Friday, October 9, 2020

Not Out of the Woods

Into the Woods was one of the first musicals I ever saw; the moment I heard Cinderella sing "I wish", I knew I was hooked on Broadway shows. Lots of other other works have worked to upend traditional tales (Once Upon a Time, Shrek, Wicked, several books by Jon Scieszka), but none has done it with as much grace, art, and finesse as Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine.

I'm incredibly impressed with some of the lessons that Into the Woods has taught me: 

  • Though it's fearful, though it's deep, though it's dark, and though you may lose the path ... you can't just act, you have to listen. You can't just act, you have to think.
  • Nice is different than good.
  • Sometimes the things you most wish for are not to be touched.
  • If you know what you want, you go and you find it and you get it.
  • There are big, tall, terrible, awesome, scary, wonderful giants in the sky!
Certainly there are some outstanding lessons not only from Into the Woods, but also from going into the woods. 

I geocache. It's a thing, okay? I search for containers hidden in the woods, and I do this as a way to cope with stresses and pressures of life. (Click this link for more on how geocaching saved my life.) This weekend, I went to find a new geocache, somewhere deep in the woods, in an area I was not familiar with. Thank goodness for GPS, because I was traipsing around the forest looking for a tiny container. When it was time to go, I couldn't find my way out of the woods. I knew the general direction, but the GPS kept bouncing around. And even though I could physically see where I was in the woods, I just couldn't figure out how to get back. I could feel my anxiety rising, and so I decided to take a moment to breathe, to pray, and to just enjoy my time in the woods. I meditated and practiced mindfulness and did some pondering. I literally thought, "The woods are just trees. The trees are just wood." 

I was stuck in the woods, but I had my wits about me. After some wandering, I saw the trail, but there was about 40 feet of really thick underbrush and foliage blocking my way. So instead, I just kept following the path of the trail, but on the wrong side of the underbrush. Right as I could feel myself getting frustrated and a bit hopeless, I said a prayer. I thought, "What am I doing here, I'm in the wrong story!" But I kept moving, and about 40 feet ahead I found an exit. It wasn't the entrance I used to get into the woods, but that didn't matter. I also ran into a branch, got some cuts and scrapes, and was itchy from the bug bites, but none of that mattered. What mattered was that I was back on the trail and on my way home.

Some things I learned from my time going into the woods:

  • I might get scratched and cut and torn up along the way, but the end result is worth it.
  • Sometimes I need to sit and take a breather so I don’t panic.
  • Just keep going. The goal right now is just beyond my reach, but I can reach it.
  • The way out is not always the way in.
  • I need to pray more.
  • The introspection during that time helped since. I feel like I turned a corner in the woods. I got lost, but I found myself. Okay, that's cheesy, but it's true. I used to identify with Cinderella, that what I want most of all is to know what I want. Listen, life still hits hard. Life can just really really suck. But though life is fearful, though it's deep, though it's dark, and though you may lose the path, you have to keep going. There is a way out, and it's just up ahead. 

    And maybe that's what woods are for: for those moments in the woods.

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