Not Fully Alive

I’ve meant to write this blog for several days, but a bout of the flu has left me drained and dispassionate. I missed a day of work, got rather behind in both grading papers and revising my novel, and my children – well, my son specifically – appears to be developing a rather nasty alternate personality.

I’m tired, I don’t feel well, I’m whiny, and above all I’m tired.  I know, I said that twice.  It’s one of those periods for me where I have all the inspiration of a garden slug; where getting through the day takes monumental effort.  I hate times like this for so many reasons.  I’m unproductive, I have a bad attitude, and I just plain old don’t feel like doing anything.  These are the times that I have to put my head down and power through. 

I may have referenced this concept previously, but I find myself dealing with it yet again.  The phrase “head down and power through” comes from a back-packing trip that my husband and I took before we were married.  Our children were off visiting our respective ex spouses and we thought it would be fun to load up the gear and hike to Ryder Lake in the Uintah mountains.  Some friends of ours had done this, and had said it was a fairly easy hike.  The trail book we bought indicated it was a “moderate hike with a slight elevation gain, somewhat choppy near the end” and we figured we were up for it.  We estimated it would take us about four hours to make this hike, so we drove to the parking lot and found the trail head.

It was a lovely summer day, the meadows were full of amazing wild flowers, and the air buzzed with humming birds and bees.  The first few hours of hike flew by, and soon we decided to stop by a small pond and have lunch.

“We should be there pretty quickly,” my honey said.

I was thinking to myself how easy this had been, and I was impressed with my own hiking abilities.

After lunch, we strapped the packs back on and took off again. A few more hours went by, a bit more slowly now as the trail began a noticeable incline.  My legs were aching, but I knew we’d be arriving at the amazing alpine lake I’d seen pictures of in the trail book, so I took a few deep breaths and kept my feet moving forward.

Two more hours went by, and the trail was even more steep.  We’d hiked for six hours now, and my muscles began to quiver with each step. Day hikers who had zipped past us on their way up were now returning and passing us on their way down.  Noting the discomfort on my face, one kind man said, “It’s worth every step.  Just keep going.” Then he smiled at me in an encouraging way that more irritated than consoled me.

I didn’t hear anyone indicate how much further we had to go.  And then the fun really began. The path became very steep, and we hit the “choppy” part that the book had mentioned.  Boulders and tree roots stuck up a foot or more.  You couldn’t simple step on them either, you had to climb over them or go around them as you made your way up the 45 degree incline.  By this time my muscles were in full rebellion.  I would take a step, cry, and then try not to fall over.  That’s when I discovered the concept: head down and power through. 

I knew I couldn’t make it going at the step-cry rate, so I determined to make as much progress as I could all at once.  I looked up the trail, set my sights on a specific distance, then put my head down and kept hiking, climbing, moving until I reached that distance.  Then I would find another land mark and repeat the process.  I spent the last hour of the hike this way, and it ultimately worked.

The day hiker was right: it was worth every step:

We spent three nights here, hiking around the lake and enjoying the wilderness area.  Once there, we saw fewer than probably 20 other people in the whole three days. It was glorious.

Oh – we discovered when we got home that the trail book was inaccurate.  We had been led to believe it was about a 7 mile hike.  It’s actually closer to 12 miles.  And our friends who called it “easy” had day hiked, whereas we were carrying 30-40 pound packs. Mistakes made: lessons learned.

For years now, I’ve used the head-down-power-through mantra to get through all kinds of discomfort.  I’m drawing upon it again, and trusting that, despite how uncomfortable I might be now, when I get through this it will have been worth it.  I’ve set my sights on a few land marks and I am moving in that direction.  I’m not zipping along at the rate I might like, but I’m still moving forward and that’s really what matters most.

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2 thoughts on “Not Fully Alive

  1. drtombibey says:

    The only good thing I know about being sick is it always makes me appreciate being well.

    Otherwise, it is all bad.

    Dr. B

  2. Kim Justesen says:

    The only good thing about being sick was being a little kid and your mom would make you chicken noodle soup and let you eat it in bed or on the sofa in front of the TV.

    Fortunately I’m getting better. Wish I could say the same for my son.

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