Reflections on Fear...Meet Dick.

It is disturbing how tenuous our potential is due to our fervent defense of the comfortable norm.
— David “Awol” Miller

We challenged ourselves this week on an overnighter where I purposely chose a trail with a bit of a reputation, Section 1 of the Art Loeb Trail.

We hiked nine miles in and nine miles out, a tad farther than the Butter Gap shelter.

It took a while, but I finally understood why we saw a total of five people in two days on the trail.

It was HARD.

Ball busting, one might say.

Lots of roller-coastering up and down steep, rocky, rooty trails with big overall elevation gain (about 2,400 feet).

No water for the first seven miles.

And not particularly scenic, unless you want to climb up to Cedar Rock for the view (we didn’t, because we already know what that’s like…another 300 feet in .3 miles).

Though any day spent walking in the woods is better than a day spent walking around the mall.

Dick SPEAKS!

I had myriad aches and pains and Dick’s mantra was...

I CAN’T IMAGINE GETTING UP TOMORROW AND DOING THIS ALL OVER AGAIN!!!!!  

And...

HOW WILL YOU EVER DO THIS FOR 180 DAYS IN A ROW—OH MY GOD!!!!!!

 

Dick, BTW, is the name I call my inner fear-monger, that voice that tries to talk me out of everything fun because it thinks I might die.  His voice is like the voice of Owen Meany in my head—ALL CAPS, ALL THE TIME.  

Always trying to throw a wet blanket on my new ideas.

Don’t act like I’m crazy, y’all.   We all have that voice that talks to us in ways we would NEVER talk to our friends.  I learned this in coach training.  I am not alone.

I just call mine Dick.

And Dick likes to dwell on every discomfort and he likes to magnify every doubt.

So how do you deal with a relentless, pessimistic bully like Dick?

Bully him back?

Ignore him?

Kill him with kindness?

Give in to him?

None of those methods seem particularly useful in appeasing a fearful voice that speaks in all caps.

Einstein wasn’t Einstein for nothing, and he was right when he said you can’t solve a problem from the same level of consciousness that created it.

The problem with Dick is that he lacks vision.

He can’t see what I’m moving toward or who I’m becoming. 

The way to appease Dick is to expand his vision, to show him the next highest version of myself.

Which means I need to expand my own vision of myself and my capabilities.  

I need to step into that next highest version of myself.  

I need to be Ruby Throat, the Appalachian Trail thru-hiking bad ass who will not be stopped on her way from Georgia to Maine.  The mighty hiker who would rather put on a sweaty pack than a set of scrubs.  The fiercely independent hummer who accomplishes things that seem impossible.

Nothing else to do but walk and expand my vision.

And what could be a more perfect time or place than a day spent without distraction engaged in a “mindless” activity, the same mindless activity that triggers Dick and his fearful thinking, with nothing to come between me and my thoughts?

What a gift and what an opportunity to help Dick (and me) envision our potential.

I had hours to work on this as I chugged up and down mountains.

 

Four ways to expand Dick's vision:

Here are a few things I toyed around with in my efforts to expand Dick’s vision and to cultivate a robust vision of Ruby Throat.

1.  Visualization.

The moment I felt any slippage of my resolve or any doubt about my ability to finish, I visualized my trek from Georgia to Maine.  

I’ve been reading lots of books about other people’s hikes, so it was easy to visualize hiking through each state, one after the other.  I visualized the landmarks I could remember from my reading (Clingman’s Dome, Damascus, McAffee Knob, Grayson Highlands, Mahoosuc Notch, Mt. Katahdin).  

And the ones I’ve experienced myself (Wesser and Wayah Balds, Max Patch, Hot Springs, Mt. Moosilauke, Mt. Lafayette, Webster Cliffs).

I made it a point to use all my senses—seeing the views, feeling the breezes, smelling the dog hobble, hearing the leaves rustle in the wind, tasting the spring water.

And I made a point to imagine what it would feel like to hike 2,000 miles, to feel strong and capable and proud and energized.

And it worked.  I noticed more spring in my step and the miles just falling away behind me, even when it was hard.  Even when my toes went numb.

2.  Relish the Moment.  

I also made a point out of relishing every moment of our hike.  Even when we sat down in the middle of the trail to have lunch, no scenic overlook in sight, I relished it.

I relished the bagel dipped in peanut butter.

I relished the perfect little seat I found in the leaves, leaning against my pack which leaned against a tree.  Total bliss.

I relished the warmth of the air and the tickle of the breeze and the company of my boys, Ralph and Rico.

I even relished the act of finding what what there that was begging to be relished.  It’s a mind game and I was having fun playing.

3.  Acknowledgement. 

I acknowledged my bad ass self, the part that knows how to dig deep and do hard stuff.

What we did those two days was hard.

Acknowledging that is a way to normalize it.

Normalizing these things is a way to keep Dick quiet, because Dick likes nothing better than to keep doing what is “normal” for me.

4.  Gratitude.  

As I walked and as I acknowledged the accomplishments, I gave thanks to my body, for it’s strength and it’s ability to keep going.

Feeling gratitude the moment the thing is happening (i.e. I notice I’m feeling strong so I’m grateful for my strength) is one way to help expand your ability to step into the next highest version of yourself without triggering fearful thoughts of all that you might lose when you shed the old you.

Gratitude is a tether between you, now, at this moment, and the evolved version of yourself that you’re cultivating, the you that is coming into being.  

Gratitude for both is the bridge that keeps those versions connected.  

With gratitude for what is and also for what’s next, there’s nothing to lose.

I decide when I’m ready to let go of what no longer serves me—the fear, the doubt, the comfort of staying the same.

There’s nothing Dick hates more than losing.

Gratitude lets him see that letting go is different from losing, that it’s a choice that leads to great things, like the next highest version of me…

Ruby Throat--the mighty bad-ass thru-hiker who won’t be stopped.