It’s Simple, but Hard

Challenging yourself is a fairly simple concept, but not easy. Take hiking for example, it’s simple enough; you pack your gear, put one foot after another and walk, just like you do everyday at home to get from one place to another. But, hiking is hard.

It’s hard because it hurts. There’s nothing anyone can do to take away the pain. Even the fittest athletes in the world have to endure pain when they are training, competing or just taking part in their sport of choice for a bit of fun. I’m a fit hiker and I’m used to carrying 20kg+ in my pack, but it hurts like a bastard. My muscles ache, especially my legs and I have a weird hard lump that comes up on my right shoulder. Sometimes it goes down, sometimes it stays put for a couple of months at a time. I get blisters, my pack chafes my lower back and hips. If I hike for more than one day my feet really hurt and it feels like every step I take is a step into a bucket of boiling water.

All of it hurts, but that’s the whole point of challenging myself. I don’t love the pain, I’m not a freak, but I do love the fact that I can push through it and get to the end of the trail and basically say, “fuck you, pain, I smashed you down!” That’s when I feel like I own the world.

Photos online of adventures and adventurers mostly show happy people who are having a great ol’ time in nature with their buddies, but what the photos rarely show is how hard adventuring can be: the brand new tent that leaked like a sieve in a sudden downpour, saturating my down sleeping bag; the rat that ate through my previous hiking tent in an attempt to get to my granola, which I shouldn’t have had in the tent in the first place; getting shot at and having to spend the night at a police station in a town thousands of kilometres away from my home; getting covered in leeches and ticks and having to go to the doctor because almost my entire body came up in a disgusting pimply rash; having to cut a shirt up to tie socks to my feet because my boots caused most of my toenails to lift off; getting lost in the bush and wandering around for hours in the dark; on and on it goes. Yeah, these things are hard and some of them bad, but they didn’t kill me and I got through them, just like I get through the real pain of challenging myself.

I don’t get through these things because I’m better, stronger or more physically able than other people. I get through them because of the story I tell myself about who I am. That story is about a person who is one tough mofo. This mofo can smash down enemies and rise above those who seek to bring her down. It’s a story about a bad-ass mofo who is the master at overcoming adversity and coming out the other side of a challenge with her integrity intact. I get through the hard stuff because I tell myself that I’m a person who can get through the hard stuff, after which I literally become a person who can get through the hard stuff.

What I’m saying here is this: It’s pretty much all in your head. If you accept the pain and suffering, the only thing that will prevent you from achieving your goal is the voice in your head; your voice: It’s all up to you.

Smiling on the outside, crying on the inside.

Taken in 2015 right before most of my toenails lifted off and I had to tie socks to my feet to continue the hike. I still had more than 20km to go and one more night at a walker’s camp before pick up.

The Silver Brumby

I was doing a course on the awesome free elearning platform Future Learn the other day and came across a writing award that commemorates the excellent Australian author, Elyne Mitchell, who lives on through her work, The Silver Brumby. From the award website:

“Inspired by Elyne Mitchell’s work, the Writing Award seeks to encourage writers to share their stories and to keep the art of storytelling alive.  It gives rural life profile not only through country authors, but urban dwellers also write stories about their experiences and dreams about country life.  It doesn’t matter where you are in Australasia – we want to read your story.”

Do it! Write a story. If you’ve never done anything like this before, it will be an adventure. Once you’ve got your story completed and want an outside perspective, let me know and I can check it out for you. Writing short stories is a great way to build confidence in your writing and in yourself. It’s amazing to look at a story and think, this never existed before I wrote it down.

I’ve written butt loads of short stories and I never thought I’d do anything with them, but recently I have compiled some into a collection that is now being edited for publication and I’m working my way through another collection. After that there will be two more collections and most of the stories that will fill these are ones I’d written years ago. All it took to bring my stories back to life was to shift my view of what they were. I used to think of them as silly and a waste of time, but once I gathered them altogether, I could see they were nothing of the kind.

It all starts with one word

 

 

Woodgate Slam

I wrote a post earlier about doing a street slam in Bundaberg. Well, I didn’t go into Bundaberg last week, so I did a Woodgate slam instead, to an audience of one: my mum! I got up on a picnic table opposite the caravan park cafe on the esplanade and recited two poems that I’d rewritten: Desiderata by Max Erhmann and Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night by Dylan Thomas.

I changed the words a bit because I find the first one a bit too prescriptive and the second one a bit too morbid. I laced them with my own ideas of hope and positivity instead. Click here for the transcript.

A few people walked up from the beach to go back across the road, but they looked in the other direction and acted like they couldn’t hear me. I find this unbelievably strange! Do they do this because they’re so used to seeing people stand on table tops or is it because they’re scared that I might be dangerous, or maybe they’re just really, really busy! It’s hard to know what other people think, but my curious mind wouldn’t let me just pass on by as though nothing strange was happening. I’d simply have to stay and listen, even if it was just to see what would happen next. Who knows, I could’ve started tossing $2 coins into the air after I stopped speaking. I also could have done a little jig, which would have been worth more than ten handfuls of $2 coins.

Me and a tabletop today, not yesterday, but you get the idea.

Do Not Go Gentle 

Do Not Surrender

Conquer tabletops and your fears

 

The Vest and the Philosopher

Maybe I should have brought my hiking poles…ugh, this is harder than I remember. I might just go back home, I thought. It was hard, but I didn’t go back home and next time I’ll remember to take my poles. Hiking wearing a 20kg weighted vest is harder than carrying a pack weighing 20kg because you can’t properly shift the weight off your shoulders with the vest, which means you pretty much have to suck the pain and discomfort up for the whole time you’re wearing the vest because you can’t easily get it off once it’s on.

“Hi!” I said to some fellow walkers at about the half way mark (7km). The girl said hi and the guy just kind of stared at me. Rude! I thought, but I forgot what I looked like. “What are you doing?” He exclaimed, “is that at weighted vest?”

“Yeah, it’s about 23kg in total.” (I had a small backpack too).

“You masochist!” He said.

Not long after that I decided I’d have to take the vest off to pee. I couldn’t initially work out how to do that and it wasn’t something I’d thought of when I left the house. Should I try and hang it over a sign? Should I try and get a tree branch through the back of it? Those ideas were baseline stupid and in the end I found a wooden seat in the dunes and with a fair amount of wriggling and swearing I was able to lay down on it and manoeuvre the contraption off me. There was even more swearing when I had to put it back on.

I was at Burrum Point campsite and instead of walking back via the loop I’d come on I decided to increase the distance and effort by walking back along the sand 4WD track to the bitumen and then home from there. I started philosophising about the nature of existence and the origins of life. It was a really interesting conversation, even if I only had the trees to talk to. I really thought I was by myself, but I wasn’t. I was closer to the walking track than I realised and a couple of hikers popped out to cross the 4WD track only about 20 metres away from me. “I’m not crazy!” I yelled out to them in what I thought must have been a reassuring voice. “I’m just having a conversation with myself, see, I do this all the time when I’m walking. I’m not crazy.” I felt it very important that they understand my position, but they kept walking and looked in the opposite direction. They should just think themselves lucky that I wasn’t singing, especially my wonderful rendition of What’s Up.

I must look like a total freak with that vest on. It’s huge and it looks like it could be full of bombs. On the road a car stopped and asked if I was ok. I told them I was wearing a weighted vest incase they thought I was a terrorist. “Are you trying to lose weight?” The man asked. I almost laughed at him because losing weight is the last thing I need to do. I’m actually attempting to gain weight by training with a weighed vest. At least they were nice enough to stop.

When I got home I was glad that I went out and walked a hard walk. It took me almost four hours (I faffed around a fair bit at the campsite) and I was pretty well cactus when I got home, but it was a good type of cactus (maybe peyote?). As usual I was amazed at how pushing myself physically makes me feel like I am the coolest person out there, well, at least the coolest person to ever carry a weighted vest to Burrum Point campsite.

All of this because I was too lazy to drag my hiking pack out and fill it with 20kg worth of stuff. This is what 20kg of hiking crap looks like:

Live a limitless life by way of adventure

 

 

 

 

 

A Long Way

I’ve just mapped out another bloody long hike. It’s 465km and goes from my house to Brisbane via two Great Walks (Fraser Island and Cooloola). I’ll cut into the guts after I’ve walked to Caloundra and go via Woodford, Dayboro and Samford. That way I can avoid the oh-so-scenic Bruce Highway entirely, well, apart from where I’ll have to cross it at the end of Caloundra Road. Not sure how I’ll manage that yet, but it will work itself out; everything always does.

Have you ever noticed that? Stuff is hard, things go pear-shaped and sometimes it’s annoying and inconvenient, but for the most part, everything pretty much always works itself out. It doesn’t always happen straight away and sometimes it takes a lot of guts to get through the hard shit, but once you do, it’s gone and you don’t have to do it anymore because it’s in the past and as soon as you get past it, you can look back and go, “Fark, I’m awesome! Look at what I just did!” Afterwards, you start to see stuff differently because you’ve grown a new part of you that didn’t exist beforehand: a golden nugget of self-belief that makes you powerful and resilient.

I know that hiking to Brisbane isn’t going to be easy. The hardest part will be organising everything: getting the distances right between campsites, ensuring I have enough food and water and mapping out the exact route I will follow. I’ve never walked 465km before, but I came close in 2016 on a long hike I did from Mount Perry to Toowoomba. I have no doubts that I can do it, or really anything I put my mind to. Maybe you’d like to join me, even if just for part of the hike. You don’t even have to camp out overnight if you don’t want to because I’ll be walking through a lot of populated areas.

Once I’ve got the details pinned down I’ll post updates as I have them.

Ohhh, it’s going to be fun!

How to hike 465km?

Put one foot after the other

 

 

 

Soapbox Warrior 2

Recently some people did some shitty stuff to me. Some of it was because I told them that I have a brain injury. I told them this in the spirit of friendship and openness, in an attempt to strengthen the relationship we all shared. I did it because I wanted them to like me and understand me. WRONG! It didn’t make them understand me, it didn’t cause them to like me, in fact, they never had, and they used the story I told them, my personal story, my traumatic story, to serve purposes I will never understand. Basically, they were big ol’ meanies, people who these days I like to refer to with a word starting with the letting “C” followed by three letters, one of them a “U”, another “N” and another “T” and when there’s more than one of these types of people, the last letter is “S”.

The stuff with the big ol’ meanies made me revisit for the first time in a long time how hard it can be to live with a brain injury. It immediately made me aware that other people must struggle with exactly what I was experiencing and that really sucks because it’s not bloody fair.

I was inspired to write a Soapbox Warrior talk about it and I presented it to my friends in my brain injury support group in Bundaberg yesterday. I love this group of people. We “get” each other in a way that can only arise from a connection borne of shared adversity and courage. Some of us in the group are carers for those who are living with the challenge of being brain injured, some of us have lost those close to us and others are reassembling our lives after something random and unexpected sideswiped us on some average Tuesday: stroke, car accident, brain cancer, hit-and-run, aneurysm or workplace injury. Some of us struggle with speech, some with mobility, most of us with memory, but none of us deserve to be treated with discrimination. Many of us feel “invisible” because that’s what brain injury is: the invisible disability. That’s what my talk is about. My awesome friend Leeanne took this video and because I don’t have a sound system, it’s hard to hear.  Click here for transcript.

 

Don’t let your voice be silent.

Be vulnerable and you can change the world.