Admittedly, this plan raised some eyebrows when I brought it up with my husband.
First just: “What?”
Then: “Seriously, what the hell are you talking about?”
And finally: “You have zero outdoor skills. You have no idea what you’re doing.”
Fair point! I don’t have any idea how to survive in a forest, whether the rabbits or owls would eventually accept me as one of their own, how to find food or build a den—a nest?—but do I have any idea what I’m doing now? Spending each morning calculating the risks of disease for my kids using charts, graphs, and pediatric hospital availability, and then weighing all that data against potential educational and psychological damage that might be done by not sending them out in the world? Not really! And I don’t want to do it anymore, so I’m going to the woods. I’m going to lie down on the soft forest floor like a baby deer, and I’m going to stay there.
“You haven’t even thought about the basic logistics.”
Again, fair. I have not thought about the bathroom situation, or what to do in inclement weather, or how to tell if a berry is poisonous or not if I don’t have my phone with me (and I definitely will not have my phone with me, because I’m going to throw it into the first babbling brook I see). And yes, I understand that aspect of my plan raises several additional questions, but preemptive counterpoint: What if you never had to open an email again for the rest of your life?
The silence that moment created allowed me time to fish my old sleeping bag from the bottom of the closet. And when my husband spoke again, I picked up a slight change in his tone, as if he were trying to convince himself.
“You can’t just run away from the world and live like a skunk or a bear.”
But what if you could? What if you could just let the sights and sounds of a peaceful, friendly forest erase every last annoying or exhausting or terrifying thought in your head? Every medical bill or COVID tracker, every catastrophic news story you’ve ever seen, you know, the ones that increasingly appear on your phone with headlines that sound like a threat or a montage in a movie meant to signify rapidly spiraling doom? I’m just saying, WHAT IF YOU COULD, KEITH?
There was a deep sigh, which I did not appreciate because I have repeatedly asked my husband not to sigh heavily when I’m right in the middle of a plan. But honestly? The thing is I no longer care what he thinks, or what anyone thinks—I’m burnt out. I’ve been stressed for so long my brain doesn’t even work anymore. Yesterday I tried to google the word “thesaurus” by typing “the thing that gives you words for words.” Clearly, my ability to have complex thoughts and execute complex decisions is at its absolute nadir when I need it to be at the thing.
I can no longer remember what means the opposite of nadir.
So, again, I am going to the woods to live a life as nature intended: short and with a probably painful ending. But before that agonizing and avoidable death—likely from some tick-borne illness or a berry I couldn’t identify, because I threw my phone away in a brook—I will spend at least several minutes listening to wind move through the trees, feeling the warmth of sunlight on my skin, and relishing the sensation of an absolutely empty brain. Is that so wrong? Is that so “staggeringly stupid”?
At that point, there was no answer, which meant either I had forgotten to speak the rest of my thoughts out loud or I had won the argument.
Either way, during the lull in the conversation, I took the opportunity to sneak out the door, because it was decided: I would live the rest of my life as a simple, happy woodland creature.
At least long enough to take a nap.