I don’t really know how to stop.
On its face, this seems like a super power.
“You don’t know how to stop? Cool! So, how’s the progress on the novel coming?”
In short, it’s not. That and every project I’ve been working on for the last month has felt like it’s moving further towards the horizon, all the while, no matter how fast or hard I run, I look down to find myself on a treadmill, making no progress, save for keeping pace.
That’s the way it feels, even if that feeling isn’t exactly fair to the facts. July, which seems to have lasted forever, has been a phenomenal month in a lot of ways. I’ve hit goals, and achieved things I never thought I’d achieve again, like driving independently. In addition, I’ve kept up with this blog, my training, and even gotten some solid writing done in Starfall. It might not be as much as I’d like, but progress is progress.
Except for me, it’s not…I tell myself that progress is progress, all the while I feel like I’m dying inside because I’m not living up to the standards that I’ve set for myself.
In short, as said, I don’t really know how to stop, and to quote Yoda…
Tuesday I arrived late on a flight from San Francisco, and immediately dived into catch up mode, handling things neglected while I traveled, all the while dealing with a tsunami of obligations, appointments and commitments that seemed to spring up like weeds after a rainstorm.
Days just melted away, as I moved from thing to thing. While this was going on, a nagging guilt was building that personal goals like my writing, weren’t being met, and then suddenly it was Saturday, with a hike still to plan and a Wandering Hops left to write…
Frantically, I dove into my apps, and began a desperate kind of trip planning, racing through, trying to check boxes.
This wasn’t about enjoyment any more, it was about work. It was about taking the next step, checking the next box so I could cross it off the list, meet the standard I had set myself and get it out of the way so that I could work on Starfall and everything else that was continually piling up like a Tsunami of Stress.
Oh, and did I mention I’m heading down to LA on the 5th of August?
Last minute plans complete, I got to bed forty-five minutes late, with an 0530 alarm scheduled. The night passed fitfully, the alarm went off and I dragged myself out of bed, got ready, went through my checklist, threw the gear in the truck and got on the road, not even allowing myself to stop for coffee on my way out, until I started feeling the tiredness get to me, as I pushed north for Olympia.
My whole focus wasn’t about a fun day on the trail, but my opening sentences, how I was going to write this up.
Check the box, keeping moving, one paw in front of the other… don’t stop… For the love of the Gods… Don’t stop.
Arriving at 9:30, late by my own set schedule, I arrived to disaster.
For one there was no self pay kiosk to purchase for a discover pass, which would prevent my vehicle from being towed. This was the first problem.
The second was that I seemed to have found a very popular and active trail with the local motorized dirt biking crowd. There were close to thirty waiting in the parking lot, tuning up their bikes, getting ready to shred the trail that I was about to be hiking on. This included steep drop offs and narrow paths.
Shock, despair, frustration… and maybe even a tinge of anger followed, as I stood in front of my truck, with my hands on my hips internally cursing. Finally shrugging my shoulders, I hopped back in, and shifted towards damage control.
It was still Sunday, I could still make my deadline, but I had to find another hike. To do that, I had to get home.
My mind immediately jumped to a location I had hit upon the night before, but it was over three hours away, and 14.9 miles, but that was fine, I could plan, throw in an overnight.
Working out the math, I found that if I left by 0600, I could be on site a little after nine, hopefully score a campsite, and then be on the trail by eleven, then return the next day and write it up.
It would mean bumping Wandering Hops to Wednesday, but I had been considering that anyway. All the while, the chorus was ringing in my ears.
Don’t stop… Don’t stop…
I set out from the house to run errands and make a quick loop around Sacajawea park, with a strange and growing anxiety rising in my chest like an oncoming thunderstorm. Arriving at the camp store, I found my normal selection of vegan backpacking meals out of stock, and the anxiety built higher, as I tried to roll with it, and went for the Pro-Bars instead. Next, I headed to the park, because today was supposed to be a hike day…
Suddenly it all hit. The wave of pressure and anxiety slammed into me like a concrete wall, and I couldn’t calm down. My chest felt like it was fluttering, and my mind wouldn’t stop racing. If you’ve watched our livestreams as of late, you’ve heard me speak of my anxiety condition.
Well this was an anxiety and panic attack from stress, and one of the worst ones I had in awhile, but still… I kept walking around the park.
Don’t Stop… Don’t stop…
Amid the raging storm, there was a quiet whisper of revelation, that somehow drew my attention. It rose in the form of a question, shortly after I completed the second mile of the loop.
Why am I doing this to myself? Doesn’t this all seem a bit nuts?
Revelation broke the storm clouds of my panic like rays of sunshine as I slowed, finding a sudden and unexpected modicum of calm, and I realized that I had to stop. I had to give myself some room to breathe, and recover, or I was going to crash, and hard.
I’ve had experience with this, dear reader. It’s one of the reason’s Rise of the Forgotten took almost five years to write.
Feeling guilty that I couldn’t keep up the pace I had set for myself, I went home and unloaded all of what was going on to my husband, and then my Dragon team, expecting them to be disappointed in me, because, I was disappointed in me.
Stopping is not something I do.
They told me, each one, that they were proud of me, because stopping, acknowledging that I needed to stop, was something that I needed to learn.
I sat there, shocked and bewildered, completely unprepared for that response, and began to work out a plan.
As I did, and settled down, I began working on this blog, writing out today’s experience, as a way of both processing and sharing it all with you.
Ultimately, I am going to slow myself down, try to keep up with the beats, but give myself some room to breath. We aren’t machines, and even if we were, they need maintenance sometimes too.
We romanticize pushing past our limits, extolling such behaviors as virtues of strength and maturity. Sometimes though it takes even more strength to acknowledge that you need to rest, and acknowledge that there’s a wall before you. After all, impacting into it only means you will shatter, but if you slow down, and accept where your limits are, you give yourself the room to climb over them.