Running into the Moon

I went for a run on the beach. It was just getting dark as I arrived. I’ve been avoiding running in the dark for a while because some bastard stole the three $2 solar lights I’d put at the start/finish and the 8km and 10km turn arounds. I don’t know how (or why) they got them down because the one at the start was at the very top of a huge pole (although this one could have rusted off) and the other two were way up in trees in the dunes. I must admit, the ones in the trees were kind of freaky. You could see them way off in the distance bobbing around like they were spectres hanging in mid air. Perhaps curiosity, not tightarsedness got the better of whoever took them.

After the lights disappeared I tried running a few times in the dark, but everything just looks so different at night. I could never make out where the start/finish was and a couple of times I ran straight past it. I lamented, “Oh woe is me! I need to run, but it’s dark, how will I cope? Oh, life is so hard.” Then I remembered that I had a headlamp.

“That will never work. It will just keep falling down the whole time. It will be annoying and get in the way. Don’t do it. Just go home and do nothing instead,” my mind said.

“You again! How many times have I told you to shutup?” my brain yelled.

Gees, I thought, aggressive much? Someone really needs a runner’s high by the sounds of it.

So off I set with my headlamp, which by the way, doesn’t fall down, doesn’t get in the way and is only the smallest bit annoying.

The moon sat huge in the distance, not far above the water, and as I ran I felt that I was running into the moon. I didn’t even need my headlamp because the moon was its own dark sun. My bare feet hit the sand at their own pace and my breathing became steady and rhythmical. I marvelled at the awesome tool my body is. I felt my abdominal muscles flexing and working with the slight rotation of my body as I moved ever closer to the moon. I visualised my shoulder muscles working and building as they moved my arms in time with my legs. I ran into the moon and I was the moon. I became the beach and became the run. I was the air and I was the night.

I was able to surrender myself completely to the experience because a while back I decided to try something new. I’d never been a runner, never. In fact, I avoided running with the same conviction that I now approach it. I’m never going to be the fastest or best runner, but that’s not my goal. My goal is to run and sometimes, just by doing that, I get to run into the moon.

I’m not interested in personal bests or negative splits or sprint training or timed track races or uploading my stats to Strava. I’m interested in beauty and that simply can’t be measured. I want my runs to be beautiful and I want to feel beautiful and be beautiful because of them. And I do and I am.

Don’t be put off by what others can do or have accomplished. It’s what you can accomplish that matters. It took me what seemed like forever to run 5km without feeling like I was going to die, but bit by bit, I got there. If my goal was speed I would have given up, but with a goal like beauty, I can’t lose because beauty is everywhere, especially when you’re running into the moon.

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We arrive in the night, We come alive in the night…we’ll run the expanse in the absence of light…under stars we breathe the night.

Hilltop Hoods

 

 

 

 

Rigid Thinking and its Monkey

Yesterday I went to a meeting and I was reminded again of the limiting nature of rigid thinking. Rigid thinking is when you have ideas and beliefs about the world and your place in it that are absolutes; there are no grey areas, it’s either this way or no way at all and there’s no room for considering alternatives because new information and evidence are disregarded to protect the rigid position of the person in question.  I used to do this all the time and I still do, I’m sure, but I’m heaps better at overcoming rigid thinking than I was in the past.  The first thing I did to smash this stupid practice down was to acknowledge it. I also evicted the monkey.

Rigid thinking has its own little pet monkey that you get to carry around on your back when you let yourself be rigid. It sits there and smashes its toy hammer on your head every step you take. It never lets you forget that its sitting there because its always smashing away and over the years it gets heavy and bloated. Its quite a load to carry, and it will invariably invite its friends over for a head smashing party and they will stay for an indeterminate amount of time. “Far out, I’m so sick of the racket! Will you guys just shut up?” You might scream, but they just laugh maniacally and keep hammering. One day, after years of monkey-oppression you decide that enough is enough and you take one of your rigid ideas and you look at it from all angles. You hold it in your hand and turn it over and see that it’s actually quite an unattractive thing. It has no colour, no depth and there’s a slickness to its surface that you find terribly unappealing, but because it’s been there for so long, you can’t just chuck it away in one fell swoop. Instead, you put it back inside your head, but now you keep your eye on it. At the same time, the monkey sends some of his friends home and the hammering quietens down. You watch that rigid idea from the corner of your eye and you can really start to see how it colours your experience of the world in a negative way. The more you watch it, the more you see it doing this and eventually you decide that the idea is taking up too much real estate in your already overcrowded brain, so you kick it to the curb. To your great amazement, the monkey, and eventually all his buddies, get evicted too. You feel a great weight lifted from your shoulders and the world all at once appears to be amazing in a way you never believed possible.

One monkey is all it takes, just one. If you can challenge a rigid belief or thought and experience how it feels to alleviate the burden of carrying around something that restricted your life rather than enhanced it, the whole thing will come cascading down.

Adventure is an awesome way to shake monkeys off and adventure is available to all of us regardless of who we are, where we live and how much money we have because adventure is about novelty, innovation and creativity: qualities that are purely human and transcendent of anyone’s’ personal situation. Also transcendent of monkeys.

 

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Conondale Range Great Walk

Last week I went on the Conondale Range Great Walk with my friend Freya. It was pretty cool, but pretty damn hard as well. I think it would have to be one of the hardest hikes I’ve been on.

We have no photos of the trip because Freya accidently left her phone at the caravan park and the battery in my 14 year old camera died in the first five minutes. The two brand new replacement batteries I’d ordered were waiting for me when I got home, which was pretty annoying. Aargh! Oh well. I guess not thinking about taking photos of stuff the whole time kind of tethered us to the moment, which helped when I came across a giant python sunning itself on the track. I reckon he would have had a go at us if we’d tried to walk straight past him. I shooed him away with one of my hiking poles. He wasn’t very pleased at all and kept striking at me. Lucky it’s spiders I’m afraid of, not snakes.

At the first campsite someone had left a heap of tinned food on a little shelf in the toilet. There were a couple of Tom Piper meals, so I grabbed one of those and added it to my already huge dinner. “You won’t eat all that,” Freya said. “Watch me,” I said. I was kind of astounded that people had brought such huge tins hiking with them. My pack already weighed around 22kg and I had all dried food and no tins for the four days. Those Tom Piper tins are 400g each!

The next day was hard…I felt like Freya and I were on the set of some kind of commando movie where the heroes are racing against time. At one point Freya said, “we should have brought machetes.” There were huge trees down across the track and vines hanging down everywhere, so we had to clamber over and through obstacles for a fair part of that day. I even had to take my pack off and push it through the snags in one section. Both of us were pretty worried that we wouldn’t get to the campsite in the 8 hours that the track notes suggested we would need. Freya had read a blog before we’d left that said the distance was more like 22km, not 17km, but I tried to put that out of my mind because there was nothing we could do about it anyway. We managed to make it in time to discover that no water came out of the tap at the campsite tank and that we both had lots of leeches all over us. Yuck!!! I got a bit scared about the water, but luckily I discovered a second tap at the back of the tank and water came out of it ok even though it was brown, brown, brown. It was just tannins though, so no big deal.

That night some possums came down to visit us and one of them had a stumpy tail. Stumpy and his buddy were seriously huge, like the fattest possums I’ve ever seen. Stumpy came right up to Freya and I thought he was going to jump on her lap, but he jumped up onto the wooden platform we had everything strewn over and made his way over to Freya’s pack. He jumped on her clothes and picked up her thermal leggings in his mouth. “Quick! He’s got your pants!” I yelled and she immediately shooed him away. He jumped up a tree and sat at the top glaring at us. Little did we know he was calculating how to get even. He waited until we’d gone to bed before coming down and upsetting Freya’s stove to get at the coffee and milk sachet she’d  put inside ready for the next morning. “I came out of my tent just in time to see him making off with it!” She said.

Stumpy wasn’t impressed with us and somehow managed to get the word out to his mates at the next camp. This time it was a team of bush rats. They were scurrying around the site and I hoped that they didn’t continuously run up over my tent like they had at the first campsite. No, instead they ate right through my tent. I’d just gone to bed and could hear this rustling near my head. I thought that I must have somehow collected a giant rainforest cockroach in one of my ziplock bags, so I turned on the little light Freya had lent me (my solar light died a couple of hours earlier and I’d left my headlamp back at the caravan park – what a dick!) only to see a little grey face poking through a nice big, freshly chewed hole. I lost my shit! I’ve never really been a huge fan of my hiking tent (it’s not quite high enough at the foot end), but I’m less of a fan of having to shell out a couple of hundred dollars to buy a new one. At least it didn’t eat through my $500 Deuter pack. I would have been much less impressed with that, which is why we decided to stow all our food inside the tents in the first place.

At the end of the hike we had a couple of hours to spare at the Booloomba Creek day use area and I got to go swimming in an awesome spot. By this time I didn’t care about a lot of things – one of them was being seen in my bra and undies – so I stripped off and jumped into the freezing water. It was awesome and my timing was perfect because not long after I’d gotten out and gotten dressed again a bunch of school kids came through on their school camp! There were actually several schools and there were more than 100 kids in total. Thank god we didn’t have to share any of the campsites on the hike with them, especially the last one where I totally lost my shit about the rat!

That night we ate pizza in Kenilworth and the next day I had a really awesome Nutella donut at the Kenilworth bakery. I really wanted to take their 1kg donut challenge, but seeing I’d eaten all the left over pizza only about an hour earlier I thought maybe I should go back and do it another time. I love donuts! I love pizza too, oh, and burgers, chips, umm, and pasta, and caramel tart, and fresh bread, and icecream, and lollies yeah, and chocolate and, well, just everything really. Food: it’s my favourite.

This is what Freya and I looked like when we finished the hike:

superhero JP and FK

This is a leap of faith. I got heart, you can count on that. It’s all mind over matter…just believe in yourself, you are your own hero. Look at your cape in the wind! Everything you do is cinematic…what you will realise is that you’re more powerful than you can ever imagine. (Bliss n Eso)

 

 

 

 

 

Spiders? Just Keep Going

That’s what the little voice inside my head said to me the other day: just keep going. The only trouble with that is that it kept saying it, over and over and by the time I didn’t want to “just keep going” anymore, it was too late to turn around, I really had no choice other than to just keep going.

I wanted to go for a walk. I didn’t plan on going for a huge walk. Maybe 12km at the most. I strapped on my 2kg ankle weights and my 1kg arm weights, filled up a 1.25L bottle of water and off I went through the national park on my way to the beach. I hadn’t been in there for ages, so I’d forgotten how dangerous it is: there are spiders everywhere. Big ones. With big fat abdomens. Horrible black legs. Dripping fangs. Sticky webs. Aaaarghhh!

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I’d just settled into the rhythm of the walk and had forgotten that both my legs were carrying 2kg each. Admiring the bush all around me I started to relax and think nothing-type thoughts. Basically, I was having a fine ol’ time. Then I walked into a spider web. The world stopped and my heart jumped out of my chest. I let out a stupid yelp and began dancing around in a circle. I saw the thick guage of the web that was caught around the top of me and grabbed my hat and flung it to the ground. A giant black monster sat right on the bottom of the velcro tab; about a millimetre from where the back of my neck would have been when the hat was on my head. Still dancing, I yelped again when I saw it and had to force back tears. My mind said, “right, that’s it, let’s go back home.” Momentarily my brain, normally rational,  agreed as I stood there in stunned horror at the now 7-legged beast ambling its way back towards the bush. “Oh my god, that’s so disgusting, Oh my god, oh my god” I said as I watched it go, still forcing back tears while attempting to get my heart back into the right place in my chest.

It was an effort, but I picked up my hat (I felt like the hat itself had become contaminated with spider-malice), put it back on and just kept going with an out-loud running commentary: “That was so disgusting. I can’t believe that happened. Please, no more spiders. I don’t want to walk into anymore webs. No more.” I saw a few more webs, some strung across the track at face height, most with giant black monsters sitting in the centre. All of them ready to attack. They didn’t make me want to cry, but at each siting I felt a tiny urge to vomit as I ducked under their embrace.

I wanted to go back home, but I knew that soon enough I would forget my near-death experience with the spider as long as I just kept going, so I did. By the time I got to Burrum Point Campsite, which is where I’d originally planned to start back towards home,  I decided that I was invincible and that I should just keep going, so I did. It’s always the same with this type of scenario. I say to myself, “I’ll just go to the next bend.” Or, “I’ll just walk for 15 more minutes.” I need to pay more attention to thoughts that are prefaced with “I’ll just.” For example, “I’ll just walk over here, then I’ll just be dead because I just fell off a cliff because I just stayed out for 4 more hours than I planned and it just got dark so quickly that I just lost my footing and I just slipped to my death.”  Well, that might be an exaggeration, but certainly not impossible given my history of doing almost that several times in the past.

Anyway, so I just kept going and 3.5 hours later I was still walking. I felt like I was never, ever going to get home! I ended up walking 18km, which is the furthest I’ve walked with my arm and ankle weights. I got a bit sick towards the end of the walk because I didn’t take enough water with me and I got a bit of heat stress. I had to go to bed early. I felt like I had a hangover. What an idiot! Still, I saw it as an adventure because I wasn’t entirely sure what would happen when I left the house. I was able to overcome the spider incident and keep walking for 18km until I got back home even though I got a bit sick in the last 3km.

I get scared of a few things when it comes to adventure. Spiders are certainly one of them. Sharks too, but that’s ok because if I just keep going in spite of the things that scare me I can have an amazing an exciting life because adventure isn’t about not being scared, it’s about being scared, but doing it anyway because:

If you just keep going, you can do anything 

 

 

When to Quit

Today I went to a workshop. I paid for it. It wasn’t expensive, but still, I paid for it and when this happens I become very, very attached to extracting what I consider to be value from the experience. This kind of attitude has seen me sit through things that make me want to roll over and die. It’s caused me to read books that I hate, just because I paid for them, then feel pissed off because A) I wasted my money and B) I wasted my time.

Today I did a first. I left half way through the first day of a two day workshop because I hated it. There wasn’t anything wrong with the workshop necessarily, but I was bored because it was all stuff I’d covered a bazillion times before in a bazillion different kinds of ways at a bazillion workshops I’d gone to in the past or in a bazillion books and websites I’d read.

My mind kept telling me that I should stay, that maybe a new and important piece of information was just around the corner, but then my brain said, “yeah, just like the next spin will be the one that wins the jackpot.” I realised that my time is worth more than the money I paid for the workshop.

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If I’m really honest, I’m a champion at procrastination and the workshop was another one of my avoidance tactics. I knew when I booked it that I didn’t really need to do this workshop, but I told myself a little story about why I did. The little story allowed me to delay doing the real work I’m meant to be doing: working on getting my memoir published. Click here for a short synopsis. The reason I want to avoid that is because I’m afraid. I’m afraid that it won’t be published and all my work and all the shitty stuff that happened to me that I wrote about in the memoir will all be for nothing, which means that no one gives a crap about me. But, worse and scarier still is what if it does get published? That means that everything, and I mean everything will change. That’s much scarier than living the same life that I have now; a life where I’m used to being a writer who no one wants to publish; a person whose life is insignificant and whose experience does not matter; a person who has incorporated feeling invisible into their identity. It’s shitty to feel like that, but it’s safe and I’m used to it because I’ve felt like this for a long time.

Sometimes I feel like I want to quit writing, just like I quit the workshop today, but for a totally different reason: to free myself from uncertainty. Adventure helps me cope with this because an adventure is an activity with an uncertain outcome. It involves risk, just like my writing does and it can bring vast and unexpected rewards, just like my writing can do. Sometimes I don’t know where an adventure will take me, and even if I have to pack it in and come home early (like when my tent snapped in half at a music festival during a storm), I don’t consider myself a quitter because I did my best and that’s all any of us can ever do.

Knowing when to quit is wisdom, not defeat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pancakes and Goats

Yesterday I had a really bloody awesome day because I approached it with an attitude of adventure. I went to a morning with this bunch of people who get together once a month at the group leader’s house. Really, I didn’t want to go because often, these kinds of groups can be just be a bunch of people whinging about stuff that’s wrong with them. I find it really hard to cope with any kind of whinging, especially about physical ailments (I am not my brain injury and you are not your knee replacement) and my mind kept backing me up by saying, “No don’t go. It’ll be boring.” But then my brain showed up and started yelling and stomping because of these things called pancakes. “What the hell is wrong with you? Pancakes! They’re having pancakes! We’re going, I don’t care what you say.” With that, my brain went off to pack our own bottle of maple syrup just in case the group didn’t have any of their own. They did have their own; four bottles in fact, not to mention all the other awesome stuff like icecream, passionfrut, mango……ahhhhhhh. I got to drive a lot of pancakes into my face AND come home with a full bottle of maple syrup. Yay

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It wasn’t really the pancakes that made the morning so enjoyable. It was the connections I was able to make with the other people there. I met a really cool lady who invited me along to another event that I wouldn’t have heard about had I not gone to the pancake gig. We had a really meaningful conversation about racism and I was forced to realise that I’d harboured a blanket-belief about people from her generation: they are nearly always racist. It’s really interesting to me that I don’t even realise that I have these judgements until they come along and wack me on the back of the head like this one did. After I got the wack I couldn’t really say why I’d thought that pretty much EVERYONE from a certain group would have certain thoughts. How the hell would I even know that?! What an idiot! No wonder people are racists – that’s pretty much what I’d been doing all along with my dumb idea about an entire generation. Does that make me a generationist? Is that even a word? Yes it is.

After the pancakes I went to see the Hillbilly Goats in Bundaberg. My mind kept telling me that we were too tired after all the pancakes, but my brain said, “Shutup you! There’s banjos. Are you listening? Banjos!” So I pulled on my boots and off I went. I was pretty impressed to see that the banjo player in the band and I had exactly the same doc martens with exactly the same red laces.  Yeah, I felt pretty cool!

The night was awesome! I got to bust some hillbilly moves with these ridiculous high kicks and heel-and-toe shenanigans that I’ve come up with by dancing alone in my lounge room (I love dancing, but no one will ever come out with me, so I jump around to Nick Skitz by myself at home). I also sat with a lovely lady I’d met once before at Woodford Folk Festival a couple of years ago and chatted to another dude about giving me banjo lessons.  There were a few things that would have normally got my goat (get it!), like some drunk dickheads falling all over the place in front of the band and just generally being annoying, but I didn’t let it get to me and for the first time ever, it wasn’t a giant effort. It was pretty cool and the whole day just come together in this magical way that made me realise that all the effort I put into making myself into a better person does actually make a difference. Taking responsibility for your life; your feelings, your beliefs and the way you respond to stuff isn’t easy at first, in fact, it’s downright painful, but if you keep at it, your life can become pretty damn amazing.

Have an attitude of adventure and see where it can take you

 

To know; start to do

There’s lot of stuff I don’t know how to do. Most of the time it doesn’t bother me too much, but sometimes, when it becomes obvious that I have no idea how to make something work, it gets the better of me and I have a teeny tiny meltdown. Often the meltdown comes in the form of drinking too much coffee and pretending that I don’t really need to do the thing that’s bothering me. This time it’s my marketing plan. I keep drinking coffee and thinking, what’s the point of even bothering with all of this if no one cares about my writing anyway? Then I drink some more coffee. Soon I end up looking like this:smiley-1770265_1280

The dumb thing about no one caring is that no one can care if I don’t give them something to care about and no one is going to care at all if they can’t keep caring about whatever it is I’m asking them to care about in the first place. This is the whole point of developing a marketing plan…well, I think it is anyway, but I could be wrong. It’s rare, but it has happened a couple of times.

I struggle with the marketing plan because I really have no idea what the hell I’m doing. It seems impossible to take this giant mess that feels like a stringy blob and turn all the strings into nice lines that are functional and useful. I want to run away from it, but then I hark back to all of the difficult things I’ve dealt with like this in the past and I use those experiences to teach myself that even if I don’t know how to do this, I  can work my way through it, I just need to start DOING.

 

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This is a shot of my notebook. Here it’s relating to starting this website, which by the way took me two failed attempts and more than three years to get going. You can read about the hike here. Hardest Words is the title of my unpublished memoir, which took me four years to write and is 75K words in length. Fitness and wellness kind of speaks for itself.  I didn’t know how to do any of these things before I started doing them and I would have never actually done any of them if I didn’t start doing them. None of it was easy; NONE OF IT, but that was never really the point. The point was to get stuff moving. I don’t like to say achieving a goal, because none of these things were goals, they are journeys that haven’t ended yet and probably never will because they continue to enrich my life.

Not knowing stuff is an opportunity for adventure