What do you notice when you take a look at this compilation of four photos? They are a snapshot of the day we walked from Pen-y-Pas up to the top of Snowdon. You can get a sense of how steep it was in part from the first one. You can see the bright blue sky in the second; the smiles and the distance I covered but that’s only part of the story.
That day I reached my physical limits. I had dreamed of doing Crib Goth and we were almost on the ridge but there was quite an exposed part and the rocks were becoming slippery from the rain; and one of our party lost their nerve. That was the first setback. We got the rope out and used it to help the girls get down to safety. We had to retrace our steps quite a way and then found our own path across the lower scree slopes beneath that ridge line before dropping down onto the pyg track.
The tough decision
In total that cost us a couple of hours. There was still talk about doing half the horse shoe and I was excited at the prospect as it would mean doing at least one ridge walk. Two hours later at 14.50 I took another very tough decision. Within 200 metres of the summit I decided to turn back. I knew I was holding my husband and youngest back. I was physically exhausted and had started making mistakes and missing my footing.
It was one of those rare days in the mountains when the sun is shining and you can see for miles around. I could see the summit and longed to be on it. Yet I took the decision to turn back so as not to hold the others back; and for my own safety. We had slowed down considerably and my lack of speed was having an impact on the whole party.
It still took us nearly 3 hours to get back to the Youth Hostel – the route included going down the “stairs” to join the miners track. You get a sense of how step that descent was from the first photo. I was hugely disappointed and initially felt I had failed. However my daughter was so pleased to be going back and could not have been better company. It was a wonderful opportunity for some mother-daughter bonding. My husband always says we are like two peas in a pod so it was really good to have that time.
If you know me well, you will know that I have incredible willpower and self-discipline. Two years ago I trained for and completed my first ultra marathon. I then did three more last year because I could. So reaching the point of exhaustion was new for me: having no energy to carry on.
Was it a failure?
On one level yes as I did not reach my goal. In many other ways no because I did listen to my body and I turned back before any lasting damage was done. It is the first time ever that I have not made it to the top of a mountain.
What does this mean for you?
What limits do you place on yourself? If you value your autonomy you may feel placing limits on yourself can curb your freedom. What if it was actually the opposite?
What if placing limits on yourself helps you to be more true to your whole self? My big take away from my recent experience was that in many ways we can treat every aspect of our life like a bank account. Every action you take, you are either placing deposits in that bank account or making withdrawals.
If your primary focus is on your own productivity to the exclusion of almost everything else, then it is quite likely there will be an inverse reaction on your physical health. To be at optimum fitness levels you need to exercise regularly and keep an eye on what you eat and drink. One of my clients exercises every other day as a nod to her desire for autonomy. For her that’s more realistic and it enables her to embrace her other commitment to herself that goes against her desire for autonomy..
How do you want your life to look?
Many people are away in August or spending more time with their families. If this is you then you may find it easier to get into a relaxed state so you can reassess how you want the last third of 2020 to be.
I believe we are co-creators of our reality and whilst I don’t believe in rigid plans, I would say it is important to reflect regularly so you know how you feel about where you are. 2020 has not been very different from what many expected. How do you feel about that?
Reflection helps you get clear about what has worked and what you want to change. It’s often small tweaks that come from observing what makes you feel good. If you are not sure then experiment, play and make notes. If something feels good, do more of it. If it doesn’t, do less of it or cease altogether.
To conclude it is easy to be hard on yourself when things don’t go according to your initial plan or ideas for the day. When that happens, your inner bitch can have a field day telling you that you are a failure. If you notice it but do not feed it, it’s grip on you will loosen and you will find a deeper truth beneath all that.
Going back to me I valued having quality time with just one of my daughters and learning more about the importance of surrender. From that state of acceptance emerged the following self-enquiry: is making such strenuous physical exertions something that I want to do going forwards? The jury is out on that for the moment whilst I just sit with it to see what’s really true for me now.
What are you sitting with right now? I would love to know so do drop me a line if this has sparked something in you.