Quitting the pity party [November 13]
There’s a good reason we talk about ‘wallowing’ in self-pity. Giving in to this emotion is like wading into wet concrete: at some point you can find yourself stuck fast. I recently had a narrow escape.
I’d been reading travel blogs by friends of mine doing marathon hiking trips. In Tasmania and Turkey, Central Australia and Spain, they were all clutching maps and grinning like Cheshire cats. Desk-bound in Melbourne, I sat sighing with self-pity.
Why not get out there and join them, I hear you ask?
I did have a plan. This summer I was going to walk the north coast of New Zealand’s south island with some adventurous buddies. The bookings had been made and I’d begun researching backpacks.
Then I visited the doctor who looks after my dodgy spine. A decade and half ago I ended up under the surgeon’s knife. Ever since then my grumbling vertebrae have required careful management.
At the mention of the New Zealand tramping trip the doctor’s eyes widened. Sure, she said, you can lug a backpack around the land of the long white cloud – if you want to have another round of surgery.
I wouldn’t be crossing the ditch after all. Instead I’d be confined to barracks, drooling over my mates’ smiling selfies. Poor me.
According to psychologists, self-pity is a negative emotion that doesn’t help us deal with adverse situations. It’s a state of mind in which we haven’t accepted a situation and believe we are the victims of events. It’s also quite boring.
After wallowing around for a while I decided to quit my self-pity party. It was time for a reality check.
On every other occasion that I’d gone bushwalking carrying my food, clothing and shelter on my back, I’d endured awful pain. Hiking Hinchinbrook Island, battling headwinds in Croajingalong National Park, staggering along the beaches of Fraser Island, I had been punished by my dodgy back. And no doubt my moaning had been punishing for my travel companions.
Fortunately the tourism industry can cater for spines like mine. In rural France a few years ago I walked a hundred kilometres between medieval villages carrying only a water bottle and a camera. My luggage was taxied from hotel to hotel and my back felt just fine.
There’s no point trying to be Wonder Woman. See you in the spa.
(This column was first published by Fairfax, November 2017)