Date: 2017-01-23 11:44 pm (UTC)
sholio: sun on winter trees (0)
From: [personal profile] sholio
Ha, wow. :D The Barkley sounds amazing in every sense. I was going to say I would never do it, but then I started reading the article and wondering if any Alaskans have ever tried it (Alaska being what it is, you really can't throw a rock in any direction without hitting a completely cray-cray ultramarathon up here, like the Iditarod Trail Invitational, which is a thousand-mile foot race through the Alaskan wilderness in winter) and wondering how hard it would actually be -- answer: probably WAY TOO HARD FOR ME, but I'm morbidly curious.

It's really not that I am in any way an athletic person, but the casual level of closeness to actually doing that kind of thing here is -- closer, I think, than most places. Most people have not only at least tried something along those lines (not nearly at that level of difficulty, more like bushwacking through unexplored wilderness, whitewater rafting 500 miles from anywhere, running a marathon; that kind of thing is just "baseline normal, everyone probably tries this once"), and most people have their own "that time I almost died in the wilderness" story -- chased by moose, lost in a blizzard, almost drowned, etc. Most people do actually know at least one person who HAS actually died in the wilderness. (I do -- among other people, my dentist back in the '90s was killed in an avalanche while snowmobiling in the mountains, and a neighbor when I was a kid was an amateur bush pilot who flew too low and got tangled up in trees.)

My actual ability to push my physical limits when I was a teenager was high, but it was just necessary, not something I went out of my way to do. I grew up as a (partly) disabled kid in the middle of nowhere, in a cabin that was only accessible via landing a float plane on a creek and then walking up a 4-mile trail. So there really wasn't much of a choice about it. I once fell down a hill and broke my leg and walked back to the cabin on a broken leg because what ELSE are you gonna do, just lie there? During the year or so that I was recovering from that (the tl;dr is that I have a fragile bone disorder, so I used to break things a lot and they heal slowly) my grandfather died and I talked my mom into leaving me out there to watch the cabin by myself while she supported her mom through the funeral preparations, having figured out ways that I could, while on crutches, do daily chores which included carrying 5-gallon buckets of water to the house up a hill. I did it by picking up the buckets, moving them a step forward, moving me a step forward, repeat until house is achieved.

The woods I grew up in were just miserable for hiking through -- all the things [personal profile] isis was describing above as miserable things, WE HAD SO MUCH OF. Creek crossings, dense tangles of brush, no trails, extreme vertical climbs, slogging through swamps. Not to mention chokingly dense mosquitoes (plus, in my case, being on crutches a fair amount of the time). We did it, though, because those were our woods for hiking in, and we were damn well going to hike in them. XD

I think as I've gotten older I've become a lot less willing to do hard things just for the sake of doing hard things. But I actually DO feel like it's psychologically healthy, for me anyway, to keep pushing myself occasionally and not let myself fall into the trap of only doing things that are easy. I was cluebatted with that when I had to drive in Britain this summer. I honestly have to say, that stupid easy thing, driving in a country with reversed traffic flow, is literally one of the hardest things I've ever had to make myself do, in terms of emotional fortitude. I still can't believe how hard that was. I'm not great with spatial-relationship stuff anyway, and having to reverse everything in my head -- all the driving-related tasks, including not only which way you do everything on the street, but also which hand you shift with and where the mirrors are -- at high speeds while frequently having near brushes with death, and being increasingly terrified of it the more times I almost got sideswiped by a car or went the wrong way around a roundabout, and all of this while trying to explore new places and visit and be social and basically act normal, just blitzed my brain. It was one of the most fucking exhausting things I've ever done in my life, and this includes things like a near-vertical off-trail hike in the mountains in which I lost nearly 5% of my body weight in 24 hours from water loss. I would lie in bed at night for hours absolutely paralyzed with terror of having to do it again the next day. I rarely reached any destination without getting out of the car and collapsing in tears from accumulated stress that I'd been pushing down while I was focused on driving. But I did it! I'm not going to say I did it well, but by the end I was actually managing to navigate reasonably well, I did not fail to drive to a single place I was planning on going because of being terrified of it, and I took that damn rental car back 2 weeks later without a single scratch on it.

And ... it felt good, afterwards. It made me realize that, left to my own devices, I do let myself slide on willpower stuff a lot of the time. I like the way that I feel when I manage to do something that's really hard. It makes me feel more capable of doing other things that are hard, and I guess that's why people do things like the Barkley in the first place.

... that said, I think [personal profile] recessional makes a really good point about not doing things that are miserable that you don't get any benefit out of. Which honestly is why I haven't done a lot of things I used to want to do in my life, because I grew up and realized that the benefit I'd get from having done them would be much less than the amount of misery I'd suffer through in order to accomplish them, and so, nope. It's definitely good to be able to draw that line. Honestly I think part of growing up -- or, I should say, a very useful skill to acquire in becoming a well-adjusted adult -- is learning the difference between doing an unpleasant thing because you want to do it and the result is worth it, and doing it because someone else wants you to do it or because you feel you should.

(Wow, self: long comment much??)
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