Embracing the Struggle
“Why do we fall down Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
Ok, so I am a bit of a Batman nerd. It seems my taste in movies, music, restaurants and friends is pretty eclectic. I’ll try anything once, but back to the point…
I’ve taken a pretty big fall and my thru-hike is an attempt to pick myself back up.
It Hurts To Fall
This is my first time opening up publicly about my “fall” so my heart pounds a bit just typing this. 6 years ago I married my amazing husband Adam (trail name- Downplayer). We’re two people who have lived our lives playing it safe. We’ve avoided risk in fear of falling. Our plans were traditional…first, college and jobs, then marriage, next a house, finally children with retirement down the road. But what happens when life doesn’t go according to the plan?
I went to school to be a teacher and landed my first job in May just weeks after graduation, CHECK. A year after dating, Downplayer and I tie the knot in a picture perfect garden wedding, CHECK. We responsibly save money and begin house hunting. Soon we close on a home of our own, CHECK. Now that everything is in order, we shift our focus to the kid’s box…
It’s been over 4 years now and still no check mark. My greatest dream was to be a mother and now I’m coming to terms with the fact that it’s completely out of our control. This has been one of the darkest places I have ever been. The biggest hit has been to my self-esteem. “What’s wrong with me? Why does she deserve to be a mother and not me? I’m such a disappointment. My house is so quiet. I have no value. I am not a woman.” Guilt is also a trap I fall into. I am so thankful for the many blessings in my life but it’s easy to let a dark cloud cover those blessings.
Want to know where these dark thoughts leave my mind and I am truly at peace? On the AT. Once Downplayer and I started section hiking I was struck by my sense of peace in the woods. Anyone who has done miles on the AT knows it’s no walk in the park. It’s tough lugging a backpack up and down mountains, but even though I may be covered in dirt, sweat, and bug bites at the end of the day I feel accomplished and beautiful.
Lessons From The Trail
In June we did a section hike from Winding Stair Gap to Fontana Dam. In planning this section I read about the dreaded hike out of the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC). I dreaded this part of the hike before we even left for the trip. For us it came on the third day. We climbed straight down to the NOC and immediately headed to River’s End Restaurant. After chowing down on the “Tail of the Dragon” burger (highly recommended for spicy fans) and relaxing by the river for an hour there was a 6 mile climb standing between us and the shelter.
I don’t know if the climb itself is bad or the fact that you have to leave good food and a lazy river behind, but I started the hike up to Sassafras Gap shelter with a poor attitude. So bad in fact that I was proudly reworking some lines from Dr. Seuss, “I would not hike it in the light. I would not hike it during the night. I do not like this hike, Sam. I am so tired, yes I am!”
Then we came across this…
As I stood there thinking about Wade, I thought about the privilege I have being able to hike. I am able bodied. I have a job that affords me time off. I have a husband that not only supports my adventures but enjoys just as much as I do. At that spot I chose joy and the rest of the climb was much more pleasant. I knew all along choosing joy was an option, but I didn’t want to choose it. Choosing bitterness was easier at the moment.
I love the lessons I learn on the trail. I’m human. I know I will fall back into bitterness from time to time, but I have this memory to fall back on and I hope choosing joy comes more easily on the next tough climb.
I’ve had a lot of bitterness during my walk through infertility, but just like on the climb out of the NOC it’s time to choose joy. It’s time to celebrate where this journey has brought me. I know one day I will reach the top of this climb, but I don’t know what day that will be or what path will take me there.
Until then….I hike.
A New Beginning
In February of 2016 Down Player and I will embark on a journey from Georgia to Maine. Each step will be a step forward on this journey. Each step will be a reminder to embrace the struggle. Katahdin is waiting.
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