Think back to the last time you had something stressful arise in your life. Paying a parking ticket? Breaking up with someone? What to cook for dinner? Not making enough money and the bills are stacking up? Life can sometimes feel like a series of stressful moments punctuated by brief moments of easy breathing. I know that is exactly how I’m feeling right now. I’m finishing the semester and I’ve never been this stressed. Today while working on a group project I had to take a few minutes for pushups and deep breathing while I was processing how hopelessly underprepared my group is. This project is due Thursday. Thursday will come whether we are ready or not. Life is like this, the build up to the critical threshold comes at an agonizingly slow pace and once it breaks it seems unbelievable that you were ever worried by “those mundane problems.”
These are my front country problems. But as I pointed out last night, it is the viewing of these moments as the adventure they are that will help lead to a more fulfilled life. Maybe, cause who actually knows.
The funny thing is in the backcountry when things go wrong it usually happens fast. There is not usually this slow buildup of stress that takes you to a breaking point. This slow dragging along of stress and burden seems to be something that is attributed just to the front country. Now in some ways it can exist in the backcountry as well. Let us say your diet consists of food that your find while foraging or hunting. If you struggle to find food this could be a source of stress that slowly builds. But it would also be constant and usually no breaking point, just meal here or there. But that would be your existence then. Subsistence living would probably take all the focus off other issues and require all of your attention on getting by. No longer a build up but a constant pressure for survival.
Now other issues that arise in the backcountry happen fast. Take for example an avalanche. One moment you and your friends are traversing a slope in the early morning sunlight. The wind is light and cold, the sun is filtered through a sky of light gray clouds. Fresh snow covers the mountainside of an area you’ve skied before. Of an area that you know has the potential to slide. You’ve checked the snow. You’ve judged the layers, you’ve watched the weather reports for the last few days, know the freeze thaw cycles in the area, looked for other evidence of an unsteady base. You crest the top of the ridge and get ready to drop in. You test the drop, jumping turns for the first few yards. Trepidation dictating your every move. And just when you think it’s good and safe to drop; a slab right below the top of the ridgeline frees itself from the side of the mountain.
Any way that scene plays out the stressful moment is not in the future its in the moment. Its happening to you. There is no build up or elongation of stress. Just the pure and often unbridled fear and response that comes with disaster.
What the hell is the point of this post? Well to indicate that I’d way rather deal with an avalanche and the crazy moments in the wild places of the world the long slow build up of the academically induced stress I’m dealing with now. So adios for now as I’ve gotta go write a paper on the ability of the Boulder community to be resilient in times of disaster.