Saturday, December 25, 2010

wilderness meltdown!

Well, this is really embarrassing but I must confess: the Wilderness Princess made an appearance yesterday.

You may know the type. She (actually it can be a he) whines about being cold, or wet, or hot, or tired. She wants someone to do the hard stuff for her. She is unable to deal.  She's, well, a princess.

 WPs are annoying at best.  And usually I am not one. But something happened yesterday. It could have been the awful ski conditions. The extremely steep slope I was attempting to navigate. Falling over a dog as I tried to stop on same slope. Worry about bashing knees.  It was the perfect storm. The WP emerged.

What followed was a highly inappropriate tantrum complete with a few choice words. I may or may not have said, "I hate this." I may or may not have said, "I hate myself."

See, at the root of my WP is someone who wants to be good at all outdoor adventures. She wants to be a fast hiker, good skier, fearless runner of rapids. She wants to be the best. When faced with adversity, she crumbles. She's not mad at others--only herself for not measuring up.

To his credit Jerry said, "It's tough when the frustration builds up." He did not, like a previous boyfriend, suggest that I do not have grace under pressure. He knows that I do; he has taken the time to know my stories, the person I have been before we met. He knows I led fire crews into dangerous situations. He knows I have paddled in twelve foot seas. In those situations the WP had darn well better not show up, and she didn't. In a way, having her show up when he is around is the ultimate compliment--because I feel safe enough to let down the guard I have carried all my adult life. And, after seeing the WP he still wants to marry me. Amazing!

Personally I don't want the WP to make more appearances. Instead I would like to learn my limits and be able to accept that I have them. To know that I don't have to excell at everything. That  I can turn back if the trail gets hard, as long as I have tried my hardest up until then.

It's not easy though. Most of my life has been spent doing really hard jobs. Fighting fire. Clearing trail. And even though they were the most fun I ever had, I had to maintain a vigilance. Who was going to get me across a raging river when I was a wilderness ranger? Nobody but me. Was I going to give up the chainsaw when we were snagging because I was "tired"? I don't think so. In Alaska I had to be prepared to shoot a brown bear at all times. In other places there were talus slopes, lightning, flash floods.

So asking for help or saying I can't do something seems like weakness. I keep on, until I can no longer keep on. The WP shows up.

She's not the shiniest star in my repertoire. But I kind of understand her. She's had to tag alongside her twin, the Wilderness Storm Trooper, the one who has had to keep it together through the loss of friends and the collapse of a marriage.

Neither one is self-sustaining. For the future, I look for a balance. I seek a middle ground.


  1. I have seen WPs in my family and even myself! At times it seems contagous. Once the day goes bad for one it starts to go bad for everyone! I have noticed, however, when it's all said and done....I'm always glad I got to be outside! As the saying goes...worst day on the trail still beats the best day in the office!

  2. My WP showed up recently while learning to snowboard. "I hate this" was definitely heard. Luckily the nice person stayed with me and helped. I felt like the little kids on the bunny slope who sat down and had tantrums, screaming "I don't want to ski!"

  3. It really is OK to have a WP! I'm glad Jerry is helping you to see that.

  4. Sounds like Jerry made the perfect and supportive remark, at the right moment. :-)

  5. A good self-analysis....I think the WP resides in all of us (even though it is not in Wilderness for most of us) and while it's not our most attractive side, it's very good to know that someone can observe our WP fits and still love us. Love yourself, too! And do show the post to's a great compliment to him as well.

  6. Mary--this is awesome. I totally understand the frustration in screwing up and feeling like you're letting yourself down. I'm became a fishing princess when I couldn't crank up the gurdies to bring in the fish. I hate confronting my physical limitations.

  7. Love this. It happens to all of us, and I'm impressed and happy for you to have someone supportive by your side. What Jerry said is indeed grace, and I think that is awesome.
    I know that Storm Trooper persona all too well, and while we are really proud to be tough and self-sufficient, the fact is that it takes more courage and toughness to be vulnerable, to let someone know us. So when you find someone who can handle that Princess meltdown side, hey, sounds like a pretty damned good thing to me.


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