The mental game of Polar Travel can be intense. I’ve seen strong men paralyzed and make no ground more than once. Due to the vast whiteness its easy to become daunted, demoralised and lose your way. Add to this the brutal living conditions and you can start to feel like a slave chained in the hold of an enormous white galley ship.
I find my Polar morale is pretty shallow. If kites are up and I can make way towards home I am fine. As soon as storms or windless days come along, the mental fatigue kicks in and I yearn for home.
I learnt a huge lesson yesterday. In my head I am piecing together a book entitled “Resilience – How do we foster it?”. I was so putty-soft mentally yesterday that I felt totally unqualified to comment by 6pm!
However I learnt that a huge part of the resilience puzzle is having a partner or friend alongside the challenge who believes in you but is not afraid to have blunt conversations.
Sarah could tell I was low and emotionally exhausted. She knows me well enough to know I am giving my all, but was firm and honest with me last night. With huge thanks to Pivotel and Iridium, we were able unpack my mental state over the Satphone link. One of my advantages is despite being solo, my mental coach is my darling wife!
With tone, word or suggestion Sarah could easily lead me further down the rabbit hole of defeat. However she skilfully and in love led me to see my attitude was poor and it was going to be hard to win without a shift.
We refocused on the grand opportunity of this journey, not the hardship. Refocused on the beauty not the vastness. Planned to allow me time to unpack my emotions in me as I travel slowly. To be patient and take the wins as they come. To remember and give time to Andy (one of my best mates who we lost tragically a few years ago). To be thankful to all my colleagues who work harder so I can try and slay this dragon of a challenge.
The calm has sat over central Antarctica for five days now. A huge Polar high pressure system squats like a fat toad stifling all air movement where I am. Yet I awoke with fresh eyes this morning. Forecast as a no mileage “calm” day I was surprised by the tent “flit,flit” at 3 am. Desperate to use every wind puff I got going.
6 hours flying the big kite, crossing progressively smoother ice and I inched towards the Dome. I noticed each time I turned the amazing big kite a shower of ice crystals would burst from the lines up high and catching the sun looked like gold dust. I noticed the gaps between sastrugi lines was widening and in the sun these smooth areas glowed and all had unique ice patterns. Better still my mind was calm and I rotated thoughts calmly. Thinking of loved ones, friends, work. I gave time to Andy letting him know I miss him, I miss what we had and I released him. I gave thanks for being here.
Above all the sense of gratitude was back and my love for the challenge of it all. All I can say is what a wife. What wisdom and grace. She understands this world so well and is so well educated and placed to get me through this.
Wind comes again soon, so I’ll eat and get my boots on – to the Dome!