During the past four rambles with Ajax, I reflected on our progress on our project. Is it still meeting its purpose? Am I experiencing “shiny object syndrome” (i.e. wanting to jump to something else midstream) or just the murky middle that sometimes comes with long-term projects? What are some ways to follow through on intentions?
Pinehurst Pocket Park
Doubt started creeping up on me during the Memorial Day weekend. My daughter was home for three days so I had some free time. I refused to battle holiday crowds in the mountains, so Ajax and I did a local Ramble instead.
We included a stop at Pinehurst Pocket Park, a tiny park covering less than half a city block. But despite visiting six little free libraries, something was missing. I long for solitude, for views, for the freedom to let Ajax roam off-leash. I miss the mountains. What would finishing 52 unique rambles do for me that hiking wouldn’t? Was I ready to change my intentions? Or maybe I was just having an off day. Perhaps my attitude would change when I tried a few more.
View Ridge Playfield
A few days later, I returned my daughter to the UW campus for finals week. On the way back, Ajax and I visited the View Ridge Playfield neighborhood. It brought back memories of summer visits to the kiddie pool when my daughter was a toddler.
We visited three little free libraries on this ramble, including one outside the Sand Point Community United Methodist Church, constructed to resemble the church itself. I marveled at all of the modern architecture in the neighborhood. At the same time, I felt crowded and confined, with people rushing from birthday parties to the library to local coffee and bagel shops.
In a word, hectic. A feeling I escape in the mountains and try to avoid during Rambles. But the farther south I explore (i.e. closer to downtown) the more hectic the pace feels. The yearning for the peaceful solace and rhythm of the mountains grows stronger with each urban ramble, now that more people are getting outside in nice weather. Or perhaps because I was able to see the mountains without being in them.
Haller Lake in the Murky Middle
The following day, our ramble to Haller Lake in north Seattle made me want to give up. Not because of inclement weather.
We strolled clockwise around the small, private lake hoping to find a waterfront path (it doesn’t exist) or at least public access to the lake (there is only one such spot).
Behind the North Seattle Church, we caught our first glimpse of the lake. Unfortunately, the only access by non-residents is on the west side. So we continued on our way, eager to spot any lingering waterfowl. So far, all we’d heard among the usual suspects were red-winged blackbirds, common inhabitants of wetlands such as Montlake Fill and Magnuson Park.
No Dogs Allowed
But as we strode toward the lake from the west, my heart dropped. A sign proclaimed No dogs allowed on Seattle beaches. A local collecting trash gave us the ol’ stink-eye.
“C’mon, Ajax, it looks like we’re not welcome here,” I said to my docile pup. He dutifully followed without a single growl or bark. I hate feeling unwelcome anywhere, but especially in green spaces touted as accessible to and for all. Apparently not dogs.
“I don’t want to visit any more spaces that make me feel unwanted, unsafe, or uncomfortable,” I thought as we left Haller Lake.
But I had to remind myself, this was different. This was mostly a private access lake. And maybe the lady just had weird eyes. Maybe she wasn’t directing anything toward me. Perhaps the anger I felt was due to a poor, uninformed choice. But anger it was. Not one of the reasons I go on walks with Ajax.
The Desire to Quit Rears Its Ugly Head
So this morning, I told a friend that I was considering stopping my Rambles project. Surprised, she asked why. I mumbled something like, “I miss the mountains. And I miss visiting some of my favorite places where there are no people.” Both are valid reasons.
But they don’t tell the whole true story. I think I was willing to scrap my whole year-long project… in order to avoid shame. Well, eff that. That’s on ME, not anyone else. And now that I know what I was doing, I won’t cave.
Something my friend said reminded me to review my big why: this project was a way to explore mindfulness, learn to be more fully present, and experience joy in tiny moments. Haller Lake may not have been joyful but many of the others have been.
Review Your Intentions
Once she left, I reread what I hoped to get out of this year. June seems to be as good a time as any to reflect on intentions set at the start of the year.
- Appreciate beauty
- Connect deeply
- Move frequently
- Create abundantly
- Improve lovingly
- Challenge gently
I realized that I’d slipped on my why. And the two that need more work are “appreciate beauty” and “improve lovingly.” I have been trying to strongarm myself into going to places within walking distance of home — that may be aesthetically unappealing or worse, downright unsafe.
But what if I gave myself permission — challenged myself gently — to access green spaces beyond walking distance for my final twelve Rambles? What’s stopping me from driving to new green spaces like I do hikes?
Richmond Beach Saltwater Park
So, with renewed interest in our project (just in time for Ramble 40!), I drove to Richmond Beach Saltwater Park for a walk-and-talk with a writing friend. Connection. Check. I expected great views of the Olympics. Saltwater birds. And with any luck, no crowds.
This morning, the only people enjoying the park were dog walkers (like us) and stair climbers (also like us.) Movement. Check. We headed along the top promenade for an overlook of the park and ended up at a gorgeous Madrone tree – I think, based on the peeling bark. Beauty. Check.
My writing friend gave me several big hugs and encouraged me to continue with our quest. Twelve to go.
Takeaways: Surviving the Murky Middle
Whatever goal you are pursuing, at some point you may think, “Do I still want this? Does it matter? How can I stay interested and engaged through the finish line?” I offer some final thoughts about what might help.
- Before you completely give up on any intention, give it a day or a week to let yourself think about it. You may be having a tough day. Things might look better with a little distance from your intention.
- Review the initial reasons why you embarked on this journey in the first place. Perhaps (like it did for me) something has slipped and a reminder will jump-start you.
- Discuss your decision-making process with someone who understands your struggle. They might have a fresh opinion that can help you see it in a different way.
Tweak Your Intentions
- Can you tweak your intention (i.e. nudge the notch) to make it a little more compelling? For me, reminding myself that it’s okay to drive to mid-distance green spaces opens up a ton of areas to explore. Not only will I still save on gas and driving time, but the choices just got a lot more interesting.
- Imagine two outcomes: completing and not completing your intention. What will each look and feel like? Will you have any regrets about your decision? What does completing (or not) your intention say about you? What good might come from completing it, even if you feel like you’re struggling? And if it’s no longer right, be comfortable walking away without shame or guilt.
- Finally, if you have been working on an intention alone, find a buddy or accountability partner. They help!
If you are struggling to follow through on an intention, don’t give up! Share your dilemma in the comments so we can support each other.