It seems like the hectic holidays started somewhere way back yonder – a few days before Thanksgiving. Yes, things are finally back to a more usual low roar, but I realized the other day that I’m in need of some solitary time on the water to help me shake off the holiday intensity. The whole thing got me thinking about what I think drives me crazy and what repairs my psyche.
My first insight was that I’m just about as happy as a clam being by myself at times – not all the time, but sometimes. Like right after I’ve had just about as many holiday parties as I can stand. I honestly breathe out a sigh of relief that it’s all over until next year, and I can take down the lights, put away the tree and just fantasize about my upcoming fishing trips. I was feeling stretched mentally and I knew I needed to go fishing to recharge the battery. But why?
That’s when it struck me. My fishing and decathlon training were actually very similar on so many levels. Three things jumped out at me: intensity of focus, solitary purpose and hard work. I had never thought of those exact parallels between the two disciplines that way before. I guess I’ve spent so many years training alone for hours every day that I don’t feel right if I’m not intensely focused on something. Yes, that’s how I roll.
Pursuing a purpose in a solitary environment seems to be the thing I need to clear my mind, as everything but my purpose is washed out. No clutter, no irritating background noise. Just the unobtrusive and gentle sound of water lapping while focusing on catching a fish. It’s counterintuitive that something that commands your complete attention would be the very thing that allows your mind to rest from all the chaos. I think it’s when great things happen.
I’ve seen guys who were totally wound up relax for the first time in quite awhile when out on the boat. I’ve had countless anglers tell me that they “need” to go fishing – as if it’s a desperate plea for help. I know what they mean. I think it’s where many of us live, even if we don’t know why exactly.
No other thoughts, focused on one thing and relaxed. I believe that’s also what going into the “zone” is all about: effortless solitary purpose. I feel the same thing when I’m training – free to run as fast as I can.
Lastly, I believe that adding the final ingredient – intense effort – means you’re doing the work and building the physical and emotional strength you need to overcome and respect yourself. Yes, that’s the hard lifting, the grinding-to-the-limit type of work that leaves you spent but fulfilled because you’re doing what you love to do. My best victories have come when I was alone, doing the hard thing and expended. It’s a spartan kind of intensity, where self-discipline is the thing that builds your self-respect and character. I believe most of us need this kind of testing to see who we are. My time on the water resets my internal thermostat, just like my training did.
These thoughts are not for everyone, just the other crazies out there who also have a passion for fishing, too.
I believe these factors must be pretty primal; they are so deep and basic. However, they also seem to be crucial to how we operate as human beings, giving us mental relief and escape from the constant and chaotic outside stress.
Fishing is both an escape valve and a passion for me. Realizing more clearly why I react and feel the way I do has helped me understand what it is that’s so special about the sport we all pursue. Sorry, but I’m glad the holidays are over. It’s time to get back to fishing – my brain needs it!
Never give up!
PS: I lost a good friend and fishing buddy last week, Greg James of Fresno. Our condolences to his family. He was a great guy and an avid outdoorsman. He will be missed!