The sweet freedom
When you get from a dusty trails to a roaring river that’s threatening to “pull the carpet” underneath you at any moment suddenly thinking about the fact that your girlfriend hasn’t called in two days and her colleague from work has a six pack like Leonidas in “300” seems ridiculous.
I am not big on quotes, but I do like a few – Ellen Wallace once said, “The difference between a rut and a grave is their dimensions.”
And every time I reach a top and the thin, brisk mountain air fills my lungs I have this habit of doing one thing. I imagine a chubby guy in his cubicle or in a corner office, doesn’t really matter, surrounded by papers and his delusions that he’s living fully.
Should you quit your job to enjoy hiking and trekking? Are you the chubby guy from my story?
NO, I am not talking about all people that have 9-5 jobs. I am talking about that man in the cubicle with a mindset that’s never interrupted by a thought that he might try something new, something that will bring him closer to understanding life better.
In fact, most people I know and meet on the trail have jobs and live what you would call an average working class life, but they are not “the chubby guy” , they are the ones that found the balance between being realistic and still smart enough to know that weekend after weekend of bears on the couch will not broaden their horizons.
Don’t get me wrong, my sofa has a nice deep bottom-shaped mold in it and Bud Light never goes out of stock in my fridge, but diversity is the spice of life, and that what hiking and trekking does for me.
Letting go of the thought that you control your happiness
You must be thinking about whether you read that right. We are bombarded with statements that talk about “being in control of your life” and “being in control of how you feel”. They are repeated so often that a vast majority of people make the mistake of thinking that the two are the same and that if you FINALLY take full control of your life it will somehow magically bring your happiness.
Not gonna happen. Not going to happen. Ever. Let that sink in.
And that constant pursuit of control is EXHAUSTING.
So, how can that bring you closer to happiness? Take a moment and read that again.
This kind of thinking gets 90% of people into that state of let-me-jus-do-this-and-I’ll-be-able-to-enjoy-life. I know because I was that person. I know the feeling all too well.
If you recognize yourself in these words pause for a second and think about whether achieving those milestones really set you free in the past or just made you forget about them and choose a new let-me-just-do-this goal.
Is this kind of thinking my fault?
IT’S NOT. It’s the human condition which fits right into modern living. It is only through exercise (mind exercise, that is) that you can get away from that. And seeing the bright stars at the end of a challenging hiking day makes you see this ever so clearly.
Lessons from my “crazy” therapist
Yes, I do have a psychiatrist because I was a depressed and just generally unhappy person for years. I always had an excuse but now I take full responsibility for those days.
Anyway, I mentioned my “crazy” therapist, she’s expensive as a piece of venison on a dry year in the medieval times and still worth every penny.
If I had to sum up the gist of her messages that set me free it would probably be:
- Stop trying to control everything
- Life is a game, go have fun
- You don’t want to be in the shoes of a person who takes themself and life too seriously
- It’s OK not to be OK as long as you have the ability to look at the big picture
The takeaway from my ramblings – the let-me-jus-do-this thinking is a TRAP. Everything changed for me when I managed to claw my way out of that one. Hew!
What does this have to do with hiking?
For me and most hikers – everything.
If you are reading this you probably know what I’m talking about – even beginning to comprehend the vastness of nature and our role in it, suddenly turns that corrosion on the rear left side of your car into a bauble.
That’s the gift the trails give in return for the sore joints – the freedom of understanding that most of the things we worry about are not closely as important as we perceive them until we take a step back.
That all sounds nice but you don’t know me and you don’t know my life
Admit that this thought was in the back of your mind through most of the article. Maybe you even shook your head thinking, “What does this guy know about serious life-altering tragedies? What does this guy know loss? What does this guy know about me?”
A lot actually.
You know what I did when my mother, the single most important person in my life, died a few years back?
I mourned for 4 days and then I hiked the Pacific Crest. I might be imagining it but it gave me perspective, it changed the way I was thinking about the loss.
It might be “placebo”.
It might be that thing from the Dr. House when he breaks his arm so that his leg doesn’t hurt as much, because I was hiking like a crazy person, like never before…I would bring my body to it’s limits every day.
I don’t care what it was. I felt better.
Safe trails an talk soon in the “Hiker’s guide to Joy” part 3