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Break Down. Re-Group. Charge Ahead.

May 30, 2011

Any of you who know me very well know that when something bad happens I always respond in the same way: Breakdown, Re-Group, and then Charge Ahead. This post describes one of those very instances.

I feel as though I should have saved the whole Murphy’s Law spiel for this past Thursday and Friday. In the course of those two days I learned:

  1. My subjects had not been recruited to show up a day or two before they embark for the mountains. This means that instead of having two full days to do nothing but collect data on my subjects, I now have to take measurements on 24 subjects in about 48 hours in both Lander, WY and Vernal, UT while simultaneously competing with the regular NOLS pre-course schedule. This was not good news.
  2. The two main hiking sections I will be taking part on and collecting data take place in the Absorakas, WY, which at this time of year has something like 10-20 feet of snowpack and is heavy grizzly bear country. The snowpack means hiking several miles in snow shoes and bears, other than scary, are going to create logistical problems with group size requirements.
  3. From the end of June through mid-August I will be bouncing around from Lander, WY; Vernal, UT; City of Rocks, ID; The Absorakas, WY; and Devil’s Tower, WY. It will be a wonderful tour of the west; however, it will consist of being constantly on the road and performing data collection on the fly in far from ideal conditions which brings into question the quality of my data.
  4. Got a rejection from NSF. I was ranked as competitive which is nice, but they were only able to fund 5-6 projects this round. That is not many, and the timing of the project and grant application turn around makes re-submitting almost entirely useless.

Add those four things to the following. The past several days I have been feeling that terrible loneliness of not having Aaron, or Diana, or my cat, Poppadom, or any of my friends around. The communication issues due to poor reception cell phone reception which cuts me off from my family. The fact that most of the people I know here in Lander are either out of town or about to leave town. Not to mention the unpleasant physiological changes associated with adapting to high altitude. Fieldwork can lead to oppressive isolation that sets in motion a vicious cycle: I feel bad about being lonely and not having friends, family, and fun distractions around; so I isolate myself because of the bad mood which makes me feel even more lonely and sad which then of course leads to further isolation. This reaches its peak and ends with lots of tears, chocolate, complaining to Aaron (thank you, Aaron), and going to bed very early…the Breakdown.

It really is amazing how that breakdown leads to feeling so much better the next morning…the Re-Group. During this time, Saturday and Sunday, I decided to only do things that make me happy and keep me from dwelling upon all the negative things. Saturday, I had a lovely breakfast and lunch of leftovers, took a long walk around Lander, took a nice hot shower, had pizza and ice cream for dinner, watched some Netflix, read some back issues of Cook’s Illustrated, and started the book Cleopatra.

Sunday, was filled with watching the snow fall outside (see previous post) and relaxing with more reading and Netflix streaming while tightly wrapped in a blanket. Oddly enough, during my Re-Group phase, I found perfect Re-Group advice in a Cook’s Illustrated editorial. The article was about Vermont and included a quote from Calvin Coolidge, “Don’t dither. Don’t fret. Don’t think of the myriad possibilities when faced with a difficult situation. Just do the work in front of you and things will always work themselves out. (And if they don’t, at least our chores will be up-to-date.)”  This is just about the most perfect advice for me right now. I am going to try my best to follow it and keep it in the back of my mind as I now Charge Ahead.

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