My father died before he retired. Ever since, I’ve tried to pack as much into my life as I can. Do everything. I never worried about getting older, I was just grateful to have time. But now that I’m approaching 40, I’ve noticed I’m beginning to feel a bit panicky; there’s so much I should be doing and now I’m noticing a time pressure I hadn’t felt before. While living in Morzine has opened the door to an action-packed world of activities, it can be overwhelming. I feel I have no idea how to make the most of it all.
The menu of potential activities here is long: world class skiing, ice climbing, ski touring, kayaking, canyoning, biking, hiking, open water swimming, rafting, hydrospeeding. There are things to do in winter, spring, summer and autumn, during the day or at night, on the piste, off the piste, on the mountain, in the river, in the air. There are art classes, French classes, cooking classes, yoga classes, spinning… it’s endless.
“In the UK I ticked boxes and followed a well-trodden, little examined life path, that I filled with enjoyable activities I’d sought out and liked doing. I thought I was pretty remarkable for having travelled a bit.”
Inevitably, with all these activities on the doorstep, many intimidatingly active people have either grown up, or been drawn here. People who think nothing of doing quick tours (on skis, bikes, snow shoes, trainers) up various mountains before work / at night, in any weather. The standard is high. People work flat-out all week, then complete gruelling races that see to take place around the area every weekend. Then they return to work having done the shopping, cleaned and dropped off multiple children at creche, without even a mention of a blister or stiff muscles. I feel I too should be making the most of it and doing it well. Everyone else manages it.
In the UK I ticked boxes and followed a well-trodden, little examined life path, that I filled with enjoyable activities I’d sought out and liked doing. I thought I was pretty remarkable for having travelled a bit. I thought I was pretty fit as I went swimming before work. Here, surrounded by Duracell bunnies making the most of everything the mountains have to offer, it didn’t take me long to realise I wasn’t nearly as fit or competent as I’d thought.
It’s humbling to admit to being average, but I did so to my husband (a rafting guide, canyoning guide and ski patroller, i.e. someone who makes the most of the valley). I told him I was disappointed with myself because I’ve lived here ten years and I’m still not very good at anything. I’m a terrible climber, I don ’t really like canyoning, I can’t kayak and my son (who’s five) is more at home on the snow than me, and speaks better French. All this underachievement was bringing me down and I felt I didn’t deserve to live in this wonderful place because I wasn’t capable of making the most of it.
His response is what prompted this article. Why did I care about being good at climbing, canyoning or kayaking? What did it matter if I was ‘good’ at anything? Surely I should be enjoying what I was doing? He pointed out that very few people actually do everything on offer, and nobody thinks of themselves as exceptional or extraordinary – it’ s a subjective scale that changes according to who’s judging.
“Here, surrounded by Duracell bunnies making the most of everything the mountains have to offer, it didn’t take me long to realise I wasn’t nearly as fit or competent as I’d thought.”
People do extraordinary things all the time without realising it, all because they’re enjoying doing what they’re doing, while they’re doing it. Perhaps it’s being a fabulous mother, a great cook, a fantastic juggler. Maybe it’ s climbing, kayaking and canyoning. The point is, it’s not doing something to say you’ve done it, or because you feel you should. It’s doing something because you want to. My husband doesn’t climb because he feels like he should, he climbs because he enjoys it. He doesn’t kayak because he ought to, he does it for the buzz he gets while he’s doing it. It doesn’t worry him that he’s a terrible cook. And he certainly isn’t judging anyone else on what they are or aren’t doing well or badly.
He suggested, given the number of options in Morzine, it makes more sense not to put myself into a situation I’m uncomfortable in because I feel I ‘should’. Instead, I could give myself permission to do fewer activities, but ones I enjoy doing. I could eliminate some ‘shoulds’ and free up time to concentrate on what I enjoy. And while doing something I enjoy, I might even get good at it…!
Honestly, I’m still pretty sure I’m not particularly good at anything, but that doesn’t matter so much anymore. Going by my husband’s logic, I wouldn’t know. It’s other people who find you extraordinary, not yourself!