Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Losing My Nerve

This has happened many times before - particularly on our canoe trip, when we had to turn back.  We were both disappointed.  We'd agreed that nothing would stop us short of a brick wall, which emerged in the form of thick trees choking the river for kilometers.  Matt seemed shaken, unable to to release the goal from his imagination.  I tried to save face; this was a possibility I had originally anticipated as a likelihood, but being forced to quit was bitter.

We had been enjoying backtracking through the trail we'd made.  Through the maze of fallen trees, we could decipher broken branches on one side, and flecks of paint on another; snaking our way through the easiest route.   It took us a mere few hours to cover what had been a day's distance upstream.  We were so close to the end when I could feel my nerves failing.

Carrying the canoe is not easy for me.  It's slippery, hard to get a good grip of, heavy & the ground is always uneven.  Matt doesn't seem to mind, so I try hard to keep up.  This was one of our last portages, the first one we had designed ourselves.  First we had to ferry our gear by wading through the river; skillfully slipping & tripping on the rocky bottom, hoping not to dunk the cargo.  I was having trouble finding balance, getting anxious & walking slowly.  Carrying the boat was shaky, so I told Matt my fear; "I think I'm losing my nerve."

This normally happens when struggling as a beginner at something; you haven't got the skills yet, and find it hard to trust yourself & your equipment.  It's unfamiliar territory.  You suck, & sucking is unfamiliar territory.

Saying it out loud already made me feel better.  Like I'd already passed the denial stage of my sickness.  Matt reminded me that our last portage was one of my best ones yet, and we completed this one smashingly.  (We didn't really have a choice.)


Last weekend, despite the fact our winter festival was on, heaps of concerts, ice climbing, wall climbing & a myriad of other things to do, I didn't leave the house for several days.  I was anxious about going out alone, although this is a fear I thought I had gotten over long ago.  I've gotten involved with enough communities that being alone in Winnipeg is never an issue; I see a familiar face wherever I go, and it always makes me laugh at my original hesitation.  Yet almost every time I still have to get over that compulsive gasp you get from heights and before I am rewarded by the plunge.

My dad says I bore easily.  Keeping busy is important for me, it's important to savour the moment.  Days with nothing to do make me look at flights, contemplate a big shake up, and write articles like this.  Every other day seems this way.  Friday I was bent over this keyboard, then was too busy giving thanks for life all weekend to even imagine that this was primed to happen on Monday.

The gym where I used to work is like a social club to me; I compare it to the Legion for my grandfather - yeah I go to work out, but mostly socialize.  When they refer to my life, they still use the adjective "crazy," and I haven't even worked there for 5 years!  They are so unsurprised as I nervously tell them about my deciding to do a winter bike race last minute.

The point of doing things over & over is that you're supposed to get used to them.  Yet, travelling still takes my breath away the day before I step out the door.  They are more used to my doing "crazy" things than I am!

This evening I met a paddler who was recovering from an injury from last year.  He had been hyper-cautious all last season, and wasn't sure how to proceed.  He said "It's something I've done before, but I'm afraid of hurting myself again."  "It feels like you're losing your nerve," I said.  "Exactly!"  I have this feeling often.

Just like our canoe trip, it's about perspective.  When you're approaching rapids on the horizon, they seem daunting, but when you can see the whole picture from the other side, you can prepare yourself.  I defend the fact that paddling to Churchill was a well-planned venture over the better part of a year, but I also pride myself on normalizing these fun, "crazy" adventures.

I know what I need to move past this.  Acknowledge it, write about it, and don't get strung up on it.  It helps when people join the fun, but trust thine self.  I rarely wish I'd stayed at home, so why would I deprive myself from something that's always worked?

Fortune favours the bold.
Come adventuring with me.

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