Morning Soliloquy, 2013
Our recent trip to the Catskill Mountains of New York State began smoothly enough, but evolved into a high stress situation when my car broke down just short of our isolated mountain destination.
I’m usually pretty good at handling stress. If something serious comes up I get right to work sorting it out. Once I’ve figured out what my options are, I consider a few strategies and make a plan.
A big part of this process is identifying the “outside” risks; that is, what’s the worst that can happen and how will I deal with that? Even if I don’t expect it to happen, I find it a lot easier to at least be mentally prepared.
When I say “worst,” I don’t want you to think I walk around in a perpetual cloud of worry and anticipation. I’m not thinking asteroids falling on me or, in the case of this weekend in the Catskills, my family being set upon by bears. (There were bears around, but I didn’t seriously think they’d attack us in the house.) Being stranded in the mountain house, miles from anyone, was a concern, but far from the worst thing that could happen to someone. And even if the worst case scenario played out—the one requiring me to buy a new car—this is still, when all’s said and done, one of those embarrassingly insensitive “first world” problems that shows how little you know about true deprivation if this is all you can complain about.
The worst part, though, was that I couldn’t do anything immediately. It was night and late. Any business I needed to reach was closed. We were stranded in the middle of nowhere and I couldn’t do anything about it until the next day.
I didn’t sleep well. A mind that needs to get things sorted out doesn’t rest well in the absence of information.
Fortunately, the breakdown occurred on a Thursday night. Businesses would be open the next day. I got on the phone the next morning. By late afternoon we’d have replacement wheels and by evening my car would be on the way to someone who would know what to do with it.
I could relax. I knew we’d no longer be any more marooned than we wanted to be. I slept well that night.
The next morning I woke just as the sun was rising. I went outside and walked up a path that led away from the clearing and sat on a stone outcropping. My predisposition would normally be to keep walking and looking for things to photograph. But instead I sat on the rock for a while. I listened to the birds. I looked across the peaks of lower mountains and watched the fog and rain roll across distant valleys.
Before I knew it, thirty minutes had passed. I didn’t have any great moments of revelation. But my mind was clear and open again and free of stress. I knew I’d found what I’d hoped to find on this trip.