Changing My Story

Stepping out of the vehicle and feeling the bone chilling wind rip through my body, I began to question if this really was a good idea.  It had been weeks, since my last real hike, and I was already nervous about getting back out there, and using the weather as an excuse to delay getting started, seemed like a really good choice at the moment.

But there I was.  Strapping on my pack and standing in front of the sign to one of the world’s most famous footpaths….The Appalachian Trail.

AT

I’ve been here before.  Back when I was more fit, stronger, and more full of passion than I was at this moment . Roan Mountain is one of my most favorite places on earth.  You can see for miles and miles ahead of and behind you.  Being able to see where you’re headed and how far you’ve come is utterly exhilarating.  But today, today it seemed scary and terribly impossible.

I told myself if I could make it the half mile up to the first bald, I could quit with no shame.  If needed, I could totally use the injury to my foot, that is more than 80 percent healed, as an excuse.  No one would never have to know that the real reason for quitting was not not pain, but fear.

Fear has followed and paralyzed me my whole life.  Dreams have died, relationships terminated, goals left unfulfilled, all because I was scared.  Scared of failing.  Scared of being rejected.  Scared of the pain.  Scared of being forgotten.

But I am also insanely stubborn, and today I was determined to NOT let fear win.  I kept repeating the words of Harper Lee,

“Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”

I knew there was going to be some pain.  And I also knew there was a very real possibility I would not make my destination goal of Grassy Ridge, but I HAD to see if I could do it.  I HAD to see if I was able to push through the chance of failure and pain and succeed.  I could NOT let fear win.

So I began.

“Right foot.  Left foot. Breathe.”

Just like legendary Tennessee women’s Basketball coach Pat Summit used to preach to her players.

“Right foot.  Left foot. Breathe.”

“Right foot.  Left foot. Breathe.”

And then…there I was….Round Bald.

Round Bald 2

I had made it to the first destination….and I felt okay.  Still scared, but slightly more confident.  It was decision time. Do I stay and continue on, knowing it only gets more difficult from here on out, or do I say enough, chalk my little trek up as a victory, and head down for some warm food and a coke? Do I convince myself that this is enough, or do I press on, knowing I may not make it further.

I took one look ahead at what was waiting, and made my choice…..Walking

I was heading on up.

The unrelenting mud, the wicked wind, the unforgiving rocks I had to climb, all did their best to make me terrified.  But I chose not to listen.  I pressed on.

As I started my climb to the second summit of the day, I could feel weakness start to leave my body, and strength and tenacity beginning to take over.  I began to remember why it is I love doing this.  Two years ago I feel in love with adventure and doing things others said I could not do.  I started hiking to push towards not being a quitter anymore.  Being the weak and scared one was no longer who I wanted to be.  I wanted to be adventurous, committed, and strong.

But then I tore the Fascia in my foot and I realized, maybe I wasn’t that person after all.  Perhaps it was just easier to quit.  I have had other injury’s but this one was so painful, and so intense, that I didn’t know if I could go through rebuilding yet again.

For weeks I isolated myself within the prison of my home.  I didn’t allow anyone to penetrate the fortress I had built around me.  All I wanted was to sulk, retreat, and forget.

But thankfully, hiking has brought me the most phenomenal people.  People who don’t listen when I whine and complain.  People who keep checking in with me, even when I give short answers and decline their invites to just hang out.  People who have cheered me on up to some the highest mountains, and now are willing to pick me up when I have fallen into the valley.

As I started up to Jane Bald, I thought of my people.  How they believe in me and somehow know that I am stronger than I really think I am.  If I turned around now, I would be making liars out of, not just me, but them.

I had to keep pushing.

The climb up to Jane Bald, while semi difficult in perfect weather conditions, was made even more intense with the unrelenting wind, and the thick and suckling mud.  But somehow, I didn’t even mind it.  Fear was present, but today, I wasn’t paying attention.  Today, I was climbing to prove I am not the same person from two years ago.  I AM strong.  I AM capable. And I WAS going to climb this mountain or die trying.

And before I knew it, I was there.  I was standing on the rock where I have stood before, and I looked out over from where I had just come……

Jane Bald

For a moment, time stood still and life was simply perfect.   I let the wind blow through me, and I listened as it tore through the trees and swept across the miles of mountains around me. Suddenly I was overcome with gratitude and and accomplishment. I have climbed higher and more difficult mountains, but today I climbed one of the toughest: the mountain of self doubt and fear.

I still have a long road ahead in my recovery, but now the hopelessness seems less overpowering.  There are going to be times I want to quit.  Times that fear tries to be stronger. But I know that fear is a liar.  It makes you feel weak, helpless, and lost.  But when you confront it, and make it out for the  liar it is, you become just a little bit stronger with each push back.

Cheryl Strayed said it best,

“Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story.”

I finished strong completing my goal of hiking all three balds.  Before I headed back down, I stood perched on top of Grassy Ridge and looked out at where I knew I needed to head soon.  I thanked God for His unrelenting love and patience with me.  The only way this day happened was because HIS strength was greater than mine.  I made a promise not to quit and to keep on reaching for what I love.  Then I looked at Little and Big Hump Mountains in the distance and promised them I would be back to climb them soon.  My story is just beginning.

Big Hump

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Changing My Story

  1. Your story inspires me!

    I too, have lived with fears that have held me back in multiple areas of my life.

    You inspire me to move on and feel the fear but do it anyway! Maybe a cha-cha- one step forward tow steps back but forward all the same!

    Liked by 1 person

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