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Things that are objectively awful and also worthwhile (a poem)

Gouache illustration of woman skinny dipping in a wild river

A List of Things That Are Objectively Awful and also Worthwhile

Hiking in the rain for starters.

Actually, doing almost anything despite the rain -

Swimming, paddling, surfing,

spinning wildly on a merry-go-round

saturated and full of laughter.

I once hiked through the rain

to the top of a waterfall and swam

in only the skin I was born in,

everyone else too timid to venture up road and path.

Also, I once canceled my plans

because my weather app forecasted

"a shower or two."

Getting up early. 

It’s always such a tremendous pain in the ass really

when there’s no need and you were up at 2:30

when your kid dreamt of something darker than the back of his curtains.

What’s waiting for you

out from under the comfort of your comforter

besides the aching beauty of the earth

turning its face towards the sun once more?

Being cold. 

Or being hot.

Either one.

Simply being out from under the protective

canopy of the ducted recycled nightmare

we call “climate control.”

Being a bit scared. 

This one is contentious.

There are real things to avoid

because we have evolved to survive,

but there is a chasm between

scary and


and if you listen carefully

sometimes that little glob at the base of your brain stem

is telling you that you’re about to be devoured by a sabertooth tiger

when in reality,

making that pitch,

or signing up for that run,

or making that phone call

isn’t going to tear you limb from limb.

Being a bit hungry.

Being a bit tired.

Getting your clothes wet, or dirty or sweaty. 

These are all mild forms of discomfort,

a feeling we’ve been trained to avoid

at all cost,

the cost being high,

the cost being all the interesting things we could be doing if

we weren’t here on our couches waiting for the algorithm to feed us.

Swimming in cold water

must be one of my favourites

because my brain abhors the idea

and so does my body when it bristles

at the first piercing touch

then suddenly I’m the one in charge,

the one making decisions

and I’m in and,

despite what that glob at the base of my brain stem told me,

I’m not dead

or even dying,

I’m alive in every cell of my body

and I can’t believe for a minute there I thought to myself,

’Nah, I’m really warm and comfortable and think I’ll just head home now.’

Eating food you don’t think you’d like.

Getting lost. 

Not having an itinerary.

Not worrying about not having an itinerary.

These all require what has diminutively been called

’a sense of adventure’

and is easy to shrug off as belonging to people with backpacks and tattoos,

not the rest of us poor sods who carry

the monotonous weight of development meetings and nut-free school lunches.

But that’s just letting ourselves off easy,

because mopeds and cheap beer and gastro

are not prerequisites for adventure.

But a lack of control is.

Talking to strangers.

Talking to friends. 

Having hard conversations. 

Taking risks. 

Putting yourself out there.

I’m not in the business of telling fairytales.

There’s no small possibility that any of these can end badly.

But something doesn’t have to be good

or easy

or nice

to still be worthwhile.

Speaking of which,

Releasing expectations

and the hold they have on whether you feel happy

about the way your life is going

or not.

We carry such heavy piles of suffering

simply because we do not take off the garment of our expectations,

unrealistic though they are.

I once wore a layered ensemble of expectations -

expensive, rare, illustrious.

I didn’t know yet that you can’t expect anything

from anything

other than yourself.

I built plans and dreams out of silk and faux fur

and threw tantrums (the adult kind, but not always)

when they couldn’t stand up to any kind of real weather.

”I put effort into this! I deserve this!”

But rain doesn’t listen to people

or to their imaginary scenarios

built sky-high in a future that does not exist.

It rains when it rains

and it pours when you least want or expect it

and sometimes I still throw tantrums,

and sometimes,

with great difficulty,

but sometimes,

in the cold and the mud and the wet,

I take off my heavy clothes and go for a swim.

Get your runners on ;) xx Kim

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