Living 'out of the box'

By Catherine Lawrence
July 9, 2015

I have been living in a “box” for the past 47 years.

Catherine Lawrence
Being here in Georgia as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I can finally say that I am out of the “box!”

I realize that is a pretty bizarre statement, so let me explain. When I say “box,” I mean the feelings that the space represented in the offices I have worked in over the past almost half century. I have been lucky that my skills have allowed me to work in an administrative capacity in some fairly good jobs during those years. In addition, those jobs have provided lots of good things for me; but the downside to that was working a traditional 9-5 job in an artificial atmosphere sometimes, under fluorescent lights, without benefit of even a window. Depending on the time of the year I would go into the ”Box” as the sun was barely up and often leave once the sun had started to set. It is true that “you do what you have to do until you don’t have to do it anymore”, and that, my readers, is the beginning of my new story. Being here in Georgia as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I can finally say that I am out of the “box!”

My days as a Peace Corps Volunteer have freed me in ways that I could hardly have anticipated when I arrived in country. I am working in a somewhat different atmosphere–as an educator, my schedule is not strictly 9-5. I am in a classroom, not an office, and it sure does make such a difference. There are some days that my classes don’t start until 10:20 a.m. and sometimes my day ends at 12:30 p.m. I have other days that start much earlier and end much later, but the variety has allowed me to experience living in a totally different (not 9-5) way. My work still continues; for example, I still have lots of schoolwork to do in preparation for classes, plus language classes, emails and all the normal details that are required for living (as well as adjusting to another culture and my host family). However, I am now living with an appreciation of that which surrounds me rather than marching to a schedule that at times was frantic and crushing as well as confining.

I ask myself if this change I see in myself is a result of living in Georgia or just the culmination of many aspects of my life changing. I really do think that life here in Georgia is more difficult and as a result I take things much slower. I walk slower as I fear tripping and falling, I pay more attention to what I am doing rather than being on auto-pilot and I allow myself time to absorb what is happening. I now see the sun up in the sky rather than just when it is barely over the horizon.

My grandmother and I sit on the porch and watch the sun and clouds move across the sky. I often stand in the rain and feel the water wash over me. I have nature all around me, here on my mountain, and I can actually see from day to day how much fuller a tree or plant is, or how many more grapes leaves there are on the vines. I walk and listen to the water that is rushing down from the mountain (as the snows melt) and try to block out the cacophony of car engine noises on the road to hear the birds. I can sit along the road and just watch people riding their donkey or horses and make sure I step over whatever little gift they may have left on the road. I listen to the horses pulling an entire tree down the road as I know I will soon hear the chainsaw cutting it up for firewood.

At my home on the mountain I can sit on the porch and watch how the breeze glides over the plants and flowers; I can also feel how the breeze glides over me. I used to be afraid of bees, but now I just observe them going from flower to flower. On the road near my home there is very little car traffic and no air traffic, so the quiet and stillness were, as a "city gal," a little unnerving. I don’t miss hearing police and ambulance sirens, car horns, car alarms, helicopters or small engine airplanes and other noises associated with a metropolitan city. Any noise at this point is an interruption and not at all welcomed.

Over the years I have had all of these nature/life experience but they were isolated and fleeting, as there was always something to take me away from “being in the moment.” It has taken me a whole year to really understand that my daily living has changed and as a result to appreciate that there is really nothing to do other than be present moment to moment to what is happening around me. I don’t have to remind myself as often to just enjoy all of it.

My time here on the mountain is short. I am told that the second year of service goes really fast. I will miss this place. In the meantime I plan to soak up every minute of the 13 months that I still have left. One thing that I will take with me is the feeling that I am finally “out of the box” and, as the song goes, in a "room without a roof."

Catherine Lawrence

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