The Wall


Hit a wall today. Literally. Had a choice between a stopped team car’s back window on a steep and blind corner or a wall, chose the latter. Apparently I bounce like a rubber ball. Not that it felt that way but I’ll take that rather than how a French guy smashed into the same wall. I’ll live to fight another day. Not so sure about the wall or the hedge though.

Dan Craven (@DanFromNam), Team IG-Sigma Sport, Stage 7 Tour of Britain 2012

There was something strangely familiar in reading Dan’s tweet, a feeling of knowing how he felt. I feel for Dan, he’s a nice guy and a great cyclist, but as he says he’ll bounce back. Me on the other hand…Whilst not having the pleasure of familiarising myself with a Devonian field boundary, for some time I’ve felt like I’ve been bouncing off a barrier or two. In that feeling known by many an endurance athlete, I’ve hit the wall.

Those who know me and those who have followed this blog for the last 2 years might be forgiven for thinking things were progressing well. In many ways so was I. Yet in the last few months I’ve felt things slowing down, that there’s something holding me back and I’m really starting to get annoyed with life once more. I’ve been told many times that I am on a journey, I’ve repeated it to myself over and over but at this very moment I feel my journey has reached some kind of barrier and it’s both frustrating and depressing.

In essence I’ve run out of ideas. As a positive step I have recently I started seeing a life coach to help me through this barrier and here’s why I need that help. And this is why.

When I returned to work two and half years ago I promised myself I wouldn’t be there long. Three months after returning I sat in a meeting about the future of my department and told myself I wouldn’t be there in 12 months. Another 27 months later and I’m still there. I’m stagnating and it don’t feel good.

Why do today what you can put off inevitably?

By stagnating I’m not only standing still but I’m now not doing – even avoiding – things that might move me forward. Worse than the frustration of not moving on I’m now feel bored and as a result feel numb. I can’t even be bothered. Work (yes, it’s easier to type this than admit it out loud), play (cycling has become even more of a chore), rest (need I say more) – it all feels like too much, a decision too far, an action that won’t lead to much. I’ll fritter time away on “anything but”, my attention elsewhere though I’m never entirely sure where.

“I tend to drink too much. I don’t know. I think it’s a symptom of boredom really. And my mind can drift off.”

Peter Cook

But here’s the irony: Ask me what I want to do and my usual answer is “I don’t know”. Whilst saying that feels like a cop out for me and what I assume the other person is thinking, it is a genuine feeling and implictly encapsulates that remoteness I feel from life. Life carries on but it doesn’t matter what I do nothing really changes. In fact, give me a shell and I’ll crawl into it, it’s easier that way. In the words of Pink Floyd, I’ve become comfortably numb. And so, in this frame of mind, I was asked by my coach what options I had for the future. I told her I didn’t know. I told here that it felt like a blank. Okay, it wasn’t totally blank. There are a few things I do want. But the overwhelming feeling is like facing a brilliant white wall in front of me. From afar it looked like the blank canvas, a future with unwritten potential but get nearer and it’s a hulking great barrier in disguise spread infinitely either side and far too high to see the top. The only thing to do, I worked through in a coaching session,  is fight it.

Energy breaks me down

My problem is I’m tired from fighting what’s behind me. It’s like the marathon runner who hits the wall – 21 miles seemingly “under the belt’ but those miles are the undoing of you at that moment. I know what I don’t want, though when I say that there are things I hang on to “just in case” and that saps energy. There are expectations and commitments that I can’t – or don’t know how to – extricate myself from or change. Moving forward isn’t about a blank canvas rather it is a negotiation with release clauses yet to be agreed.

Where this leaves me is hard to say and that is why I’m seeing a life coach. I want some answers. I need a map to move me forward. And whilst I’ve tried some things to do this they aren’t, in my present state of mind, the answers.  My current task is focussing on the feeling of kicking down the wall. The problem is getting that feeling. A lot of the time it just sin’t there.

Whilst none of this is designed to be an excuse for my lack of attention – to you, to those I know, to my work – it is an explanation. I don’t feel great about it and in fact it worries me. But I need to find another way forward, to break down that wall, to find some ideas and take the next steps on what is at the moment feeling like an everlasting and tiring journey. And as much as this is a confession and a reflection it’s also a plea for ideas. So, anyone got any bright ideas?

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10 thoughts on “The Wall

  1. Hang in there AB. A really good first step with the life coach. Small steps might soon make you feel like you are gaining progress. Maybe try something completely new..they say to do this each day, think that might be hard daily but what about a new ingredient, coffee, cafe, destination, sport or author? Shake it up a bit…when was the last time you went ten pin bowling? 🙂

  2. This whole life thing, particularly as a grown-up (physically if not mentally in my case!), is blooming hard work, and it sounds like you’re feeling the same. If it wasn’t for the fact that the alternative scares me silly, I wouldn’t be all that enamoured by the whole life thing.

    I saw a life coach for quite a while and found it to be an enormous help – helped me see that every minute of every day is special and that even though most of it is a machine, a game if you will, that we have no option other than to play, there are lots of special and positive things that make it all worth while.

    There were two main things that I took from my life coaching – the first is that chances that I am me and you are you are infinitessimally small. If you look at the odds that all of our ancestors going back to the prehistoric swamp procreated with the correct person to eventually make us, you will see that you have better odds of winning the lottery every week for a year without buying any tickets than you have of being you. And yet, you are you – the correct sperm met the correct eggs and eventually got to you, and you are a great, special, superb person. So, the odds of you being you are tiny and yet here you are. Not only is there only one AB and one SW (officially making us endangered species), but the odds of that happening are miniscule – that officially makes us very special people.

    The second thing was that every millisecond of every day is special and contains something of worth and value, no matter how mundane, dull or flat our boring the activities we are involved with. I have gotten into mindfullness – being aware of the small things that are happening now rather than the rubbish that might happen in 15 minutes or the rubbish that might have happened 15 minutes ago. Amazingly, it has helped me to focus on the now, enjoying the small things and helping me pass through the big rubbish that we have to go through. Whether it be the sounds of the rain on my hood as I walk the dog, or concentrating on the feelings of my legs as I peddle my bike, I have been able to enjoy these activities more and also deal with the rubbish that is thrown my way too.

    I must admit, no idea if any of that makes sense or just makes me sound like more of a fruitcake than you know me to be, but it’s all worth a try!

    Stu 🙂

    • Stu, this is so wonderfully and eloquently put. Though I’m not sure I’m happy being an endangered species (and at times, I’m sure you will agree, it can certainly feel that way!) I’ll go with the idea of being special (and not in that way either!!). I have been told about and tried to engage with the mindfulness ideas quite recently. I must admit that the books I have tried to engage with haven’t so far engaged me enough, partly I think due to the maelstrom of life buffeting me. Is there anything you can recommend to help get me started? I’m sure others looking at the blog would be interested too.

      AB

  3. Cousin AB….The phrase that really hit me in your blog is “I’m tired of fighting what’s behind me”…I think therein lies the real issue. Yes, that IS what is limiting your future view, but you’re fighting it rather than getting into, and ultimately dealing with, it! As we’ve discussed before, CBT and Life Coaching have real merits, but they are still behavioural approaches, so whilst you change your actions you’re still taking your demons with you! Yes, I know that the idea is that the new actions can influence your mood and well-being, but when the issues are so hard wired, they are still there waiting to overpower the actions (with brute force or inertia)! I truly believe that you would be well advised to take a more psychotherapeutic/psychoanalytical approach. This will probably be painful and you will probably feel like you’re going backwards while you deal with the initial impact of opening the proverbial ‘can of worms’, but I have seen with my own eyes how effective this approach can be in calming the inner conflict/demons and hence being able to see the future as a manageable and ultimately rewarding (and dare I say ‘happy’) place to be! Please look into it. xxxx

  4. AB. We’ve spoken about this stuff a few times over the last couple of years. A thought that still strikes me is that sometimes the life “journey” is a bit like the experience of an astronaut travelling through empty space toward a far distant destination (clearly something I’ve not personally experienced but bear with me!). At times to the astronaut the distances involved are so enormous and the view so unchanging that it feels as though they are making no progress at all. But to a stationary observer they appear to pass by at enormous speed.

    Sometimes it’s the observer who has the correct perspective.

    From my perspective you appear to be a person who has made a lot of changes in their life and made a lot of progress. You are doing things now that I’m not sure you would have dreamt about three years ago and you have plans to do more. To you the list undone and the progress not made seems to dominate but to me as an observer I see the progress and I also feel that in comparison I have failed to address the things I wanted to address and failed to make progress where I wanted to.

    It would appear that perspective is everything and that it is incredibly important not to only rely on our own observations but also to trust those of the people around us.

    This is not to say that there isn’t more work to do and there aren’t frustrations along the way, but it is to say have faith in what you have achieved and continue to plan for the future even when plans seem stalled. There may also be new tools and new approaches that you choose/need to adopt as time passes. That seems fine to me too – when you buy a new bike you may not use a chain splitter for a long good while, but you will in the end.

    We’re due to catch up when I get back from holiday. Perhaps we can pick up some of these thoughts then.

    GS

    • SAS hit the nail on the head – two Scorpios thinking alike – you can’t change the past but you can learn from it and live with it. THe next stage is to love yourself a bit. Leave the metaphorical self flaggelation to its rightful place in the monasteries. You’re a lovely person and O.K I would say that wouldn’t I ?

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