Reading Robert's post ( http://www.naktiv.net/blog/147/why-can-039-t-you-just-wear-clothes-like-everyone-else/ ) about the "Dark Night of the Soul" brought to mind a time when I felt frustrated and boxed in a similar manner to what he described.
It seemed at the time there was nowhere I could readily enjoy naturism. Not at home, not within reasonable driving distance. Not without taking what felt to me unreasonable risks.
As circumstances permitted I could find a rare moment when it was possible to free hike. This was perhaps once every second or third week, but it required a lot of pieces to fall into place. Work and home commitments, time, location and weather. It felt fantastic when I could get out, but overall this was less than ideal.
Initially I focused on all the factors that prevented me from doing as I wanted. Even needed in terms of stress relieve and relaxation.
First and foremost was my wife's attitude and response to the situation which was at best begrudging and not at all accepting. A close second was time and location. A 2.5 hour drive to a clothing optional resort, or 30 minutes to a remote walking track, which at the right time of the week, was usually deserted.
Work commitments didn't help. It was difficult to create a space in my schedule to get away to either of these places.
All in all I felt I'd taken a wrong turn in my life. I should have stayed single, should have stayed in New Zealand where mere public nudity isn't a criminal offence. I felt very frustrated. It's probably worth noting I didn't feel any of these "easy out's" just noted with any conviction. Rather, I identified these as the bars of my prison.
I think in almost any circumstance where it feels the world is closing in on you, the first place you look is to your exterior. The forces and factors that surround you. "If only this, or only that." How many times do you hear people say that? "If I had more time. If I lived in the country. If I had an accepting spouse."
These are things you think will change your situation, but they won't change you. Not in the way you want.
The first place you need to look is within, especially if you feel trapped by circumstances.
I did an exercise at the beginning of the year to see if living in the countryside would make any difference to our lifestyle. I wrote down all the ways I thought lifestyle might change.
"I'd spend more time outside. I'd do more gardening. I'd have more opportunity to be clothes free."
Realistically if you aren't doing any of those things now, a change of location won't fix it, because you'll be the same person in a different place with a whole new set of challenges. Challenges equate to excuses not to be living exactly how you want.
So the sum total of this experiment was to change myself.
For every benefit of a move I listed, I enacted. More time outside, more time in the garden. So, when the weather permits I always eat breakfast outside in the sunshine.
Interestingly, this has led my wife to spend more time outside. Particularly breakfast and lunch which she rarely if ever did.
Slowly as my own attitude changed, so did my circumstances. More clothes free time at home without an issue. Did my wife have some sudden change of heart? Most certainly she did, but only after I made a change myself. I created a comfort zone where I could be happily clothes free in a manner she found acceptable. With the zone established, it's boundaries have been expanded. My own self imposed boundaries I might add, as my comfort zone has grown.
Perhaps more significant than this was the change that occurred in environment. Not the environment itself mind you, but my comfort zone and attitude towards it.
To date I'd go out of my way to pick times and locations I was almost certain not to encounter anyone else when free hiking. Nine times out of ten this worked. I'd be cautious, feel on guard, but mostly relax and enjoy my walk.
During my commute home last week I thought to myself, "With all the vast tracts of nature reserve around, it's a pity you can't just free hike within it." Some of these parks are frequently used by many people. The chances of bumping into somebody is pretty high. I did a mental tally of locations that weren't frequently used. On the whole, not many aside from those I used at the "right times". Remote and infrequently used.
Cutting to the chase a little, I started realising how uncommon it was to bump into anybody, and on the occasions I did, how uneventful it was. People don't seem to be overly interested in what you're doing. You might strike them as odd, but so long as you're not threatening, or causing a disturbance, they really pay you little attention.
Within my own mind I figured all I really needed was a quick acceptable way to cover if I needed. This would expand my horizons considerably.
With this new found realisation, I set out Saturday afternoon to the track I often use that's about a 10-15 minute drive from home. Rather than tramping along wishing I wasn't caught up in sticky uncomfortable clothes, I got naked as soon as I hit the track proper.
It wasn't more than 5 minutes later that I heard thundering footsteps heading toward me. My main thought was "WTF is that?" It wasn't a kangaroo, but too loud to be a lone jogger.
I made a half hearted attempt at covering up. There wasn't time to do anything convincing so I just stood to one side.
Two teenagers went thundering past me in the direction I'd just came, fishing rods in hand. A quick hello. They had little to no interest in me.
As soon as they passed I carried on my way, and enjoyed the rest of the 2 hour hike incident free.
What I've realised through all of this is that comfort zones within your mind are important places to establish and expand. Within them you can identify and put into perspective your assumptions, reservations and fears. This enables you to take control of them rather than having them control you.
Through my experiences I've learnt that the "darkness", the barriers and limitations you perceive are largely created by yourself. It's your beliefs, fears and assumptions that imprison you. The keys to freedom aren't a change of circumstance, aren't "if only this, or if only that" The keys to freedom are inside you. Change yourself and you change your environment.
As things stand my journey is by no means over. Like a mountain climber that's about half way up an ascent, I can actually see how far I've come. I feel the summit is achievable. The view will be fantastic.
Hopefully by sharing the discoveries I've made so far it will help others with their journey.