"I was, in fact, homesick for wildness, and when I found it I knew how intimately - how resonantly - I belonged there. We are charged with this - all of us. For the human spirit has a primal allegiance to wildness, to really live, to snatch the fruit and suck it, to spill the juice." - Jay Griffiths, Wild: an Elemental Journey

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wild Exhaustion

I am busy.  Very busy.

Since I have returned from my road trip, I have been attempting to keep up an active life of adventure and physical activity.  I haven't wanted to lose the fit body and healthy endorphins I had going on through the summer.  This has meant rock-climbing one to three evenings per week, and taking weekend backpacking/camping/kayaking/otherwise adventuring trips at least two weekends out of the month.  Every now and then, I sprinkle in some yoga so I don't go completely insane.

In addition, I have moved into my third and final year of graduate school.  This means I am beginning my independent study phase; no more organized classes.  I am excited about the projects I am undertaking, but they require quite a bit of discipline, self-direction, and, well. . . time.

Planning my move west next summer takes a surprising amount of time as well, even though I am still many months away.  I am downsizing my belongings, dusting off my resume, working on a professional webpage, and researching possible locales, jobs, and cars.

Those three undertakings alone, along with seeing friends and family every now and then, are plenty to fill a girl's schedule.  But I haven't added work into the equation yet.  I have been working 50-60 hour work weeks and still not coming close to finishing what needs to be done each week.  I spend all day every day hearing "I need you I need you I need you" from all kinds of people at school - big and small.  I enjoy helping them, and of course learn so much from them in the process.  So I am not resentful about my time being in demand, it can just be exhausting.

I was not feeling wild.  I was not feeling free.  I was not feeling successful in any way - just worn out, sick, and cranky.

Finally, after a solid month of going to bed every night feeling like I spent my day doing 20 things poorly rather than a few things well, after spending my days with headaches and tense shoulders, after breaking down every few days in tears and pounding my pillows in misdirected rage, a good friend asked me, "When is the last time you had acupuncture?"  Holy cow.  Acupuncture.  I had forgotten.

I immediately made an appointment with my acupuncturist for a few days later.  I am so glad I did.  Thank God for acupuncture!

My brilliant acupuncturist listened to my rants and was patient with my tears.  She just listened and nodded and didn't say much, yet I felt somehow "held" by her presence.  Then she needled me with a powerful treatment meant to help release aggressive energy in the body.  As I lay on the table for over 20 minutes, alone in the room, with needles up and down my back, I drifted in and out of sleep.  I could feel my muscles relaxing, my mind slowing down, and my breathing deepening.

When she returned to the room to remove the needles, she spoke at last.  She said, "I hear how much you are trying to remain in control right now.  I have an image of two different ways to be in control.  One way is to hold on to parts of your life like this," and she made a claw gesture with her hands like this -->

"Another way to remain in control," she continued, "is to hold parts of your life like this," and she opened both, upturned palms, her fingers slightly spread, like this -->

"In this way, you are still in control because you are holding your life in your own hands.  However, it is a more accepting, receptive sort of control.  You allow some things to rest safely in your palms, and some things to fall through.  The control comes with knowing which things are which."

I immediately saw a climbing metaphor.  The worst thing a climber can do is try to hang on too long with claw hands, like in the first image.  The muscles of the fingers and forearms are some of the weakest in the body.  They are necessary to get quickly from one hold to another, but they are not meant to be used to sustain a long, difficult climb.  Good climbers know how to use other, stronger muscles like biceps, upper back, core, and of course legs.

I realized that I have been living my life like an amateur climber; forcing my way from one domain in my life to another, relying only on my ability to push and grunt and force my way through.  I have not been taking my time to plan how to best use my strengths and save my energy.

As if the universe wasn't quite sure I was getting the message, I heard it in yet another way today.  I was climbing with a friend at the gym.  He taught me how to boulder.  Using this new skill, I became sore quickly and intensely.  After just 15 minutes of bouldering, my inner knuckles were calloused and my forearms throbbing.

He said, "I think it would be a good idea for you to take at least two days off from climbing after today.  You don't build strength by climbing; you build strength by resting."

Ok, I get it, universe.  Time to rest.  Time to practice open-handed control, as oxymoronic as it might sound.  Bring on the turkey, family, and board games.  Just in time.


  1. I think you're going to get really tired of hearing how much I love your posts. This is getting forwarded to David. He will definitely appreciate it after having surgery on his hand and basically being forced to learn technique and finesse if he wanted to continue climbing...versus the brute strength we males so often fall back on when we get excited or frustrated on a route or problem.

  2. Get tired of hearing that people enjoy my writing? Never! Perhaps your comments will alert people to the fact that this feature exists. People often leave comments on my Facebook about the posts, which is certainly appreciated. I would love for them to feel free commenting on the blog as well.