Sometimes Going Home Is The Best Decision

“Come get me, I’m done.”

I never thought I would hear those words come out of my mouth. I’m not a quitter. Granted, sometimes I struggle with wrapping up projects that I start, but I eventually get there. This trail is a GOAL, with a capital ‘G’. How could I possibly not rise to the challenge?

Yet here I was. Total mental exhaustion. Little did I know I was suffering from Covid as well. While that may or may not have had something to do with it, I was going home.

As soon as I said the words, I was overcome with a torrent of emotion. Fear? Check. Relief? Check. Resignation? Yep, that too.  Disappointment? Big time check. The strongest emotion I felt, however, was uncertainty. Would I return to trail, or was my journey really over? Was I really ready to be done? How would I feel at home, looking myself in the mirror, knowing I failed to achieve something I wanted so badly?

I had given up so much to do this hike. Time with my family when the moments of the four of us together are becoming so rare. My summer job that I love so much and my once a year reunion of colleagues and musical inspiration. Hell, I had even given a rib! Was that all for nothing, then?

I got home, not knowing I was sick, and allowed myself to rest. To be honest, I wasn’t capable of doing anything else. But already, seeds of resistance started to grow. I didn’t feel at home in my own home. Even seeing and hugging my kids after being apart for the longest time since they were born didn’t quell the spark of unrest.

The next morning I woke, realized that 10 hours of sleep had only made a dent in my exhaustion, and decided I was staying home another day(I wouldn’t get my Covid results til later). Never one to sit completely still, I figured that if I wasn’t going to hike, I was going to write. This is where a little trail magic saved my hike.

Armed with a fresh cup of coffee in my favorite mug, I headed into my room, thinking only about the luxury of blogging from a laptop instead of a phone for once. Most of the time, my room is home to all of my various arts and crafts. For the last 6 months, however, it has become my resupply room, a chaotic vision of freezer bags, trail mix and tuna packets. As I sat down at my desk to write, I was faced with a wall of calendar photos of the trail I had hung for inspiration. But there, right in the middle, is what brought my hike back into focus.

What captured my attention in all the chaos? A thank you card. Not just any card, though. It was from Upload, a class of ‘21 thruhiker I had the honor of supporting a few times last summer while I was out doing trail magic. There he was, standing on Mama K, triumphantly raising his poles overhead while perched on the summit sign. Seeing that photo hit me like a truck. It jumpstarted that fire and drive inside of me. I stared at the photo for several minutes, reflecting and realizing just how badly I wanted one of those for myself! Vowing to not stop until I could make my own summit photo, I somehow brought my focus back to the present task of resting and feeling better.

Once I was healthy enough to get back on trail, I made a plan to hike from my home while in Massachusetts. I am fortunate enough to live pretty close to the trail and I have some amazing support in the form of family and friends that got me to and from trail each day. My kids referred to it as the ‘catch and release’ program – each day allowing me to get further from home until I was strong enough to go it alone again. I took my time going through those miles, savoring not only daily showers and nights in my own bed, but conversations with my kiddos as they are starting to navigate adulthood. There is a fine line between wanting your kids to need you forever and knowing they will survive if you aren’t there, and I suppose I really needed to witness this firsthand. I didn’t realize it would make my pack lighter, though.

I was also able to look at that one postcard on my wall each day, giving a little more oxygen to the fire inside me.

The kids are fine. You raised them well.

Your husband does in fact sleep in the bed if you aren’t home.

My Massachusetts method meant the hubby could join me for a canoe ride at Goose Pond.

You are healthy and strong again.

It’s time to fly, Feral Queen. You’ve got a photo shoot on top of Katahdin waiting for you.

PS- Never discount how much a small gesture of kindness could ripple out into the world!

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