It’s been a month since my feet have hit a trail. A month filled with shift. A month that seemed to move a mountain within me.
A month ago, I hit a wall, especially as hiking was concerned.
When hard stuff happens, pushing through, almost as if nothing had happened, is a common way to move past. Pretending nothing is different helps power response and the effort to keep life on an even keel.
Over the last nine months, each month I have faced challenges unexpected, life-altering and stability-threatening. A car wreck, a hiking accident, a snow-shoeing disaster, ended relationship, potential family collapse, and personal health issues. I got to a place where I couldn’t think of anything further than five minutes ahead. Not depression so much as nothingness. Not denial so much as a complete let-go.
I did what I’ve done over the last two or three years to help myself: I took to the trails. I asked nature to help me heal.
In the past, I have flourished in the challenge of the trail and I sought this feeling, this connection within myself with nature and the companionship of the trail.
The results were mixed. Release was huge. But, now that I take the time to look back, I was also pushing myself in an unreasonable way. I yearned to feel connection and the amazing capacity of my body. And though I could hike, I was frustrated because I felt that I was slower and less capable than I had been a year before – before all the “stuff” of the last nine months.
A month ago, I did a hike which a year before I had done easily and at a quicker speed. This time, as I struggled up the mountain, the disappointment grew. I found I could no longer pretend that I hadn’t been affected by the last nine months. I couldn’t look away. I was different and carrying a burden I didn’t have last year. A burden which took extra from me, leaving less to offer to myself and to the experience of the trail. As much as I had tried to ignore and resist, I concluded in the moment that any level of disillusion no longer served the best of me and who I am to become.
At some point in rehabilitation, acknowledgement of the reality of me and my “stuff” is necessary – not to hold back but to have any hope of moving forward.
When you pick yourself up in the immediate moments after “stuff,” long-term consequences are not apparent. Time is needed for the fullness of the impact to make itself known. This not knowing initially makes life easier, easier to get up and get by. There be a feeling of motion forward.
At some point, reckoning needs to be encouraged and sought after. That hike, a month ago, was my moment of reckoning. Based on my experience yesterday on the trail, I am still in the midst of reckoning. And there is every reason for me to still be in the thick of release. Any one event of the last nine months would be enough to require a period of recovery. And my recovery is intensified by the combination of events within this brief period of time.
Yesterday’s hike took me through several alpine meadows around Mt. Hood. The path was dusty and pounding feet gave off clouds like a car on a dirt road. The wildflowers were gorgeous and we crossed snow at 5000 feet.
The path became a clamber across loose, large rock with a steep, open mountain side down and no trees in sight for quite a way to slow a fall. Without warning, the memory of the snowshoe mountainside tumble shot through my awareness. I froze and I panicked. I lost my nerve as I remembered what it is like to slide down a steep mountainside with little hope of stopping.
I couldn’t move forward and as I tried, I froze more and the panic overwhelmed. All I wanted to do was stop and go no further. And the only reason I returned across the stone I had already crossed was that was the only way down. Certainly, wasn’t spending a night on the mountain side at 6000 feet.
I moved back to the relative safety from whence I’d come, letting go of reaching the intended destination less than a quarter mile away. My destination attained abruptly in the shifting of the journey itself.
I found a rock to sit on and just let go. I cried big gulping sobs – so much flashing through my mind, pain leaking from my heart, love for myself making itself clear. Life would not slide away in this moment. I am safe. I am ok. I am alive. I can continue my journey.
How many times have I said: Life is a journey you never get done! Always learning. Always seeing new aspects of truth and self. And in that moment, I saw. Where I had been. Where I was. Where I was going. My journey, my life. Ebb and flow. Up the trail and down within waves of compassion and deep understanding.
When I returned to the trailhead after 11 miles and 2500 feet of elevation gain, I was dirty from sweat, dusty from the trail, and drained emotionally as well as physically.
I am where I am, ready to move forward however I can and wherever the trail may lead. Amen!