When In Doubt, Get Out(side)

MorgueFiles - lakemountains

MorgueFiles - lakemountains

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God” – Anne Frank

Last Saturday, I was running errands around Denver. Grocery store, check. Gas, check. Bank, check. I had a handful of things I could work on later that afternoon, things like laundry, cleaning, yard work, etc. But, as I drove west toward home, something else was tugging at my heart. It rose quickly, and landed solidly. I needed to get out.

I made a quick phone call, pulled my skis out from under my bed, threw a few things in the car and left.

For the next hour and a half I did nothing but drive and take in as much of the magnificent scenery as I could: Mountains after mountains, the sunset, the rolling hills, the dusting of snow and the eventual white blankets of powder as I drove higher and higher.

The next morning, after a cup of tea and a moment of thanks, I strapped on my boots for the first time this season. I lifted my skis over my shoulder and walked to the base of the mountain, confident, eager, restless. I slid off the chair and onto the snow, pulled my goggles down over my eyes and tightened my boots. I pushed off, gliding and then racing down the mountain, comforted by the sound of my own breath. Breathe deeper.

My thighs started to wake up with each turn, carving through the combination of fresh powder and corduroy groomers. One turn, then the next. Right, left, right, left, right, left. Breath matched movement. My pace increased. Top to bottom without stopping, bending deeper, turning sharper, carving stronger as the miles fell away beneath my skis.

I pushed my physical limitations, filing into the singles line at the bottom, riding up and flying down again. Over and over and over.

It is often when I find the threshold of my physical limitations that I can begin to push through my emotional, spiritual and mental thresholds. I needed to get out to break through the areas of my heart and my head where stuckness (and stubbornness) had taken up strong roots. Things professionally and personally seemed unconquerable, cyclical, heavy.

I lapped the same run a few times, seeking new lines and greater speed with each descent. It was a simple run with no major obstacles. I could pick a fall line, hit each turn and focus on my breath. Nothing more. In removing the obstacles – physical, mental and emotional – I was able to simply be present, existing outside of my entangled thoughts. It was magical.

As a writer with introverted tendencies, I can get stuck in solving all kinds of problems in my head and on paper. This works – and is a fantastic tool for processing information – to an extent. But there are moments, when we have done all the problem solving we can on the inside and we just need to get out.

Get out and go skiing. Get out and build something. Get out and go for a run. Get out and practice yoga. Get out and try a new coffee shop, restaurant or area of town. Get out and visit a city you’ve never been to. Get out and climb a mountain. Get out and wander through an art gallery. Get out and go for a drive.

The commonality of these activities is simply that. They are three-dimensional activities that require the participation and focus of our whole beings. And, as such, they necessitate space in the areas that are often heavy with worry, fear or planning for the future.

As I paused atop the highest accessible ridge in the early season, I saw snow-covered mountains for miles and miles and miles in the distance. I was but a tiny speck amongst this great landscape. The heaviness within and the propensity to problem solve dissipated. The interior mechanisms that often go into hyper drive during moments of stress, sadness or uncertainty, seemingly handed over their keys to the Driver of all that is good, true and beautiful.

There’s nothing like standing at 11,000 feet to put things into perspective. The only thing that matters in that moment in time, in that place of creation, in your being is that you are here, present, alive, beautifully made and capable of achieving great things. The how, what and when will work itself out, even if not immediately apparent.

There is an undeniable necessity to face our internal worlds and to process what is happening at our heart’s deepest levels. But there is also a time and a place when we need to live actively, passionately and dynamically in our physical bodies. Times that call for spontaneous mountain drives, exhilarating fall lines, renewed perspectives and the simplicity of our breath amidst it all.

When in doubt, get out.

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