September 14, 2014 by Julia
I’ve been trying to approach life from a “use every part of the buffalo” standpoint. I assume most of you are familiar with the phrase, which has been thrown around a lot in America in reference to the American Indians of the plains who could and did use nearly every part of bison for food, tools, clothing, shelter, and more. There is a scene in the 1990 film “Dances With Wolves” that shows how the white hunters (Civil War soldiers, in this case, I think) slaughtered scores of buffalo for their hides and then left the huge carcasses to rot; the despairing music and shocked faces of the Sioux horsemen in the scene told my twelve-year-old self that to not “use every part of the buffalo” was not only wasteful, but a crime of disrespect against the dead buffalo.
Do we disrespect what life has to offer when we consider the less tasteful aspects of it useless?
I was driving to my brother and sister-in-law’s house yesterday with a trunkful of party supplies for my sister’s bridal shower, which I was very stressed out about. Now, my sister is by no means a bridezilla, and I also love my two sisters-in-law who would be cooking and helping with decorating, not to mention hosting. But it had been a busy week, I felt like I’d been neglecting my kids and husband, I was socially exhausted, and I wasn’t sure if all the random decorations I’d picked out over the weeks would actually come together into something attractive. Sometimes you just don’t know until you start putting stuff up.
And then, while I was driving, I had one of those “this moment is useful” epiphanies that are usually more expected during moments of beauty. It wasn’t an extreme moment of distress or joy. It was just a normal life moment, made up of stress, anticipation, tiredness, underlying happiness for my sister, and relief that I’d made it out the door without forgetting anything.
It was a transitional moment, between things, but so much of life is just that. The stress was (in part) a response to meaningful obligation, which is the gratifying foundation upon which we build our lives. The anticipation of the bridal shower gave me hope. Tiredness tells me that I need to slow down, or change something. Happiness for my sister’s upcoming wedding makes me grateful that we have genuine love in our family, and that she found a good man. Relief that I’d left the house without forgetting a thing meant that I’d worked hard, and that as a result, things might be okay.
Every thought and feeling of those moments in the car was useful to my life. Even the stress.
You could definitely say that my stress last week was over-the-top. I was coming off an awesome two and a half days of child-free vacation with dear, super-fun people, and I had no excuse to be stressed out for at least a few days following it. No excuse! But I get overwhelmed by things that don’t logically warrant it. And when I am socially burnt-out, I go a little crazy.
I am constantly trying to find a better balance between “MUST GET OUT OF HOUSE NOW.” and “OH DEAR GOD, WHY CAN’T I JUST STAY HOME?” It always seems to be one or the other. I found myself complaining about feeling isolated most of the summer, and then these past few weeks I’ve traveled and escaped and it’s been absolutely wonderful, but in between the actual events everything feels like too much.
I struggle with conflicting desires for normalcy (routine, solitude, home, family) and a desire to experience everything. I have a side that doesn’t want to miss a thing. It pains me to leave a party early, because the best stuff often happens after half the people are gone. I dislike saying no to halfway meaningful or fun experiences that my family and/or I am invited to, because we have to live life to the fullest!!! I am more likely to spend money on travel than anything. And then people – I want to include everyone, remain open to anyone.
In short, I tend to say yes to a lot. And then I realize that I am way over-scheduled, and oh yeah, I am an introvert and I will be drained by three nights out in a row! How did I get myself into this?
At that point I dread everything. I worry about the things that are supposed to be fun. I feel like I might not make it through, and I cry and snap at the kids and fail to have an actual conversation with my husband for three days unless it involves the family schedule.
But there is value in this struggle to find peace of mind. Peace doesn’t come easily to me, but the fact that it doesn’t helps me to empathize with others who also have nonsensical worries. And personal struggle is where it’s at, in terms of life: the growth, the fresh experience, the ever-churning mishmash of confusion and epiphany.
Besides, if it weren’t for mental exhaustion, how could we enjoy escapist TV? Oh, how I’ve loved resting my brain with episodes of Bachelor in Paradise these past few weeks. If I weren’t overly stressed, would it be so much fun? I think not.
So I’m gonna keep pulling all these moments and parts of my identity and experience back, back, back. Nothing wasted. Nothing pointless.
We can use every part of the buffalo.