I’m just back from 10 weeks on the road and am revelling in catching up with blogs, twitter, friends, email (not so much), book-keeping (not at all) and being surrounded by the familiar.
This from Euan Semple: The pressure on us, both from ourselves and others, to take the easy route, give in to our fears, and not risk disapproval or ridicule is constant and insidious. But I know, and need to keep constantly reminding myself, that I will regret the things I didn’t do more than the things I did ….
And also a nine-day trek in the Nepalese Himalaya with my husband, a guide, Arjun, and his two sons (Santosh and Suman) and a porter, Min. We started at Phedi, trekked to Annapurna Base Camp and finished at Naya Pul. About 70 kms, elevation gains of 3000m (that means a bloody lot of climbing up, and subsequent climbing down!), amazing mountain and forest scenery, hard beds and dodgy pillows (beds nonetheless), occasional hot showers, washing in freezing cold water, lots of masala tea and hot chocolate, pit toilets, rhododendron forests, snow, sun-burn inducing sun, early mornings and falling into bed exhausted straight after a dinner of dahl batt or noodle soup.
And this from Patti Digh in celebration of National Poetry Month:
She is working now, in a room
not unlike this one,
the one where I write, or you read.
Her table is covered with paper.
The light of the lamp would be
tempered by a shade, where the bulb’s
single harshness might dissolve,
but it is not; she has taken it off.
Her poems? I will never know them,
though they are the ones I most need.
Even the alphabet she writes in
I cannot decipher. Her chair —
let us imagine whether it is leather
or canvas, vinyl or wicker. Let her
have a chair, her shadeless lamp,
the table. Let one or two she loves
be in the next room. Let the door
be closed, the sleeping ones healthy.
Let her have time, and silence,
enough paper to make mistakes and go on.
I guess this post is about many things. It’s about perseverence, it’s about doing the unexpected, taking risks, about the difference between grabbing opportunities and being prepared.
I had a lot of time to think while I was trekking. Some days it was a struggle. Our guide, Arjun, would point out a village in the distance, that day’s destination. And inevitably that meant traversing valleys, going down to the river and back up to the village. Or it simply meant doing a lot of climbing. Some days I felt like the slowest person on the trail as many backpackers, mostly from Europe, would overtake me. But at least I was on the trail, taking one step at a time.
Which got me thinking about timing. When is the *right* time to do something? I first planned a trip to Nepal for trekking exactly 30 years ago (yikes!) but we bought a house instead. Fast-forward to 2011 and a work opportunity took me to Nepal and planets aligned in a way that enabled us to do that long-abandoned trek. I could have waited till I was fitter. I could have waited till my ankle had recovered from recent surgery more fully. My husband could have waited till his broken collar-bone had healed. We probably couldn’t wait another 30 years! The opportunity was here now, and we took it.
The same applies to work and preparation. I’ve been known to rant occasionally about over-preparation, or maybe it’s over-planning. I’ve learnt over the years to trust more – trust myself and others, to be more honest and even say ‘I don’t know’ when well, I really don’t know what to do next. Sometimes that means I make mistakes. Yep, that’s right. I get it wrong. I stuff up. Which means I get to try something else – something which may work in a way I had never imagined. This is what keeps me interested and engaged. The world hasn’t collapsed around me. Not yet, anyway. So I feel ready to take on a few more risks.
What stops me taking risks – in work and in life – is fear. I see it in myself and I recognise it in others as an unwillingness to commit. So, echoing Euan, I will regret the things I didn’t do more than the things I did…