I'm just back from a 5 day trip away camping up at Loch Katrine. We could not have picked a better weekend! The Sun was shining, evenings were cool and breathable, and we had limited phone and data signal at our campsite. I enjoyed being off the phone so much that I forgot to take any pictures - just this one of the hubster during our 40k mountain bike on Monday.
We had a full on few days of activities and for the first time in many years I ‘double-did’ on some days (i.e something sporty in the morning / something else sporty in the late afternoon). We did such a mixture: road biking, road running, mountain biking, fell running, hill climbing. We rolled out our mats and yoga-ed.
And we both commented on how much we felt like we’d got ‘us’ back again.
Since we first met, hub and I have been big movers. We thrive under high levels of activity, and the ruggedness of adventure. Our first decade together involved trips to mountainous regions all over the world to trek and climb peaks plus getting out on our bikes for hours to explore the Scottish landscapes. He climbed higher and harder, I cycled further and faster.
Our challenge has often been resting and staying still!
We’ve been working on this and have been trying to find the balance these last few years. At times during this process, we have both felt like we have lost our adventurers within. In reality we’ve just not wanted the big challenges we thrived on in our younger days, and we’ve struggled with how to find the motivation without the ambitious goals. He no longer wanted to climb the world’s highest peaks. I no longer wanted to race all over the world. Our priorities changed. I turned to yoga, hubby turned to study and learning. We evolved, but an essence of ‘us’ lay dormant.
Somewhere, sometime, not so long ago, one of us realised that we needed outdoor adventure back. Life just didn't feel the same. Something was missing. So we put up the photos that most epitomised ‘us’ and we longed to feel the life in that essence again.
This weekend as I cycled through the forest and hills I reflected on how good it had felt to be able to once again manage several long days of adventure. We were able to say ‘let’s cycle to there’ without wondering if we’d actually manage it without feeling broken for days. We were able to say ‘ aye, sounds good, lets go for a short run along the lochside’ as well as ‘nah, just fancy reading my book’.
It felt good to recognise familiar feeling of cumulative load on my body.
A familiar feeling, but with a completely new balance to it. And with a new sense of fulfilment to it. It felt as good to sleep in the sun and do nothing as it did to spend time pedalling, walking or running up and down the rocky hillsides. I felt tired but not broken. Ready for rest, but not floored. Adventuring for the love, not to prove a point.
It made me realise how much I’d needed to find the WHOLE of me, not JUST the adventurer. And in order to do that I’d needed to put the adventurer to the side until I found the rest of me. This ‘adventure into myself’ was necessitated several years back when it became blatantly obvious to me how much I was breaking myself down with my compulsive need to physically strive. I was physically full of injuries and my mental state was becoming increasingly fragile. As I turned the volume down on this part of me, I found other parts that had lain dormant for years and some that I never even knew about. I found a softer side to me that loves to create, to draw, to read a book. Memories of doing this as a child were now, as an adult, accompanied with the smell of a citrus candle in the background. I discovered a joy of cooking and a love of 60s fashion. My body softened and found a greater flexibility and mobility which felt incredible. As I’ve strived less, my body moved more dynamically and I learnt that I love to dance.
But in amongst all those good things, the adventurer never went away. It popped up every so often when I learnt to snowboard, and it’s there when I go out on my mountain bike or head up a Munro, but for both me and the hubby there was just something missing. We wanted to be able to go on holiday and be amongst the environment for hours. Not just an hour alongside the lake, but really IN the landscape. We wanted to be able to explore the nooks and crannies of the forests, hills and mountains and be able to look at a map later and saw ‘wow, we saw ALL that, and felt it in our lungs and legs’. We wanted to get away from it all and be able to sit and eat our favourite sandwich on a hillside, covered in sweat, looking down at the busy-ness below. These were some of the things we’d really missed, not the achievement of triathlon medals or mountaineering certificates.
Also for me the missing bit included regaining my endurance. I missed the prolonged effort that came before in order for me to see these views while eating cheese and pickle sandwiches! I missed looking at the map, wondering if we could do the route then deciding ‘fuck it, let’s give it a go’ because we reckoned we had enough fitness in the bag to pull out the effort it might need. I needed back ‘I can!’, not just ‘not sure, maybe....??’.
Movement is so important in helping me to be me. It’s like a mirror held up to me with all its metaphors: yoga helps me to regulate, pilates helps me to hold my space, trail sport connects me to the bigger picture and helps me cope with the rough and smooth, road sports help me deal with repetition and find newness in the mundane, swimming returns me to my breath and to my origin. And it's my ability to maintain a constant effort and endurance that I needed back - to remind me of my ability to keep going even when I'm not enjoying the bit of the path that I'm on, but knowing where I leads to. I need a good dose of regular reminders that I'm a determined wee bugger and that I can achieve anything when I put my mind to it! I have really missed feeling that side of me.
But also this need for adventure is for the pure and utter joy of spending long periods of time in nature and with my best friend. It's how we have laughs together. It's where we both feel completely free. The adventurers in us never went away, we never quite let go of them. I just took us wandering off to discover different bits of ourself for us to finally realised what it is that we actually need from these adventures. Then the essence of it lit once more and integrated easily and healthily with the rest of us.
I am Caroline Toshack. Movement is my passion, my mirror, my creative source and outlet. I am a teacher, educator, writer and coach.