I am married to a man who has mountain goat DNA coursing through his veins. M is a trail runner through and through. He looks at dreadmills and sidewalk and paved road and yawns. Boring! Or worse – injury waiting to happen. Take us to the mountains or to the coast and sandy, dusty, rocky trails leading down to the beach and he sees fun. Off he goes, sure-footed and spry, running up and down to whatever adventure awaits at the top or bottom.
Me? I am looking down at the sandy, dusty, rocky pathway with doubt and anxiety. Where do I put my foot? What if I slip and fall? Or rather, what happens when I slip and fall? Are these the right shoes? Am I going to hurt myself? I’m scared.
After 20+ years together, M understands this completely. No matter how many times we go out adventure walking, he knows when we come to steep trails, my anxiety spikes and I suddenly am less than enthusiastic about going forward. But he demonstrates it can be done for me, then goes forward, holds my hand while I follow. Most of the time it is okay … most of the time.
I have scraped my knees and elbows and even my forehead on one memorable tumble, so it’s not like my fears are completely unfounded. It’s just that I KNOW it can be done. I KNOW I can do it, if only my common sense allows me to be confident and overcome the fear. Push through it, I tell myself; you can do this.
And I can, and I have been. Our last few trips have seemed like a beautiful coast death march the last couple of miles back to the car, but that’s only after 8 or 9 or 10 miles of walking and looking and beautiful scenes. By the time we are nearing the car and our return to civilization with hot shower and some sort of amazing food has my fear been overwhelmed by fatigue and hunger and satisfaction that I persisted and was successful in going to the lovely destination.
I am super spoiled by the comforts of modern society. I do not enjoy exercise and left to my own devices would probably not venture out as far as I do with M. But he is restless and bored with the low-hanging fruit that can be seen from the parking lots or easy access vista points. To get to what he wants and craves and loves about our getaways means putting on our sneakers and walking to the good stuff. Frequently that walking is in areas that frighten me, simply because I’m the clumsy girl who trips over the real and the imaginary. I lack confidence in my own legs and balance, and it does not come naturally to me.
With enough more time into the future and practice, I may be able to overcome some of my fears, to the point where they are not so paralyzing. I like paved roads and clean surroundings with no bugs or creepy crawly things or plants that seem to attack at random. I do know that my daily visits with my indoor rower have made a difference for me, that I could climb the steep trails and walk the long miles without a lot of leg fatigue and better lung capacity that other trips. I am encouraged. Perhaps I need not be the one who slows us down. When it’s just M and I it’s not an issue; he knows almost better than I do what is real fatigue and what is fear, anxiety, or laziness holding me back. Adventuring with other, fitter friends makes me feel like a deadweight anchor, and I am reluctant to go on far-ranging walk-abouts with them knowing I will slow their pace.
Thinking about this, I recognize how paralyzed by fear I am in other aspects of my life. With work, my full-time job. I am so weary of dealing with the same problems continually cycling, managing cash flow, the demands of each owners’ desires, trying to expand into other areas and create more security, the worry about the staff and what happens if the firm completely crashes. It has been 9 years of this, year after year, yet I am unwilling to pursue other opportunities. I enjoy so much flexibility and freedom in this job, and the idea of starting over with another company is intimidating. My part-time jobs have adequate work to pay the bills, but with the addition of paying 100% for our healthcare coverage finding another contract job would become an almost immediate priority. I have grave doubts about being able to successfully market my skills.
I have also developed an obsession with death since my mom’s passing last year. On some levels it’s good – forced me to finally get serious about getting our wills and trust set-up, ensure the beneficiaries are in order, and make an itemized list of our assets – and on other levels it is completely unproductive and borderline unhealthy. I will be rowing and find myself obsessively thinking about what M would be facing if I were to die right now. I recognize that part of it is grief, in that my husband and children are my only family I actually know, and partly a fear of leaving a mess behind. It’s only in the last month or two, as I have started focusing my gazelle-intense attention on getting more exercising and cleaning up our diets, that the paralyzation has started to fade.
I realized this weekend that I am tired of being afraid. I took a deep breath and held tight to M’s hand down a steep trail to the beach, and when it was time to climb back up, I looked it over quickly and made deliberate choices about my footing and trusted the new strength in my legs to propel me forward. When we got back to the top of the trailhead, I looked back in amazement. I had climbed that half mile steadily, without stopping to rest, and while it was not a fast pace, it was comfortable and my lungs did not burn and I did not feel out of breath.
Maybe my little leaps of faith were teaching me to trust myself and my ability. Imagine that.