Last week on our vacation Amelia and I were guided by our hosts to a fabulous place to walk. Stocks Reservoir, surrounded by woodland is stunning. As Dave said, you can walk round the whole reservoir, its just over 8 miles and will take 2-3 hours.
I had no intention of doing the whole circuit when we set out, and so we started, in the opposite direction to the signs because I felt the urge to go left at the start rather than right. This would turn out to be crucial.
It was a bright beautiful morning, the sun was shining, shorts and a t-shirt on, water available at various points along the way for Amelia. And because it was so nice, we kept going. Round the bottom of the reservoir, the ideal place to turn back, but the bank opposite where we’d just come looked so inviting and so we kept going.
And it got hotter and hotter.
And we kept going. Up tracks that warned of livestock, so Amelia on her lead, we kept going.
I was starting to find the track hard to discern, there were 3 possibilities, and a man coming the opposite way told us we were on the right track, that it would take us ‘far from the reservoir for a bit’ and so we kept going.
And I started feeling uncomfortable, we should surely have turned off to the left by now but I kept going, because the man had said we would go quite far from the reservoir, and climbing hills, on we went. Until we reached a peak, with the track we were on leading off into the distance and nowhere in sight was there a path branching off back to the reservoir.
And all through this I was snapping photos and taking videos and sending WhatsApp clips to friends, sharing the stunning beauty of the place but also sharing my internal turmoil.
Because by this stage we’d been walking for a couple of hours, it was 26 Celsius and due to a difficult personal situation, I felt close to crying and now we were lost!
Partly because the route was only signposted from one direction, the one we didn’t take at the start! When we went left, I unknowingly left myself without guidance to the route we want to take. Who does that, only puts signs on one side of a signpost!
I turned around, there was nothing else to do, no-one in sight. To keep going that way would have been stupid and so I kept going, just in the opposite direction, back the way we’d come.
A cyclist came up and I flagged him down and asked him where we went wrong and he didn’t know and could only suggest we go all the way back to the bottom of the reservoir, which meant literally following our steps all the way back to the beginning. I couldn’t face that.
We kept going and I spotted a local farmer coming towards in his jeep and again flagged him down and asked for directions.
He was so kind, and obviously quite used to people getting lost here! Pointing us in the right direction we set off again.
By this stage I was hot, tired, emotional and scared. Scared of staying lost, scared of losing my home (the situation), scared of not getting Amelia some water. Just scared.
Luckily, there was a stream down the path we needed to take so Amelia was able to cool her paws and get a drink.
And we kept going. Climbing all the way up an even steeper hill than the one we had previously encountered.
And eventually on reaching the top, we found the spot the farmer had indicated for us to turn left and started downhill. Phew, getting closer to the right path I was sure of it.
And then we walked into a field of standing cows.
And I was terrified. I’ve often read over the years of people getting killed by cows chasing them as they walked their dogs through fields.
This was my end?
Thankfully Amelia sensed the need to be quiet and she tucked herself close behind me as I slowly started across the field. If there had been any other way, I would have taken it but I was physically, emotionally, mentally beat and could not turn back, I could only go forward.
I had already been on my phone, recording a WhatsApp voice clip for my friends and I used that as an anchor to help me stay calm, talking to them about the cows and my fears and sometimes just saying ‘Oh God’ over and over again.
We had almost made it through when one of the cows decided she wasn’t happy and took a few steps forward.
My heart stopped.
I didn’t know what to do for the best, to speak directly to the cow, to ignore it, I couldn’t outrun her. And I knew if she spooked and ran at us, the others would follow.
So, I spoke to her, out loud and fairly loudly, ‘No, stay where you are, go that way, leave us alone, good girl, that’s it, we’re not going to hurt you, just passing through’ and I kept that nonsense up as I carried on walking. Slowly, carefully, and with much probably unintelligible muttering into my phone.
It didn’t last long but those few seconds felt like forever and once we were on the other side of the gate and I could breathe again, I saw people turning off the path ahead.
Based on what little I knew of the geography, we’d added about 4 miles to the 8 mile walk and we still weren’t done!
But now I knew we were definitely on the right path, we’d faced down life threatening danger, although there was probably more danger from dehydration and ticks – but we’d done it. And now, in an hour, we’d be back to the car, hopefully.
Four hours! In baking heat, on paths we didn’t know. What an idiot I am putting myself and Amelia at risk like that.
But I learned from that mistake and I wrote a few things down in the aftermath, once I had finished getting cleaned and fresh and hydrated.
- When I feel I’m headed in the wrong direction. Stop. Turn around and go back to pick up correct path and ask for directions as soon as I am able.
- Important caveat – Ask for directions from people who know the way! Don’t listen to people who have no idea where you want to go and how to get there. Ask from people who have the knowledge you seek.
- There is always beauty in the journey and learning to be had, even when you’re going the wrong way. But that sh!t will tire you out, the fear of going wrong, making it worse, of not knowing, of not being sure. When you’re already somewhere you don’t know well, going in a new direction, get a guide, follow a map. Find the people who went before you and follow them.
- There may be threats and dangers but quietly keep going, let them know you’re no threat to them, you’re just here doing your thing, not there to hurt or harm them.
- We can do more than we thought ourselves capable of, and even when ready to give up, we can find the inner resources to keep going to get where we want to be.
- I make it happen. Yes, I can allow myself to ask for help, to seek guidance and support, but its up to me to make my life happen the way I want it to be. As within, so without. Inner world first and then outer.
- Even through detours, missteps, wrong directions, I hold my destination in mind and I recover, I keep going and get there in the end.
- It’s quicker and easier to ask for directions and follow signs from the start. Or have a map!
- Don’t let anything distract you. You want to go where you want to go? Share the journey by all means, but stay focused on where you’re going.
- Choose your companions wisely. I couldn’t have asked for better than my darling Amelia, she was so good throughout this whole adventure (there’s a whole loads of expletives missing from the front of that word!). I cannot imagine what it would have been like with someone whinging or getting shouty or anything really. I got lucky with my companion for sure. But it’s harder to ask humans to walk alongside you into unknown territory, than your dog.
There are many ways to transpose this list to my work, my clients, my life and I’m using it for a number of things. I am considering a big investment in a marketing funnel and I’m not sure its right for me and maybe that’s just fear talking but I’m going to go through this list and make sure I’m going in the right direction with people who know the way and who are already where I want to be.
Equally, with my home situation, I need to choose my direction wisely and optimise point 4 about threat and dangers.
5 and 7 are strong points for most anything in life. And I need to make sure I’m not going in the wrong direction with the decisions I make here.
There is learning, there is good in everything, even the mistakes we make. So long as we stop making the mistake! Because that’s probably the worse thing we can do, to keep repeating the same mistake over and over.
Don’t do that. Learn, grow, change, adapt, repeat.
And if you’re lost, for goodness sake, STOP. And ask for help, guidance, directions. Whatever you need, ask for it.
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