Adventure seeker

It seems like I have blinked twice and the summer is already half over. If I am completely honest, this summer has gone by the quickest of any I have experienced in the past. There have been only a few markers or events to even denote the passage of time. Real question: is this what getting older feels like?

Regardless, that is not what this particular post is about. I have been thinking more and more about having a life of adventure. I recently finished The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron and have started reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Both books are about creative living and I highly recommend them. In a nutshell, they are both about pursuing your dreams in a real way within the structure of your real life. Since birth (most likely), one of my dreams has been to live a life of adventure. I have always wanted to be an independent, free-spirited adventuress who writes and paints and runs and rides horses and etc. In May, I got a great full-time job as a tile painter. And just like that, I became a “weekend warrior” type. The adventure-seeker-free spirit inside of me yelped and I became anxious.

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I asked myself “what does this mean?” and “am I giving up my dreams?” and “Julie Cameron would shake her head if she knew.” A few weeks after accepting the job, David and I decided to make good on a new year’s resolution: to hike the Wildwood trail (over 30 miles) in one day.  We started the trail at 6:15 AM on the hottest day of the summer. I wish I could say that it was easy peasy and such, but it wasn’t. It was easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was hot, my feet swelled to twice their size, and I came face to face with my weaknesses. However, it was easily one of the best things I’ve ever done. I got to spend the day with my best friend, I was outside for almost 14 hours, and I came face to face with my strengths. Additionally, I feel a whole new connection with Forest Park and for that, I am grateful.

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What does the Wildwood trail have to do with Julie Cameron, dreams, and adventure? Well, that day spent on the trail graciously showed me that I am pursuing my dream of an adventurous life. I get so focused and frustrated on what I am not doing, following, experiencing, that I ignore all that I am saying “yes” to: I have been to the coast seven times this year, I have run a lot of miles in the woods, I have spent time outdoors every Sunday for the last 6 weeks, and I have written almost every day since December. I am not intending to sound arrogant or braggy. I am intending to show myself and you that we may already be following our bliss, whether we feel like it or not.

Hiking Wildwood trail, committing to my writing practice, Ms. Cameron, Ms. Gilbert, and the “Outdoors on Sundays Project” (which I hope to unpack more next week!) have all been incredible teachers to me. They have taught me that, yes, I do long for an adventurous life and yes, there are always new and better things I can accomplish. But they have also shown me that adventure seeking is in my blood. I don’t have to worry about living complacently, and neither do you. When we find those things that make us feel alive, we won’t be able to stay away for long.

Wait, what is this called?

I hate to admit it, but I am an anxious person. Even when things are smooth, I will have a moment where I open my eyes and look around me at what I am doing, who I am with, where I am, how I look etc. and get dizzy with worry.
I received a little insight into my experience with anxiety lately while trying to run during Portland’s “Snowmageddon.” David is always up for adventure and luckily decided to come with me. Foolishly, I looked at my weather app and thought that 40 degrees didn’t sound that cold. I layered my running garb irresponsibly. We wore crampons on our shoes and felt like things might be easier than our previous attempt* to run in winter weather. The run wasn’t long and shouldn’t have been too difficult except for the unprecedented foot of slushy snow still covering the trail. We ran when we could, but running through the deep snow in inadequate clothing proved to be impossible. So we started walking.

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The cold wind blew maybe once before I became panicky. I was so chilly and I was supposed to be running. I complained repeatedly to David about how I had wanted to get a certain amount of miles in and had not anticipated having to trudge along at such a slow pace. Any time negativity enters my vocabulary, I swiftly turn to self-judgement. The next time I complained about how slow we were going I also said, “I’m sorry for being to so insufferable.” Which then turned into me apologizing for pretty much everything I’ve ever done in my entire life.

After a few awful miles, the trail cleared off enough for us to jog a little. I think warmed enough to get in touch with my brain at that point and I began to dwell on why this run was bothering me so much. This run. Run? I had been approaching the snowy adventure all wrong. I got so obsessed with its name -a run- that I got really upset when I couldn’t run. Instead of adapting and treating it like a fast hike with my best friend, I fixated on what I thought it was supposed to be. Apparently, my anxiety only needs a slight misnomer to use as an entry point.

“What’s in a name?” Unwaverable power.

I think I have intense moments of worry because I am calling my experiences and identities by the wrong names. I get concerned about whatever my occupation is at the time because it is a “job.” A messy apartment can make me slightly lose my mind because it is my “living space.” Being a “wife” can be daunting and being a “daughter” is almost impossible. Stir these strictly labeled things together with their connotations, put into an oven of minimal outside pressure, bake for almost three seconds and you get a muffin tray with rows of steaming bouts of anxiety.

I remember reading a great book by Donald Miller in high school. It is called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years and totally worth checking out. In it, Miller asserts that all of our lives are stories. That thought comforts and motivates me tremendously. If I think of “life” as a “story,” it becomes way less intimidating. A story  is something I love and can relate to. Life is too big and adult for me to grasp. All of those smaller things that I have trouble naming are just commas, characters, transition sentences, disguises, ellipses, dragons to defeat, periods, and quests to complete. If my life is a story, there is an interesting writer and a good editor. There are page-turner moments, but also lots of ordinary dialogue.

I wish I could say that David and I finished our run with positive attitudes and a cup of hot chocolate. The truth is, we finished it incredibly freezing and in bad moods. Well…mostly I was in a bad mood, David can be almost too cheerful in hard situations. I will say that I learned to be much more careful about attaching my expectations to what things are called.

Since then, it’s exciting to embark on a new day and ask the question “Wait, what is this called?” What name I decide to answer that question with can dictate my whole attitude: A story. An adventure. A gift. A dance. A walk. A race. A task. A pleasure. A life. A friend.