Chapter 11 – Rewilding Myself

Person on frozen pond surrounded by hoar frost crystals near Twizel

Rewilding in a mental health and attitudes context can relate to developing a valued-based wellness plan using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy:

As humans, we have spent thousands of years separating ourselves from nature. We’ve built cities, developed technologies, and created artificial environments that shield us from the natural world. However, as we’ve become more disconnected from nature, we’ve also become disconnected from ourselves. We’ve lost touch with our primal instincts, our natural rhythms, and our innate connection to the earth.

Time Line of This Chapter:

June 2022 approx – July 2023

  • About rewilding in human development terms
  • An unexpected and delightful connection
    • Insights into attraction
    • The needs of a toddler
  • Great books to read that I’ve drawn on to write this chapter.

An unexpected turn of events:

It was early on a golden autumn morning that I drove along a Wanaka road feeling the nip in the air that kept me from cycling. I arrived at my chosen cafe of the day, where Miriam, a new face topped with soft blonde hair, was engrossed in some mysterious activity at an outside picnic table. Her hands spoke of experience beyond her years, but her momentary smile conveyed the vitality of youth, artistic expression, and a thirst for adventure.

Yes, I learn a lot from hands!

The cafe owner, who knew something of my need for a quiet early morning routine during maintenance chemo, introduced us. Miriam’s acknowledgement of my presence was brief though, and I headed inside to my usual table, opening my laptop after savouring a scone with coffee and skimming through the newspaper.

My routine took an unexpected turn when weeks of COVID lockdown began. The combination of lockdown and chemo-induced fog kept me content until I ran out of fasteners/glues and materials for home improvements. Then becoming adrift I became preoccupied with what I called ‘The Butterfly Project,’ but that’s a story for another time.

A surprise came when the cafe reopened, and there was the forgotten Miriam behind the coffee machine. I couldn’t help but notice her ability to multitask effortlessly, brewing coffee while attentively listening to my response to the owner’s question as to how my health journey was progressing. I soon learned that she was not just smart but also a skilled engineer, artist, and former air hostess, and her physical beauty was undeniable.

As months passed, my routine persisted, and I found myself intrigued by her – especially her taking every opportunity to question me about many different aspects of my life. Very occasionally, like many months apart, we would walk together after her work, during which my feelings oscillated between romantic inclinations and those of a pragmatic survivor, seeking connection without delving too deep into uncertainty.

One evening, on the one and only time, as we sat together in the setting sun by the lake, I couldn’t help but admire the warmth in her eyes and wonder about the complex interplay of emotions in my own life, where I appeared happy and attractive despite the foggy misery of chemo. I had learned to postpone major decisions during such times, opting to do countenance any risk to myself. A default I learnt off an old friend many years ago when faced with tricky decisions involving others.

Skiing and adventure called her away eventually, and our interactions became sporadic. I received occasional texts when she was in town, inviting me for a walk. However, my questions about the nature of my attraction to her remained unanswered, waiting to unfold with time.

Reflections today

Now, after some time has passed, I find myself considering the possibilities and potential reasons behind her relationship with her partner (whom I never met). Perhaps they both needed each other while traveling to stay connected to their European homeland, their umbilical cords intertwined symbiotically to the past. Regardless, I no longer feel the need to find out the details. Our last walk was pleasant, and I shared with her some of the places that hold special memories for me – perhaps grounding myself in their comforting influence. I certainly learnt that her world view and my own were lacking in alignment.

The experience with Miriam brought light out of the fog with a deeper understanding of myself comparatively recently. It made me realise how our subconscious drives many of our day-to-day decisions, often without us being fully aware of it. The desires that originated from my childhood baby/toddler experiences, seeking meaningful eye contact and connection, seemed to guide my interactions without conscious intent.

While pondering the past, I’ve begun to comprehend how much progress I have made in managing my life, avoiding the worst of what might have been an ADHD predisposition from my early years. ACT therapy has taught me the importance of mindfulness, self-compassion, and accepting difficult emotions. With this knowledge, I have found solace in knowing that my journey, though challenging, is transformative.

Understanding myself better has allowed myself to embrace the present with a newfound appreciation for the complexities of human emotions. I no longer seek definitive answers or outcomes but cherish the moments of connection and self-discovery. The pursuit of self-awareness has become my compass, guiding me towards a values-based wellness plan.

As I continue to evolve, I know that more chapters of my life will unfold, each offering unique revelations and opportunities for growth. The tale of Miriam (btw name changed for obvious reasons) has been just one chapter—a beautiful interlude that reminded me of the richness of human experiences.

As the spasmodic Miriam days scaled down with a sense of gratitude and acceptance, I eagerly awaited the next page in my life’s story, knowing that I would approach it with the wisdom gained from my experiences, both conscious and subconscious.

As days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, I couldn’t help but notice a recurring pattern in my interactions with women like Miriam. The subtle yet profound impact of prolonged eye contact became increasingly apparent to me. It was as if a seemingly insignificant gesture held the power to unlock a cascade of emotions, stirring something deep within me.

One day, while sitting in contemplation, a memory from my early childhood resurfaced like a long-lost treasure. I recalled the times when, as a toddler, I would yearn for my mother’s full attention and eye contact. However, my loving mother, burdened with stress and responsibilities, couldn’t always meet this need. As a result, I had learned to adapt, perhaps too well, to fleeting glances and brief connections.

In our modern day consumer driven society that incorporates amazing technology few seem to notice that often babies now days are denied access to a parent’s eyes. Instead we seem to unconsciously want them to look ahead!

Now, as an adult, that unfulfilled need has become intricately woven into the fabric of my being, giving my outlook on life a subtle ADHD flavour. It is as if my subconscious is constantly searching for those elusive moments of profound eye contact, seeking to fill a void that has persisted since my early years.

The discovery brought with it a mix of emotions—compassion for my younger self, who had adapted to an environment of limited connections, and curiosity about how this longing had influenced my adult relationships. It was as if my subconscious was guiding my choices, seeking out women who, on some level, mirrored the elusive eye contact I had sought as a child.

With newfound awareness, I began to observe how my interactions with women unfolded. I noticed how my heart leaped at the slightest prolonging of eye contact and how it left a lasting impression, even if the encounter lasted only a few moments. It was as if those fleeting connections filled a void I had carried for so long, sparking an exhilarating sense of validation and understanding. And yet with no need to take it further.

This awareness, however, did not come without its challenges. The desire for prolonged eye contact could, at times, cloud my judgment, leading me to overlook important aspects of compatibility in potential partners. It was a delicate balance between cherishing the moments of connection and acknowledging the need for a deeper, more comprehensive understanding of love and companionship.

In this journey of self-discovery, I realised that my experiences, both past and present, had shaped the lens through which I viewed the world. While this “ADHD flavour” added complexity to my outlook on life, it also gifted me with a profound appreciation for the power of human connection.

With the wisdom gained from my realisations, I embarked on a path of self-compassion and understanding sparked by cancer. Instead of judging myself for my subconscious desires, I learned to embrace them as a part of my unique story—a story of resilience, growth, and the innate human yearning for connection.

As I continue on my journey, I no longer see my desire for prolonged eye contact as a mere quirk but as a poignant reminder of missed experiences long ago. It is testament to our ability to adapt and thrive, even amidst challenging circumstances. To approach life with a heart full of gratitude and wonder, we must be ready to cherish each moment of connection, however brief, as a precious gift.

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders book cover

This book inspired me to try writing the like of the Miriam tale above as a short story

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders review – rules for good writing, and more.

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the Booker Prize–winning author of Lincoln in the Bardo and Tenth of December comes a literary master class on what makes great stories work and what they can tell us about ourselves—and our world today.

Penguin Random House NZ

ISBN 9781984856036

Scattered Minds book cover

All about ADHD in depth

Scattered Minds explodes the myth of attention deficit disorder as genetically based – and offers real hope and advice for children and adults who live with the condition. Gabor Mate is a revered physician who specializes in neurology, psychiatry and psychology – and himself has ADD.

PaperPlus NZ

ISBN 9780593714379

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth book cover

So often in life I’ve heard the advice, “don’t sweat the small stuff”. If you believe this truly then you’d best read this book!

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth is an inspirational memoir of space exploration and hard-won wisdom, from an astronaut who has spent a lifetime making the impossible a reality. Colonel Chris Hadfield has spent decades training as an astronaut and has logged nearly 4,000 hours in space. During this time he has broken into a Space Station with a Swiss army knife, disposed of a live snake while piloting a plane, and been temporarily blinded while clinging to the exterior of an orbiting spacecraft. The secret to Col. Hadfield’s success – and survival – is an unconventional philosophy he learned at NASA: prepare for the worst – and enjoy every moment of it.

Scorpio Books NZ

ISBN 0345812727, 9780345812728

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BTW current state of health, as of mid July. 2023, is pretty good!

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