Friday, August 17, 2007

LIFE LESSONS

"You Can See Yourself In It," continued.

Today's lesson:
FINISHING WHAT YOU START.

Of the 1,000-2000 hopefuls who set out on the Appalachian Trail every spring, about 10% actually make it to the other end.

I want to be one of those 10%.

Some leave the trail for physical reasons, injury or illness.

However, barring injury or illness, most people who have the nerve or craziness to start have the physical ability to put one foot in front of the other until they get to Maine (or Georgia, if they start in Maine.)

It's the mental stick-to-it-iveness that nails you.

Hikers get tired of the walking, or the loneliness, or the mosquitoes, or the mice in the shelters, or the grunginess and sweat and dirty clothes (opportunities for a shower and washing clothes come maybe once a week, if you hike several miles off the trail to a town), or the rain (or snow, which falls in spring on the southern end of the Trail and every month of the year in the White Mountains), or the terrain (it is not a smooth gravel path), or of living in a tent, or living on Ramen and Snickers bars, or of lack of any number of accoutrements to which they have become accustomed prior to setting out on the Trail.

Someone on a backpacking forum told me, if I can finish the Ironman, I can finish the AT.

Hmph. Ironman took me 16 hours. The AT will take more than 16 WEEKS, 5-6 months of walking 10-20 miles per day over boulders and mountains carrying a 25# pack in all kinds of weather day after day after day after day after day.

This thought came to me in startling clarity when I was stranded on Mt. Jefferson in NH having clearly bitten off more than I could chew in one day, face with the decision to try to complete my day's planned itinerary or do the obvious and set up camp where I was and increase my chances of survival as a backpacking newbie.

OK, back to the life lesson.

10 years ago, we hosted this exchange student from France. Cecile. She was 16. (Talk about nerve, 16 years old and taking off on a plane to spend a whole year in America with a family she'd never met in a school where the only French spoken was in French class.) So that was 10 years ago. This summer, Cecile got married. In May, I started crocheting a bedspread for her and her husband. I got bogged down because it is a huge project. I have let it go for weeks at a time, thinking, "It's a wedding, not a birthday... it doesn't have to be exactly on time." The thing is big, and heavy, and I get hot holding it on my lap and over my legs and feet while I work on it. I procrastinate. I read email and my special-interest forums (fora?) and books on hiking the AT, while the bedspread rests in its plastic bag under our dining table.

I have got to get this thing finished. She got married almost a month ago.

How can I keep at it on my way to Maine, when I'm tired and cold (or hot) and bug-bitten and hungry and dirty and discouraged.... when I couldn't even finish crocheting a bedspread in the comfort of my own RV with its two TV's, air conditioning, and microwave oven?

Personal commitment: No more reading about the AT until Cecile and Joachim's bedspread is done. It will probably only take me about 10 or 12 more hours.... a day's AT hike.

I'll take a picture and post it when it's done.

3 comments:

bunnygirl said...

Yes, sometimes it's the day-to-day grind that gets you, rather than the big all-out effort. It takes a different type of mental stamina to hang with something big day after day after day.

I know you can do it, though!

Mrs. MacAodhagain said...

HOWEVER - the ironman ( and all your marathon training) took a decision, and then months and months of scheduled training. Your marriage takes a committment. You are not a statistic.

You can do this.

Downhillnut said...

As Mrs. M says, your Ironman and many other races took far more than 16 weeks of training for each one. You still have that tenacity inside, waiting for the next big physical/mental commitment.

Finishing that bedspread could be considered disiplined mental and even spiritual training for the AT. It will make you feel better about your physical rest, too.

To use your life lesson, sometimes a solid courtship before a commitment can make it stronger.