Work in Progress – iRunFar

Posted: October 17, 2021 at 5:32 pm

I awake sore and stiff, curled up in the back seat of a strangers car. After bailing yet again from some bad weather on a traverse I keep trying to finish, I feel about as confident as I look which is to say, pretty broken. Theres always a silver lining in failure, but sometimes we just have to accept and sit with the disappointment.

Artists call this process a work in progress, an unfinished piece slowly, but surely, coming together. In the outdoors, these situations take the form of summits not yet reached, traverses unfinished, or routes dreamt about but not yet started. In some ways the saying is applicable to our entire lives. Love, work, friendships, and most importantly, ourselves are constantly evolving: constant works in progress.

Sometimes, however, the evolution and progress pause and it can feel like were stuck in a whirlpool.

As I reflect on this season, I feel like I was everywhere and nowhere all at once. I have been digging deep lately, prying at the dark corners of my mind as I navigate the floodwaters of my worth. Awash in the murky tide, I have found myself grasping for happiness within. Normally, running and mountains help me to find solace in dark times, but even those have become a struggle as I feel both emotionally and physically drained.

I chase things fervently in life, and I know Im not alone. After all, I dont think many of us would even contemplate running 100 miles through the mountains if there wasnt some deep-seated passion we cant contain. But sometimes, our lives can take a downward spiral and we cant physically run through, or away, from what ails us. For that there is only time, and a lot of learning about ourselves, until our thoughts lighten and we can run free again.

During this melancholic time, I am trying to practice patience with myself, but also curiosity and compassion. As my legs ached and I pushed myself into the dark on a recent outing, I found that the physical pain I was feeling seemed far more manageable than the emotional pain I have been dealing with. So at least in some way, I am gaining perspective and a glimmer of strength in the fog.

Life is fickle and not always fun, but we can always practice gratitude and kindness with ourselves and the world around us.

In that painful moment when we dont live up to our own standards, do we condemn ourselves or truly appreciate the paradox of being human? Holding the paradox is not something any of us will suddenly be able to do. Thats why were encouraged to spend our whole lives training with uncertainty, ambiguity, insecurity. To stay in the middle prepares us to meet the unknown without fear; it prepares us to face both our life and our death. The in-between state where moment by moment the warrior finds himself learning to let go is the perfect training ground. It really doesnt matter if we feel depressed about that or inspired. There is absolutely no way to do this just right. Thats why compassion and maitri [loving-kindness], along with courage, are vital: they give us the resources to be genuine about where we are, but at the same time to know that we are always in transition, that the only time is now, and that the future is completely unpredictable and open. Pema Chdrn, The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times

I shuffle downhill in the darkness. The light of my headlamp illuminates as a small glow in front of me. I pause for a minute and sit down. I turn off my light and lay against the tundra. The Milky Way glows brightly overhead, along with the waxing moon. The mountains are silhouetted against the inky sky. I dont lay there long; tears well up in my eyes. I have to keep moving before my aching heart stops me. Like the artist whittling away at their work in progress, I too chip away at myself and the ridgeline that unfolds before me.

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Work in Progress - iRunFar

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