It’s not where you are, it’s what you do

I find myself tangled in a ball of wool often. I’m not a knitter. The wool is in my head and there’s no adorable kitten batting it around. Sometimes, the more I think, the deeper I get tangled until I find myself unable to get out of bed.

Some days I last until breakfast when the idea of eating something, saying something, sends me straight back under the duvet. These are the days when I question every single thought, every option, every possible outcome. It’s like quicksand.

But this quagmire only exists inside. Not just inside my head, but inside.

As I speed towards a blind lip, the edge of a slope, I don’t know what will be on the other side. It’s going to be steep, that’s for sure. I can’t see the continuation of the piste so I know it’s steeper than where I am now. Maybe I’ll see other skiers further along, a hundred metres below and know that there’s just not the mountain there for a friendly gradient. My skis skid, I need to concentrate.

I keep my eyes roving around, what’s around me, where am I going, what’s the snow like there, there, there? I carve over the rise and the piste falls away beneath me. I turn sharply, snow skidding away with the tearing sound of a melted and refrozen surface.

snow mayrhofen

I have two options here as I do on every single steep section, on every single ocean, on every single thing. I either pull back, hesitate, think, worry and crash, my ski skittering off down the slope away from me. Or I just lean forward and go.

It’s not where you are, it’s what you do.

When I duck dive on a reef and pull myself vertically down in smooth, gentle movements, I can’t think about the fact I can’t breathe. I used to, I used to get to 11 metres on the dot and my diaphragm would punch me and send me streaming upwards. But now I know I have to keep calm and continue deeper, I know I can do it, I know I can hold my breath, I know I can glide across the ocean floor for almost 2 minutes on one lungful. The only threat is hesitation.

underwater swimming

The dread I would feel as the sun sank beneath the horizon in the middle of the ocean would eat me up in my off-watch hours. Instead of sleeping, resting, I’d spend my three precious hours trying to shut out the imagined dangers around me.

What was that cloud? Was it a squall? Will it be squally on my next watch? What about the one after that? How many hours until sunrise? How many days until I’m safe again. What is safety anyway? When I finally trusted myself to be able to deal with whatever the ocean and wind brought me, I stopped hesitating. I stopped overthinking, I stopped worrying.

dark clouds sea

It’s not where you are, it’s what you do.

It’s so easy to say no, I’m not going to do that. I’m not going make that journey, see that person, say that thing in that language, go that fast, try that food, cross that ocean, ski that piste. I can’t. I won’t.

I can’t.

I can’t believe how much of my life starts off with that sentence. I’m not a natural adventurer. I’m not a ‘YES, let’s do it!’ person. I’m a ‘really? Are you sure? Is it possible? Are we going to be okay?’ person.

And people tell me I’m brave. They say that they could never do what I’ve done, sail so far, go into every night having no idea what it’ll bring. But…honestly? I’m like, ‘I am the last person who could do that, would do that.’ But I did. And it was hard until I stopped hesitating and worrying and inventing worst case scenarios. I’m not saying I don’t worry anymore, I do, a lot and it’s often crippling. But the evidence against my worries is stacking up.

And today I fell so far down a slope. One of my skis went on its own mini-adventure, my pole was up above me and an 11 year old in fluro went shooting past me like the total badass she was. I’d hesitated on a steep section, my legs skied and my head went, ‘oh hell no.’ And I fell. And it hurt. And then I picked myself up, rescued my pole and ski, walked down a little and then skied straight over to the snow park to ski jumps for the first time in my life.

It’s not where you are, it’s what you do.