The night before I went to see the gorillas I had an anxiety attack. Of course, I called my mom and we listened to Lenard Cohen and talked until I could sleep (my mom is the best). I’ve had anxiety for the last few years and but it wasn’t until about a year ago that I started actively looking into ways to manage it. I’ve been trying to do yoga regularly, I meditate, and engage in mindfulness. But that doesn’t always work for everyone. I started taking a low-dose of Zoloft about 6 months ago and that has really helped. My goal during this period of anxiety has been to develop and maintain healthy habits so that one day soon anxiety will not be a controlling aspect of my life. I think I’m well on my way there.
Even though I didn’t get much sleep, I woke up at 5:30am and managed to leave on time! The hike was a bit difficult in places (the altitude made it hard to breathe for a bit) but I felt confident that I could rise to the challenge and I did. The group of us, about 6, plus a guide, a tracker, and two porters all trekked through the jungle to find the family of gorillas. The tracker had a machete that she used to cut a path–we were loud and excited! When we found them, they barely batted an eye. Some of the older gorillas were sleeping, the babies were eating bark off a tree and swinging on branches together. Being there really brought into focus what it looks like to be completely calm and at ease. Even with a bunch of people walking through their home, the gorillas carried on as usual. They weren’t startled by the unexpected change to their day. They accepted it and continued on.
I love that the gorillas treat the forest like their living room, all sprawled out with nothing to hide or be ashamed of, just there. I was able to genuinely share in their daily life: to see the silliness of the babies as they climbed on their mom’s head and were swatted away, to watch the young ones swing from the branches and play fight each other for fun, to stand less than a foot away from a huge silverback and know that he didn’t see me as a threat, I was able to be with these gorgeous creatures in their space. I wasn’t an intrusion, I was just there. It felt like a mutual sharing was taking place. They were sharing their home with me, and I was sharing myself with them. It was an incredible feeling.
I want to have that sense of calm. To be able to have my expectations interrupted and not bat an eye and keep my balance when things change. I want to make people feel like they can walk through my home, to be with me in my space. Because life is always changing. But in that change, I can be steady, I can take deep breaths, I can let go of control and still be okay. I can trust. I think I’m well on my way there.