The Ridgeway is Britain’s oldest road. In use for around 5,000 years, you’d probably best describe it as a trackway but having walked every inch of its 87 miles, I can certainly attest to its continuity and charm.
Now, unless you’re completely mad, you don’t walk 87 miles in one go. So since I’m only half-crazy, I spent an agreeable week back in 1989 taking it one chunk at a time, overnighting in B&Bs, pubs and hostels.
While I say it was agreeable, I shouldn’t forget that I acquired some pretty impressive blisters along the way and also had to contend with my boots literally falling apart after the first forty miles or so. I made it though the latter half with the soles literally tied on with string.
However these small hardships really do seem as nothing when compared to the amazing sense of achievement after the expedition was over, and some terrific experiences as the week went by.
Like most long(ish)-distance walkers, I adopted a simple philosophy. Don’t dwell on what’s already happened, like blisters and flappy soles. Don’t get anxious about what lies ahead (Would there be room at the inn when I got there, for example? And there wasn’t, always). Do, on the other hand, focus on the here and now; on the next few paces, the next few yards. That’s all. A walk of almost ninety miles is little more than a succession of paces and yards.
And when you think about it, for I’d like you to, this is not a bad metaphor for progressing through life itself, particularly when it has happened to deal you a rotten hand, hopefully temporarily.
As you have no way whatsoever to rewrite the past, is there really any sense in ruminating about it? What’s more, you almost certainly have less influence than you imagine over the long-term future.
So where does this leave us? Well, here. And now.
While it’s commendable to make plans for the future, it’s over the next hour or so that you really have the most control. No sense in obsessing about what’s been and gone, nor in troubling yourself about what is or isn’t still to come (you’re not a fortune teller). Just stay relentlessly focused on the next 60 minutes. When you’ve got through them successfully, there’ll be another batch right along behind them.
One. Step. At. A. Time.