Authenticity and vulnerability

It’s been a rough week and I’m not sure why. My morale has been low, I’ve been carrying a lot of anger around with me, and I’ve been taking it out unnecessarily on those close to me. I’m sorry. But yesterday I woke up and actually felt better. It’s been a week of waking up feeling groggy and achy with a headache, feeling confused and out of sorts and highly irritable, but Monday was different. I felt light, energetic. I felt motivated to push forward again. I Got Stuff Done.

Over the past year or so I’ve learned a lesson that I suspect most people learn when they’re young. When  I’m down I have to drown myself in positivity to bring my spirits back up. This is definitely a new learning for me, as I’ve spent much of my life thinking that if I searched hard enough and did the right things and picked the right job and looked right and and and…that I would reach a point where I became happy. I’d be a happy person, and to me that meant that I’d feel happy all the time…like I’d just wake up and feel happy. I think that is not realistic. What I am realizing is that being happy probably won’t be something that just alights onto my shoulders like a pretty little songbird. It is something that I have to choose every day. actually, it is something that I have to choose in every moment that I realize I am making a choice and taking an action. In every moment I want to, I have to, choose happiness. Choose compassion. Choose to let the tendrils of anger slip away instead of grab hold of me by the throat and choke the delicate happiness out of me. Delivering pizza is actually a decent test of this. Whenever I get a small tip, the temptation is there to think “what a jerk.” And sometimes I let my brain go down that road. But more often, I just choose to not let it bother me and instead just hold onto my pleasant feeling. I choose to be there to deliver to each person a very short human interaction where I look them in the eye and smile, maybe share a little pleasant small talk. I make an effort to ignore the money. It sounds easy, but it sin’t always easy. What I would like to incorporate more is mindfulness in the moments when I work. In between deliveries there is a lot of down time and it means that I sit in the pizza shop in the smoky greasy air looking at Facebook, watching the tv or doing anything I can to just check out so I can make the time go by faster and go home…to sit on the couch and look at Facebook or watch a movie…it’s kind of ridiculous when I think about it. So mindfulness at the time when I really want to switch my brain off.

I also started listening to a new audiobook yesterday. I’ve been listening to Brian Tracy audiobooks like The Science of Self-Confidence and The Psychology of Achievement and 21 Ways to Get the Job You Want, and they are really great. They’re encouraging and give some really great steps to take in order to make goals, set them and achieve them. There’s much more to the books than just that, but it’s a sum-up. Anyway, I’ve been listening to these self-improvement books and lately I’ve been wondering ‘where are the self-improvement books by women? Where are the books by women on how to empower myself as a woman?” I feel that as women we are fundamentally different than men (duh) and while I believe that action and forward motion a go-getter attitude are great and useful and things I want in my life, I feel like these are all very masculine approaches to life. I want to read about great women who are successful and have them tell me the steps they took to gain their success. I don’t want to be a woman learning men’s rules to play the man’s game best so I can achieve success in a man’s world. That won’t authentically represent who I am because I’m not a man. What I hope to find is a whole new approach to life, a way to live authentically and express my femininity and be successful in my own way. But first I have to create a picture of what this means to me, because the broad definition of success that is widely accepted by society is, I believe, has colonialism as its most basic foundation. Whomever accumulates the most wealth, resources, offspring is the most powerful and wins. These are things that are completely uninteresting to me. I don’t need to accumulate material possessions to feel successful. So the question is, what do I need to become successful? How do I achieve that success in a way that is authentic for me and allows me to truly be who I am in all ways? Since I’m in a new state of freedom, what pieces of my life serve the person I want to be, and what pieces do I let go of? And most important, how do I be the most authentic expression of me every day? Seems like authenticity is an important notion at this point.

So as I was saying, I’ve been listening to a new audiobook, Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. So far (I’m only about 3-4 chapters in) this audiobook is well worth the $18 I paid for it. I was reluctant at first to pay, because my money is extremely precious right now, but I’m glad I did. Brene Brown is a successful woman and she has become even more successful through her honesty and authenticity, through her discussions on vulnerability, despite the fact that she admits she hates vulnerability and is terrified of it. The book shares some of the research she’s found through her PhD, but also shares her personal stories, and in that vulnerability she is strong and admirable. These are qualities that I see as successful and that I want in my new picture of life. Honesty, vulnerability, authenticity. Acceptance of self, though self is messy and imperfect and nothing like I wish it to be. Another audiobook I’ll listen to once I’m done this one is Lean In, the one that became such a sensation recently. I tend to have skepticism about things that are sensational and Lean In is no exception, so I’ll read it. At worst, it just won’t fit for me. At best, it’ll give me some take away value.

I’m tired of typing now, and I feel that this post lacks a little focus, but I also just wanted to write. So I’ll end this blog post with those questions for myself. What is my definition of success? How will I know once I’ve achieved it? How do I move towards that success in a feminine way, in the most me way possible? How can I be authentic every day? What can I do every day, in every moment, to choose happiness while also accepting and allowing other equally authentic and equally valid emotions?

Life is complicated. I have a lot of work to do!

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Today is the first day of the rest of your life…

I’ve always loved that saying and I feel it is really true for me today.

It’s been 20 days since my long-term relationship ended. It’s been hard, the death of this dream. I’m 34 and single (hurts to say that), now live with my mom and I’m unemployed with debt. The past three weeks has been up and down and all around, but finally today, something feels new. The heaviness has lifted the tiniest bit.

Yesterday I talked to a friend who is always good for snapping me out of stuff. He is a realist and somehow if we talk long enough he says something that reminds me who I am and what I want. Thank you.

He listened to me talk about the things  that were bothering me and all he said at first was “You need to get out and do something.” He recognized that I was stagnating. It hasn’t been for the just the past few weeks; I’ve been stagnating and frozen in fear for months now. That is a long explanation of my inner thoughts that I’ll spare “you” the details of, but suffice it to say I’ve felt frozen, unable to take a step in the right direction because I’ve been afraid to take any step at all.

My friend reminded me that the way forward is simply a series of steps, one after another, starting small at first. That is what I need right now, that is all I can do right now. Take one small…hell, tiny…step forward, then one more and another, and just keep doing that. Head down, eyes closed, slow and shaking, stumbling if need be. just. keep. Moving.

I did three things yesterday to move myself forward. After I hung up with my friend, I got in the car and drove to the neighbouring town. I went to a cruise ship booking place I’d eyed up since I moved into mom’s place. In the window there’s a sign that says “Join Our Team.” I walked in, told them I was there about a job, and sat and listened while the lady looked me up and down and told me the job was contract, find-your-own-clients work. It was clear that she had already decided the job was not for me, but that’s fair because the minute she said the pay was full commission, I decided the same thing. I listened politely, took her card, and moved on. It’s not for me right now, with my serious lack of confidence.

The next place was the last thing in the world I want to do. Seriously. I drove past the store, saw the parking spots and kept on driving instead of stopping, just like I’d been doing for the past few weeks.

Nothing is going to get better if you keep going like this, said the unwelcome voice in my head. So two blocks away I turned around and drove back, parked, plastered a smile on my face and walked into Pizza Hut to ask about the delivery driver job. She too looked me up and down. She had a hard face and looked like she was sniffing for signs of weakness. She asked if I had a resume and I said not with me, so she handed me an application while asking some cursory questions. By the time I’d finished answering, I could tell she’d decided to give me a chance.

“Come in tomorrow at quarter to 4 and you can go out with the driver and see how it goes.”

Done. It’s what I need, one small, tiny, miniscule win, walking in and getting a job on the spot. I walked out with a smile on my face and for a minute I tried to hide it, embarrassed to be happy about getting a job at Pizza Hut, but then I thought “Fuck it. This is a win for me and I’m going to be fucking proud of this win.” So I let myself smile as big as I could, drove back to mom’s place, and texted the friend I’d phoned with the good news. A win. An end to more than six months of unemployment. The pay is shit, the job is menial and I had to push through a stunning amount of self-judgment to even ask about the job. But fuck all the derisive voices I hear in my head calling me down for this…fuck you. This is a win. One small step forward, one tiny ball rolls ahead, one tiny quake of movement shivers its way through the mountain of inaction that has crushed me for way too long. Any job is better than what I’ve been doing with time.

Back at mom’s, I applied to the community volunteer fire department, even though I don’t know what my future is or where I’ll end up, even though I’ve imagined all the ways in which they’ll reject me. I remember Bill telling me that I’m a volunteer department’s dream right now…a shit-ton of time on my hands and some good quality training to offer. And hey, I can’t get a job if I don’t apply for it. I’ve boosted my chances from 0 to 50%, which is good enough for me. Plus, my heart aches about leaving my hall. I love being a fire fighter with every part of my existence.

Then I went to yoga because I promised I would, just to get out of the house. I noticed that while in the past week of classes I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and needing gentleness in my practice, last night I felt the presence of a new strength. Not going to win any marathons, but it was there. The will to push a little, the will to breathe into the pain, to stick it out and hold on for just one breath longer…and I held out for all of the poses that I’ve been bowing out of because they’ve been too hard. Win. My own personal marathon.

Yesterday opened doors for me, and today, the first day of the rest of my life, I take that one first step over the threshold and onto my new path. Slowly, carefully at first, I will keep going.

Below is the plan that I am committing to today with this first little step. And I leave with a quote the yoga teacher shared this morning:

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
Eleanor Roosevelt, You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life

Aspen’s plan

Phase 1: Kill Debt
Step 1. Get job.
Step 2. Go to job.
Step 3. Earn money.
Step 4. Keep job until I find something I want more.
Step 5. See step 1.

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The way forward

A tornado of change has whipped through my life, and realistically I suppose I’ve invited it in. I’m reluctant to discuss the changes because I don’t want to have to admit them as reality yet. I want to remain in this little bubble of quiet contemplation that I’m in, that numb space of shock that protects you from the pain for a little while. Today I’d like to stay here forever, suspended, my life frozen in time, free of worries, headaches, heartaches and decisions. But I know that I can’t stay here long. Life moves. I need to move with it…just not quite yet.

In the past six months I’ve embarked on a journey to find myself, you could say. I’ve looked inside, dug out some inner demons, burnt them up with the light of acknowledgement. I’ve learned how to deal with the scars left from these inner demons and don’t need to look at the scars…most days. But it’s been a tough and ugly time. I haven’t been at my best. In fact I’ve often been at something close to my worst, and it’s proven too much for the life that I built myself. That life has broken now, changed and I need to start something new that fits with the new person I am becoming, I suppose. I feel a deep and great amount of sorrow, and I cry every day but at least I don’t cry all day, so that’s something.

The people around me who love me are worried, scared for me. I know you are. I love you and thank you for engulfing me with your loving concern, but I guess what you don’t see is the deep knowing inside of me that I have. That I’ve had for much of my life, that knowing that I’ve learned from the years of heartache and agony I’ve experienced, that everyone experiences. I will be okay. Okay? You don’t need to worry about me, or lay awake at night planning ways in which I can save my life and move forward and move on and make money and contribute to society. I know exactly where I am right now and I know what I need to do and I know I have a little bit of time to spare. In fact, I need quiet time to reflect on the huge inner changes that I’ve experienced and I need time to let those changes sink in and resonate within me and through me and out into my world. Now IS NOT the time for whirlwind action. Now is the eye of the storm, the time for contemplation and reflection, for dreaming and planning in preparation for my next growth stage, which will come in due time. Now is the time for me to gather my inner strength, to review my resources and take stock of what I have and what I no longer have.

For those of you that are scared for me and want to push me into action: I will grow, move forward, succeed greatly…at my own pace. And I adhere to that pace with stubborn will, but mostly with a deep and abiding trust in myself and my inner knowledge. I trust myself and I listen to that inner voice of my heart which helps direct me to where I need to be. It was hard to listen to my heart, and much harder to take action based on what I heard from my heart, but I did, and here I am–standing on this side of the doorway looking out over the next section in the journey that is my life. The view is beautiful, breathtaking. Green and gold glittering scenery, trees and hills and valleys and the road…but it’s not quite time yet to step through the doorway. For now it’s okay for me to stand in the doorway and look out over my future, plan my path or even simply just enjoy the view of what lies ahead, appreciating the adventures that I know will come my way. I’m in the doorway, the sun is setting, and this season of my life is almost done. But I choose to enjoy this last shred of it before I move onto the way forward. So for those of you that hurt for me, fear for me, cry for me…take heart. I know what I’m doing. It looks hard and painful, and yep, it is. But I know I am strong enough to handle my life or I would not have made the choices I’ve made.

I hope you are strong enough to trust me. Take heart. Feel comforted. I’m doing just fine.

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30 hikes in 30 days: Week in review

Saturday, March 14 already! That’s exciting, really, really exciting. Means Monday is my half-way mark, yippeeeeee!

This week has been a hard one. I’ve been waking up exhausted and it’s been a real struggle to keep pushing on and continuing this personal challenge. I’ve really wanted to give it up, and rather than having fun and finding the 10K hikes easy every day, I’ve been feeling like it’s a heavy burden/obligation to bear.

On Wednesday, I didn’t do any hike at all, which sucked but I accepted it.

Thursday I walk/jogged Cottonwood for my 10K, which was a real accomplishment. I don’t think I have ever run more than 3K in a row in my entire life. I jogged as much as I could on the way up the trail, but realistically I probably walked more than I jogged. It was really hard. I used every trick I had in my book. Pick a trail feature, run to it, run a few steps farther, then walk. Do it again and again and again. That got old, though. Then I used something from a tv show, ‘The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.’ Without giving any context from the show, the main character says “You can do anything for 10 seconds. Count to 10, then the next 10 seconds starts.” Anyway, I tried it, and that actually helped. Finally, though, I had to break it down to counting each step…walk 12 steps, run 12 steps, walk 15, run 15, 20/20, 30/30. Got up to walk 100, run 100, then started counting back down. That got me up the hill to the half-way mark, the river crossing, where I ecstatically took a break and stretched out a wicked leg cramp in my right leg. The way up was really hard. I really had to fight every step of the way, because there was part of me that, with Every. Damn. Step. kept screaming and whining at me that I should stop, turn around, go back, this is the last step, I don’t want to do it anymore, cry, cry, cry, whine whine whine. It was really awful and really darn hard to fight. Which is why I had to count every step. Just try 12 steps of running, Aspen, then you can walk for 12. Think you can make it 30 steps of running? The more running, the more walking you get! That’s how it went the whole way up. My body felt heavy, my spirit felt heavy. And forget trying to be present. My mind took any out it could and I just thought to hell with it. If I need to escape mentally in order to get through this physically, so be it. Whatever works. The way back down, though, was almost heavenly. It was downhill most of the way, which made a huge difference apparently. I’m not talking about huge inclines here, I’m talking maybe 1-5% for most of the trail, with one or two steep hills. But man, I felt it going up and I really felt the difference coming down. I jogged most of the way, only had to stop and walk a few times. It took me 1 hr 11 min to go up and 53 min to come down. So the way down was much more pleasant and I feel like I left a lot of the heaviness at the river crossing at the 5K mark (my turnaround point).

Friday was another day where I just feel like I sh*t the bed a little. I don’t remember much of what I did during my day, but I was feeling a lot of anxiety, like I had deadlines looming (I can’t think what they were) and a lot of worrying about things I “had” to do. That pushed my departure time for the hike way back while I tried to do some of the stuff at home, which meant that I only got a partial hike in before an afternoon appointment. I walked 2 loops, 6k, around the normal loop where I take my dogs, and then headed off, thinking I’d make up the rest after I got back. Anyway, the short story is that I didn’t get that last 4k in. I felt pretty ashamed. It wasn’t something I consciously decided. I feel like it was something I underhandedly let slide. The urge to lie to myself and on this blog and say that I had done 10K yesterday was really strong. The whiny-excuses voice bubbled up when that didn’t work. ‘But I had this, and that and blah blah’. The bottom line is that I didn’t finish it, and instead of doing that in a conscious way where I made that decision, I just let it happen, let it slide because I really didn’t want to admit that I really didn’t want to finish that last 4K. Man, that avoidance urge in me is sneaky, really sneaky. Anyway, all I can say is hey, I did 6K and nope, I didn’t lie about it. I choose to see that as a small win, even though I didn’t hit my daily goal win. Honesty about where I am and what I have and haven’t done is really important to me.

Today (Saturday) was a great hike. I feel like it was an actual hike. Went up Widow 300. The way up, though, I went through all the same shit. Anger. Frustration. Whininess. Avoidance. Laziness. Wheedling. Anger again. At one point in my head as I plodded my way up the hill, feet heavy and slow, I imagined myself bursting with screaming, screaming at the top of my lungs. It helped a little actually, but still. I don’t understand the…rage that I felt. Rage that it was hard, too hard said a sneaky part of me, and rage that I had to do it when I didn’t want to do it. So much like a snotty, sulky child. It’s annoying. And I had trouble with Oreo. He ran off into the forest, as usual, but then he started this yelping bark, which he does when he is really excited. I am still learning his barks, though, we’ve only had him for 1.5 years now. In my experience, that yelping sound means ‘mom help, I’m in trouble, I’m hurt’ and so I tried to ignore it, but I called and called and he wouldn’t come and I got scared, ran down a length of the hill I’d just achingly climbed, and called and called and finally he trotted out of the forest, tongue hanging out panting away as happy as can be. I was almost angry, but I was so relieved that it washed away. I can’t even scold him when he finally does come because I don’t want to discourage him from that command. Anyway, back up the hill, and that whole loop played out over again, though this time I wasn’t as quick to jog back down the hill. Eventually he showed up and he was spent, he could hardly walk up the hill he was panting so hard. He’d obviously found someone to chase in there. Elk? Bear? Cougar? Unknown. I’d guess elk, but he rarely makes those sounds for elk. It’s more his rabbit bark, but I doubt it was rabbit. Anyway, we continued up and then I reached a nice view point and I felt like a weight lifted off me. The beautiful vistas seem to really lift my spirits. It’s hard to be upset when you’re surrounded by the shoulders of the hills and the clouds are blowing by your face. It was pouring rain the whole time, too, but it eased a little for a while as I got up higher and I took off my hood and cap. I like getting an eyeful of the heights when I’m up there and the cap and hood really interfere. Anyways, we kept walking until the 1.5 hr mark (I passed the 5K mark early from the back and forth with Oreo) and then turned around. I saw a road I’d like to find tomorrow and it was a good reminder of how different I feel on hikes that gain a lot of height. The view really does something for me, uplifts my soul. The trees and forest are nice, but I find it easier to be closed into myself and lose myself in my head. But like I said, it’s hard to lose myself in my head when my head is surrounded by hills and valleys and clouds and treetops. I like the big picture. I like the far-away perspective. I think it’s maybe a metaphor for life, too.

Anyway, I’ve made it another week (almost) half-way. The proverbial 5K mark of my metaphorical 10K challenge haha. Everything from Monday on is downhill, easier. I hope. I’ve decided to sign up for an 8-day intensive EMR class, though, so I’m going to have to reassess on March 22 what my plan is for the rest of this challenge. I could postpone it. I could try to make it happen while I take the course (8hrs/day, 5 days/wk, plus hours of homework every night, if it was anything like my most recent OFA-3 first aid course). Probably some other options in there, too but I’m unsure. We’ll see what happens.

Until then, enjoy your paths and man, my heart goes out to you if you’re in an uphill phase right now. Fight it, one small step at a time, and remember ‘this too shall pass.’

Posted in 10K-A-Day, 30 Hikes in 30 Days, Discovery, environment, Feminism, Fitness, Health, Inspiration, lifestyle, Mental Health, Nikita, Oreo, Outdoors, Reflection, Self | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day 9 and 10: Negotiations

Cottonwood Creek in full glory.

Cottonwood Creek in full glory.

Yesterday’s hike, March 10, was a tough one. Not the actual trail. I went on Cottonwood again. I had intended to go up Cottonwood 300, a branch, and did walk up it about 100 metres…but then I turned around and went back to the main (flat) trail. It went like this in my head:

Me: I’m going up Cott300 today.

(I turn up the road. The road peters off, and turns into a trail covered in moss and grass, still easy to walk, but steeply uphill.)

Me: Meh, it’s not a real road. I’m going to go back to Cottonwood Mainline and I’ll just go farther, actually cross the river this time.

(Last time I went to the river crossing, I didn’t cross. Didn’t relish getting my feet wet.)

So I went back to the mainline and continued on. The hike was damn difficult, though. These are notes that I made during the hike.

This hike:

  • constant negotiation
  • hard to remain present
  • slow, lots of breaks
  • tired
  • more pain
  • 2km mark is hardest, more to go than I’ve gone
  • 4km mark brings real relief
  • on the way back, 4km mark brings feeling of crushing defeat

This was one of the hardest hikes I’ve done yet. It took me almost an extra hour because my pace was much slower and i needed more breaks. the uphills were, haha, an uphill battle. I felt like I had to struggle at every step to convince myself to keep going, keep moving, keep walking, please. My mind split into two voices, the petulant child whining about not wanting to do it and the cold, furious adult completely ignoring the whiny one and forcing the exercise to happen. The day was pleasant, warm, sunny for some of the hike, overcast for some. The dogs were happy, the birds were singing. I found these beautiful fungi at the river crossing.

Such beautiful fungi! They look like rainbows.

Such beautiful fungi! They look like rainbows.

I've never seen fungi so colourful! They were so beautiful!

I’ve never seen fungi so colourful! They were so beautiful!

The real difference in this hike was me and how I felt internally. My divided stance on this hike made me heavier, made me really drag. But I pushed on. I negotiated. I pleaded with myself and told myself if I did the hike, I wouldn’t have to do something else (though I don’t remember what promise I made, so I can’t really keep it…sigh).

Another thing I noticed was how hard it was to remain in the present moment and concentrate on my surroundings. Instead, my head was off into ideas about the newsletter/newspaper I’ve volunteered to take on in my town. This is a subject that I find really exciting, and I clearly would have rather been playing with that. Going for the hike was an obligation and I really didn’t want to do it, so my mind rebelled and thought about anything else it possibly could. I was flying off in the future, or circling around in the past, for much of the hike, unable to ground myself in the present like I’ve been trying to. The buddhist teachings I’ve recently been interested in talk about the importance of being in the present and how you lose your energy if you spend it in the past or future. I also think that not being in the present moment robs me of the experience that I am participating in at that moment, so what is the point in doing it. However, the specific point of the hike yesterday was discipline, and learning about myself. I learned that something that I enjoyed immensely a few days ago turned into a heavy and difficult burden for reasons I don’t even understand. I felt my pain and exhaustion deeply. Every step was hard, every pebble was an obstacle, every tiny shiny thing was a distraction my mind leaped to contemplate so it could be anywhere but there, hiking.

So I did some internal checking in and negotiating and learned that there is part of me that wants discipline and respects discipline and wants me to achieve goals in order to help me work towards larger goals, sort of a practice run. Then there’s another part of me that hates being forced into something that I don’t want to do, and rebels and makes things difficult when I don’t want to do something and drags heels, etc. But when that part is allowed to do the thing that I want to do, it does it full force, whole-heartedly. The problem is what happens when the two parts want different things, so they have to find a way to work together. I have begun to find this hiking challenge tedious because I feel like there are a number of other responsibilities that I have that I cannot fully attend to because I have to take 2-3 hours out of the daylight to do it. It would be handy if I could hike in the dark, because then I could do the other things that come up day to day, like garden, etc. But there is the disciplined part of me that wants to practice seeing something through until the end, simply to finish it.

So I will finish my challenge, but I also want to negotiate, to be gentle with myself and to do this challenge in a way that is healthy for me physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. So, remembering a discussion I had about non-violence and being gentle with myself, I’m going to tone down the all-or-nothing attitude I think I’ve been approaching this with. I now believe that I will still gain plenty of benefit from this personal challenge, but I don’t necessarily have to achieve exactly 10km every day. Nor do I have to hike EVERY day, though that is still my goal and I still want to strive for it. But I don’t want to force myself. Luke’s friend Nick, who recently visited, related that when a lay practitioner’s attitude becomes resentful, sullen, angry and unpleasant in regards to what they are doing, it is no longer the right practice and that is when you begin to do violence to yourself–when you force yourself to do something that feels like unpleasant work that you resent doing. This will just foster negative feelings in you that will injure you, rather than fostering positive feelings in you that help you grow. I’m trying to use this idea as a guide, but I find it challenging to agree with. There are many things that I don’t feel like doing, or resent doing, or projects that I start with gusto and then stop. If I only did what I felt happy and joyful doing, I worry about what would not get accomplished. And how will I ever have a job with that attitude? I don’t know the answer to those questions.

With these thoughts in mind, and remembering how unpleasant yesterday was, I looked out the window this afternoon when I got home from my errands and decided not to do my hike today. I have the negative feedback loop running around my head, plaguing me, but hell, I just don’t feel like it. The weather has turned rainy, not like a light mist but buckets of rain (good for the new raspberry bushes I planted!) and the dogs look like they need a day off too. They’ve been sleeping a lot and limping around a little. So I give myself permission to take today off, and I know this doesn’t mean I quit and it doesn’t mean I fail. What it really means, I guess, is that I am making this personal challenge sustainable. I am listening to myself and acknowledging my needs; I am listening to my internal voice and honouring what it tells me today instead of succumbing to negative, ingrained, feedback loops that play in there. After all, that’s the purpose of my life right now…learning to listen to myself and honouring my inner intelligence and having trust and faith in myself that I know what is best for me today, and in every moment.

One last internal check-in in the present moment. A deep breath. I close my eyes.

Do I want to hike again?  –yes.  

Do I want to hike again today in the rain?  -hell, no.

Okay. I can honour that. I choose to be okay with that answer. I choose me over the thought of what others might think of me in the future when I tell them that I didn’t hike every day. Not today, and I’m still achieveing my challenge, and I’m still moving forward with my goal. I honour myself, and I continue to learn from myself every day. Lovingkindness and non-violence are concepts that I am allowed to apply to me, too.

Oh, and by the way. Treating myself with the same love and respect I treat others? It feels great!

Posted in 10K-A-Day, 30 Hikes in 30 Days, Discovery, environment, Fitness, Health, Inspiration, lifestyle, Meditation, Mental Health, Nikita, Oreo, Outdoors, Reflection, Self, Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

8 days down, 22 more to go

I’ve survived the first eight days of my self-challenge, 30 Hikes in 30 Days. 22 left to go! I’ve given myself permission to repeat trails. If I were going to do this again, I’d actually plan it ahead of time and pick all 30 routes before I started and recce them all to verify locations. I’d set out a schedule, too. But hey, this way is working, too.

Sunday was Luke’s birthday and we finished off the day by hiking up Bald Mountain. It was nice to have him along, and it’s definitely one of my favourite trails so far.

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Today, both me and the dogs were pretty tired out, so I chose to do a little piece of the Trans-Canada Trail starting in Lake Cowichan. It’s a flat, manicured and very well maintained trail. I liked it for those reasons, but I was a little put off by walking through the town, even though the trail is still pretty quiet. But the part that I walked also parallels a road for some of the way, and I didn’t like that too much. For an urban walking trail, it’s awesome, but compared to some of the trails I’ve been doing where I’m the only moving thing around for kilometres, it was a little too populated for my liking. We saw about four people in the 2 hours it took me to walk 10 K. So trail pros: the flat trail was easy to walk on and no elevation gain meant fast pace. Cons: populated, heard road noises. But still a beautiful trail and a great day to enjoy it.

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30 Hikes in 30 Days

So, week in review. 10K-A-Day turns into 30 Hikes in 30 Days.

I enjoyed hiking 10K a day on most days of the last week in February so much that I challenged myself to hike 10 kilometres each day for 30 days. I started on March 2, 2015, so here’s the week in review.

Day 1 (March 2): Cottonwood

Beautiful trees on this trail!

Beautiful trees on this trail!

It was a good hike but I found it slightly boring, since the previous week I did some trails that had spectacular views, which the first 5 kilometres of Cottonwood lack (walked up the trail 5K and back down the trail 5K for a total of 10K). However, it was still good to get out into the wilderness.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2 (March 3): Widow Mainline

There's snow up there!

There’s snow up there!

Only Day 2 and already I had issues. My GPS distance measurement didn’t match the road kilometre signs, which absolutely killed my morale. Trying to improve my morale, I walked up a creek bank for a little ways and ended up slipping and cutting my finger on a rock. It wasn’t too bad but there was lots of blood. Really drove home how alone I felt, how I didn’t bring proper first aid supplies, how there was no cell service, etc. And since I was feeling low and paranoid from all that, I convinced myself that a fall of rocks down a bank near me was evidence of a cougar stalking me. Even though the dogs didn’t sniff at anything or growl or bark. It was a really tough hike emotionally, and I ended up going an unknown amount farther than 10K to make sure I hit my distance goal. My GPS said I ended up walking 15 or 16 km, but like I said, it was undependable. This was a challenging hike, physically (steeper trail with much more elevation gain), mentally and emotionally.

Day 3 (March 4):  Bald Mountain

On top of Bald Mountain, looking at Cowichan Lake towards Youbou (home!)

On top of Bald Mountain, looking at Cowichan Lake towards Youbou (home!)

I’d never hiked this trail before or even seen it. The trail map book I had is pretty good but I had trouble finding the trail head. I ended up hiking up a different trail first that was only about 1.6 km long, ending in a pretty little moss-covered lookout. Beautiful, but again, my morale plummeted. Nowhere near enough distance. So instead of taking the trail back down, I bashed through the brush down the other side of the hill and came out onto a paved road. Not really sure what I wanted to do, I wandered around a number of little paved cul-de-sacs in the area and eventually back to my car. I still only hit about 5 km, according to my GPS. I was feeling pretty defeated, loaded the dogs up to head home, then decided what the hell, I’d try to find the trail head for the next day. It was mid-afternoon at this point. Anyway, drove to the end of the residential road and finally found the trail. It was near the end of the road and a little hidden, but the trail is a beautifully maintained and well-kept one complete with a map at the trailhead and signs along the way. I looked at the time, judged the distance against how long my hikes have been taking me, and decided to do the hike. This trail was awesome, by far my favourite this week. The trail itself is well-maintained, free of debris. It’s an actual hiking trail, not an old logging road. It switches back and forth nicely to save your calves. It gains elevation quickly, so that by the time you’ve gone a kilometre or so, you’re looking out over the whole Cowichan Lake area, able to see a number of the communities. On this trail, I was really excited to have found it. My energy was up and I felt like a completely different person than I was an hour ago. This trail was great. My only slight complaint is that there’s not a real ending to the trail, just a sign that says “This is the end of the maintained trail,” and from there the trail switches to an old logging road and continues on. It was really hard for me to turn back, because I hadn’t hit the end of the road and it was really calling me on, but it was about 5 p.m. by the time I hit the top of the hill and the sun sets at 6. I took photos and then actually jogged most of the way down, not because I was too concerned about hiking in the dusk (the trail was well-maintained enough that it would have been fine hiking in the dusk) but simply for the joy of it and because the trail was so good. This was a win-day.

Day 4 (March 5) No hike

It pains me to even type those words, ‘no hike’. Thursday was not a great day for me. This week I’ve also started attending a women’s group that meets Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. It is a discussion group and the facilitator focuses on one topic of discussion for the daily session. There is a lot of learning there in these discussions for me, and Thursday was no exception. The topic was “perfectionism” and it’s clear to me now that a) perfectionism is very hard on a person emotionally, and b) I suffer from perfectionism. Case in point, the emotional turmoil I was in when it became clear that I would not get my hike in for that day. I had tasks to perform, which was part of the reason I didn’t hike. But there was small, barely conscious choice also to challenge my need for perfectionism that factored in to not hiking. My emotional state went from slightly agitated from a long day to downright agonized. I went through a phase of making excuses, and telling myself that I did 3 days of hiking in a row before I even started this challenge, so I could count that, or I did extra distance for the past few days, so I could count that. But no, part of what I want is to be out in nature for a few hours every day, and also to be active for a few hours every day. In not doing that, I treated myself very badly. I berated myself and beat myself up and wanted to punish myself. I argued that now every hike and all the work I’d done to that point was completely worthless, because I just failed the entire challenge. On and on, my mental and emotional state continued to swirl and deteriorate. Luke’s friend, a lay-practicing Zen Buddhist, has been visiting and sharing his ideals of lovingkindness and non-violence. I’ve really been making an effort to embrace these ideals, because they should wonderful to me. But that includes lovingkindness and non-violence towards yourself and on Thursday, I was neither of those things. He talked to us about something they call “The Second Arrow” which I know little about, except that it is the negative feedback loop that happens in your mind when a negative event happens. The Second Arrow, or negative self-talk and feedback, can be more damaging than the actual event, and that was what happened for me on Thursday. I was mean and cruel to myself. I really did my best to be gentle with myself and focus on the positives, or at least understand that just because I missed one day didn’t mean I had to quit the entire thing, and missing one day doesn’t negate the benefit I can gain in the future by continuing to do the project. It was just a different day, a blip on the screen, an anomaly, a different experience. So I learned a lot from that day, too. It wasn’t from being outside hiking, but I still learned a lot from the challenge I set for myself and the learning still pertains to my project, so I’m taking those important lessons to heart. It still stings when I think that as of today, Day 6, I’ve only hiked 50 km instead of 60. But I’m working on reframing that and just celebrating the fact that hey! I hiked 50 kilometres last week! Hooray!

Day 5 (March 6): Cottonwood again

Beautiful spot in Cottonwood Creek.

Beautiful spot in Cottonwood Creek.

This time my goal was to reach a specific river crossing that I knew was there from a previous trip up Cottonwood, when we went to Lomas Lake last year. I knew it would be more than 5 kilometres, but I didn’t really mind. I had more time, nothing else slated for the afternoon, so I just hiked until I got to the crossing. I felt much more relaxed on this hike and much more able to appreciate each moment, each step, the beauty in each part of the trail. I noticed a lot of really beautiful spots in the creek that I’ve been unaware of. There are some beautiful little canyons in the creek with deep, delicious-looking swimming holes that end in small waterfalls. None of it looks dangerous, all of it looks really perfect for summer swimming. There are even a few trees that have fallen across the river, and there’s one in particular that looks like it might be a candidate for a rope, to swing into the pool below, but I’d have to check the pool depth first. Walking up the trail, I found the 5K mark on a tree, which I hadn’t seen before. Verified the fact that my GPS had again been malfucntioning. It said I had hiked about 6 km already. I let it go though, and accepted that things are not perfect about this challenge, but the important thing is that I’m getting out and doing it and learning and persevering and gaining a lot. I reached the river crossing feeling good, sat for a while and enjoyed the sounds of the water, the birds, the sunshine on my back. Then I had a nap, which was extra great. Woke up feeling rested, like the nap in the wonderful forest/river energy had cleansed me. I felt peace, something I really have felt for more than a fleeting moment in a long time. The feeling of peace remained for the entire walk back. I also focused on paying attention to myself and being kind to myself. I acknowledged that my legs were tired and sore, and I allowed myself to take a number of breaks and sit down and relax and stretch for a few minutes each time. It was new for this project; I’ve been pushing myself to accomplish my goal, to finish the distance, push through any discomfort. I also realized that I was ignoring my need to pee because I just couldn’t believe it. I’d only drank a litre of water, and only just finished the last mouthful. I realized that I was holding it because I couldn’t believe I needed to pee yet, punishing myself for that need by making myself wait, which was making me uncomfortable which was making me sore, which was making it hard for me to gain the full benefit from the hike. So I did all that and felt much better. Later, I walked into a clearing after being on the trail in the forest. The air temperature was so different. I felt the wash of warm air after the cool of the forest, and decided to rest there in it. I sat, smelled the moisture and the earth on the air, felt the warmth on my skin, listened to the lovely sounds of the birds chirping…and that feeling of peace welled up in me again. Luke road up the trail to meet me on his bike and we chatted for a little bit, then he continued on his ride. I finished the hike feeling great, filled with peace and finding the concept of lovingkindness easy to understand.

Day 6 (March 7): Mt. Good Trail

It was cloudy when we started the hike, but it cleared up.

It was cloudy when we started the hike, but it cleared up.

Today I went up the Mt. Good Trail. Luke joined me, and it was really different having someone along. I’m glad we got some nice bonding time, but I found it challenging in a number of ways. My expectations of myself run rampant when I hike with others. I love him dearly, but I found his presence distracting. Not that it’s a bad thing at all. What it did was change my experience of the hike, and I have decided to be okay with that. What I want for every hike was the one I had on Friday, where I attain a feeling of peace and a sense of temporary enlightenment, which puts me in a great mood. Instead, I became aware of a number of feedback loops (most unrelated to Luke) and had emotions resulting from these loops. Not to mention that I had turmoil caused by an action of mine earlier in the day. The things that happen to me each day cause a lot of emotion for me, I’m learning. And my natural reaction right now is to push that emotion away and ignore it if I can. If I can’t, the emotions and the negative feedback loops buzz around my head and I sort of dizzy myself with this whirlwind of worry and emotion and assumptions about what others think of me. Nick, the visiting Zen practitioner, called this habit energy I think. The negative feedback loops create habitual reactions that become unconscious, so deeply ingrained in us that we often don’t even understand why we’re doing something. I feel like I’m at the stage where I notice these loops just before, or often just after, I perform the habitual act, and then I have to figure that out. These days I feel paralyzed, not knowing the more healthy path to take yet but not wanting to go down the habitual path that I know is unhealthy for me. Anyway, I snapped at Luke once on the hike but I noticed that I was doing it, I noticed the feelings that I had and I tried to focus on what was happening internally instead of externalizing the issue and blaming him. The hike turned out fine, though. I hiked the way that I wanted to, he continued on for a bit longer than I did and left earlier than I did so he could make his afternoon meeting. I stayed at my turnaround point for a while, trying to nap and not being able to stop my thoughts whirling in my head. But I enjoyed the sunshine for a while, and the soft moss beneath me and I put my best effort into finding that peace, and acknowledging my patterns and emotions and somehow not be bothered by it all. I’m not there yet, but I put in my best effort. It is easy to feel peaceful and be monk-like in a void where all I have to think about is trees and water and dogs, but when there’s people around and when I’m receiving stimulus from outside of myself, it’s more of a challenge for me. It’s not anything Luke did, he was just being himself. It was the way I was feeling and the way I interacted with one small comment he made that made me snap at him, and it was one text message from someone that made me feel disappointment in myself and stir up a whirlwind of self-judgement and worry. It’s complicated being human, and very complicated trying to be a human that understands myself and wants to grow into a better person. But I’m doing it, and maybe this hiking challenge is a metaphor and maybe it helps in every way, physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. I know I’ve learned a lot even since Monday and I look forward to learning even more.

Posted in 10K-A-Day, 30 Hikes in 30 Days, Discovery, environment, Fitness, Health, Inspiration, lifestyle, Meditation, Mental Health, Outdoors, Reflection, Self | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment