On Being Your Own Worst Enemy!

Pardee Reservoir, Calaveras County

This is as green as our county gets!

This creek was difficult to pass two years ago. Yesterday it was just a hop, skip and a jump!

See that little clearing at the top? We were on that ridge!

There was a profusion of flowers towards the end of the hike. A real treat!

That's me, on Patti's Pt, with the Mokelumne River and Pardee Reservoir in the background.

The hillsides were covered with all sorts of orange and yellow flowers.

Yesterday, Earth Day, was my birthday. I turned 49 this year, no mean feat! My friends, who are older than me, tell me that I am just a baby still. Let's hope so.

I also went on a memorable hike yesterday to celebrate, quietly and inwardly, and to see what I could do for myself physically and mentally. It was a kind of perfect day really: great weather, an abundance of wildflowers, and enjoyable company. In short, a great day for a very long hike.

Originally, I was just going to start out with my friends, hike about 4 miles in and then turn around without them and hike the 4 miles back alone. I hike alone all of the time so no problem there. Turning back seemed like a good option for me because I felt it would be too hot to hike the full distance of 11 miles. I also believed that 11 miles was too long of a distance for me, physically. Eight miles is about my comfort level for the weather and terrain that we have here. (Note that I mention the weather and terrain. People always assume that it is the distance that makes a hike difficult or not and that is really only partially the truth. Factors such as the weather, elevation, elevation gain and loss, terrain underfoot, health conditions, sleep status and mental game are all variables to consider.)

Anyway, that was the plan. Well, as they say about the best laid plans, things can change. And change they did! We got to hiking and arrived at a section of the trail that I hadn't seen in awhile. It was so beautiful. There were so many flowers to see already but my friend told me that there were more to come, particularly towards the last 2 miles or so. Physically, I felt good (we were about 4 miles in) and the weather was just right-warm with a cool breeze. Perfect as I said above. So, I felt I could walk a little farther. Who am I kidding? I knew I was just going to continue walking. And so I did. 

At about the 5 mile mark I knew that I couldn't turn back so that option was off the table anyway. That made me nervous. Real nervous. What if I couldn't complete the hike? What if some body part hurt too much and walking wasn't possible? What if the heat made me sick? Did I really have enough water? Enough food? What if, what if, what if!!! I can "what if" myself to death. So, I just stopped and mentally decided that whatever happened, I would handle it. Just shut up, and handle it.

All of the above mental discussion is typical. My friend pointed out to me that I worry a lot. Really? I think it is OK to worry. It's one way to work through things. The problem arises however when your worrying prevents you from enjoying something or worse yet, keeps you from doing something. In that way, it's possible to become your own worst enemy. 

How to get past it though. It depends. It's helpful to ask if what you are concerned about is realistic or not. Could it actually happen? One of the things I was concerned about was getting overheated and possibly becoming sick. I have had that happen before on a hike so the possibility is realistic. I was drinking plenty of water though, had on a wide brimmed hat, and was wearing sunscreen. There was shade on much of the trail too and the breeze was cool. So, I kind of talked myself down from that ledge. 

I was also worried about getting hurt and not being able to continue. This is a realistic concern to some extent though I haven't had it happen yet. I try to be careful and I use a hiking pole. Still. The last part of the hike involved a somewhat short but steep descent. Could I do it if I was injured? The answer is likely "yes." I say likely because honestly, if I broke some bone or something all bets would be off. But what if I got a sprain or strain or scraped something? I could probably power through that and get down the hill. So, I mentally worked past this objection too.

In the end, things worked out. I deliberately set the mental chatter aside and kept walking, carefully, one foot in front of the other, and as steadily as I could manage. For those of us with anxiety, fears can be addressed with logic and you can get past them with a little mental chit chat. Positive and realistic self talk can be a very effective tool. I am not sure how often people use it but in my experience, it does work.
I want to stress though that there really are times when your reservations about something that frightens you are valid and those feelings shouldn't be ignored.When considering whether or not to do something though, it's important to ask what is really real. A little "risk assessment" helps. All sorts of things could happen but winnowing down the likely possibilities and seeing how they might be handled is a useful exercise. When considering risk, remember that not every outcome can be anticipated. Taking that into account is a must. And sometimes things really are dangerous. I am thinking about weather conditions here or medical issues that might impact your outcome or you may not have the skills needed to complete the task. Those are important things, things that could be life altering. The rest of it though? Just mental chatter as I mentioned. 

What did I learn yesterday? I learned that I have nice friends who will hike with me and make my day enjoyable. Being 49 is pretty good so far. I also learned that sometimes all conditions converge to make a day "perfect." What a gift that is. And I learned that it is possible to turn your "enemy" in to a "friend." It just takes a little convincing:)

Thank you for reading and commenting.