February 3rd, 2019
This has been a challenging winter. Psychologically and emotionally. Somewhere along the way I lost both my inspiration and my self-confidence, and I am only now starting to resurface as myself. What I have needed the most- quiet, solitude and the outdoors- have been the most difficult things for me to reach out for. Instead, seemingly endless colds, flu, aches and pains, and mental exhaustion, have held me back and kept me cloistered inside. It has been a rough winter.
I have reluctantly watched the calendar as the weeks tick away and I fall farther and farther behind in this quest. It is as if my immobility has sealed my fate and firmly set me up to fail. With this has come great regret, remorse and a sense that I have both let down, and abandoned, myself. The negative self-talk and rumination have been cruel. Coupled with the fact that even my closest friends and children have admitted to not even reading my blog posts, other then having my partner, I have felt completely alone. My positive self-image has taken a serious blow.
Rogart Mountain was the one beautiful respite from this psychologically fraught winter. It was a glorious mid-winter day spent on a mountain illuminated by sunshine. It was, in many ways, the perfect hike. The deep snow had me huffing and puffing with every step and the elevations felt like an accomplishment. As I sat on a bench atop the mountain and gazed out upon a snow-covered valley and windmills in the distance, I found a few moments of calm, peace and pure happiness in an otherwise hard winter. The wooded areas were comforting and embraced me in their silences. I was able to escape myself and the world for a couple of hours as I walked this perfect place alone. In every way it was a relief to pull myself out of my funk and have this great hike. And the delicious food at Sugar Moon Farms afterward was a fabulous treat.
Once off the mountain however, I sank back into my darkened mood within days. My usual habit of writing and posting about my hikes within a day or two didn’t happen, and two months later I am only now documenting it. As amazing as that one hike was, I couldn’t hold it inside of me for long; the real world soon sapped my energies and enthusiasm and I was back on the treadmill of plodding through life.
The months away from this project have made me face a few unpleasant facts about myself; trying to juggle the hikes, a demanding full-time job, being a mother and partner, taking care of a house, making art and staying organised is beyond me at this point. Throughout my life I have been a sequential monogamist in the projects I undertake; I jump in and am completely focused on, and consumed by, one thing at a time, giving only token attention to the other needs around me until that project/degree/show is done. It’s exhilarating. I am starting to realise however, the tole it takes on both myself and those around me and the effects it has on my life. I am also realising that while this behaviour suits my innately loner personality, allowing me to be consumed by my own curiosities and desires, it also isolates me and keeps me from connecting to others around me. It is a self-perpetuating outsider state of being.
The question I have been avoiding this winter, and have this week finally faced and posed to myself, is- Are you going to abandon this project and move on Stephanie, or push everything outside of work sharply aside and commit to meeting this goal? Abandonment will mean leaving behind me something very important at a point in my life when I sense I need it. It will mean accepting myself as physically unable to meet this challenge and perhaps accepting that it is downhill from here. After all, if this task, which means a great deal to me, can’t motivate me to get into shape and face aging with strength and confidence, then what ever could? Quitting seems so very sad, as it feels like I am quitting on myself and who I want to be. It terrifies me. It makes me want to plow ahead.
Committing 100% and jumping in harder then ever also brings with it losses. It will mean sacrificing the stress-free days this summer at the cottage, where I can fill my time with art making, having friends I rarely see come visit, and going for walks with our 13 year old dog, whom I adore. It will mean rushing a trip to visit my daughter in Ontario, or worse- begrudging the time away for that visit. It will mean putting this project above all else in my life- other then work- over the four-and-a-half months until this year’s deadline I set myself is reached. And even with all of that sacrifice, I may still not meet my goal of finishing all 60 hikes in a year.
After a great deal of thought, rumination and self-confrontation, I have decided to neither abandon nor jump into this project. I have decided to re-establish the parameters I have created for myself, which, after all, are strictly abstract constructs of my own making. What is important in this project are the hikes and experiences. What is also important to me is the rest of the life I have built for myself and the people in it. Sacrificing any of these would be an enormous loss and leave me feeling somewhat defeated in the choosing. So I am choosing all of it and myself. I don’t want this to turn into another project whose goal is achieved and is then dropped as I move on to the next goal; I want to incorporate this new-found love of hiking and the woods into my life and move forward with it, so that I am richer for its addition.
Besides, if no one other then my supportive partner is reading this… who the hell cares when I get the hikes finished! There is enormous freedom in being inconsequential and unnoticed in this world. We each are, after all, the center of our own universe.
The new goal- to complete all 60 hikes. Forget the time- none of us know how much of that we have anyway. Am also going to use the new freedom of time to go back to creating the mandala, which was dropped due to the pressure I was feeling with the busy schedule. It may take longer… but I am going to keep on painting and hiking and tackling the trails.
Wisdom From the Trails-
- We can learn a great deal from the pauses in life, as well as from the doings.
- Instead of living our lives in a dichotomous manner- “This or That”, “All or Nothing”- there is beauty in accepting it all and being dialectical- “This and That”, “Easy and Challenging”, “Life and Hiking”.
- Time is a fantastical construct. We have as little and as much as we perceive we have. It is our choice how we wish to measure it.