Lessons learned from the AT….and TRAIL MAGIC at home!

The trail continues to amaze me! I am learning lessons from it here; at home in Jacksonville, FL. I am learning lessons with my proverbial tail tucked between my legs, our savings spent, my dreams dashed, where my scars from bugs and branches are the last physical reminder of our trek through the 100 mile wilderness. I wanted to go the whole way. I wanted to “thru-hike,” I wanted to be c/o 2017 SOBO hiker #55, wanted to prove to my kids, my parents, ex-husband, the doubters (and most importantly myself) that I could ACTUALLY finish something that I started. I’m so damn frustrated…mad, sad. It didn’t go my way. Shocking. Turns out my husband hates hiking, particularly mountain climbing, and pitch black darkness. Anxiety and panic creep in. It’s hard work, I’m not gonna lie. He’s not afraid of hard work….heck, he builds docks and boathouses for a living! However we “cheaped out” on his pack and he was a wobbly, wounded (ongoin foot bone-bruise) mess. In hindsight I realize I was the one with the dream; I was talking him into going with me, telling him tales of hiking and camping experiences I had as a teen, and hoped he would TRUST me and just stop worrying! We both had family constantly chirping in our ears; “you guys are crazy! This isn’t going to end well! I hope you know what you’re getting into! Stop when you need to, you have nothing to prove! Come home and be normal and stable, productive members of society!” My gypsy mentality and rebellious attitude in full-force said “NO WAY! They’re just scared! THIS is the way! This is it! We are going to conquer this thing, prove everyone wrong, end up actually MAKING money somehow, get sober, and come back to tell the next best selling book or Reese Witherspoon movie!” Humph. That’s not exactly how it happened….Since I’m eternal optimist (Pollyana, some might say) I thought I’d try to take this frown and turn it upside down. So here are some lessons I learned from the Appalachian Trail and about myself and relationships…..

1. You can’t GO anywhere to get closer to God. He is already everywhere, and most importantly, within you. Allowing the Divine to show up is a choice, but I have to be sober and willing to see it in action.
2. Temptation, in every form, will follow you and be available to you no matter what. Being spiritually fit is the only way to refuse temptation and having a close connection with your Higher Power is insanely magical. Yes, there were fishermen who offered us cold beer from a boat! Marijuana is legal in Maine! If you’re not treating your addiction daily, you will be compromised.
3. People are, indeed, good…and only want to BE loved and love. To connect. Family is important. I missed the heck out of mine…thought of my kids around every boulder hop, bog log, and obstacle – knowing that their “American Ninja Warrior” mentality would kick in. That they would love (parts of) it. When I picked up the phone, on top of whatever mountain I could squeeze service out of….I called my parents……who I’ve had a pretty rocky relationship with for the past decade. I shared with them, I told them I was safe. I cried. I wanted them to know what I was doing, where I was. I missed them. I need family. MY family.
4. Kindness matters. Even if it’s in the form of yelling out “Moose poop!” So the person behind you doesn’t stomp in it. I also appreciated a French sea salt, caramel almond dark chocolate bar from SCOUT, various protein and granola bars from ROLLING THUNDER, endless stories and amusement from SHAMAN, 2 extra ramen noodle flavoring from…..the dreadlocked, barista girl with a dog named Luna. (No, you can’t make this stuff up). Also leave the place nicer than you found it, for the next person….this also applies to our planet and our children!
5. Loving your spouse is a choice – an action – and requires constant maintenance. I don’t want another divorce, and he is the love of my life. Yes, we are both stubborn as goats, and he was willing to continue with me but I was tired of fighting the inevitable and ultimately, do you want to be happy or right? Maybe this isn’t the time for us.
6. Water and protein are the building blocks of life. If you take care of your body, it will take care of you. Never underestimate the power of fresh, raw produce. I missed the heck out of it.
7. If I’m ever on a desert island I will take bug spray and sunscreen. ‘Nuff said.
8. You always have something to offer, even if it’s a smile or some encouragement or just listening to someone. I intend to keep in touch with the people I met along the way, simplify my life and not be so tied down to worldly possessions. If it can’t fit on your back, you probably don’t NEED it. You may WANT it, you may enjoy the convenience of it, but don’t let IT control you.
9. Have dreams, BIG ONES, HUGE ONES. Don’t give up on them. Don’t lose hope. The Appalachian Trail has been there for thousands (if not millions) of years. It will always be there. I CAN and WILL go back. Maybe with my kids or others who enjoy hiking, camping, and mountaineering! I see the PCT and CDT and Grand Canyon in my future!
10. Grieving is okay. It’s necessary, actually. My biological mother recently died. My ex has custody of my kids. I’ve most of spent my savings on this trip! Consequences from the past and a really ANCY husband convinced me to hightail it home, and deal with…..life. At first I was in DENIAL (the first stage of grief) but now I’m accepting what is, what was, and hopefully what will be in Gods perfect timing, not my own. I’m sure the other stages will come when I allow them, and don’t drown them out with booze, smoke, food, or other distractions.

If thetrek.co will allow me to keep blogging on their site, I will. I believe I am still a hiker at heart, and will finish this thing one day. I have the bug, and I’m still relating to and experiencing “trail magic” even at home – through social media, through telling our story, through other hikers I have met, through new friends who are walking/hiking/pilgrimage-ing their way to rediscovery, recovery, and a renewed sense of self. God bless!

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