I rarely exercise. I’ll do a workout regimen for three to six months then I won’t do shit for another three to six months. Interestingly, this is exactly how I approach writing: three to six months on; three to six months off. Now, I’m in an exercise up-swing phase, and I want to do more hiking. Since last summer, I’ve gone on about six hikes of varying difficulty. That isn’t much, but for a sedentary person, one hike a month is a decent start. Every time I went on a hike, I lamented the best hike I ever took.
A few years ago, my husband and I found a trail that was about 30 minutes outside the city. It wasn’t too crowded, too easy, or too rigorous. It had some open areas and some green, shaded areas. It was perfect! Somehow I neglected to save the directions, and over time, I forgot the name of the trail.
Last summer I kept trying to find my perfect trail, but I couldn’t. I kept thinking the trail’s name was bear-something, but there are tons of trails named bear-something. Exercise and writing are strongly correlated for me. If I’m writing, you can guarantee I’m exercising and vice versa. Since I was writing consistently last summer, I wanted to hike, so I could think and flesh out some character development and structural ideas. Needless to say, I hiked but I did not re-discover my perfect trail.
Last Saturday I was certain I had found it. I did my research and had my directions—I was ready! I headed toward the area at about eight in the morning. It all looked familiar. I got so excited, but the moment I pulled into the lot I knew it wasn’t right. This place charged an admittance fee. My perfect trail was free and the trailhead had little picnic tables near the parking lot across from the restrooms. I pulled out my phone and Googled other trails in the vicinity. I ended up driving around for three and a half damned hours! I drove to four different trailheads and two different county parks. I worked myself into a grown-woman pouting fit. (I secretly love grown-woman pouting fits!) I was so frustrated and angry with myself for letting my perfect trail slip away. Today the weather is perfect, I told myself. Why can’t I go on a hike? Everybody else is hiking.
Despite being histrionic and bratty, I’m actually pretty self-reflective. I know this unhealthy behavior is my M.O. I set my mind to something, and I am completely inflexible until I get it. The longer it takes for me to get it, the more obsessive I become. This is precisely how I have approached publication. I will send out a short story or essay, and I will be paralyzed until I get a response. I will cease writing, and I will wait and obsess. After receiving a response, which to date has always been a rejection, I am not only paralyzed, but I am an emotional fucking wreck. I berate myself for not being good enough, for not writing enough, for not being committed enough. Thankfully, I have learned not to remain in this state for long because I also know that I am most effective when I am calm and centered. The problem is this: I have not been calm or centered for much of my life, so it is easy for me to think myself into a chaotic state.
That afternoon, I meditated and chilled the hell out. I wrote out everything I could remember about my perfect trail. I knew I was in the right area, so I wrote that down. I remembered there were houses nearby and large red rocks, so I wrote that down then went about my day. I hung out with my boo, got a lil nookie. Then I remembered that there was a creek that revealed itself after a steep decline on my perfect trail. I wrote that down and went on doing something else. Eventually, I remembered the trail name didn’t have anything to do with bears at all. It had “deer” in the title. Then a few hours later it came to me: “Deer Canyon.” I had a trail name and a general area, so I got on the Internet, looked up photos to make sure I had the right trail and sure enough, there it was—nuzzled in the calm and centered corridors of my mind.