Sunday, March 23, 2014

Lessons from the Appalachian Trail: We Get by with a Little Help from Our Friends

There’s only one way to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail: one step at a time.  And while no one can hike it for you, it’s a rough, lonely road without some friends to keep you company along the way.  I met some amazingly helpful souls as I hiked the 2000 mile trail in the Appalachian Mountains.  These folks didn't pick me up and carry me down the trail, but they helped me reach Katahdin, nonetheless.

First, there’s my husband and best friend, the Professor.  He’s often told me how much he worried about me on the Trail.  He’d get to a particularly gnarly rock scramble and wonder, “How the heck is my 5’5” wife going to navigate this? I barely made it myself.”  *Note: my husband is 6 foot 4 and full of muscles. ;-)

A few times he actually waited for me, only to shake his head in amazement as I did what needed to be done without so much as a hand up.  Actually, at first, I'd get a little pissed if he’d offer it.  This dynamic created some problems we had to overcome as a couple, but in the end we both realized two important things. 

First, we both had to hike on our own and in our own way.  We could hike together, but we couldn't hike for each other or even like each other.  As I mentioned earlier, no one can hike for another, nor can we take on another's hiking style.  In other words, you have to hike your own hike.  (More on that in next week's post.)  

Second, we both needed to accept help, at times.  There were moments when a word of encouragement was enough to get us over the bog bridges unscathed.  But, sometimes, a hand up was helpful, despite my ego’s insistence I do it ALL BY MY SELF.

The Prof and I learned these lessons the hard way after some bickering and bad feelings, but we
did figure it out.  And then there were the members of our AT Tribe.  Each soul brought something unique to our hiking experience, and when the going got tough, especially the last two months of the hike, I was oh so glad to have them ALL by my side.
On the most grueling days, when I felt like I was running on fumes, my tribe rallied around me and we hiked in a long line, singing songs, playing games, and generally buoying spirits and steps.  I can say from the depths of my soul that they got me through it and without them, I don’t know what may have happened.  Would I have given up and gone home?  Would I have broken an exhausted leg on the slippery, moss covered rocks in Maine?  I don’t know.

What I do know is that they were with me in the end.  On top of Katahdin, we posed for the money shot pictures and popped bottles of champagne together.  They were with me in the dark, when my motivation lagged, and they were with me in the brilliant sunshine to celebrate the joyful accomplishment.  And they are still with me in my heart. 

They’ve become a part of me: Tapeworm and Sensei, Peacemaker and Little John, Flutter-by and
Pox Holiday, Hammer and Kodiak, Landscape and Sightseer, Roy G. Biv and Should-A-Known, Twilight and Floweasy, Baltimore Jack and Gecko Goat, and the list goes on.  I carry them with me and when it gets rough out here, I draw on their positive energy.  And I hope they do the same.

While we must do the hard work ourselves when we want to achieve big goals and chase big dreams, we are more likely to succeed if we gather positive, supportive, uplifting souls around us.  And how do we do that?  By being a positive, supportive, uplifting soul ourselves.

Who are the people that get you through the most difficult times?  Who are the people who celebrate your triumphs with you? Probably the same people YOU cheer on, console, and celebrate their victories with.

Love and light, beautiful souls.  You are precious to me.

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