You may be burdened with all sorts of mental baggage, all poised and read to give you a rough time. So just try to leave behind all such onerous tendencies and embark on your new adventure!
A thousand new things will come your way when you start your dig. You will certainly not like all of them. And be forewarned! All of the new people, facts, and events, when blended with any of the aforementioned mental baggage, can lead to the infamous “dig ennui,” or just plain grumpiness. This brings us to the subject of this post: How to Survive?
I like to break it down into 3 very easy words. Please don’t scoff, but just bear with me. The words are:
Faith, Duty, Compassion.
This magic 3-step formula contains within it everything you need in order to stay balanced, healthy, and positive on your dig. It goes something like this:
Faith - Ask yourself, “Why am I here? How did I wind up way out here, so far from home? Is it really just an accident, a coincidence, or was it meant to be?“
I like to think of people like fingers on a hand. They all wiggle this way and that, comparing themselves to each other and saying things like “Oh, well I’m the tallest one!” or “Oh yeah? Well I’m the thumb and best at grasping things!” But in reality, we are all connected in one seamless whole, just as the fingers are connected to the hand. So when you start to get grumpy, sad, lonely, or anything else, just remind yourself to have faith. Every event, good or bad, presents a test, each an opportunity for you to practice your virtue. Now is your Olympics!
I certainly realize that this 1st step in the magic 3-step formula can be a bit off-putting, and difficult to cling to for most people when things get tough, which brings us to step 2:
Duty - Now, what is duty while on a dig? Well, digs are intensely team-oriented. Each person works in a small group,relying on your fellow teammates, staying in constant, immediate contact, and seeing immediate results from your labor. Duty thrives in this environment. Members of the armed services experience the very same thing: put your teammates above yourself. You might be tired, sore, sad, and sunburned, but what about your mate? You would do anything for your mate, and they need you! So when faith fails you, turn to duty and try to loose yourself in that most honorable and utilitarian act of placing the needs of the team above your own. Rendering service to others can be a quick and powerful salve for whatever ails you! Duty can feel just plain good, and provides you with an easy way to just ‘tune out’ whatever is nattering away at your mind.
Compassion - Ok, now you’ve had it. You’re faith has worn away, you’re just not having any of that wishy-washy stuff that says that everything in the universe led you up to this moment in this place. And, you’re tired of your teammates and think the whole idea of honoring them with your duty to be asking just a bit too much of yourself. Well, then it’s time to turn to the most ancient and revered faculty of the truest self - compassion.
Yes, life is hard and short. Yes, you walk across only a tiny part of a tiny planet in a big galaxy for only a little blip of time. And yes, the brief, fragile passage of human life has a way of expanding personal events to truly cosmic importance. But! In the end, setting aside every hope or dream, every grudge or regret, just take a deep breath, look deep inside yourself, and dip into your well of compassion. And first and foremost, have compassion for yourself. No one knows you better that you know yourself, and yet dear reader, we are not so different, you and I, where it counts anyway.
So there we have it - the easy-as-pie, 3-step magic formula to surviving your first dig: Faith, then Duty, then Compassion. Try out each in turn until you come to rest on the one that helps get you back on your feet, and good luck! Be well! We are all in this together!
“Don’t demand that things happen as you wish, but wish that they happen as they do happen, and you will go well.” -Epictetus