One Word: Avail

by tjbeitelman

I’ve been thinking about the word “avail” a lot lately. Mostly because I don’t always avail myself of things that will help me, even if they’re cheap/free and readily available. Even if I really love them.

I’m not sure why I don’t avail myself of these things.

Maybe it’s because I don’t think I should have to avail myself of things, especially if they’re cheap/free and readily available. (Maybe especially² if I love them, if you believe my therapist. But I digress…) Perhaps it’s because these things are like alms, and I believe I should be giving (not receiving) alms. If I need alms, it means I’m poor. Being poor scares me. If I need something then I’m, well, needy. I should be stronger than that. Or else I don’t really need this something, so I think I’m taking an undue advantage. Someone else needs it more. And, of course, sometimes I owe someone something — my time, my effort, my presence — so “availing myself” becomes a euphemism for stealing from them.

But availing myself of something that truly helps me is really the exact opposite of taking advantage of it. It’s not stealing, either; it only makes me more available. And if it is like alms — and it really is — receiving something, with grace and love, is one of the hardest things we humans have to learn. In fact, receiving alms with grace and love is its own kind of alms. (Yin-yang! Ouriboros!)

With all of that in mind, here’s a list:

Readily Available Things I Need but Often Forget/Ignore: 

  1. Breath: I forget to breathe dozens of times a day. I’m not talking about breathing consciously; I’m talking about breathing at all. Breathing is supposed to be autonomic. For me, holding my breath is autonomic, too. It’s a wonder I don’t pass out.
  2. Water: Drinking it, I mean. Lots of it. Way more than I think I need. Compulsively. It makes everything better.
  3. Friends: I do need a lot of time to myself, and more as I get older. But it’s usually a little less than I think I need. I’m lucky that most of my friends allow for such an elliptical orbit.
  4. The Library: Certainly there’s lots of cool stuff in libraries (please see #5 below). But I’m talking about the place itself. Just wandering through the stacks. The soothing sotto voce of the librarians. The reverence.
  5. Books: Anne Lamott says books are a medicine for her, and I can relate to that.
  6. My Notebooks: Writing in them, of course. Handwriting soothes me, taps into some other creative quadrant of my brain. But it’s also reading what I’ve written: yesterday, three years ago. The things I remember, the things I’ve forgotten. The shorthand that has now escaped me. What did I mean then? Who was I?
  7. My Dreams: The ones where I’m asleep, not the aspirational kind. There I see beautiful, strange things. Or things that reassure me. Or things that frighten me, cause me to shout out loud. Or things that make me laugh. Things I can’t always see when I’m awake.
  8. Open Windows: Sounds. Smells. Animating breeze.
  9. My Backyard: Turns out the sky is back there. And birds. Last week, I saw a hot air balloon. But these things don’t reveal themselves if I just pass through. I have to sit down, look out and up.
  10. The Hills: There are these two massive hills leading into and out of my neighborhood. Walking them is all the exercise any 40-something fellow needs.
  11. Oak Mountain: The largest state park in the state is 1.8 miles from my house. There I can affordably engage in my two favorite outdoor activities: golf and hiking. I have not been there in nearly a year.
  12. Stillness: Like most people, I’m afraid of boredom. Lately, I’ve found it’s better when I think of my still moments as full and not empty. Stillness isn’t idleness. It’s rest. I need a lot of rest. Always have.
  13. Silence: I actually have a lot of silence in my life. But I need it in copious amounts. Like water (see #2), air (see #1). There’s almost no such thing as too much. Almost.

In short, these things are easily accessible gifts, things that I — as a conscious, creative person — must constantly avail myself of. Constantly remind myself that they’re readily available. That I deserve them. (Which is weird, that I forget. But true.) My consciousness and creativity relies on them.

Therefore: if you care to, feel free to use the comments section to list some of the cheap/free things you need to make available to yourself. I’m quite sure there’s ones I haven’t thought of or that I’ve forgotten…and I wouldn’t be surprised if I (and/or others who are also trying to be more conscious and creative) need them too.