By Mark Kenyon
It was a chill of several different sorts.
20 feet up a tree last night, I of course felt the brisk ice-in-the-air chill of a mid-December wind. The kind of chill that blushes your cheeks, dribbles snot down your whiskers, and numbs the farthest tips of your fingers.
But I also felt a different chill, one that cut further to the core. The kind of chill that slips into the deepest darkest recesses of your mind, the kind that whispers doubt in your ear, the kind that wrenches at your stomach.
This season’s been a disaster. It’s not going to happen. This is a waste of time.
Throughout most aspects of my life, I’m an ardent optimist. But I’m also very driven, very achievement focused and admittedly prone to stressing over those pursuits. Deer hunting included. Every year I tell myself I need to work harder to relax during the hunting season, to not worry so much, to not let the stress get to me so often. And I do think I’ve gotten better. But if I’m being honest, it’s in a constant state of flux. I’m a bit of a bi-polar bowhunter.
One day I’m ready and raring to go, confident that it’s going to be a good night and excited about the possibilities. Fast forward five hours later though and I’m cussing at the world, my nerves worn down thin like parchment, and sure that the season’s opportunities have slipped through my fingers. This is especially true in the late season, after many months of ups and downs.
It’s not something I’m proud of and it’s clear I have my flaws. But I think these occasional emotional roller-coasters are to be expected, for me and likely for all of us to some degree, being human after all.
Fortunately, there’s a cure. After all the cussing and worrying and pissing and moaning, I do have one trick up my sleeve that seems to help quite a bit. A trump card, a cheat code, an ace in the hole.
Tony Robbins, a massively popular and impactful life and business strategist, explains “You can’t be angry and grateful simultaneously. You can’t be fearful and grateful simultaneously. So, gratitude is the solution to both anger and fear, and instead of just acting grateful, I think of specific situations that I’m grateful for, little ones and big ones. I do it every single day, and I step into those moments and I feel the gratitude and the aliveness.”
No matter what your situation, I know there are things for you to be thankful for. There certainly are for me. This, of course, could apply to all facets of life – but lets focus for the moment just on hunting.
Sure, my deer hunting season has been frustrating. I haven’t killed a single deer yet this year – not one – this being the longest I’ve gone into a season without filling a tag in years. I’ve obsessively chased one specific buck around for months, putting in hundreds of tree stand hours, yet always being one step behind or screwing things up at inopportune times – like that one time he walked in to 25 yards and gave me a clear shot, but I was too focused on my cell phone to know he was there. That kind of thing will give you nightmares. And I’m still plodding along into the late season hoping to catch up to him now, but without a sighting in nearly a month.
But you know what? As frustrating as it’s been, it’s also been amazing. I’ve had heart-racing encounters. I’ve had moments in the woods that have thrilled me, that have set me shaking, that have filled me with so much raw emotion I could nearly burst. I’ve been to beautiful places, observed wildlife doing wild things, and shared moments with friends and family that I’ll remember forever. There’s so much to be thankful for. How could I possibly be disappointed?
There’s still some hunting season ahead of me, so here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to keep on grinding and working towards my goals – no doubt about that. But the next time my late season hunts bum me out or get me stressed or sap my confidence – I’m going to take a deep breath, let it out and then think back on a sunset or a high five or a hot beverage enjoyed after a long day in the woods. And then I’ll say thanks.
Feel free to give it a try too.