The Bibbulmun: an afterword

In September and October 2016 I did the 1000km Bibbulmun Track Solo, North-South. I wrote this four weeks after I finished.

It feels like something is happening. A really deep, seismic shift. The deep cores of worthlessness, hopelessness, self disgust and despair are being aired, opened, examined. In a new light – the light of feminism (I was conditioned to hate myself by society!).

There’s a part of me unfurling – it feels inevitable and un-doable. And as though it’s going to change a bunch of stuff. There’s a crack, and I can finally let the light in. I don’t need to hide anymore. I can actually be me. Embody myself. All of myself. With love and acceptance. And without blame or judgement. If feels like I might finally be able to love myself. For reals.

I’m kind of shy and excited to meet this fresh new self who’s emerging, like a soft pink new born. Like when you’re a kid and you see your favourite cousin who you haven’t seen for ages, for a few moments you feel shy and don’t make eye contact. Then one of says ‘you want to go play?’ and then you hold hands and go off together, inseparable until your parents force you into two separate cars at the end of the night. It’s like that, meeting this new, soft and shiny self. Only this time we get to hold hands and run off together, and not leave in two cars. This time we stay and play together.

Right now though, I’m still at the shy part. I’m anticipating it’s going to be fun but I’m not yet brave enough to offer my hand. It also feels good not rushing it. I can sense the unfurling, but there’s no shortcut or speeding it up. It’s going to bloom in it’s own time. Somehow I feel certain that it’s happening though. Even though there’s not that much evidence yet, something feels different.

When I finished the Bibb, I was disappointed that with all the time I spent mulling over the problems in my life, I hadn’t solved any of them. I didn’t think I had any answers, no conclusions about whatthefuckdoidowithmylife. And yet, since coming home, everything is shifted and nothing is what it was before.

Each day, each km, each step – they were like gentle waves on a beach, each washing away another fine layer of silt, to eventually reveal what beauty lay beneath the whole time – beauty that was previously concealed. Me.

The Bibbulmun: day fourty three – Rame Head -> Peaceful Bay

In September and October 2016 I did the 1000km Bibbulmun Track Solo, North-South. Here’s a few excerpts from my journal.

Bit of a restless night with achy bits and sharp pain in right toe/foot. Mozzie in the morning around my head. Slow start to morning, which was nice – was a beautiful cost/ridge walk into PB. Talked with mum about many things, some of which prompted tears. How can I think about making these life decisions if I don’t know who/where I am? Of course not happy in work/life/relationship if don’t know where sit in the world….anyway. Dunno. Tapped into some grief about some of that.

Got into town, we had a coffee and went back down to the beach, and I went for a swim (!) it was cold! Dad arrived, fish and chips, bought food for dinner. All good. You get fuck all for $60 a night, what a rip. What are ya gonna do though. Feel like a bitch. Why am I like this? So grumpy and hating on so many things? The story in my head is ‘there’s something wrong with me that I’m thinking/acting like this’.

Saw a family of seals near some rocks, beautiful. Weren’t doing much but were cute all the same. The March Girls are planning a short cut along the beach tomorrow morning, do I do it? My legit-meter is like, ‘ding ding ding’, but I’ve already done a surplus of km…would prob only be a diff of one or two. What if I missed something good though! But beach might be really nice…oh well. Not too much in terms of a dilemma. Two nights through to Denmark…meant to be three hard days, but kind of looking forward to it after these cruisy few days! Going to be finished so soon.

The Bibbulmun: day fourty – Walpole -> Frankland River

In September and October 2016 I did the 1000km Bibbulmun Track Solo, North-South. Here’s a few excerpts from my journal.

Big brek this morning before leaving RL, of three eggs, 4 x bacon, field shroom, broccolini, spinach and 4 x toast. With butter. Good. Then bowl banana and strawbs with yoghurt for 2nd breakfast. Called Linton as I was leaving Walpole, had a less than pleasing chat. He hadn’t looked at any of my photos, even though I’d been excited about them and asked him to. So he looked them up while we were on the phone, and said ‘ who’s that random dude on the beach in the last picture? He looks alike a ken doll’. And I was like…It’s me. Then I was really offended and upset and even got a bit teary. (Can I blame it on hormones?). I’m really conflicted by this body image stuff. I understand it’s advertising and conditioning, and society’s fuckedupness, cognitively, but I still yearn to be a ‘pretty girl’ – straight teeth and nice hair and a well proportioned face. The older I get, instead of getting more comfortable with myself it seems like I’m becoming I’m less and less happy with my face shape – I just look jowly to me. Anyway, so I want to not care but I do care. I also want to do my thing without buying into the hype but I find myself conforming anyway. So frustrating.

I also realized that as well as wanting to break up with health, I have also kind of lost my love affair with science. I no longer believe science or its hype, especially related to health. So where does that leave me? When my whole last decade of life has been based on health science? I feel a bit lost and torn and almost like I’m grieving.

I want to be a different person in my relationships – more loving, forgiving, patient… How do you go about changing those parts of yourself, those ways of being? I feel like who I was is slowly draining out of me, all the things I thought I knew about myself are emptying, leaving a big hollow. But what will fill it? Being a creative? Energy healing? (nah just kidding). I want to also drain out those relationship aspects that I want to let go of. How to let them go? It feels uncomfortable, this shedding of a very familiar skin. I’m reluctant. I want things to stay the same. I could have made it in this industry, this niche. And now throw away everything I worked towards for a decade? For what? Something that I don’t even know yet? It’s not like I’m letting go of it to follow some other great passion.

How do I use this time of emptying and space to become the person I want to be? And will that be with or without Linton? What do you do with your life when you don’t want kids OR career?? Beautiful, beautiful walk today through Karri and tingle forrest. Those trees must have some wisdom – 400 years old. A lot of smoke in the air this arvo, hopefully from a prescribed burn. Feel very sore today and walked the 18.5km quite slowly. Started last and arrived last.

Sore feet and a lesson not learned

Today I had the first (of two) MRIs. Right foot first, because right foot is the most sore. The radiologist asked me before the scan started, ‘Where does it hurt?’. I said, ‘Here. Oh and here. And here, and also here, and sometimes here.’

It’s a funny position I find myself in. The number of times people have made some sort of joke about how I probably walked to the party/cafe/office/wherever it is I’ve met them. Every time I laugh and say ‘Haha no.’ thinking to myself, I wish I could have.

There’s something ironic in walking 20km a day for 50 days, only to get home and not really be able to walk anywhere, even around the block. I mean, I could walk places. I would get sore though, if I did. And somehow, while it felt acceptable that my feet should hurt every freaking day while I was walking the track, it no longer feels ok for me to keep pushing my feet to the point of pain and swelling every day. The pain felt like something I should expect while I was on the track, now it feels like something is wrong. Something probably was wrong, the whole time. But my determination to finish was overriding that message. And now the message of wrongness is overriding the other messages I have, of wanting to walk and be active, of wanting to keep training at aikido. I initially went back to training (I was going to have a grading for a new belt in December) but now I’ve had to pull out of the grading and just stop training altogether. Just. Stop.

I’m trying to not even walk the 750m to the train station at the moment – I’m riding my bike instead. It seems that walking on concrete/bitumen is much harder on my feet than the bush (no surprises there), so they get sore very quickly.

I feel an uncomfortable shame in admitting this. Somehow its another reason to find myself not-quite-good-enough. As though its a personal failure that my joints are complaining after holding me up through a 1000km hike. I’m also frustrated that any fitness I built up is just melting away again as I spend day after day sitting around in the office or on the couch at home. It goes against my self-identity to be sitting around doing sweet FA. And yeah, I know, I could be swimming or out cycling. But I’m stubborn and fussy and want to just do the movement that I want to do, not my second-tier movement options.

And still, I have no regrets. If I went back in time and knew what I know now, I would still keep going til the end of the track. The benefits I’ve gained from the whole experience outweigh the tendon damage. And I have a sneaking suspicion that this is part of it. To experience coming home and having to compromise. To have to make a (tough) call to stop my aikido training, to finally get to the point where I’m forced to honour the calls from my body and stop pushing it to be something it’s not. Its been a recurring theme for me throughout my life, from the time I was about 16. To be experiencing regular (usually daily) body pain, but to be in conflict about it. Ive always wanted so badly to be active that I would, again and again, keep pushing myself through the pain, whilst wondering two concurrent thoughts – one, am I just being over sensitive and complaining? Probably nothing is really wrong; and two, I’m worried that something is really wrong and I should probably find out what it is so I don’t do myself serious damage.

This is the almost constant push/pull that I live with on the regular. For some reason, I still don’t completely trust my body when it tells me something is sore. Perhaps because there’ve been times when I have had some pain or another, which has just settled down and not ended up to be a big deal. Or I’ve just learned to live with it. But there’ve also been other times when I’ve pushed on for months (years!) only to find there was a legitimate reason for my pain – torn ligaments, usually. So obviously I still haven’t learned whatever lesson I need to learn here.

How to trust my body. When enough is enough. When to ask for help. When to admit that I’m struggling. When to stop. When to keep going.

Tomorrow I get the MRI results, and hopefully can then make an informed decision about how best to honour and care for these hard-working and long-suffering feet of mine.

Why exercising because you think you’re fat is ineffective

Fat shaming.

It’s a topic that I feel really strongly about. There is such a culture of ‘we are so fat, everyone needs to do whatever they can to lose weight’ in Australia. If you’re fat, people automatically jump to blaming and shaming (neither of which is helpful when it comes to making change). There is this underlying opinion that if you’re fat, you must be lazy. I once saw a post on Facebook where a ‘friend’ wrote that he was disgusted when he saw obese people on mobile scooters, because, he said, they were obviously so fat because they were lazy and didn’t like to walk (and rode a scooter instead). I don’t usually enter into debate with people on Facebook, but on this occasion I couldn’t help myself, and asked him if he’d stopped to consider that perhaps a person might have a disease, injury or disability that stops them from being able to walk far, and they put on weight after that because their metabolism was greatly affected? Telling overweight people that they are disgusting or lazy is just a way to shame and blame.

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Shame and blame are ineffective.

As I’ve written about before, shaming people doesn’t actually do much to create change. It’s an ineffective tool. Yes, there are a large number of people who go to the gym day in and day out because they think (or someone has told them) that they’re fat, and need to be thinner (if they want to get a partner/look good in a bikini/get famous on instagram…) However, I would argue that exercising from this frame of mind isn’t actually making you much healthier.

Your thoughts affect your body.

Your body is an intricately complex system, with all of its parts affecting all its other parts. What you think affects your physiology, and how you move affects the resting state of your body. If you’re exercising hard, pushing yourself too much, and feeling stressed every day because of how overweight you think you are, you are possibly putting your body into a state of chronic inflammation. Ongoing inflammation really screws up your body’s systems, and has been linked to everything from developing heart disease to cancer to autoimmune disorders. Michelle Bridges infamously wrote about how getting fit isn’t ‘fun’, and exercise professionals should stop promoting it as such. But in my opinion, if you’re hating what you’re doing when you’re moving your body, and you’re only moving because you hate yourself, you’ve got it wrong.

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Well, fuck it. I’ll stop exercising then.

Nope, that’s not the point I’m trying to make. Moving your body is one of the best ways you can look after your health – but I reckon that it makes a difference WHY you’re doing it. Regardless of your weight or weight loss goals, if you decide to move your body from a place of love and care for yourself, you are changing the internal environment of your body. There’s no doubt that being significantly overweight is a risk factor for many chronic diseases, including heart disease and arthritis, but there’s no reason that you can’t begin to lose weight from a place of love and care, instead of from a place of fear and shame. Moving your body because it feels good and brings you joy is a world away from slogging it out on the treadmill even when you hate it. Check out this amazing video of real women moving their bodies because they love it – it’s super inspiring!

Map that shit out.

If you want to get more active, eat healthier food and even lose weight, getting clear on the why is super important – what your values are behind these choices. It’s also the way to make choices from a place of self-care, instead of self-hatred. I’ve got another blog post coming up about how to lose weight, with love, where I’ll go into this in more detail. For now, just know that knowing why you want to lose weight is key.

Why do you move your body? Is it because it feels good or because you think you’re not good enough? Let me know in the comments.

Why a Bad Day is OK

It's a peupty day

We have high expectations, these days

With so much opportunity for having multiple careers, online business, doing it all, creating a life you love – it’s easy to develop the perception that you’re not doing well enough in life until you reach a point where every day you’re jumping out of bed, stoked to get going with your day, and looking forward to the times when you get to ‘work’ (because you love it so much it doesn’t feel like work).

As a bit of a follow on from my last post, about how it’s a normal human condition to have feelings such as rage, grief, shame and sadness (although often referred to as ‘negative’ feelings, I like to think of them as ‘uncomfortable’) I thought I’d share a similar story this week – it’s also part of being human to just have a Bad Day.

The Bad (Day) news

While the above description of creating a life you love every.single.day. is an enticing thought, I think having a goal like this is potentially harmful. Because even those of us who are working in areas we are passionate about, doing meaningful things, are still entitled to plain and simple Bad Days. A Bad Day could simply mean going about your normal day feeling a bit blah, or it could mean being curled up on the couch binge watching crap TV and going through two boxes of tissues – or maybe for you a Bad Day looks totally different.

It’s inevitable that you will have Bad Days. Because even in the most thoughtfully, purposefully crafted lives, shit happens. Life is unpredictable and sometimes chaotic. People change their minds, crises occur and lives are lost – every day. Sometime or another, these things will affect you. And sometimes? You might have a Bad Day when there is no apparent external reason.

The good news?

Having a Bad Day doesn’t mean all was in vain and you are failing at life. In a similar message to last week’s – all feelings are part of the natural human experience – having an occasional crappy, unproductive, unmotivated, shitty day is also part of the human experience. Depending on the circumstances surrounding it, even a Bad Week, or a Bad Month could be entirely appropriate.

Beating yourself up about not having achieved that life of perpetual bliss only adds to the Bad Day-ness. On your next Bad Day, perhaps you could consider offering yourself some compassion and acceptance?

Oh. I’m having a Bad Day. What could I do for myself in this moment that is kind and loving?

It doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that – you don’t have to search for a reason, or worry about when the Bad Day-ness will end. Chances are, it will end*. Practicing acceptance and being kind to yourself in the moment though, will likely make your Bad Day a little bit more bearable.

How about you? Ever had a Bad Day?**Did you beat yourself up about it?

*And if it doesn’t – if it’s one Bad Day after another, for more than a few weeks – you might consider seeking some external support, from a place like beyondblue.

**(trick question – I know you have!)

I am, therefore I feel

Feelings (and thoughts, for that matter) are a natural human experience. For a while there, with pop culture movements like positive psychology, some people came to a conclusion that they should be feeling happy all the time. And if, for whatever reason, they weren’t feeling happy, then there was something wrong with them.

I wholeheartedly disagree with that idea.

Good and bad feelings

One of the reasons this came about was the categorization of emotions into ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ emotions. If I name four random emotions, lets say, anger, grief, shame and joy, can you pick out which one of those is the ‘positive’ one? I’m sure you can. But how about if a family member of yours just died? Would joy really be an appropriate emotion, or would grief fit the bill better? I’m going to go with grief.

When we move away from ‘good’ and ‘bad’ or ‘negative’ and ‘positive’, and start to re-sort our emotions in different categories like ‘pleasant’ and ‘unpleasant’, ‘comfortable’ and ‘uncomfortable’ our previously perceived ‘negative’ emotions suddenly take on a different light. Now we can appreciate them for their relevance, and start to think about the meaning they might add to our lives.

A life with only happiness and joy would be: mania

Even though we’re conditioned to thinking that if we’re not feeling tip-top then there’s something wrong with us, it’s interesting to know that people who actually experience on-going, high levels of energy and pleasant emotions may be classed as experiencing a manic episode. It’s a normal and necessary part of life to experience times of less energy, of sadness, anger and other, less pleasant, emotions.

Try noticing your inner landscape

The human experience involves experiencing a whole range of emotions, from sadness, anger and frustration, to joy, love and excitement. You can’t be one without the other. Learning how to be aware of our current feelings and notice them for what they are without needing to judge them as good or bad is a huge step forward. You can practice this by:

  • Naming them (oh, I’m feeling frustrated) – this is often easier with a list or a set of flashcards in front of you
  • Noticing how your body feels – instead of focusing on the thoughts surrounding the feelings, noticing what physical sensations you can pick up.
  • Taking a time out when you’re having an argument or disagreement, and spending a few minutes tuning in to what’s going on internally.

 

Instead of trying to spend my life being happy, I’m now much more interested in being fulfilled. Fulfillment comes with a range of different emotions, and I’m trying to practice accepting these varied feelings as much as possible, even when it’s uncomfortable.

How about you? Do you strive for happiness only, or do you also appreciate the down times for what they are?