Getting Comfortable with Discomfort

Temperature, hunger, weight, solitude.

A good portion of being outdoors in the elements, backpacking, living in a remote rustic cabin, chasing dawn recordings, hiking with gear, etc is uncomfortable. I am very privileged in that most of the environments I am in on a regular basis are climate controlled to perfectly moderate temperatures and humidity levels while also being bug free. This is true at home, at work, the places I socialize, and just about everywhere else go. In order to setup myself for better experiences while in the outdoors, I think it’s important to create and maintain situations where I am less comfortable to become more adjusted to this.

I sweat quite a bit. It’s genetic. I don’t have to do much activity before I’m drenched. This has resulted in me being quite uncomfortable when I get hot. So this summer, I’ve been spending more time doing normal things in ways that cause me to be warm and manage that discomfort. I wear long sleeve shirts and pants even when it’s quite warm. I have refrained from turning on the air conditioning at The Bunker (my house) and it’s the middle of June in Iowa so there have been some hot days. Even now, I am staying at biological field research station for a few weeks where I run an artist-in-residence program and I’ve also not turned on the AC in my room.

And then there’s bugs. My skin is very sensitive. Always has been. I also am apparently very attractive to mosquitoes. I can be standing outside with 2 or 3 other people and be covered in them while the others aren’t getting a single bite. I use the Sawyer Picaridin lotion which works great. But this is another discomfort I wanted to tackle for this trip. So during these past few weeks up at the Iowa Lakeside Lab biological field research station, I’ve been going out into the field, teaching my Acoustic Ecology class, and running the artist-in-residence program all bug lotion-less. The mosquitos haven’t been terrible this year but regardless, it is allowing me to manage the mild discomfort that comes from having mosquitos land on me and the few resulting bites I’ve gotten.

I also know that for much of this trip I am going to need to be moving while also loaded up with some extra weight. I’ve done several backpacking trips before and have always been able to keep my pack quite light. But this trip is going to be different. Normally when I am backpacking, the focus is not sound collection so I bring a small recording rig and collect a few things here and there. Most recently, the major backpacking trips I’ve done have been with my father. We call then our annual #FatherSonGetOut. They are amazing and have been a fantastic way for us to stay connected. In fact, this year’s will be at the end of my time as an Isle Royale AIR when my father will join me on the island and we’ll head off. But again, these trips are not about sound recording, they are about time together, out in nature, enjoying the experience, learning about each other, strengthening our relationship, and for me working on more actively being present. So I don’t bring my larger recording rig on these.

But for this trip, I am. This means I need to get used to moving with more weight on. To address this, I started running with a weighted vest back in December. I had the idea after our last #FatherSonGetOut that if I used a weighted vest to run indoors in the winter, I get get more used to moving with additional weight while also getting more workout bang for my time. Once I learned I had been selected as an IR AIR, I increased the weight of the vest and have been integrating it more into my fitness regimen. This way, I can continue increasing my stamina, leg strength, core strength (I was not expected weighted vest running to be so beneficial to core strength), agility, and balance.

I plan to increase the weight of the vest a couple more pounds soon but overall, it’s helping me to feel both stronger and at ease with additional weight on while moving (quickly in some cases). My fitness regimen has helped in this too, which I’ll cover in a different post. But anything I can do begin mentally dealing with the potential discomforts of this upcoming experience I feel will be beneficial. Temperature, weight, hunger, etc. If I can get more comfortable being warm, cold, hungry, wet, and strapped up with weight, then I can focus more on the experience, the sounds, and the moment.