Before heading off to the land of deep blue skies and rich red earth for a week with Remi, I was struggling with the space in my life. Of course, I'd wanted that space. And I'd made that space. So that I could create: create my business, write my memoir, and fill in the gaps with what filled me up. But within the space I had, I wasn't thriving. And I was feeling bad enough inside of it--depressed, grey, unmotivated and bored--that I was beginning to grasp for anything I could find to fill it back up.
Namely, work. Work is my go to. Always and forever. Stimulation. More things coming at me to fill my time so I don't have to figure out how to fill it myself (or how to work with the emotions that come up in the process). More things keeping me busy so my creativity can't run me too amuck!
But I had this little idea to do a solo trip to Utah over spring break. An idea that I kept talking myself out of, then back into. So, when my partner kindly gave me a kick in the seat, telling me to go and give him some alone time in the house I decided I needed to do this trip. (Of course, I cried a few tears first because traveling alone felt scary and part of me felt like doing this was a sure-fire recipe for ruining our relationship not strengthening it and drawing us closer.)
So, I sat myself down that night and gave myself something, anything, to hang onto to get myself to go. I picked a spot. Just one spot. And I made myself an Airbnb reservation for the entire time. The reservation was non-cancellable, which encouraged me to then keep moving forward when the fear came up again. I didn't need an entire plan. I didn't have to know where I'd be hiking when I got there. All I needed to know was where I was going and for how long. And I didn't figure these out by looking at a map for long hours on end. I just had a curious inkling that I'd like to check out Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. And Kanab was close to this. So that was my spot.
The other thing that helped me deal with all the unknowns was taking my dog Remi. She was an obvious constraint. No National Parks with a dog, which meant I had one less option to consider. And she can't take all that much heat unless there's water, which meant I either needed to hike early on hot days or find hikes with water. Plus, lots of Airbnb's don't allow dogs, so I limited my choices in that way. And finally, there was no way I was sedating her and putting her in a crate on an airplane, so I'd have to drive. My mind often feels like constraints are the enemy. It likes to leave all its options open, forever. But really what this means when you're staring down empty space is that it's hard to do anything. You have to start somewhere. And then follow it. And putting these constraints in place helped me do just that.
There were lots of other details here and there to resolve. But I won't bore you with those. What feels most important to share in closing is this: The empty space of "what will I do on my trip" came to life with a few key constraints and then staying open to how I felt, what was happening with the weather, and the other things I had on my schedule here and there throughout the trip. I didn't have to plan and then stay firmly attached to that plan on my trip. (Often, when I'm forcing planning like this it's me trying to fill the empty space so I'll KNOW something I can't know yet. It's me trying to grab something that isn't ready to be grabbed yet. Just so I can feel something tangible between my sweaty fingers and palms--something that makes me believe the uncertainty is gone.) So, if I'd clung hard to my plan, stress and frustration would have probably followed.
But I also didn't leave myself nothing but empty space (at least not this time). That was a little too overwhelming for my brain and nervous system for this first trip alone. I needed some sense of where I was going and where I wasn't. Which I found by listening to my inner curiosity then following it even if I couldn't be sure it was "right" or exactly what I'd want once I got there. This trip could be an exploratory trip. I could do it again in the future. And doing something, anything, would help me learn for next time.
So, how do we deal with the million idea overwhelm and options of the blank page? We just follow whatever simple impulse comes to us first. We make a mark on a map even if we don't know it's the "right" one. And we go for it and stay open along the way. Constraints and marks and imperfect actions are friends, not foes, on this journey. At least they were on mine! Wishing you a lovely day and hope that you and the empty page of your life have a lovely adventure together today and everyday. :)