In the past, when something unexpected (and potentially disastrous) has happened, I have tended to react in a way that someone lost in the woods might do: panic and start running. Apparently, that is the worst thing you can do when you get lost. According to REI.com, the best plan of action would be to remember this acronym, favored by the Emergency Response Institute of Olympia, Washington: S-T-O-P.: Stop, Think, Observe and Plan. Here is the first step:

“Stop: If you feel uncomfortable with your situation, don’t go any farther. Don’t panic, either. Young or inexperienced backcountry travelers should be taught to stay put once they feel lost. “Hug a tree” is familiar, and worthwhile, advice. The rule changes if the area is unsafe or someone in your group needs medical attention. Count to 10, drink some water or eat a little food. These acts often give you a fresh perspective and help you better assess your situation.”

In the last couple of days, “Stop” is exactly what I’ve done. I have paused to gather my wits and to calm myself down, making sure I don’t run off in the wrong direction. I am hugging my equivalent of a tree and I feel more balanced than I ever have in a challenging situation such as this. Think, Observe and Plan come next, when I’m ready.

Life is like this sometimes: just when you’ve made progress in one area, suddenly a new, seemingly even larger challenge appears on the horizon; as if it was deemed I was somehow ready for it. And I want to say: goddamn it I am not ready!!! No one seems to be listening.

In my experience these days, there are only rare moments in which to consolidate information and experiences. Most of the time life moves forward like in a vintage 80’s Super Mario-videogame: no going back. The fucking screen chases you from behind and keeps gaining, and if you stop, you’re dead. I realize I’m mixing my metaphors here…. Stopping to hug a tree and then running to keep up with the game. Well, both are true. Life is not simple enough to keep my metaphors in check. So. Let’s just say that I paused the game for a bit to consult my manual. I will continue momentarily.