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Tall Drink of Nerd – Mullygrubs Pt 2: Take a Hike

This week we find your Tall Drink of Nerd wandering in the wilderness, continuing a personal Zenquest. It all began a few weeks ago, in an effort to shut up the internal vulture voices of self-doubt, the “mullygrubs”. When last we met, I pondered on the search for peace in a perfect yoga class. What follows is the tale of how my failure at yoga led me down the path to the forest.

Emboldened by my own navel-gazing blogumn of two weeks ago, I bravely ventured forth and attended a class at a local studio. I quickly discovered 3 things:

1. I am out of shape. I almost hurled after the first series of simple, quick-paced poses. My shoulders are still sore and the class was 5 days ago.

2. This teacher/class wasn’t for me, so my search continues. I’ll practice yoga on my own, but keep looking for a group.  When engaging in any activity surrounded by people, I usually try harder and do better. This also happens to me every single time I take a writing workshop, I’m usually surprised by the depth of stuff I create. When I do Yoga in my living room, I don’t push as much as I do in class.  I don’t think its entirely competition or showing off, either.  There is something about being in a group with people who are all trying to attain a similar goal. The collective energy elevates me.

3. Yoga is nice, but my mullygrubs are easily bored. I need more than one outlet to keep them occupied.

So today I pulled the next chill-out tool from my trusty, tried-and-true box of unguents and curatives.  I went for a hike.

Over the years, my husband Seen and I have visited several dozen local hikes. For a short time, we attempted to hike a new path every other weekend. Our dirty and battered hiking bible, Afoot and Afield in Los Angeles County, is dog-eared on favorite pages and blood stained (from a tumble taken in Topanga) and lives in a similarly bedraggled backpack. We’ve stumbled on deer, gotten lost, been chased by bees and have luckily only had one incident with ticks. Gladly, even though they are abundant in our mountains, we’ve never run into any snakes (my biggest phobia. It makes my legs itch just thinking about them.)

All snakes aside, there is something great out there. Even if it’s in the park down the street, there is something in all that green shrubbery, scuttling lizards and misty breeze. It’s a reset button. It clears out useless worries and the mullygrubs. When I start my hike, you bet your Aunt Fanny I’m whining; about my back or my arches or my ovaries.  (I have two modes; whining and full throttle gung-ho.) But within 5 minutes, as my breathe gets quicker, as the sweat springs up on my arms, as the smells of ocean and pine and flower replace exhaust, the little engine of whine shuts itself down. The little engine that could gets louder, moving my feet one after the other, slowly conveying me up to the crest. And I am not too modest to tell you; I’m a freaking genius on the crest of a mountain.

Honestly, I have solved our financial issues, created new business ideas and even channeled some super-deep insights on life on the top of a mountain. (On my impatience with being an instantly successful novelist ‘You cannot climb a mountain with one single step…grasshopper.’)

Today, I was mulling over how to create an outline for a story and as my legs heave-ho’d the huffing and puffing flesh up the hill, my mental gears ground and grated against the concepts and plots and characters. Nothing seemed easy or clear, mentally or physically. When we reached the crest, I stopped, pulling on Seen’s arm to stand with me in an open spot where we could see the coast, the ocean and a bit of city. Other than our breath, slowing from ragged to regular, the only sounds were two birds chatting and chaparral leaves dancing with the wind. As I took a deep inhale, the foggy ocean breeze wound through my mind’s gears and the roadblocks blew away like a herd of tumbleweeds. I could see the story outline, clear as if it was standing on that trail next to me, tapping me on the shoulder and saying “Howdy!”

Both cures, yoga and hiking, involve physical motion to kick those mullygrubs out the door. While yoga mellows my innards, hiking puts me in my place in the world.

The point is, those two birds will be gabbing and the fog will settle into the live oaks no matter what I’m doing. When I’m hunched over my computer getting a headache trying to find a new adjective to replace “adorable” for shelter cat descriptions, the ground squirrels will be chasing each other across the field and the spiders will still be building a web over the cactus plant. I am a puzzle piece of a great big planet that spins regardless. It blows my mind a little bit.

There are several tools in my chill-out bag, sometimes it takes a little bit of yoga or hauling my carcass up a hill to remember that I have many options to shut down those evil, small-minded mullygrubs.

Those are a few of my fixes, what do you do when your inner critic gets a little too loud?

(FYI – Sadly, the word ‘mullygrubs’ didn’t originate here, it’s from a great poem by Ginger Andrews. She suggests a few other cures.  I don’t want to reprint the poem here without permission, please do look it up!)

featured image credit: szeke