Wednesday musings, 8/12/15

As I was hiking up a mountain in Bulgaria, I watched my husband’s image disappear up the hill. I am fairly certain his evolutionary history includes billy goats, and I used to feel a bit of anxiety when he would get too far away from me. I would follow blindly, hoping he would wait at turns (he always did), fearful of getting lost. Several years ago, when I started doing a bit of trail running on my own, I would try and remember my way back following the landscape. This was how others seemed to do it, with people often giving directions that included things like, “when you see the red barn, turn left,” or, “after the clearing of trees, there will be a fork in the road.” My attention to detail regarding images around me has never been a strength, so these types of directions resulted in frustration and the fear that comes with being lost. I had options. I could be dependent upon others to guide me, or I could figure out a way to make it work. While the details of the landscape might escape me, I am good at reading maps and reading signs. I learned to do these things, always looking at a map before I left, and reading all of the signs along the way, committing them to memory so I could know how to get back.
As with all things, practicing this over and over meant I eventually became competent finding my way around trails, which translated to my overall ability to navigate new places. The benefit of this is the joy that comes with exploring without fear. I was not concerned about my husband’s distance ahead of me because I knew the way back. Kelly McGonigal writes in her book “The Upside of Stress,” “knowing that you are adequate to the challenges in your life can mean the difference between hope or despair, persistance or defeat…View yourself as capable and your body as a resource.” It will come as no surprise I think regularly challenging yourself physically makes this mindset much easier to embrace. Whenever I am faced with a challenging (i.e., stressful) situation I remind myself I have a choice in how I respond. My weaknesses cease to be an excuse when I focus on my strengths.