A Cemetery Trip That Changed My Life

Three years ago, I was looking for creative inspiration and decided to take a bike ride to my neighborhood cemetery. I left my apartment on that fall day and cruised down Bushwick Avenue, following my Google Map directions. This was the first time that I had been to a cemetery alone without the intention to visit a specific grave. I arrived and locked my bike up along the fence. The leaves blew across the walkway like tumbleweeds as I strolled deeper into the myriad of headstones.

At this point, I was well into the cemetery so I stopped and began to listen to the wind. As my active mind became tranquil, I was taken aback at what I began to feel around me:

“What are you doing here? Go. Run back to your life.”

This is the message that I felt — from where or what, I do not know. It very well could have been my own projections. I do know it was sincere and non-threatening. This force was genuinely curious as to why I was meandering through a graveyard while I had time remaining on earth. I walked back to my bike, gathering my thoughts and peddled down Bushwick Avenue with a different perception of time. Alas, I saw it as the diminishing resource that it is.

Once I arrived home, I jettisoned 80% of my belongings — things that didn’t bring me joy that I could go for more than two days without. The next day, I went to a store and bought five sets of the same outfit. I wear the same style to this day. I changed a lot of things in my life in the days following that event — most of which have to do with minimizing my time spent on recurring daily tasks and maximizing my time and enjoyment with people, my craft(s), and leisure activities.

Life is managing a multitude of oppositional forces. We are constantly making decisions for ourselves and those around us. We are constantly under undesirable constraints. We are constantly in discomfort. The more clutter (physical or psychological) that we can part ourselves from, the easier we can navigate life (physically and psychologically). This is nothing new, but my definition of “decluttering” has taken on many meanings over the years. For awkward and uncomfortable stuff, I rely heavily on parallels to keep me grounded and having a good time. For example, if I am late and waiting on a train, I am patiently waiting for my niece to tie her shoe before our great adventure. If I am speaking to a large audience, I am speaking to myself. If I am dancing or conversing with friends, this is my last dance or conversation with friends. Yoga and cold showers have also helped me deal with discomfort in different situations. When I encounter uncontrolled discomfort (or chaos), I reference my past self in controlled discomfort — then life is slightly more pleasant.

While I do not recommend a trip to a cemetery, it was worthwhile to take a moment and “audit” my days to see what has been fun, what has not, and why.