Being with Myself

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.

-Margaret Atwood

We had quite a winter here in Munich. It was the snowiest and coldest winter I’ve experienced since moving to Germany, even if you don’t consider the three weeks I spent back in the States over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

It wasn’t that long ago that we were bundling up and trudging through the dirty snow on the city sidewalks. Suddenly, the heat came with its full force, reaching what would normally be considered summer temperatures for this region.

Spring came quickly this year. The warm weather and later sunsets have given me the energy and the time to take walks after work before the sun sets. In the area of Munich where I live, there are three parks, each with a small lake. One of which, Fasaneriesee, is only a five-minute walk from my building. I’ve gone there many evenings either with A. or just to take some time on my own.

I value time with myself so highly these days. The rhythm of my life is interacting with people at work, interacting with A. at home, interacting with people at the grocery shop, interacting with people over the internet and through my phone. Don’t get me wrong, I like to talk with people and spend time with them. The problem is that I spend so much of my time with other people that I rarely have the time and head space to just reflect and be with myself.

In Missouri, I would take walks on my own at the local state park or just around my grandparents’ lakefront property. Downtown and around-town walks by myself were the norm for me when I was studying in Staunton, Virginia. The most alone time I ever had was during my time in Konstanz while studying for my Master’s. I would even take cycling rides by myself along the lake which lasted several hours per round-trip.

And now, now I live in Munich. It’s a city of 1.5 million, the most populous place I’ve ever lived. It is nearly impossible to be alone in this city. You want to take a walk? So does everyone else. You want to grill out by the Isar? Half the city will be there with you. You want to hide alone in this little grove of trees? At least five other people had the same idea.

No matter where I go, I am surrounded by people. Mastering the art of being with yourself while surrounded by others is no easy feat. But it is easier when you take your walks in the twilight and the majority of people have gone home for dinner.

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I take my walks when there is less light, fewer people, but still much beauty. I’ve seen the tiny buds of the leaves and watched them grow into full-fledged summer leaves. Some of the trees started to blossom, and I could take in the smell and rejoice at the sight of bees returned from their winter slumbers. The ducks have built their nests and laid their eggs, more of which I seem to find every walk I take around the lake’s grassy shores.

All the while during my walks I quiet my mind against the noise of the city and reflect on the day. I let nature smooth over the frustrations I have with myself, my work, and my relationships. Every little why-did-I-do-that moment is washed away when I see the miracle of spring bringing the world back to life, glowing in sunset hues.

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Time with myself in nature is my own personal self-therapy. It heals my anxiety, or at least it quiets it. It lightens my mood and helps me to feel more awake when the city puts me into a trance.

At the end of the workday, I take in the sights, sounds, smell of the outdoors. That’s exactly how spring should be.

Cheers!