Have you ever been to northern Ontario? I have and it’s beautiful. I took a group of fifteen 13 & 14 year olds on a two-week canoeing trip. That’s where I got my injury.
The Beautiful Outdoors
In my other life, I did a lot outdoor stuff. Most of it revolved around getting kids into nature or immersed in other cultures. Bernadette and I even won an award for having one of the top Boy Scout troops in New York City. From Philmont, New Mexico to the Arctic Circle; from Nicragua to northern Minnesota; from Ghana to Senegal, I was in a rush to provide experiences for young people who had been otherwise relegated to the purgatory of irrelevance.
The scenery on this trip was as beautiful as the trip was physically challenging. I had no idea just how challenging it was going to get.
It seems we spent as much time carrying the canoes and equipment over land as we did on the water. “Portaging” is what fancy people call it. Even with all that walking, things took a while to dry. Two of those things were my feet.
My Aching Feet
When your feet are cold and wet with little chance of drying out, it turns out that you can get something called “Trench Foot.” Trench Foot got its name from the trench warfare of World War l, where its prevalence was first noted. Left untreated, you will develop gangrene. It seems that prior bouts of frostbite (which I had gotten before) make you more susceptible. I wish someone had told me before the canoe trip.
If left untreated, the feet swell up, the skin tears away, and infection occurs. It got so I was barely able to tolerate sandals or walking. Our guide took us by a remote cabin. He wanted to talk to the grizzly outdoorsman who had had some experience with these types of things. The Old Man of the Lake pronounced that he had only seen one case worse than mine. I asked what had happened to that individual. “They had to amputate one of his feet but they were able to save the other one.”
The only semi-serious medical facility was days away. That meant we needed to paddle. That night, the pain was excruciating. I was no longer able to walk. I had to crawl to help gather fire wood and the supplies to pitch my tent. My feet looked like the balloon animals at a child’s birthday party.
I had just finished drag/crawling my pack up the shore when my two teen canoe mates, Ericka and Christian, asked what I was doing and they ordered me to stop. What they said next would have had me close to tears if I wasn’t such a tough guy…
“You’re always taking care of all of us. It’s time for us to take care of you.” They set up my tent, gathered the fire wood, made my dinner, and checked in on me until I fell asleep. Despite the pain, I slept better than I had in a few days.
Well, the trip ended. With a couple of weeks of rest and some antibiotics, I was as good as new. I never spent much time focusing on that night on the lake. Only recently, have I reflected on that moment and those emotions over a decade ago. Why the delay? I think it’s because I was afraid.
Afraid of what? Afraid of vulnerability. Afraid of the chaos that exists between what I am living for and what I am running from. Fear gives us permission to freeze. It dictates our thought patterns and how we move. If you’re working in a job that you hate or you have put on weight unconsciously, that may be how you deal with your feelings of vulnerability. Is it possible that you don’t have to stay frozen? Is it possible that there is beauty in your vulnerability? Should you continue to resist chaos? I’m still working all this out for myself.
Here’s What You Do
Does some of this make sense? If it does, here’s what you need to do next:
1. Recall a time you felt fear.
2. Ask yourself what experience and feelings you denied yourself (like joy, gratitude,anger, etc.) by substituting fear in its place.
3. Notice what comes up.
Personal trainers? Not really. I prefer to think of what we do as muscular life coaching. We’re here to join you on the path if you need us.
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