Saturday, January 16, 2021: sunny and nearly 75-degrees in the dead of a California winter. My husband and I decided it was a good day to take to the trails at the sprawling Jack London State Park with our boys for a little nature therapy. The historic park, former ranch and residence of the acclaimed author nestled against the serene Sonoma Mountains, is quite the sight to behold with it’s peaceful knolls shrouded in oaks, meticulously terraced vineyards, mossy stone ruins, and majestic redwoods. I can never anticipate what a day in nature may conjure-up for me but I trust that it’s exactly what I need in that moment; a profound realization, perhaps, or a happy memory, or just a quiet space to reflect, to cry, to observe.
We left the house right after breakfast and arrived before most. As the morning drew on, the park grew busier but even then, we rarely crossed paths with anyone else, or did so from ample distance. You see, the sheer grandeur of the terrain with it’s many routes and trails naturally separates one group from the next. As I encouraged my boys to take deep, purposeful breaths of fresh, bio-rich air as the sun kissed our skin and our hands caressed the trunks of the giant redwood trees, everyone else hid behind a face-covering. This was perplexing to me; after all, an integral part of venturing out into nature, is breathing it in. I had hoped that any sensibly-thinking adult would deem a face-covering in this instance not only unnecessary but flat-out counter-intuitive.
While we found it rather peculiar behavior, we shrugged it off; to each his own, we thought, and continued on our way walking, laughing, talking, observing, listening. Then out of the silence a panicked father some distance behind us screamed, “They’re not wearing masks so we’re not going to go anywhere near them!” It appeared that his young daughter, in all her innocent enthusiasm and curiosity, dared to jet ahead of her group. At that very moment, an indescribable feeling of confusion and sadness came over me.
Confusion because the young girl came nowhere near us; confusion because even if she did, there would be nothing to worry about—we weren’t ill nor in a enclosed space together where illness may be more transmissible; confusion because surely her father was over-reacting—wasn’t he? Sadness because I felt sorry for that little girl; sadness because of how genuinely frightened her father was; sadness over the disillusionment and mental anguish so many are clearly suffering. I thought for a moment, am I living in an alternate reality? Surely I must be for how is it possible to feel so comfortable and safe and at peace here under the redwood trees while clearly so many do not?
This feeling of confusion and sadness lingered for only short time before I came to my senses and remembered, of course I’m living in an alternate reality—my own reality, just as the panicked father is living in his own reality, too (a reality alternate from mine). These realities are in constant evolution, and are shaped by many, many things. Neither is right nor wrong, good nor bad, although, if you’re not assertive or discerning enough, you do run the risk of what I like to call a ‘hijacked-reality’ in which your perceived reality actually isn’t yours at all but rather a reality created for you by others. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but it’s a forfeit of your power nonetheless, and that’s never a good thing. We must remember that our single greatest power as free and sovereign beings, is the ability to create our own reality; a reality that deeply resonates with us and truly feeds our soul and purpose here on Earth. We get to choose freedom over enslavement, peace over war, individuality over conformity.
Unfortunately, as I’ve come to realize over the past year, far too many are willing—almost eager, it seems—to relinquish that power at the mere flip of a switch, casting themselves full-throttle into the chaos without so much as a second thought. Is this poor, frantic father a victim of a ‘hijacked-reality’? I don’t know. Am I? I suppose it’s possible. But if I had to choose between living in his reality or living in mine, I’d choose mine over and over and over again.
To each his own.