• Sandy Reynolds

The edge can feel a lot like being trapped

I don't think it is a coincidence that a few days after I wrote about quitting being underrated, I found myself in a situation where all I wanted to do was quit. Last Friday night I arrived at the first weekend of the second year in a wilderness training program. Our task for Friday night was getting a shelter ready to sleep in. It was about -28ºc. Three of us, the early birds, were given the job of clearing enough snow for the wall tent to be erected and spending time gathering wood. We were in the dark woods under the stars. It was magical. I was so happy I had signed up. A few hours later, the tent arrived and the rest of the group had trickled in. I think it was after nine pm - the time I am usually thinking about sleep. We got the tent all set up, hauled our gear to the site and set up. I was really tired.. By now it was well after 11 pm and all I could think about was sleeping. And then our leader told us we had one more job. We needed to build snow banks and compress the snow by stomping on it in show shoes. The snow would harden overnight making it usable for cutting blocks - a process called sintering. It was a big job and very physical. The other two women and I opted to build a fire in the tent camp stove. We had already been at it for a few hours longer than most of the others. As it turned out, much of the wood we gathered was not dry and/or green. After several frustrating attempts to get a fire going, I walked back to my car and brought a bag of dried wood and tinder I had been gathering and drying in my basement for this very reason. My rationale - in a survival experience you use what you have on hand. Eventually we got a fire going but it didn't seem to really warm up the tent. Around 1 pm we went to bed. Eight of us in an 8X10 tent with a stove taking up about 3' x 3' of valuable real estate in the corner. Six people slept in a row on one side of the tent and I slept at their feet beside our leader. By 3 am I was in a panic. I was freezing, exhausted, unable to sleep, stuck beside a guy who was either snoring or getting up and going outside to pee. I would get a blast of cold air as he exited the tent. And then I had to pee. I crawled out of my sleeping bag, grabbed a wool blanket to wrap around me, stumbled around finding my boots in the pile and got them on. Once outside I realized it was snowing and the idea of pulling down my pants to relieve myself was not appealing. I saw the lodge where the first year participants were spending the night in the distance and without my headlamp decided to walk back to an indoor toilet. Once in the warmth, I found a couch and slept for 4 precious hours. I woke up feeling like a failure. On Saturday morning we started building an igloo. By 4 pm I knew it was not going to be done before dark. And I was exhausted. I felt so out of my depth. And I questioned the rationale of signing up for this program. I had a melt down and started crying. I did not want to continue working on the igloo and I definitely did not want to sleep in it. There was less space than in the tent and one other person had joined us. We basically would be spooning all night. After a few conversations with program instructors, I managed to pull myself together. I was given the option of sleeping indoors but told that the next weekend I wouldn't have that option available. I did some inquiry about how people were keeping warm (two sleeping bags was the solution). I borrowed a bag. Humbly told my group I would not be joining them in the igloo and decided on the middle ground. I would give the tent another try. My rationale was that if I couldn't stay in the tent I would have to quit the program. This weekend was practice for the more intense weekend in February. I was relieved that another woman opted to join me. My ego was somewhat salvaged in not being alone. We built a roaring fire. I snuggled into two sleeping bags around midnight. And I slept! I felt victorious in the morning. I'm sure I had about 5-6 hours of good solid sleep. I had proven to myself that I could do it. I also felt emotionally drained from the day before. So now I have a big decision to make. The next weekend is three nights. We will also be sleeping in a tent or a structure we build. We will spent those days in the forest of the Hiawatha First Nation. Our instructor, Caleb, is the founder of Canadian Bushcraft. And he will be teaching us wilderness survival, traditional Indigenous skills, and land stewardship. We will follow trap lines and experience living off the land in winter. I am on the edge. I am on a threshold. Do I quit? Do I persist? I know that if I quit, I am saying no to deepening my survival skills. I am saying no to discovering how far I could go in really understanding our country and the culture of the indigenous people who lived off this land for so long. It was that longing that led me into this program in the first place. It seems there are times to say no, acknowledge you have had enough and walk away. There are times to say yes, push through and grow. I'm on that threshold right now. I am digging deep spiritually. And I believe there is something bigger going on in this experience for me. I know I am not alone in being on the edge in my life. Being on the edge between quitting and persisting is difficult. One thing I am doing is giving myself some time to decide. I am letting myself process the events of the weekend. I'm sitting with it and looking at my experience from all angles. I'm practicing self-care in recovery from the weekend. I am grateful for the experience. Are you on the edge? How do you know when it is time to move on or time to stick with something? It takes discernment. I don't think you can make the decision on your own. You need the wisdom of other people. You need to think through your motivation in both options you are sitting with. I work with women who are on a spiritual journey to help them align their lives with their truth. As Rob Bell says, 'Everything is spiritual." If you need a guide to walk with you, email me.

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