I have been having a lot of pretty serious meltdowns lately; like, life-big meltdowns. I've been asking myself the big questions like what do I want, what am I doing, where am I going, and how do I get to where I want to be if I don't know where I want to get to? I am a blank canvas, and don't even get me started on how intimidated I am of blank canvases. I have one extraordinary pipe dream, one that I don't exactly possess the skills to navigate, nor do I have the resources necessary to acquire it. It feels very out of reach and reason.
I sound like a broken record, but I will forever tell anyone who listens about all the lessons hiking and flying solo in the mountains has taught me in the last few years. With limited time and energy today, I zipped out to Kananaskis to run three laps of the Fullerton Loop (yes, again). My legs are strong but my cardio conditioning is lacking, so when I realized on my first lap that I wouldn't even make my personal best (time), I decided I would still make my three laps but I would set a new and different goal for each one.
The first: fastest.
The second: absolutely no breaks, even on hills; this would be a lesson in pace.
The third: most enjoyable, a leisure lap; stop and smell the wildflowers, Elly!
And all together, I set a time goal of completing all three laps and getting back to the car in under three hours.
Here's what all of that taught me this morning, in under 15 kilometres:
1. Humility. So, I didn't make it. What's next?
2. Resilience. Bend, don't break. Is it worth killing myself? I had to pick myself up and find another way, or find a way to get better. I can not resign myself to failure, or quit and go home after the first try didn't get me the result I hoped for.
3. Balance. Give and take. A little sacrifice for some sweet gain. I had to manage my time on lap one and two if I wanted to have some time to slow down on the third go-around.
4. Perspective. I can travel the same trail multiple times, and see it differently each time around.
5. Focus. After really struggling through my first lap and winding up disappointed with my lack of achievement, I redefined my idea of success. I recognized that I could accomplish the same journey via multiple forms of achievement.
6. Strategy. Not everything can be accomplished with brute force, nor can everything be accomplished with ease and grace. Sometimes I will run, sometimes I will feel silly, sometimes I will have to stop for water instead of choking on it while I hike, sometimes I will skip and laugh, and sometimes I will find myself caught in a stare-down with a mama cow and her calf. If the first half of the trail is rolling, ascending hills, I have to strategize to get through it. And then, when I hit the second half, I have to revise my methods to descend.
7. Pace. When I only want to go one speed and that speed is fast, I am no doubt going to burn out. I know my third lap was meant to be the most enjoyable, but I actually found the second lap to be the most rewarding. First of all, I had to be watching for the hills, and I had to prepare for them. Without stopping to catch my breath. And when things got difficult half way up a steep ascent, I also couldn't stop. When everything in my body was shouting "stop, we can't do this!", I didn't stop. I've been following my flight instinct for so long, I think I've lost all touch with my fight. Here's the fun thing about fighting that I completely forgot: it forces me to get creative. That means taking my time, thinking outside the box, and doing things I otherwise may not, or even don't really want to do. It means listening, keeping a close watch, and being open to opportunity. Today, it meant slowing down and putting one foot in front of the other, no matter what. Hills are hard to climb, let alone mountains. Big, strong steps might get you there, but today it was a lot of meditated, baby steps that got me there (10 minutes under my time goal).
8. Reward. I may have been focused on one goal at a time, but that doesn't mean I was only achieving one thing at a time. I also climbed 1,578 feet of elevation, scored 20,000 daily steps, found some peace and quiet, and wrote something coherent for the first time in five months. Look for the silver linings.
9. Recognition. Don't expect it, but if you receive it, take a second to pause and say "thank you". I have to remind myself to let it fuel me not as vindication, but rather as encouragement to continue on my path.
Number seven (pace) wore particularly heavy on me today as I traveled my second and third lap, and thought about my most recent meltdown (and how intimidating my dreams have been feeling). Sometimes the only way I can get up a steep hill is by taking teeny tiny baby steps, but in the end, I still get there. Alternatively, if I stubbornly charge it, I am usually forced to stop two or three times to catch my breath or rest my tired legs. Those breaks tend to feel discouraging, and the stress on my lungs and muscles don't leave me feeling very satisfied when I get to the top. If I get to the top. When I take my time, listen to my body and I pace myself through such obstacles on the trail, I tend to find significantly more satisfaction in my accomplishments, and it leaves me with so much more energy to carry on past there.
Even when it feels like I am getting no where, traveling those trails over rocks and roots as slowly as is necessary, I am reminded that as long as I am moving, I will get to where I hope to go. One tiny little step at a time. Even if I failed the first time, and especially if it feels silly.
Photos are my own. Please do not reproduce without my written permission.
First: Mount Assiniboine over Marvel Lake, 2018