Writing about your own life, when only you are reading it, is not a big deal. You understand where you’re coming from and don’t speak as though you need to justify your decisions to anybody… that is unless you are confused about your own decisions and circumstances and you’re subconsciously trying to justify them to yourself. That’s different. Writing about your own life for others to read about it- that’s also different. It can sure as hell feel like a big deal when you’ve spent your whole life never filtering your words that you put on paper, and then guarding your journal from intruders like the thing was worth blood money. Then you get this great idea to talk about a time when all your plans caved in on you and you were basically crippled with anxiety trying to decide what to do from there. I’m about to elaborate on one of these personal stories.
One of my most recent trips had its plans cave in more times than I can recount at this point. It was an olympic challenge at the time, bushwhacking everyday through a jungle of “nothing is working.” A truthful summary of the drama I experienced sounds a little like,
“They cancelled the training event in Santa Barbara that I was really attached to… and I forgot the disclaimer about them possibly cancelling if not enough participants had signed up by a certain date. Then I also realized that I hadn’t paid enough attention to the infinite details about my plane tickets, and was wrong in thinking they were refundable. I thought about abandoning the whole big picture (which I was barely even in touch with at this point) which was to go and study and learn, regardless of what professional gain this could afford me in the immediate future. Because my ego.”
I found it difficult to word the story this way when people inquisitively checked in on me, pressing questions like, “SO! What’s your plan? What are you doing?? You’re like, all over these days!” Somehow you get swept up in this overwhelming positive light that bleaches out the raw truth of the situation. At the time I think I was trying to get over a lot of shame about something that I shouldn’t have been ashamed about at all- an internal message about not planning more prudently and fear of messing up financially.
I would tell the story in the way of,
“So you’re not going to believe it, but out of nowhere- two weeks before the event *that I had been planning for* these past two months and rearranging my entire life situation for- I get this email from them politely informing me that they are cancelling the event. This throws off all my plans. And then the airline told me that even though I paid a security deposit on my tickets, these types of tickets aren’t refundable anyway. Plans? I will let you know when I know. But for now I’m giving up on making plans.”
Yeah… an amazing amount of deflection and victimhood so as not to get into the real lack of story which is not exciting at all- the story where there were a lot of details to juggle and I dropped all of the balls.
More than not being able to plainly state the facts to others, it was hard enough to accept the events consciously myself. I had a lot of identity needing itself to be wrapped up by this adventure. To have it derailed by forces outside of my power would have felt completely acceptable- no fault on my part. But these were blips simply in my logistics; I had brushed over the possibility of the event being cancelled because I was so attached to it happening and getting me a particularly thing in result. It was hitting enough insecure nerves that I had failed to take the stoic’s path of rationally being able to acknowledge all possibilities, particularly the ones that did not include all systems go success.
As one does upon receiving loaded news (“loaded” is in the eyes of the interpreter), I felt a frayed bundle of unexpected mixed emotions. The moment they manifested they simultaneously (albeit arrhythmically) were falling out of that bundle, ungracefully hit the floor and rolled around like a variety of oblong fruits. Melodramatic and anticlimactic, but I would do the thing that I *never* felt inclined to do throughout my entire youth- go pout to Mom about how the world was so mean. Er, maybe I did that growing, but I didn’t go running to tell her about my problems when I had messed up and I definitely avoided crying (showing genuine disappointment and hurt) in front of her at all costs.
I didn’t really pout but I maybe was looking for some pity and consolation. Though not completely characteristic of her, that night Mom definitely would have given me the full pity party if I’d played it up. While she told me all the things to make me feel better about the situation and that I deserved better, I had a flash of clarity and noticed something very important… In that seemingly chaotic, awkward bundle of emotions that had been triggered while reading that email, there was one brief yet overwhelming emotion that I couldn’t make sense of. I could justify feeling upset or exhausted, mad or frustrated with myself even. But I couldn’t shake the sense of relief that contrasted all those other sensations.
Why would I feel relieved at the fallout of my biggest goal for the year?
The Plan that I had been building up toward, sacrificing for, anticipating for 8 months…
I knew that if I didn’t go to do this certification right at that precise time, it might be another 6 months before I could arrange another realistic opportunity to go achieve it. Without looking too hard into it, I consoled myself with the thought of “Well at least I can still go to Colorado, and I will get to spend more time doing better hikes than if I were only going to be there for 2 days, like the original plan.”
The next day I immediately began rerouting my plans to focus entirely on a 5-day solo hiking expedition to nab a new fourteener in Colorado. It was exhilarating just getting to explore all the options of places to go, making a full on adventure for myself of traveling self-supported, hammocking in 20-degree high altitude unpredictable weather, and getting to my destination without any vehicle. Five days to bus from the airport to an hour outside Denver where I would then hike the highway for about 20 miles to the park entrance, camp at 8500 ft for two nights to adapt, wake up at 3am to hike 6 miles to the summit and then back down, one day to get back to Denver, grab a solid brew, and fly home the next day. It’s like getting ready for a race… a race against chance, against weather, against outside opinions, against my ego, against the voice in my head that would otherwise coax me into never leaving comfort. I know these types of trips always force me to face myself, and I guess that’s why I get so excited about self-induced masochism.
Still, the other voice in my head, the one that doesn’t scream in restless energy, that doesn’t get all up in arms about “good” or “bad” happenings, kept creeping up to say, “You know you can still go to California and benefit greatly from just taking classes rather than pursuing a certification that you don’t even know you’ll be able to use. Your priority should be excelling in your own personal health before trying to sell something to others. You already know this. AND you know that you are much more likely to risk injury and financial crisis by doing difficult hiking/camping in the off season. Which is directly counterproductive to your original motivation for this trip in the place.”
A solid selling point. So I put up a solid fight. With myself. Entrer la anxiété!
At this point I no longer wanted to go to California, and I had to stop and ask why. Throwing myself into crazy trips was a familiar scenario to me. I get myself into crises while traveling and trekking often enough. It actually felt like a bigger risk going to California for a lot of the same reasons that I was attached to the California plan in the first place! I had a lot of attachment to the type of outcome I would get from investing in the California trip, even though I didn’t portray that to others when I talked to them about that adventure. I had a much lesser attachment to the overall outcome of the Colorado trip, because no matter what happened, I just enjoy being in Colorado and it would feel like an adventure no matter what. Adventure for adventure’s sake. Attempting to do crazy things makes for a much sexier story than that of calm discipline that results in a letdown. Let’s look at some possible Worse Case Scenarios (WCS) for the outcome of either of these trips:
Story A: I went to Colorado to hike these 14ers in crazy conditions, but the weather was so bad I couldn’t even get a bus out of Denver to the national park. I had to couchsurf, sleep in the airport, and live out of my back pack, but I met all these awesome people anyway and visited some great local restaurants.
(Nevermind the WCS where I make it to the mountain and get struck by lightening or caught in a surprise snowstorm and found two days later by the wilderness medics…still an exciting story.)
Story B: I went to this center in Santa Barbara because their philosophy claimed to be highly effective and transformative. To my disappointment, it just seemed like another psuedoscience, hippie spiritual cult-like community that came across as really inauthentic, and their methods really didn’t seem that different from the practices I have grown up doing all my life. And now I’m another $1500 out and still don’t have any type of certification to show for.
Even though these are entirely hypothetical, it’s the way my head perceived the options. I wanted a badge of experience either way. I also didn’t want to have to explain to my parents the event of money not well spent (but that’s my own personal block). Herein lay the source of my Anxiety, but this past year has taught my to trust that anxiety block. Rather than seeing the anxiety as a thing that only gets in your way, treat it like a counselor, a red flag that will alert you to clues as to what is really preventing you from seeing clearly. I really believe that if you can follow your anxiety line (which is not the same as getting stuck in a negative feedback loop) it will lead you to your higher self perspective, which is where you will ultimately find peace and alleviate indecision and ambiguity.
Once I consciously sat with my fears, it became much clearer to me what I needed to. And I can’t tell you just how deeply glad I am that I stayed with my original goal. The training and experience I received in Santa Barbara just so happened (wink wink) to be incredibly rewarding and just as good and transformative as I’d hoped. I feel completely at peace about how I chose to spend my money, not because everything worked out to satisfy my hopes, but because I stayed the course to answer my questions and pursue my bigger goals. I don’t have to worry about losing the motivation to go spend time in the mountains- I can pretty confidently say that urge will be there my whole life. But I’ve seen people lose the motivation to change, to push the envelope and challenge the way they’ve always done things. I knew I was just as susceptible to losing sight of my original intent to learn from this center in California. Nobody else was going to tell me to go if I didn’t make it a priority for myself. Even if I hadn’t loved the experience, I would have still satisfied my question and curiosity about what was out there.
I have my anxiety to thank and my higher self to praise at the of the whole damn thing. Not to mention all the ears that suffered my indecisive outward processing throughout those weeks. What’s funny to me is that I feel like the Colorado trip actually happened… I guess because that’s how familiar that experience feels. There’s no way I could have fabricated the experience I got while in Santa Barbara. Here’s to the next unknown!
Live adventurously, Y’all.