If you ask my husband, last night I tried to kill him.
I was feeling a little down, and decided it would be better to go out and do something to make myself happy than to try to power through the emotions and force myself to work and slowly feel worse and worse. It was a bit late when we finally got out the door and we ended up going to a beach we had never been to before. (Beach count: 3.)
When we got there, I was racing through the woods, eager to get down to the beach before sunset. The hike was about 1.5 miles, and it was mostly downhill. I didn’t think at all about getting back up. The woods were beautiful and I knew the beach would be absolutely breathtaking.
As we were walking, I felt like I was back in Scotland, making my rounds by the loch. Then, I remembered playing Dinosaur Safari at my grandparents’ when I was little and how much I would love an updated version of that game. I was babbling about it to my husband. You get in a time machine and travel to different dinosaur habitats and wait for them to emerge from the scenery around you so you can photograph them. Then, you come back to the present day and sell your photographs. Some carnivores would also attack your time machine so you had to leave sooner. Obviously, I loved it to pieces. If I could code and had the assets to do so, I would make a game just like that with better graphics. It was both exciting and very relaxing. For some dinosaurs, you had to wait several minutes and you could hear them approaching. It was like being Nigel Thornberry or Steve Irwin, except I was sitting on my grandpa’s lap.
I felt kind of bad racing through the woods, sometimes letting my hubby get pretty far behind me, but we didn’t get there until about an hour before the park/beach was to close. I would be so disappointed if we didn’t get there in time to actually see the beach or enjoy it once we got there.
This is how close it was to sunset when we got to the end of the path. To get to the beach, you had to walk under the railroad tracks behind the fence on the left.
Sure enough, it was stunning.
Lately, nature has been a drug for me. Going out and seeing how beautiful the world is makes me happy, grateful, excited, and reinvigorates me in a way that nothing else does. Sometimes, it’s a good thing. It is not a sin to take the time to be happy.
But, at what point do you stop and say to yourself, “yes, this makes you happy and it helps you get back on your feet, but you really need to ‘escape’ from your responsibilities less and put in the hard work required to succeed?” Finding that balance is something I have been struggling with since I quit my last job at the end of March. There have been so many days I have spent in a trance, staring at my phone, unable to muster the energy to get out of bed. Yes, there are days that I feel I need to take care of myself and put my mental health first. Then there are other days when I feel down but more or less okay – that is what I would call my typical day right now.
As these are my typical days, I feel like I have to push myself really hard to make up for all the bad days. I have to do a lot of editing, clean the entire house, apply for jobs, talk to the friends I have neglected, catch up with my family. If I fail to meet my own standards, which are always set impossibly high, I get down again. The weight of failure makes the next day worse and worse until I crash. It is too easy for my self-discipline to turn into self-hatred.
Escaping into nature helps me fend off the bad days. Getting that high keeps me from sinking so low. But when I’m having a good day, sometimes it’s hard to remember that it’s okay to celebrate the good days. The reward for having a good day shouldn’t be more work and more pressure to keep having good days. Yet, I do it to myself over and over again. Last night, I felt compelled to do something, anything, that would make me feel less trapped, less hopeless, less incapable. So we went to the beach. I flung myself into my desire to feel better, and it worked. Then we had to start the walk back.
To say that the walk back was difficult would be the understatement of the century. It took us about 35 minutes to walk down to the beach. We stayed there for maybe 15 minutes. The walk back took a full hour and it was pitch black by the time we got to the car. I felt so guilty. My husband hurt his ankle a while back and this definitely set back his healing. When we got to the car, my trunk was open. (Making this the third time since we moved out here that we have had an incident with someone breaking into one of our vehicles.) Luckily, nothing was damaged and nothing valuable was taken. In addition to all that, the park ranger showed up as we were getting ready to leave and had to give us a talking to about making sure we are back by the time the park closes.
This is partly why I say that nature is like a drug to me. I was feeling bad and I put my needs in front of everything else. My husband was in pain for me, I put us both at risk, and we were lucky we didn’t get a ticket.
In college, it was so much easier to be self-disciplined. If I was feeling bad, I could play Candy Crush Saga until I was out of my five moves, and then I had to do whatever it was I was putting off. Sometimes it got a little out of control and one distraction led to another, but everything then had a hard deadline. Things had to be done. The consequences for not doing what I was supposed to were clear, and classes had a set schedule.
Now, things are much different. The stakes are a lot higher.
I want to end this post with some enlightening sentiment, but I can’t. I don’t have it figured out. But I’m trying to move forward, to hold myself to my ideals without loathing myself if I fall short, to set goals that are reachable.
And, I’m trying to be happier.