“Do I contradict myself? Very well I contradict myself, (I am large I contain multitudes)”Walt Whitman
It has been two years since I left Chamonix. Two whole years since I flew away in a big metal bird not knowing what would happen next. It seems obvious to say, what did happen next was not even remotely on my “list of possibilities” for the next two years of my life. I never watched many movies growing up so the concept of a worldwide pandemic was quite a surprise. But then again, I never seem to be able to guess the next twist of fate on this strange ride around the sun and at least part of me likes it that way.
I have not been writing much lately, even less than when I said that on my last blog almost a year ago. I would like to say my lack of writing is because I solved the mathematical equation that is life and then I rode off into the sunset towards my “happily ever after”. I “settled down”. I took comfort in staying in one place for more than a few months at a time and enjoyed validating my existence with trivial possessions like countless books told me I would. That I no longer had to work through the thoughts in my brain muddled by writing.
But I can’t stop. I can’t settle. I am restless even in my sleep. Perhaps I was born this way. Perhaps I am broken. Perhaps I will break. In theory I want to be okay with life’s “new challenges”. I want to focus on the things that matter, friends, family and being “in the moment”. I want to enjoy having some money, having stability, and “building a life”.
However, in reality, I am afraid of the knife block and the futon and the big house with too many rooms. It all fills me with dread, like a “this is it: game over” kind of dread. When I was a kid, I always wished my life to be extraordinary, living through the characters in the novels I read. For a few years there, it kind of felt like it was. Now it just feels like I am trapped on a treadmill that never ends, until it does.
If I try to be kind to myself, I can acknowledge that I am not on this treadmill by intention. Well, only in a round about sense. The last two years I have had ongoing fatigue issues. I haven’t wanted to write or dwell on this part of my life as I know everyone has their battles to face and I am not looking for sympathy or trying to make excuses. But writing this down is a way of me accepting I am not able to be the person I want to be because life caught up with me and wants me to pay back all the times I borrowed from my inner reserves.
I pushed my body so much, so often, that now when I get stressed – my body pushes back. It pushes back by making me feel like the 200m hill I am walking up is actually at 5416m above sea level, it pushes back with nausea, it pushes back with 10hrs of sleep every night still not being enough, it pushes back with missing or extremely painful periods, it pushes back with brain fog and general lack of decision-making capabilities.
The obvious prescription to fatigue is rest. However, if I was good at resting I would not be living with this conundrum. If resting was fulfilling, if I enjoyed watching T.V. series and sleeping in, I would not be who I am. Being in motion is me, moving in nature is me – if I can’t be out there doing the things I want to do, then what is the point?
So for the past two years I have teetered on this fine line between committing to rest and recovery but with a desperate need to be outdoors and active, to make life worth living. I rest, I start feeling better, I start getting excited – I start wanting to push again. Then fatigue backhands me, puts me back in to the hole from whence I came, and we start again.
Thought-thought, thought moving back into a desk-based job would be part of the solution to my fatigue. I would get paid to rest 8 hours a day and could save my energy for the rest of the time in the outdoorland. At the time, it made perfect sense. Unfortunately, “It’s not hard work that exhausts us, it’s meaningless work…”. My daily treadmill continues to take so much more than it gives. I don’t plan to stay forever, but the knife block and the futon and the big house with too many rooms makes it much harder to extract myself with a click of my heals and the turn of a key as I would have in the past.
Even though it was the nucleus of my self-destruction, I miss Chamonix. Sometimes I find my tired brain wandering the aisles of SuperU, thinking about buying goat’s cheese. It’s strange how the little things, the mundane, come back to me. I can remember some of the lines I skied and the trails I ran. But the memories are faint in comparison to the feeling of walking across the road and looking up to the imposing snowy Aiguilles, silent in the evening light. Is it strange to feel so connected to something so inanimate, a striking but not entirely unique, formation of rock and snow?
When I reimagine my life there now, which I have done countless times over trying find the redo button in my brain, I see myself sitting by the river in town with a good book, stopping occasionally to bask in the sunshine and view of Mont Blanc. I would not be phased or worried about “wasting a sunny day”, I would be peacefully satisfied to be in the presence of those peaks. Of course, I know this is my idealised fantasyland and I know I would probably be caught up trying to ski and run to validate my insignificant existence but it’s nice to pretend sometimes. It’s nice I even want to pretend that now.
Perhaps I am starting to embrace the “slow adventure”. I know how good exercise and the great outdoors makes me feel but I also know I must approach these things with such caution. Often, I must walk rather than run. I have been bouldering, a sport which involves a sometimes-maddening amount of rest, rather than mountain climbing. When I get sad or frustrated or fed-up with my inability to perform physically as I once did (which wasn’t even that good in comparison to other more athletically gifted folk) it is easy to slip into a mindset of “it’s not fair” or “why me?”. The reality is, it is not fair but nor is life. I have to remind myself that my life has been so privileged and that even if I could find the redo button, pressing it would mean I would lose so many of the stories and adventures that have made me who I am.
When I look for an ending to this stream of consciousness, I don’t have one yet. Another reason I haven’t been able to write lately – I don’t have the answers. I don’t know if I will ever fully recover my energy. I don’t know if I will find a better job. I don’t know where I will go next. I am still stuck in the- same limbo I was when I arrived back from Chamonix, just with a few more possibilities crossed of the infinite list, and I am scared I always will be. I start to write but often find 5 minutes later I will have changed my mind.
Yesterday I was thinking about how much I love but hate the season Spring. I am a child of spring; I was born with blossoms, the daffodils, and the little baby lambs. I love the fact you can just about do anything in Spring, ski and run and climb and swim. But I detest the how unpredictable the weather is, you never know what to wear or if you will be able to make good on your weekend plans.
Spring is cold, it is hot, it is wild, it is fierce, and stubborn. It is me. It is bright, it is sweet, it is growth and change. It is me. It never stops to ask the time. It never apologizes for its changeable ways. It just is, and perhaps, for now, it is just how I need to be.
“The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.”Alan Watts