As someone who craves quiet, order, stability and routine, I’ve developed what’s probably an oversensitivity to entropy. Whether everything’s actually falling apart or not, I fear it and watch for it vigilantly. It’s my main strategy for navigating a chaotic world. My guess is that many (if not most) people can relate to that. But it threatens to stifle me, too, so it’s important to balance that order with play, exploration, learning and adventure. Those are opportunities to grow, to keep stagnation at bay. Where there’s no evolution, there’s death. Right?
I’ve written about this in the past: I’m very comfortable (and, in fact, prefer) doing much of my life on my own. I’m generally content away from the frenetic energy, noise and drama other people seem to crave. I suppose they’re energized by it? No idea. At any rate, I’m still on the quest of trying to balance solitude with socializing, of including more people more often in my plans. It’s difficult though, because people in Charlotte are either busy, noncommittal or flaky, and, frankly, it’s not worth the effort. But I do recognize now the literal dangers of being too far off on my own.
Recently I’ve needed lots of mental health days. Lots.
The mountains are my sacred space. I’ve gone toward Blowing Rock four times in two weeks. The first trip I took for the comforting familiar. On the second visit I decided to bring in some balance, so I hiked some paths that were new to me personally. It utterly revitalized my love of the North Carolina mountains. The third trip I wanted to delve much deeper into my new discoveries.
I avoid using absolute terms like always/never, everyone/no one, everywhere/nowhere; however, in practical terms, I always go alone, because no one ever wants to go anywhere. I’ve done dozens of these visits on my own in the last 16 years, so I gave no thought to doing it again. Without telling anyone, I hiked to the bottom of Linville Gorge on a Wednesday afternoon.
Being surround by running water is soothing. I wanted to sit on one of the rocks in the middle of the rushing pool flowing out from the waterfall. Very carefully, I stepped gingerly from stone to stone. I was very nimble, like a little mountain goat with perfect balance. On the way back to the riverbank, before I took my last step onto the sand, and at the last possible moment, I looked up at a butterfly that had almost hit my face. That moment I could’ve died.
I underestimated the power of the water’s flow, assumed my foot was going where I intended, and the water nudged my step a tad to the right. I stepped onto a slime spot, which was slippery like multiple layers of ice on a sidewalk. I was falling backward before I even knew I was moving. I was totally imbalanced, and there was no way to recover. I say this as a professional dancer and former gymnast, as a person who knows how to change direction in an instant. I fell perpendicularly onto my sacrum, across the keen edge of a rock.
Laying across that rock with the water rushing over me for five seconds was a jarring experience. It took me a few moments to locate myself in space and do a quick check for obvious injuries. But in those five seconds I had an entire interior monologue that felt more like five minutes.
I went there looking for emotional and psychological balance, and was literally so out of physical and social balance that something catastrophic could’ve happened. No one was there. I had no cell signal. If I had paralyzed myself from the waist down, broken a leg, or had some other horrifying injury, I would have been stuck there for who knows how long before someone came by. Even if they did, would they have cell reception? Even if they had that, what then? I was at the bottom of a 200-foot gorge with vertical walls. What? A helicopter? Is that how they would have taken me out of there? That water was glacially frigid. If I hadn’t been able to get out of it, I would’ve gotten hypothermia in no time at all.
And no one I love would have known.
Being an introvert is a strange point of pride that I can’t explain; however, this is totally imbalanced. In the past I’ve made comments here about needing to be better about communicating and connecting, but this was a long overdue wake up call. This was an example of stupidity on my part, and I’ve been doing this for years. If socializing were like food, it’s as if my former anorexic patterns have transmuted from nutrition to people. What a bizarre pattern. Why do I purposefully starve myself of so much? No idea. But I evidently have some questions for my therapist that I’ve been overlooking, and it’s time to look at bringing balance between gluttony and starvation in all parts of my life.
BTW: I’m not badly injured.
Jack Kirven completed the MFA in Dance at UCLA, and earned certification as a personal trainer through NASM. His wellness philosophy is founded upon integrated lifestyles as opposed to isolated workouts. Visit him at jackkirven.com and INTEGRE8Twellness.com.