Victims of Our Own Success

Sunday 21st April 2024

Currently I’m in the lakes, resting up and attempting to switch off from work. I’m literally exhausted and wondering how I might carry on. Noticing too that the exhausted feeling is accompanied by stress. And, these emotional feelings are showing up physically in my body and in my relationships. I’m finding it difficult to switch on the pause button. The opening of CommUnity Corner has taken away the time and space I had to do my work. The joyful spaciousness. To plan, develop, reflect, stop and think. I love what’s grown and is growing and at the same time it can feel relentless, a never ending list of things to do.

Every three weeks I get to take a long weekend break. To head off to the lakes, more often than not, to climb some Wainwrights. Usually the stress drains from my body as we drive pass Lancaster and I begin to see open green space and hills. I know I’m privileged to be able to do this. The last three trips it’s taken longer to decompress though, and there’s been a constant buzz and whirr in my head and tummy. I know this feeling. It’s a sign that something must change.

Yesterday we took to the hills. Walking up Place Fell from Glenridding, along to Angletarn Pikes and then on to Beda Fell before descending near Martindale to get the ferry back to Glenridding at Howtown. Almost 13 miles. And for the most of it, it was a slog. Beautiful, yet a slog. The climb up from Glenridding is really steep. And I’m low on energy with legs that were already aching.

I’m pretty good at big picture stuff, and being able to translate that to the micro, the local. Yesterday was one of those days, when looking at the big picture was just too much. Each summit seemed so distant and far away that it did nothing for my spirit and motivation. Instead I needed to look down and take one step at a time, to focus on the here and now and to put one foot in front of the other. This step, this breath. Occasionally stopping to turn back, admire the view and marvel at the distance travelled. To feel myself in nature, to feel myself as nature. To give myself to nature. I’ve been reading something of late about changing our view of nature from one of mother to one of lover, to change the way we tend to her. We can often take mothers for granted. Yesterday she certainly held me like a mother.

My battery is low and hill walking is up and down. After the up of Place Fell I enjoyed the down and then began to feel a sense of dread about the up again. Wondering if my legs had it in them and at the same time knowing they would have, as they always do. Knowing too that today the fun wasn’t around. The smile on my face and the games I play to encourage myself had disappeared. That’s happening with work too. Don’t get me wrong, I love to work, it’s my passion. But there’s something about agency and choice. And when that’s removed, because the work is piling up, or I’ve come too far on the walk to make an easy return, or ended up on an unexpected path with terrain I hadn’t planned, then the fun can drain too.

As I walked, periodically there were people running towards me. All running a 40 mile race with equal measures of visible exhaustion and determination. You could almost hear their bodies crying out in pain. I wished words of encouragement as they passed. One man said, ‘it’s hard and I just have to tell myself I’m on the last leg.’ He had 16 miles to go. That was the last leg. It made me think, I don’t want to work like that. I don’t want to look in pain, become too busy focusing on making it through the next 16 miles and miss the buttercups springing up in the grass at my feet. I want to be fully present as that’s where the magic happens. In the being fully there. Not in thinking about where I need to be. Too much to do can lead me to missing the moment.

I’m in danger of doing that. The good news is I’ve spotted it. The tough work is choosing what to scale back. What to stop doing. So much great stuff has grown. I’m at a crossroads that’s for sure.

What is my work?
How does that contribute to / or get in the way of the work of others?
What am I committing to do?
How does my work fit with the work?

It feels like we really have become victims of our own success.


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