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Getting UNcomfortable

I like making myself uncomfortable, placing myself somewhere I do not belong, where I am the new kid, confused, awkward, unsure — and thus alert, deeply curious, open to seeing, open to learning. I realize the privilege of this. I know many people live their entire lives feeling uncomfortable in their bodies, their families, their communities, our society. It’s not that I don’t have those feelings, all of those feelings, from time to time. But the fact is, I am safe. And so I have the privilege of purposely pushing myself into new situations that throw me off balance, the purpose being to understand people different than myself, to keep myself as humble as I can (that is, a learner, always a learner) and to test my own resilience.

I did this when I spent 18 months immersed in middle school to write about tween/teen girl culture. I did it when I joined a ballet company to see if I could reclaim an old dancing dream. And I am doing it now, and have been for the past two years, when I go up to Oregon State Penitentiary to spend time with a group of prison writers.

And tomorrow… for something completely different. Frivolous, yes, but also deeply deeply uncomfortable. Tomorrow I leave with a group of ten others to go to Burning Man. We are the Eugene contingent helping to staff a venerable bicycle rental and repair camp. Of course I have known about Burning Man for years, but I’ve never been in the least tempted to go. It seemed, well, male – it is Burning MAN – and insistently Millennial. And self-consciously arty. And suffused with all those drugs I didn’t need to do any more because, as Huxley said, once you open the doors of perception, you don’t have to keep opening them. Plus, in my dotage, I am more careful with my neurons.

But I’m going. I am going because I want the experience of helping to create a city of 70,000 people where nothing, and I mean nothing, exists, in a stark, ridiculously inhospitable environment in the middle of nowhere (well, actually, in northwestern Nevada). That, alone, terrifies me. And then there’s this: The tattoo on my back is older than most of the people I’m traveling and will be camping with.

I’ll report back. Don’t look for a post next Wednesday. I’ll be, as they say, “on playa.”

(One of THREE bins packed for The Burn, pictured above, includes nothing I’ve ever packed for a trip before: el-wire, dust masks, goggles, ear plugs, shemagh, Snow White halloween costume, combat boots.)

7 comments

1 Kim in Oregon { 08.23.17 at 7:56 pm }

Please define el-wire and shemagh and provide details on source of Snow White costume. Which is perfect for you, btw.

2 Lauren { 08.24.17 at 2:39 am }

By now you have Googled all of this and know more than I do. But for anyone else out there: El-wire is electroluminescent wire, thin and wrappable, in colors (battery-ppowered) Burners wrap their bikes and their bodies both for fun and for safety. Shemaugh is a large square of cloth wrapped around the head (and face) worn by desert folks to keep out the dust. I know 3 ways of wrapping (thanks to YouTube), all of which would get me into trouble with TSA. As for the Snow White thing…a St. Vinnie’s bin-buy 15 yrs ago.

3 Steven Finster { 08.23.17 at 11:15 pm }

Take a look here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keffiyeh

It is incredibly useful!

4 Lauren { 08.24.17 at 2:32 am }

Some call it keffiyeh, some call it shemaug. I got it! Thanks to YouTube I know three different ways of wrapping.

5 Steven Finster { 08.24.17 at 3:50 am }

I love mine – started using them as a kid. We lived in the Middle East (and a bit west, in Morocco). One of the more functional pieces of clothing and a great thing to have in your go-bag.

6 Richard Greene { 08.24.17 at 6:47 pm }

Good for you Lauren. Wish I was going with you. I do the make myself uncomfortable thing all the time. Usually by being friendly and trying to start a conversation with almost anybody I meet.

7 Barb Bolsen { 08.24.17 at 11:58 pm }

I’m jealous. Seriously.

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