Make It Work

Three days without service. Five days of being fully involved in the people I was with, the place I was exploring, the feelings that bubbled up, the thoughts that felt so trite in comparison to the vastness of the wilderness. How do I make that happen more often? Coming from New York, I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt taking five days off (not checking my email or answering texts or responding to anyone related to work). It is such a New York mentality that taking any time off will leave you leagues behind your peers. Part of why I left the city and moved was to separate myself from a way of being that I very easily fall in to. So, I moved across the country and twelve days later, after securing three different jobs, I took a five day vacation by backpacking 30 miles in three days up some crazy inclines, with everything I needed to survive strapped to my back. With two of my dearest friends as travel companions, we braved some dangerous trails, grueling heat, and came out the other side with clarity.

On our drive back form Big Sur, the same day as our descent, we drove to Sand Dollar Beach - disappointing, there were zero sand dollars- roughly three miles south of us, and treated ourselves to a beach day and one last dehydrated backpacker’s meal. In all truth, I have an extra one that I am going to make for dinner this week because it is much better than something I can cook. We packed up and started down the PHC, watching the sunset, the rolling hills, and the expansive ocean slip by. After we ate our first “real food” meal in days, Nate turned on The Joe Rogan Experience.  I was half asleep because of my carcolypsy, the 30 miles of terrain we covered, and the epic game of Ultimate we joined in on after making some new friends on the beach. In a moment though, I shook myself out of my half-sleep to follow the threads of logic in the conversation between Joe and Jordan Peterson. Here’s the thing that hit me hardest, that shook me awake: we have to “find a way of being that works even under the direst of circumstances”. 

It was magic, those words to me, because this was the lesson that I had learned coming out of the mountains. In life, we all take hits. We all will eventually lose at something. Instead of framing losing as something encased in shame we can reframe losing. It is how we learn. It is our opportunity to grow and change, to get better, to be pushed past our own mediocrity and guided into greatness. If we look at losing and define it as anything that is not the outcome we wanted or needed or expected, anything we have said or done things that make us feel like we are coming up short, anytime we let someone- including ourselves- down, losing happens to many of us, pretty much daily. Sometimes, we take a bunch of very big losses at the same time. The way that we set up our lives has to work when we are taking those heavy losses and learning the hard lessons. That’s not just financially and materialistically, although of course that is important as well, but emotionally and mentally. Are we creating an inner landscape with a strong foundation that will continue to hold when we get fired from our job or our partnership ends or someone close to us dies or any other number of losses that can cut us to the core? 

The way of being that works even under the direst circumstances will be different for each of us. We all come with different backstories, different traumas, different obstacles to overcome. I am consciously creating the life for myself that works no matter the variation of circumstances, wins and losses, and that started with removing myself from the mentality and environment that increased my anxiety and depression. Coming out of one of the lowest lows I have experienced, I realized that my way of being was not working in the direst of circumstances. Things can be so cluttered and hectic in modern life.  We think we need all of these things and people and experiences and comforts in order to survive, but in truth, not all the things we have filled our lives with are necessary or even helpful. My journey into the wilderness was one where I allowed myself to consciously let go of the ideas of worthlessness by engaging with basic survival. Thoughts and feelings around complicated entanglements get much simpler when your concerning yourself with less of the noise. I found such clarity in activities like digging a hole on the side of a trail to use as our toilette or bathing in a creek or setting up and breaking down camp under a canopy of redwoods.

That’s what worked for me. I’m not saying everyone has to go back into their scouting days and poop in a hole or tie some dope knots to make a clothesline. But, if you can feel that you are in the midst of a loss, instead of pouting or wailing or throwing a temper tantrum, how can you use the loss as a way into a lesson? How can you simplify? How can you get rid of the noise? How can you assess the ways in which your way of being is serving you and which habits are dragging you into a cycle of depression, anxiety, and a feeling of worthlessness? This is the long preamble to the ways in which I have been restructuring my life. It’s meant to give you food for thought, to engage with your own habits, you own way of being. On Sunday, I’ll come back to you with the tools I’ve been using to reset, refocus, and make a way of being that works even when the rest of my life is not.