused hard as I ran my birthday run, trying to re-live my life, trying to really feel, again, what I felt back then, and my pain came back.
My first awareness of being born was that something was very wrong, that I came from some very holy sacred place and now I was back in a human body on this Dark Age planet. I cried uncontrollaby as I ran, just as I did in my first few years of incoherence and confusion. Yet, I slowly learned what it was to be human, and though I never grew out of my feeling of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and forever out of the loop, I learned the ways of man, of deceit, of double-talk, lies, beguilement.
I’d forgotten – until I did my life-review run – that I once knew that I came from some level of purity and Innocence, then descended to human-ness, and then I worked to learn how to "fit in" to the ways of the grown up world. As I ran each lap, I tried hard to just feel it, and to find the lessons that I still needed to learn.
I remember visiting my grandfather in Ohio, and how he yelled at my mother for some petty thing. I was only a child, but I never forgot that puzzling scene. I somehow thought that getting older meant that people grew wiser, more respectful, more controlled – but this was merely one experience that taught me that was not so.
I remembered as a teen stealing cigarettes and other things at local stores, and eventually getting involved in marijuana for a short while. Both my parents were working and there was no one watching. I looked up to the neighborhood "bad boys" who smoked and swore and stole things, and were it not for getting caught and exposed, I could have stayed on that pointless, nowhere path of crime.
Fortunately, I went through some sort of internal renaissance at age 14, and began taking martial arts classes, learning music, and studying Buddhism and philosophy. I saw that I knew next to nothing, and still I looked positively to the future. At age 54 as I ran, I could see that the past is very much alive in all I we do now, and the future is already written by what I think, and do, and feel as I live each moment.
I found I could do my birthday run with mental eyes wide open, facing all my fears, and perceptions of inadequacy.
In high school, I entered into the world of ideas, and the vast potential good that was available for the world if people – if I – lived ecological lives, though I was too naieve at that time to see the vast overwhelming influence of the pursuit of money in most of us.
I constantly felt the frustration of never really learning anything in school, but I learned to play the game, and learned how to play at journalism so that I could write and share ideas. I didn’t learn how to think, nor did I receive any moral rudder of any sort while in school. I simply learned about the tools I needed in order to go forward.
As I ran, I reviewed my travels, seeking something, rarely finding it. I reviewed my search for "real community," and my various successes in this regard. I felt so happy reviewing the time Dolores and I drove all the way to Oklahoma to take part in the 150th commemoration of the Trail of Tears, and Dolores spoke to the gathered audience with a Shining Bear reading. The whole trip was a magical dream.
Amazingly, I came to the realization that I wasted a vast portion of my life in the pointless pursuit of sex, or whatever I thought that meant. I was too dumb most of the time, too driven by my own animal nature, to cognize the difference between Love and Sex. Even studying Eric Fromm’s classic "Art of Loving" – though a step in the right direction – only began to reveal to me that "love" is not what we are shown on TV shows. True love fulfills, yet only sex is fleeting, and a terrible waste of time, and often a destroyer of families and neighborhoods. It was sobering as I ran to see that dark side of sex all throughout my life, something that I have only slowly been able to deal with.
In the last 10 years, I felt both uplifted by my work, and depressed by my own weaknesses and deficiencies. My separation from Dolores was a source of great sadness, but that sadness was later replaced by the inner enlightened joy of two people, respecting each other, freely coming together for certain goals. We worked together for some of the public gatherings we conducted at our WTI non-profit, and many writings, and other projects. So when Dolores made her final transition in December of last year, I felt both devastated, and forced to review all that was good, all that would take me into the future with the world we created.
So many lessons flowed from this run that it would take a book to record them all –most very personal lessons. I remember thinking that Dolores had created a wonderful life for herself, and that I wanted to do the same, and still want that. I also took faith in a quote from Michael Savage, that "Work is the only salvation."