The ‘One Foot in Front’ Rule

Thoughts on remaining in the present moment.

This morning I ran the Canyonlands/Mt. Lakeway trail. It’s close to my house, just West of Austin, TX. The hike was an ambitious endeavor that I probably didn’t put enough thought into. You see, it’s summer in Texas, which means it’s exactly 10 degrees hotter than hell. Texans would go to hell if they could to cool off.

Then there’s the climbing. It’s a lot of climbing for Texas. If you complete the entire trail, it’s approximately 1200ft of vertical. So, obviously, I’m a few enchiladas short of a combination plate. But, I had a new running vest begging to be worn, and I thought it wouldn’t be that bad in the morning.

It was.

For some stupid reason, I like a challenge, and since it’s a single track in and out, you have to gauge how you feel because however far you trek in, that’s how far you have to trek out. So the trail winds around with minor climbs and descents until you finally arrive at the base of Mount Lakeway, approximately two miles into the hike.

One of my favorite things is ascending to the very top of Mt. Lakeway and ringing the gong that hangs from a telephone pole. I look out over how far I’ve come as the gong sound resonates, clasp my hands together, thank God for my life, followed by a little Namaste that I feel is sending some gratitude to the surrounding valley, trees, and wildlife for letting me invade their space. I know it seems goofy, but it feels good.

Then,

I run my ass down that mountain! The rule I have in my head is that there is no stopping. It’s fun but challenging. Once I began running that far in, I didn’t want to lose ground and stop earlier. I crap out pretty soon after I make my way back down the mountain and typically limp the last mile and a half back to my car.

Today, however, it was such a challenge. I probably shouldn’t have gone all the way up to the gong. But, dang, I’m task-oriented. I ran down the mountain, trying not to bust my ass, but entirely out of breath. So I slowed my pace to a manageable level. But exercising in high heat can cause blood to draw away from the heart, making any physical exertion much more difficult.

I’d glance at the switchbacks dangling down the mountain, and I immediately think, Oh man, I do NOT have the UMPH to make it without stopping. So then, I would reel my thoughts in, focus, and think only about putting one foot in front of the other.

You may remember those stop-motion animated Christmas specials if you’re old like me. There was one called Santa Claus is Coming to Town with Mickey Rooney as the voice of Kris Kringle. He has to battle the Burgermeister Meisterburger and the Winter Warlock. It was the same people who did the Rudolph movies. But there was one song in this one called “One Foot in Front of the Other.”

As I reel my mind back in on Mt. Lakeway, that stupid song creeps in my head all these years later. Not only am I screaming down a mountain, but I’m also doing it while singing this song and laughing the whole way. It just pops in my head every time I start to struggle with thoughts of if I’m going to make it or not. If I deal with only that one next step, I’m suddenly down the mountain and headed to a local bar for a recovery beer.

I’ve noticed I do this in many different areas of my life. I’ve written about my horrible flight anxiety, which is hilarious since I work in an industry that has me traveling all the time and that I once was a flight attendant. You’d think I’d be over it by now. But I do this weird obsessing thing. I’ll check the weather ahead of time. See all the storms in my path that I’ll be flying through, and by the time I board, I’m a complete mess. Then, as we’re flying, I’ll see thunderheads ahead and start shaking, worrying, and stressing. I’ve had some terrifying flights, including one a few months ago that left me with many bruises. But I didn’t die.

This last week when I was traveling, I avoided the weather channel. Until my daughter asked me where I was going and after I told her, she said, “Isn’t there a hurricane headed there right now?”

Shit.

My face at that exact moment.

This time when I was flying, I tried my mountain trick. Well, sort of. I couldn’t put my feet in front, mainly because the lame lady in front of me put her seat back into my lap and cut into my knees. Even in pain, I found a way to reel in my thoughts. I asked, “Am I bouncing right now?” The answer was, “No, but there’s this gnarly looking cloud ahead….” Ahhhhhh, stop. And I asked again. “Am I bouncing right now?” The answer was “no.” (Yes, I had a complete conversation with myself.)

We did hit turbulence, but they weren’t too bad. I think it helped that I was calmer by the time that we did instead of arriving at level 10 based solely on my thought process.

I can work myself up and worry about a million different scenarios that aren’t taking place at that exact moment. When I think about the physical effect of worrying about things in the future, which are only possibilities, I am stunned at how much it takes its toll. Our bodies still respond to this perceived stress.

I’m working on living in the present moment in a few areas of my life right now that I’m struggling with. So I appreciate learning these lessons in the little things to apply them to the big areas of my life.

So, I say a big Namaste to that lesson!

And my apologies if that song is now stuck in your head.

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