A slight change of pace

This weekend I went away on a hiking trip. Our hiking group consisted of five strangers, two friends, and me, and together we summited four peaks and walked 21km over two days. One of the people that I was hiking with described our pace at one point as “the slowest walk in history”, and for me, it was a definite change of pace.

Ever since I got back from Hawaii, I’ve been all go go go. Colour-coded panels back up on each other on my electronic calendar and there is just enough time in my day to get from one event to the next. As a result, I still haven’t really had time to fully settle in at home, and so my room looks like a hurricane hit it and I feel like I’m living in a squat. Most nights I step gingerly past bikes, empty pannier bags, open drawers and a varied assortment of clothes, trying hard to find some kind of safe passage to my bed. And my fast-paced attitude hasn’t only been reserved for my day-to-day life either: it seems that I’ve been treating my plans for the future with a similar kind of haste.

Upon arriving back in Australia I set myself a goal to not only change careers but also move overseas with that career within the next three months. And for some reason, I had told myself that if I couldn’t make that happen, that I was a failure. I knew I was completely setting myself up for disappointment.

When I arrived back from Hawaii, I hit the ground running, but in all honesty, I don’t think I knew where I wanted to go. I suspect I ran to avoid the big black dog of depression, which waited for my arrival to start nipping at my heels, but I came to understand today that perhaps that black dog isn’t as scary or as unwelcome as I thought it was. Perhaps that black dog just is – that is all.

Going on the hiking trip was both a literal change of pace – I went from cycling to walking – and a mental and emotional one too. Whereas before I was rushing from one thing to the next, on this hike I found myself more fully immersing into conversation, ideas, and thought. Walking allowed me to open things up, both alone and with other people, and to tease out some of the never-before examined details of my mind, and heart. I even found myself delighting in the joy of simply spending time with another human being. The hard exterior that I had grown months before was slowly starting to crack. The feeling of having all the time in the world sat snugly in my tool belt, and armed with it, I sunk deeply and pleasurably into my life.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the idea of doing things in my own time. This idea was first fully introduced to me when I was contemplating leaving my last relationship. I pressured and rushed myself to make a decision. Should I stay or should I go?

Every day that passed was another day that my partner and I were hanging in relationship limbo, and every day I guilt-tripped myself into making a decision. But for something that was as big as deciding whether I should terminate a relationship and leave the one I love, I could never fully commit either way. I wanted to, but I couldn’t. Not until I was fully ready, anyways.

It took weeks of deliberating until someone advised me that perhaps I should just ask, clearly and assertively, for more time. I felt like a bad person doing that – I didn’t want to leave my partner hanging in this uncomfortable, open-ended limbo – but at the same time I knew that this was what I needed. And after I asked for it, and received it, I suddenly had this vast expanse in front of me, filled with all the possibilities that time can offer. And then the answer came a lot quicker than I expected. It was almost as if what I needed wasn’t time per se, but rather the feeling of spaciousness – the feeling of having time. Choice versus constriction. That really allowed for things to be able to come to the fore.

And so it was through walking and talking and thinking and camping that more and more things came to the fore for me this weekend too. My somewhat simplistic, black-and-white, and slapdash plans for the future started to grow in substance and in detail. And I celebrated that emerging detail. The deeper I sunk into the minutes and hours that made up my life, the more I felt able to actually sit with and reflect on my life. Acceptance creeped in, and it moved into the spaces where a sense of urgency and fear was before. And I lay back, resting in the comfort of the discomfort that was me. It didn’t all have to make sense, and I didn’t always have to have a plan. It was finally, slowly, simply, allowed to be.

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