Esprit de L'escalier

Esprit de L'escalier.  I recently came across this saying in a book I'm reading.  It is an old but very relevant phrase, dating back to the 1700s where the saying was used to describe the predicament of thinking up the perfect retort you wish you'd had said in an earlier conversation.

Esprit de L'escalier.  The spirit of the staircase;  what you thought on the stairs on your way home.

Esprit de L'escalier.  The English refer to it as "escalator wit".

Esprit de L'escalier.  The clever comment you wish you had said.

Esprit de L'escalier.  The regret one feels after a missed opportunity.

Far too often I experience this;  the feeling that I wish I could have said something long after the moment passed.  The feeling I have after realizing I missed an opportunity to act on something.  My mind is pulled in every direction while I simultaneously watch myself tread through life, cursing at missed opportunities and missed conversations.  The feeling of regret, uneasiness, or a harsh blank slate of "what ifs" that reside in the back of my head.  

I've always been a fan of sunrises:  the first touch of light colliding with the earth to warm the soul and nourish a new day.  What's so wonderful is we are all capable of experiencing it.  Every couple of weeks, I make a commitment to myself to wake up and watch the sunrise.  But that plan doesn't always turn out great.

Far too often I'm the result of a cruel, albiet predictable joke from deep slumber's grip, masked by the comfort of my sheets.  I miss the opportunity completely, regretting it a few short hours later.  But that's just Esprit de L'escalier, right?  You arise well rested and move through your daily movements completely ignoring the fact that you passed up on one of the most fulfilling, spiritual, and peaceful moments of your day.

This morning I made it my mission to wake up for the sunrise.  It was a very cold morning and the chill from the outside world disrupted the warmth I had happily embraced moments before.  This morning offered one of those underwhelming sunrises where the weight of thick, dark clouds barely let the light touch the cold ground kissed sloppy wet by dew.  I was filled with doubt that the fresh sunlight would never reach me.

I sat outside on a hill and waited.  As I sat and waited for those few brief moments of illuminated life, a sense of peace washed over me and my heart was filled as I was counting time.  It's funny how alive we feel with these tiniest little moments, how resilient our souls are, how ready we are to receive beauty and flourish as the light births, grows and brightens.  I felt more alive, more resilient, and more at peace with myself.  It was a brief period in time when I didn't feel the need to say something, be with anyone, or feel as though I needed to be anywhere else.

I was exactly where I was suppose to be.  It was a moment unsurpassed by Esprit de L'escalier.  

Nobska Farms

Have you ever gotten that warm, gooey feeling that you are exactly where you are suppose to be?  I have recently, and it's been a feeling worth welcoming.  Things have been changing for me.  I got a job.  On a farm.  I got a job working on an exotic chili pepper farm.  This is a fact, I promise.

Nobska Farms is a certified organic chili pepper farm on Cape Code that uses high-intensity hydroponic systems to grow a variety of sweet, medium, and super hot chili peppers.  The man on the farm, known by many as Rooster, uses the chili peppers to produce Rooster's Rocket Fuel hot sauce, hot pepper jelly, spicy dark chocolate, chipotle seasoning, and more.  It is the goal of the farm to use aquaponic prototype systems for sustainable urban agriculture and development.

The first week I was there we did an impressive amount of boulder-moving, shoveling, picking, eating, drinking coffee, drinking wine, eating, chatting, photographing, labeling, eating, editing, cooking, sauteing, dish washing, reading, and more eating.  Our average meal consisted mostly of fresh food picked 20 minutes prior to eating and you could usually find me on the beach during sunset ninety-eight percent of the time.  I will be spending four days on the farm each week, learning about harvesting, farm safety, commercial kitchens, landscaping, hydroponics, farm fresh eggs and produce, recycling and sustainability, the local food movement, or #LOFOMO, as I've termed it, and how to make the perfect cup of coffee.

Thank you, world.  For the wonderful journey I have already embarked on.

chili peppers
chili peppers
chili peppers
light house
ocean view
light house
pepper farm
dried peppers
coffee & safety
beach view

living courageously... but what is that all about?

live courageously.  what does this even mean?  i've contemplated it for a while now, as it is no small task and rather difficult to understand - living courageously.  textbook terms, i'd say it includes not only an adventurous spirit, but the recognition that there's a purpose to be had and to go after it with white hot passion.

there's something quite romantic about having a purpose, isn't there?  to have a calling or something specific to do with your life that's both knowledgeable and influential.  but truthfully, few people ever get a clear sign on what their purpose may be...  or they are too fearful to act when life spits up on their shoes.

as adventurous and open as i am, i've been terrified of not living courageously.  terrified of not having the strength to dive into doing more of what i love.  terrified of worrying about what others think.  terrified of having others limit the opportunities i've imagined for myself.  terrified that my ideas weren't big enough, grand enough, or wouldn't lead me to mountain-top views.

i think i've been harder on myself these past fourteen months than i ever have before.  but i've learned a few things:  firstly, there is this in-between space in the life of a twenty-something-year-old that includes the desk job, the unwanted commitments, limited time, and deciding between comfort and courageous living.  and secondly, my fear of not living courageous living had created in me a person actually filled with terror and fear;  someone who had locked herself in habit, in routine, in complacency, in comfort.  i realized that the time i've spent over-thinking, waiting, and planning out ways to be more courageous turned out to be the very things preventing me from doing just that.  after all, no one holds the power to limit you but you.

but i've also learned about control, about holding loosely onto norms and conventions, about ignoring tangible decisions to dream about doing the unexpected, about contemplating the possibility of those things impossible, about over-anticipating and over-expanding, about the difference between what i truly love to do and what i love to tell people i do.

so i'm trying to re-discover what it means to live courageously...  that it's not necessarily defined by those mountain-top moments and life altering decisions, but by taking two steps to the side, by finding pleasure in small things, the little moments that encourage me to rest, to breathe, to be still.  moments like these:  randomly making breakfast for a friend, exploring a place i've never explored, reading something i'd normally ignore,  climbing something i've never climbed before, coordinating a road trip, getting to know a stranger, even new relationships.

life's narrative is a tricky one.  it's harsh and chaotic, sometimes uneventful, or even too eventful, perplexing and endlessly challenging, complex, tangled, uncanny.  indeed, life is full of unpredictable things, foreign things, messy things;  we are chicaned into believing that the settlement of less is more and comfort is something to welcome with open arms, though i've come to find it brings a sort of limitation that keeps me tossing and turning at night.

if we spend our time defining our lives by the big things, where's the courage in that?  indeed, life is easier to understand in big, life altering patterns, but there is much to learn by understanding the simple things, the little memories and the small deeds of ordinary people that create the opportunity to pause, to think, to be in that very moment and to be content with yourself exactly where you are.  to accept yourself, value yourself and the person you are now:  that is living courageous.

the universe has a plan, and that plan is always in motion.  stars move, the seasons change, a butterfly flaps its wings and it starts to rain.  it's a scary thought, but it's also kind of wonderful...   all these little parts of the machine constantly working to make sure you end up exactly where you're suppose to be when you're suppose to be there.  living courageously is not about those big moments or grand life decisions of making a major move or quitting a job; it's about each individual piece of the puzzle because when they slowly start to come together, the picture of your life becomes fuller, more beautiful, more intricate, more complete.

so that's what i intend to do.  i intend to take each day as it comes, challenging myself not in big ways, but in the little ones.  to pray more, try something new, create something, read more, write more;  to witness the movement of the stars, the changing of the seasons, the wings of a butterfly and each time it rains.  and every morning when i step out the front door, these little pieces constantly work with fate to make sure i end up exactly where i'm suppose to be when i am suppose to be there.


i'm twenty-three years old now.  yes, it's true.

there are a few things i assumed i would have by twenty-three:

1.  solid career.  nope.

2.  boyfriend.  nope.

3.  money.  nope.

4.  college degree.  yes, actually.  in anything significant?  nope.

there are also a few things i had no clue i would have by twenty-three:

1.  a personal website.  yes, i'm one of those people.

2.  a massive coffee mug collection.  seriously, it's true.

3.  a meatless diet.

4.  a fancy yoga mat.

and while there are numerous things i never amounted to becoming:

1.  soccer player

2.  storm chaser

3.  secret agent

there certain things that have continued to make me very happy:

1.  god

2.  family and friends

2.  food

3.  dogs

4.  ice cream in the freezer

5.  sunday waffles

6.  great books

7.  clean dishes

8.  free yoga

9.  weekend things

10.  new running shoes

as of right now, i'm still in the process of discovering what it is exactly i want to do.  and frankly, the same is true for discovering the kind of person i want to be, though i think i have a pretty good idea.  but there is one thing I’ve learned:  you become like the people you surround yourself with.  so choose wisely.

so my thoughts for the future:

1.  plans change.  all too frequently.  learn to adapt and grow.

2.  meaning is found everywhere.

3.  help more, play more, love more.

4.  chill.

5.  meal times are family times.  eat with those that make you feel full.

6.  appreciate the moment you are in.

7.  be happy with who you are and what you are doing.

8.  and chocolate is never a bad decision

what's wrong with death, sir?  what are we so mortally afraid of?  why can't we treat death with a certain amount of humanity and dignity, and decency, and god forbid, maybe even humor?  death is not the enemy, gentlemen.  if we are going to fight a disease, let's fight one of the most terrible diseases of all, indifference.
 - robin williams, as patch adams

creative people across all genres, it seems, have a reputation for being enormously mentally unstable.  all you have to do is look at the very grim death count in the 20th century alone, of really magnificent creative minds who died young and often at their own hands.  and even the ones who didn't literally commit suicide seem to be really undone by their gifts...  just before he died, norman mailer said  "every one of my books has killed me a little more."  an extraordinary statement to make about your life's work.
but we don't even blink when we hear somebody say this because we've completely internalized and accepted collectively this notion that creativity and suffering are somehow inherently linked and that artistry, in the end, will always ultimately lead to anguish.
and the question that i want to ask everybody is, are you guys all cool with that idea?  are you comfortable with that?  i'm not at all comfortable with that assumption.  i think it's odious.  and i also think it's dangerous, and i don't want to see it perpetuated into the next century.  i think it's better if we encourage our great creative minds to live.
- elizabeth gilbert, on genius