They say it sometimes don’t they, that restrictions can be good. Creatively speaking that is, how it’s good to have parameters or your mind goes wild and there are too many options and you’ll end up making something rubbish.
I agree with this theory, and lately have come to think it applies to your body too. I’ve always been healthy and really without limits as to how fit I could get or what I could aspire to do with myself, and that’s great, it’s a phenomenal way to exist.
But without ever knowing anything else, it goes unappreciated, or at least it did by me. I rarely said to myself – 'hey, you’re fit'. Or, 'that was a hard thing you climbed', or 'you’re quite good, well done'. I was always thinking I could have and should have done better.
This trip to Torridon was my first with a new approach, albeit developed by necessity.
I had a spell of bad luck last year. It began with an ankle injury, which a shoulder injury joined, which a long spell of migraines added to, which culminated in a weird case of appendicitis and a good old stint in hospital, made foggy by morphine and puking. Everything I'd been into for the last decade or so fell off my radar for months and months and months.
This was the first time in my life that I was stopped dead in my tracks, and all functions, even the most basic ones, were taken from me for a while. Which meant I had to get these functions back, one-by-one, slowly, steadily, carefully.
At first the thought of that panicked me. But in all honesty, I didn't miss a lot of the things I thought I would. At times I sort of enjoy the process of putting myself back together. Taking time, taking care. Like being a beginner again, it's hard not to make progress. But at other times of course I get frustrated, impatient, and miss my old strength and energy and confidence in my capabilities.
There is definitely a power in learning to let go. It’s too easy to get so close up to your life that you can’t see what the heck you’re doing, let alone find time to think about it. I was in a cycle – trudging around bogs I didn't really want to trudge, trying to climb rocks I didn’t really care about, churning out work I didn’t always step back from to see what I was making. Suddenly, unable to climb or trudge, unable to work, I had time to think about these things a lot. A lot a lot. It was a sabbatical with pain killers instead of pay, and quite pleasant in many ways. And important, as it turns out.
Step by step. Walking and eating. Being awake for a whole day. Jogging and pilates… re-visiting climbing, remembering how much I like it. These days I am the partner who walks up the hill the rest of the group run, who seconds rather than leads, who reads in the car for an afternoon, who asks for a less ambitious plan for the weekend. I'm proud when I run 5k, I'm satisfied when I climb, well, anything. I go ahead and let myself be happy with those things - it's all progress, it's all progress.
So this trip to Torridon marked some firsts - my first Munro in an age, my first boulder since I let my muscles disappear, our first trip away since we let go a little. It's exciting to return to things I've loved for ages and see them in a different light.