Please don’t misunderstand this post from the graphic above. I’m not here to vilify The Hippopotamus. Hippos are fantastic. I love Hippos. In fact, I’d like a hippopotamus for Christmas. (Is the song in your head now? You’re welcome!). It’s just a fact that I am more in “Hippo Basking In The Sunshine Shape” than I am in “Hiker Living In The Woods For Months At A Time Shape”. Once Upon A Time, I was in Trail Shape – able to bound down (or up) long sections of rough terrain and still have the breath left to swear about the weight of my pack (because a few bottles of beer seemed like a good idea in town).
We used to camp…a lot. Every weekend and most weekdays if we could get away from town. The Dog and I had a bit more free time before I became a (mostly) Responsible Adult. My biggest concern was keeping the marshmallows away from The Dog because she believed they would protect us from evil spirits – but only if they were buried all around the campsite.
This image quality is so spectacular because it came from the age when we really did shake it like a Polaroid Picture – because it was a Polaroid picture.
Somehow I felt like these days would still exist after graduation and #Adulting started.
But life has different plans for you sometimes…
I traded in beautiful sunrises (that pictures never really capture), and chilly nights in a tent (snuggled between The Dog and The Nalgene Baby) for Office Life at Corporate America. Somehow I believed that one must be a Responsible Adult. And the only way to be a Responsible Adult was to get a Responsible Job, get Married, buy a Large House, and then live for that Job until The Blessed Retirement or Death…whichever comes first.
For a while, the trade seemed fair.
Let’s fast forward a bit…I fostered a few dogs. I started a Dog Training Business. I adopted a few dogs. I got married. We had 4 dogs. We got a big house. We lost an old dog. We had drama. We lost another dog. We had more drama. We got divorced (too much drama). I lost an old dog (my camping partner and Burier of Marshmallows).
Woah…that was a fast 10 or so years!
I have become notorious for not taking care of myself. I put my To Do List in front of everything else. Which would be ok if I would put the things I need to do to take care of myself (like eating regular meals, going to bed at a decent time, etc) on that list! Instead, I run around like the proverbial chicken with my head cut off in an insane attempt to perfectly meet all the unrealistic goals that I’ve set for myself. I’m guessing a lot of you know exactly what that looks like.
Self maintenance is a bit like preventive maintenance for your car.
If you get regular maintenance on your car, then that one time that you are a few hundred miles late on the oil change is no big deal. However, if the car doesn’t even know what regular maintenance is, that one late oil change might be enough to turn it into a smoking pile of junk. Maybe that old oil was the only thing holding it together! If you don’t take time to relax, clear your head, and recharge then you can’t be at your best mentally. The same goes for your body – nutrition, sleep, and exercise are all important. Especially for those of us who have flat butts from sitting at our desks all day.
Lack of preventive maintenance – that’s how I ended up pretty sick on a business trip in the middle of a foreign country, and found the beginning of what I’m affectionately calling My MidLife Crisis.
I did not take care of myself leading up to the trip, and became that smoking pile of junk that we just discussed. I was working full time trying to put out a few Corporate America fires that could not wait until I came back. I was also trying to get caught up on the retail and blogging side of the dog business. I was trying to get about 8 months of paperwork to the accountant before I left. It was a whirlwind of not sleeping, not eating right, and absolutely no exercise – barely even a walk for the dogs every day.
Add all of that to two full days of travel to get where I was going, and a 13 hour time difference.
By the way – If you have not experienced jet leg in your life, you really should…at least once.
I rarely do much site-seeing when I travel for Corporate America. I know I should take the opportunity more, but it’s hard for me to be away from the Old Dogs any longer than I have to. However, on this trip, we were able to find time for a day trip before the meetings started. We were going to start with sunrise near an active volcano and end with a view of a breathtaking waterfall. The only catch was that we had just arrived, and would need to be up and out of the hotel at midnight. I started this fantastic day trip dehydrated (spending that much time on an airplane will dehydrate you), hungry (jet lag turns your body upside down and your eating schedule goes out the window), and exhausted (I slept…but it was over 48 hours ago).
To make a longish story short – we hiked. It was beautiful. I didn’t eat enough. I didn’t drink enough water. I ended up barely making it back to the vehicle. And when you are in the middle of Indonesia, no one is going to med-evac your butt out of there.
I almost puked on a mountain in Indonesia – not many people can say that!
Excuse me – Is that an active volcano behind you, or is it just jet lag?
Those are the eyes of someone who hasn’t slept in a very long time.
That was a once in a life-time kind of day.
We got back to the hotel with about two hours before our dinner meeting. Did I mention that we left at midnight? The rest of the week, I attended meetings. I gave presentations. I met people from all over the world. And I played it off like everything was ok. It wasn’t. The lack of preventive maintenance caught up with me. Due to my poor eating habits (both before and during the trip), I became anemic, and was plagued with cankles until weeks after my return to the US. What is a “cankle” you ask?
Yeah…I know…you’re sorry you asked. But I bet that song from earlier isn’t stuck in your head anymore. You’re welcome!
It became clear to me, during this trip and the first week back, that I had been living my life in Zombie Mode for years. Get up. Get to work. Work a lot. Go home. Think about work. Make dinner. Work after dinner. Go to bed. Dream about work. Get up. Get to work. Maybe it was the sunrise. Maybe it was how obviously ill I was. Maybe it was coming back to the US and losing my camping partner shortly after. Whatever sparked it, I realized that some things need to change. I also realized that I’m the only one who can make those changes.
Somewhere back there, between burying marshmallows and now, I started living to work instead of working to live. I don’t want to lose myself that completely again. I’m only going to get one chance at this lifetime, and I don’t want to look back and realize that I lived my entire life based on what I was supposed to do as a “Responsible Adult”.
Step 1 – Find Trail Shape again by eating right and by replacing some of that desk sitting with more physical activity.
This blog started out as a source of information about dog training, and life with dogs. But you’ll also find a bit about my journey from Couch Potato to Long Distance Hiker – because posting all of this will keep me honest and accountable, and it might actually be what someone else needs to hear to find their way out of Zombie Mode.
Cankles don’t just happen. Get off your Zombie Backside and Get Outside!
Your “outside” doesn’t have to be hiking and camping. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be outside. What are you passionate about? What are the things in your life holding you back from doing the things that make you shine? How can you get where you really want to be in your life? Find a way to do those things – don’t ignore them until your life is gone. No one can make your life what you want it to be. That’s up to you.
The World Needs Your Input!
You never know when someone reading this really needed to hear what you had to say. Please post your thoughts below and let’s start a discussion!
Do you feel like you are living to work or are you working to LIVE? What makes you shine, and how do you make these things a regular part of your life?