Wednesday 6 November 2013

I could be angry.  I could be bitter. I could be annoyed. But I’m not.

“You didn’t really seem yourself,” has been the type of phrase that I’ve heard quite a lot over the past few months. And, in hindsight, it’s probably no surprise.

Whilst I’ve not been physically ill or incapacitated, I’ve had to cope with family illness and death. On top of that I accepted a new job, albeit a temporary role, because I thought I could make a difference. But they all had their stresses and strains, so the outdoors became an even more important release. The mountains were there for me to escape the reality of everything else going on in life.

The flat above mine springing a leak and dripping water into one room started as an inconvenience, but then the leaks spread, adding to my woes. And then, on return from one enjoyable weekend in the Lake District, my car gave up on me. The engine had seized and would go no further. “So what?” I hear you ask, “Things can be fixed or replaced.”

That’s certainly true. But when nothing seems to be going well, it’s difficult to escape the thought that nothing will go well again. It didn’t help that nothing seemed to be going in the right direction at work either. The pressure was building, more was going wrong and I didn’t seem to be achieving anything worth writing home about.

So, just before a weekend when I really needed the outdoors, I was on my way to breaking point. I “snapped” at a few good folk, who then decided that they wanted nothing more to do with me. I don’t blame them.

A few weeks later, I broke down at work.

You may ask me why I’m sharing this with you. It’s because I’ve been reminded about the good times I shared with those folk over the previous year, by looking through the photos I took during some very memorable trips. It’s also because I have once again been reminded about why I enjoy the outdoors. It’s the escape and solace, the banter and enjoyment. And I think I understand why those folk decided to walk away from me, as I was seemingly about to damage their escape and solace, banter and enjoyment.

There have been some immense highs this year. I don’t want you to get the wrong impression. But they acted only as temporary relief from what was far from an ideal situation.

I now understand why I couldn’t live without regular visits to the mountains and why I struggled without the camaraderie and banter of like-minded folk. Chemotherapy was doing its best to destroy the summer for a close relative. Meanwhile, I was trying to do a job that was, in hindsight, impossible. It’s quite telling that now, half of what I was tasked with achieving, is now done by a team of six.

I’m definitely feeling better now, since I declared so emotionally that enough was enough. My close relative has finished treatment for cancer and I am no longer being asked to achieve the impossible at work. But the outdoors is just as important now as it ever was, acting as that escape from modern life, going to places that allow me to enjoy life. Maybe one day I will be accepted by the folk I managed to anger with my out of character behaviour, be once again part of a circle of friends who enjoy the mountains.

So, not angry, bitter or annoyed, but disappointed. Disappointed no one said anything, in person, sooner.

Still, I do have plenty to look forward to; life is getting back on track. Gaining a TGO Challenge place and registering for the ML(S) qualification are good enough reason to keep heading for the mountains.

However, there are two thoughts I want to leave you with.

The outdoors, the hills and mountains, have this unique ability to help relieve the stress we may feel, a way to clear the mind and live life at more manageable and pleasant pace. Forget meetings and conference calls, get back to the basics of nature and survival. Enjoy the landscapes and the wildlife, the views and the weather.

But also remember this. We are all human and probably never more than two or three events from “snapping”. If someone doesn’t seem the same, say something. It’s the little things, sometimes otherwise insignificant words or actions that can mean the world to someone else. Be there and offer support. After all, those of us who enjoy the outdoors form part of a great bunch of people. We know how to help people, just let’s help each other that little bit more.