I have never been shy about writing with my issues with self doubt, failures, worries, and anxieties. Sometimes writing about them is the one way I can combat them. The voices sometimes get so loud in my head, that if I try to convey my thoughts in speech, it comes out a jumbled mess. However, writing allows me the freedom I need to express myself in a more coherent fashion.
This past weekend, once again, those voices entered my head. I had set out on a fairly moderate 9.5 mile hike on the Appalachian Trail.
Of course my cockiness and “I am freaking awesome” attitude hitched along for the day. It didn’t take long for those two things to be painstakingly humbled, and my pride handed to me.
The weather was less then ideal. Extreme wind, fog, and the rain from the night before had made it VERY slick.
It didn’t take long for those voices to start chattering. At first they started in a soft
“Hey, you are not cut out for this. Go ahead…. turn back.”
“You’re going to run out of steam pretty, soon.”
“What made you think that you could EVER do this?”
Seriously…. it seems I am having this conversation more and more. The more determined I am, the more frequent they show up, and the more I ignore them, the louder they get.
By 4.5 miles in the voices were no longer a whisper, but a full out roar.
“You are a wanna be hiker. All these thru hikers you are passing are laughing at you!”
“Give up NOW!”
I had finally had enough. I raised my hiking poles way over my head, and tossed them about 8 feet in front of me.
“WILL YOU JUST SHUT UP ALREADY?!?!?!?!?!?!?!”
“Are you ok?” came a voice from behind me.
I had been so wrapped up in what was going on inside my head that I had failed to notice someone coming up behind me.
As I timidly turned around I noticed a thru hiker I had met a mile or two back at one of the Shelters. He had started from Springer Mt. GA on April 1, and tonight was the first night he was going to see his wife in about 10 days. She had started out hiking with him, but had hurt her knee a couple days in and had to get off trail. When we were at the shelter I had helped him make plans to meet her later that evening, by letting him use my cellphone. I had left him eating his lunch and relishing in the fact tonight he would have a warm meal and bed down in Gatlinburg.
“Are you ok?” he asked me again.
“Just frustrated” I shot back.
“I know that feeling all to well. Would you mind some company for a while?”
“I’m slow.” I warned him.
“That’s ok.. so am I.”
So off we went. At fist we hiked in silence. I was so embarrassed, I wasn’t even sure how to start a normal conversation.
“I’m really not a crazy person.” I finally started to explain.
“I just get frustrated.”
For the final two miles we hiked together and we talked. I learned more about his wife and where he was from, and I shared how I am a lazy quitter, who never finishes. He gladly ate the Little Debbie’s I kept offering him, (we all know I NEVER leave home without her) and after a while he even started calling me Little Deb. Before I realized it, we had made it to the top of Clingman’s Dome.
Before we parted ways he left me with this,
“One step at a time. That’s all you have to do.”
To some that might not have sounded like much, but to me, those are words I want to tattoo on my wrist so when I forget or get frustrated, I can look down and see them.
One step at a time.
I sometimes forget that I am on a journey. I forget that this is a process, by which I am learning something each and every day. Mountains are not going to be conquered in a day. The journey’s hard and sometimes the obstacles are my own two feet. But each day, I just keep on…. one step at a time.
Whispers, and self doubt are always going to be there. It’s up to me to decide what I am going to do…..
Throw my hands up in defeat… or
Keep on… taking one step at a time.
Sadly I didn’t get the real name of my fellow hiker, I just know him by his trail name, Bones.
So if you happen to live near the AT and you see Bones coming through this summer, tell him Little Deb says, THANKS! If he looks tired, which I am sure he will, and hungry, give him a fudge round or two, and tell him to keep taking One Step At A Time.