I drove a completely new way to my hike this past week. With construction everywhere I am at the mercy of Google Maps to do the navigating for me. I’m terrible with directions and without this tool I’d be on an endless loop somewhere “trying to find my way”. 

This particular morning I got to thinking about all the trade-offs we employ in our lives and all the tools we use along the way.  There are dozens; little to big, insignificant to life altering. To begin recognizing these in my everyday life is eye-opening. 

Dragging myself out the door early has become more necessary than just choice. It is the difference between solitude and whatever one might call it’s exact opposite. It’s the trade-off that got me thinking. 

Often, just to avoid the crush of people, I will drive miles on dusty, pot-holed backroads to trailheads where I know the possibility of people “sightings” will be far greater than actual people “encounters”. Don’t get me wrong, I love people, but I’m getting worse with small talk. I am, as a friend describes it, an “attention payer”. 

I don’t always get the best light for photography in the early hours, but I can hear the subtle chirps and calls in a quiet wood. Birds sing in the morning to signal they have survived another night. Can you imagine a single thing more extraordinary to witness? Trade-off. Yesterday I got back to my car by hustling to stay ahead of a group of women who never stopped talking. I certainly don’t mean to judge that, but I don’t want that as my soundtrack either. 

” If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love you very much”.
-Mary Oliver

Lots of trade-offs on the trail:

Ferocious bugs, but full and glorious meadows about to explode in a carpet of purple, yellow and magenta. Trade-off. 

Lenticular clouds on Her Majesty just after sunrise. Clouds that disappeared as the day more fully emerged. Trade-off. 

A snow-free hike in July but an epic melt on the mountain that leaves it looking surprisingly bare in places. Trade-off. 

I imagine other small trade-offs happening too. There must be a reason I saw so few signs of life. A few uncooperative birds but virtually no critters. No pikas or marmots, not even a squirrel. Certainly no bears or mountain goats though I diligently search meadow and cliff for both. 

Trade-offs aren’t just happening on my adventures. My life is flush with necessary and valuable compromise. I remember ten years ago considering just such things. Back then, I called it “settling”. I only saw the half of everything … I could only identify what I would have to give up. That forfeiture never felt fair or equitable, but how could it when I saw only the shadow and not the thing commanding the light ? 

My life with RA has awakened me to the many compromises in my life these days. What has been taken and what has been given in return. I hate the idea of drugs in my system, particularly those that suppress my immune response in a time of viral catastrophe, but I feel better because of them. Trade-off. 

Maybe I can’t fully enjoy the company of others who, for reasons that are not mine to judge, are not yet vaccinated. Taking care of myself has to come before the comfort of engagement. Trade-off. I hope it won’t always be this way, but for now I accept what is. 

Maybe I won’t hike as far or as high this year, but I will listen differently. I’ll hear the birds. I’ll hear the tiny avalanches from the upper reaches of the mountain as the snow pack continues to fall away. I’ll use my hands less to climb, but more to capture the drama with my lens. 

Last month, a friend shared a line that I just love: she spoke of “getting glass on a thing”. Through camera lens or binoculars there is a rush that happens when you see a thing in all of it’s clarity that the naked eye might miss. It’s a little hard to describe, but when things come into sharp focus, my heart skips a beat. I live for those moments. Trade-off. 

Trade-offs are everywhere. Sleep for adventure, security for excitement. Maybe one of the biggest trade-offs for me this past year has been “monkey-mind for silence”. Meditation doesn’t seek to “fix” anything, yet it brings repair to much. It isn’t intended to carry an outward reward, but it brings a beautiful, quiet gift to moments otherwise wrought with anxiety. Trade-offs. 

My body tells me what I need every moment as long as I am willing to be still and listen. As I consider trade-offs now, I am clear that it is not about settling, but rather, balance. 

The journey is the reward.
– TAO saying

This year I have fully embraced this blog as a place to share who I am and what I see. It’s mostly for me and my hope that this blog will someday become a book. For those of you who read, and especially those who take the extra time to comment, I am so grateful. For all of us, I think, there is inexpressible value in being seen. The fact that so many lovingly engage is gravy. 

Pure gravy ♡ 

12 Comments on “Trade-Offs

  1. Yeah, we give good gravy on here, and munch on it too. I wish you well. You clearly know how go to about it, listening to your body, avoiding what distracts, searching for what pleases. Happy walking and sharing!

    • Yes, Manja ! The key to the Universe is attention: to our body, mind, spirit and to others, as well. Attention is love. Thanks for reading ♡

  2. Enjoyed your piece today. So right about trade-offs. We went through this with our decision on where to move in Mexico. Oaxaca, with its fantastic food, brilliant light, spellbinding scenery, or Merida, Yucatan, with safety and good medical infrastructure. Our ages were the heaviest factors and there have been moments when we have had some second-guessing but so far have no regrets for this particular trade-off. Love your work.

  3. Thank you Bonnie for the gift you give to those of us who get to “see you”. 💜💚💜

  4. Always with the trade-offs. One of my guiding principles has long been with everything you say yes to, you have to say no to something else.Newton’s third law, right? “For everything there is an equal an opposite reaction.” My hardest has been saying “yes” to living near west coast family, meant saying “no” to living near east coast family. 🙁 Aging for sure means learning to embrace the yeses and let go of the nos. Grace.

      • I used to imagine a world where there was only yes, but that idea can never really take hold, now can it ? You’re right, of course. I am at peace with most of my trade-offs, although a few will always expose a very tender want that may remain forever elusive and unfulfilled. Trade-offs. 

  5. I enjoyed your post. We experience trade-offs our whole lives most times not even recognizing they are happening, from the time we are born until the time we leave this earth. I would say we are in a good place when we understand that there are trade-offs and what they mean in ours lives.

    • I happily agree. Some of the trade-offs are more subtle than others of course, but all are significant. To see things as they are, that is the real miracle ! Thanks for writing !

  6. I’m grateful you share both who you are and what you see. Thank you for this. Aren’t “settling” and “compromise” and “balance” just different ways of seeing the same thing? I’m happy to have come to a time in my life where the center is easier than ever to find. As long as I remember when I get off-kilter! 🙂

    • Thank you ! Yes, I think you’re right about that. Those three words all seem to imply the same thing. A recognition of sorts. A big sigh. I like what you say about finding the center. Seeing things as they are is a theme this year for me. Thanks for coming along on my adventure !

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