I’ve recently completed Endurance by Alfred Lansing, a story of Antarctic adventure during the early 1900s. It’s an amazing read, a story of smarmy seafaring men and unimaginable adversity. The captain, Sir Ernest Shackleton, and his crew, have nothing to help them other than what nature provides and their own will to survive.
The thing that got to the men most, other than life-threatening conditions of starvation and dehydration, was the utter boredom of being laid up on a patch of desolate land, never interacting with anyone else. Nothing to read, no where to go, all topics of discussion exhausted, the men fought to maintain sanity during the polar winter, and the associated sub-zero temperatures and few hours of daylight.
All the while, the men never lost the will to survive. Through heart attacks, gangrene, and a near total lack of carbohydrates, they accepted the conditions that they could not alter, and fought to live (or die) another day.
It’s important to pull a lesson from anything we can in this world, whenever possible. Something that I’m sure will constantly reiterate itself in my mind is the mens’ attitudes through cold conditions. So often in life we bitch and moan about the most menial situations.
“It’s rainy and grey out.”
“I’m too cold.”
“This dress makes me look fat.”
Whenever you find one of these thought patterns running through your head, whether or not it reaches the point of verbalization, reflect on Shackleton, captain of the Endurance, and his men. They had one set of perpetually wet clothes, lacked the strength and vigor to do much at all, and spent years surviving on glaciers and the treacherous conditions of the Antarctic seas. If they could do it, I’m sure whatever situations we find ourselves in are manageable.
Remember, the joy of being alive on this earth is infinitely greater than anything bad that can happen to you, or any speed bump you might hit along the way. This is a lesson that I frequently tried to communicate to the teenagers I work with during summer expeditions. While it may be cold at night, or rainy, or a ferry is totally booked, the best course of action is to accept situations that are completely out of our hands. If you can, the best thing to do is reframe what was once a negative situation into a positive one. Embrace the rain and its induction of life. Accept blazing heat and the sensations it brings to the body. Things are only “bad” because we label them as such. Frame situations into a positive light, and little by little, you’ll find more things in the world suddenly just going your way.