A common theme between some of the “why” of expedition adventure racing, mountain climbing, ultramarathoners, solo sailors and so many other vagabond souls is the intensity of experiences, a lifetime of emotions compressed into one, relatively short rollercoaster. Incredible highs follow periods where you’ve never felt so destroyed in your life.
I personally can not recollect now how many times I’ve felt completely and utterly shattered, physically, mentally and emotionally during a race, only to be on top of my game in less than an hour’s time.
We’ve come to recognise the value of experiencing those deep, soul- crushing lows for the glistening, euphoric sunrise that follows, sometimes literal, but usually metaphorical. Anecdotal evidence suggests that is highly addictive and is one of the main reasons we keep coming back for more.
I personally try to relate my “leisure” activities back into the rest of the life that I lead. So more often than not I draw upon my memories for when I or my loved ones fall into a “lull” and are struggling with why it suddenly is so hard and everything is wrong. It is not often easy to explain to someone that they NEED to experience a low. Not in the sense that some people just love suffering, or whining.
There are also that many times you can draw on cliches like: every cloud has a silver lining, it’s always darkest before dawn, etc etc. especially when life throws you a curve ball and you are faced with something we consider “terrible”: death, loss, despair.
There are many more things that we can influence in our life than we are usually led to believe. There are also many that are outside of our control. Whether it is easier to defer it to the wisdom of a higher deity or randomness, it is not what you’ve done to get there that matters as much. Instead, it is how you deal with it- and sometimes, in quicksand, it is easier to float than to fight, to accept where you are right this very minute, not how you got here, or whose fault it was or how unfair this injustice to you might be. And once you’ve accepted, that right this minute, you are here, that this situation is undesirable or unacceptable, you need to be present. Not in the past, i.e. where did I come from? Not in the future, i.e. when I get out of here, I’ll be grateful/never do it again/change my life. But right here, right now. Only then can you recognise what you have, what you can use and what you can do. Fully, consciously, passionately.
And that is where life happens. Good or bad, it happens. And you are in control of what you do and HOW you do it. And if you can’t DO anything, then how much and what it actually means to you.
We live either in the past or the future. In our memories or in anticipation. Only when pushed to the edge or whilst immersed in something we are truly passionate about do most of us get a glimpse of what it is like, to be in the PRESENT, in this very moment. It is those moments that “take our breath away” and it is memories of them that either make us run for the safety of our couches or keep us coming back for more.
But the funniest part is that we can live our whole lives like that. Present. Conscious. Passionate.
And remember that your life can be both- either terrifying or exhilarating, but it’ll always be a rollercoaster. It’s up to you to open your eyes.