Ugly Growth. (And The Witness That Cheers It On)

For about 2 years, I have been hiking regularly when I need to enjoy the outdoors. Not want, need.  I suppose I do not look like the typical hiker, as I am morbidly obese, wear ridiculously bright colors (not that hunter's orange thank you) and am typically sporting a pink flower in my hair. There are days I track my miles but more often than not (and this drives the 'real' hikers' who care about stats absolutely bonkers) I don't. I have never much cared for statistics or numbers, well tracking them anyway. Instead, I just hike until my soul starts to heal. Or on the days I need it, I hike until I can feel my soul bleeding. Although I may not necessarily fit into the visual interpretation of what a hiker should look like my soul absolutely does. My soul matches the text book definition of what a hiker "is". My heart beats a little faster when a friend or acquaintance mentions taking on a new trail, my mouth smiles the biggest , showing off my spaced teeth, when I get to plan a short weekend trip being lost in nature, and my nerdy eyes shine brightest when I can feel the comfortable ache in my thighs after being out all day. 

When I am in the woods, or on a trail, I find that I can pray easier. I can reflect easier. I can meditate like I cannot any other place. The leafy chaperones that tower over me and who watch the sweat bead down my round face must provide me this unspoken grace which allows me to be brutally honest and open with myself. 

Maybe,  I can connect with my spiritual self the best in nature because it is with every step I take-I take in nature, I challenge myself and my only witness (besides the rare occurrences I am hiking with someone) to the transformation of myself is nature. Nature has observed me give up after half a mile and want to cry. She has watched me fall, hard and curse ugly words. She has lovingly witnessed me take a moment to watch the leaves dance their final descent to the colorful forest floor. She has watched me pick myself up in the creek, and on the icy snow...and over branches or roots...and my own feet and choose to keep going. She has noticed that I chose to keep going  especially....when I wanted to quit. 

I find myself believing,  that  when you allow yourself to be open, ugly and raw with yourself or others around you, you can grow like you never thought possible. 

In nature, I can pray freely, I can meditate, I can become lost because I have no fear of looking silly or stupid because it is a place where I have been found.  I know that is my time to confess, ask for guidance or throw up some praise because I can feel my heart at peace. 

On the last day my mom was coherent in this world, she asked me to take her to my favorite place on earth. I obliged and took her to the state park, PJ Hoffmaster, where I find myself hitting the trails quite often. We sat in the parking lot because she was too unstable on her feet, even when transferring her to a wheelchair or walker, so, we perched in my car watching people come off the trails, a little tired but still smiling or saw those just hitting the trails with an unbridled enthusiasm. She turned to me and quietly said, "I get it, kid. It's your challenge, it's your thing you gotta do it. You can't stand it when you don't do it, right?". 

I really couldn't say anything, because in that moment she saw me. She was my mom. She was my friend. She was nature.  She understood, she accepted that I was a weirdo who liked to walk and pray in the middle of the woods. So I just nodded my head. She was right, but to be fair, she often was.  I cannot stand when I do not hike. When I was recovering from surgery and had to wait to get cleared by the surgeon and team I was chomping at the bit. Hiking is more than just traipsing over leaves and branches, it is trekking to a new me. 

There are many things in this life I am unqualified to do and giving advice is one of them. I am of the belief that it is better to listen and let people figure out what is right for their hearts than to shove your agenda or ideals down their throats-with the exception if they are going to harm themselves or someone else in their lives. Well, tonite, I am breaking my own rule of not giving advice. 

Don't be scared to admit what makes you happy. If you find something that lights your heart on fire and it leads you down weird paths of self-discovery and you feel nerdy and wonky...chances are you are doing something darn right. Growth, is not comfortable. Growth, is not pretty. Growth, is hideous. It hurts, it sucks, it changes you.  Once in a while you will get lucky and have that person who stands by your side, their eyes misty, nodding because they understand why you have to do something. 

But more often than not? You will have people who just don't get it. If you find yourself worried about what other people are thinking of your changes you are wasting precious time. There is no reason to care because, well, it is your life. Your life. YOUR LIFE. There will be supporters in your corner and people who will just never understand, and it is not your job to make them understand. Your one and only commitment, is to be true to yourself. Don't be afraid to hike your own hike friends, you have no clue where it can take you. 


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