I am not a hiker. But if we are a curated collection of all the things we’ve been before, like the bumper stickers on our souls, then technically I am a half-marathoner, cyclist, triathlete, and a Breast Cancer 3 Day alumni ( one-time walker, one-time bike safety crew). None of these are recent achievements, but I’m seasoned by completing lots of races in my 40’s (which I have departed – let’s just leave that there). I now understand how it is that my Mom, who lost lots of weight on Weight Watchers in her 30’s, became to herself a card-carrying member of the I Know How To Eat Healthy Club, no matter what her weight was as the years rolled on. I also understand how crazy it would sound today to someone training for a triathlon to take advice on transitioning, bricks, and hybrids from 2016-me. Yet the me that knows a thing or two about those things is still in the room.
But I’m not a hiker. I have no business hiking.
“It’s just an hour from the trail head to Lonesome Lake, Mom,” she said. She didn’t tell me to do it, she just dangled the bait – an incredible panoramic shot she took of a lake that God scooped out for himself in the middle of the White Mountains – about an 1.5 hours from my house. Something possessed me. I just biked 19 miles last week, I thought. I’m not in shape but I have endurance, I thought. She wouldn’t let me go if she knew I would fail, I thought.
Still. Not a hiker.
Things I may have said on the trail:
- It’s just a walk in the woods!
- Wait, why is it going to take an hour if it’s only 1.8 miles in to the lake from the trailhead?
- (5 minutes into the hike) OH.
- Because it’s not a hike, it’s a freaking up hill climb over roots and rocks at 1.8 miles per hour.
- Hikers are liars.
- I may drown from sweating this much.
- Julia, Julia, Julia. Damnitdamnitdamnit.
- All I can hear is my heart beat.
- But she said it will be worth it and I trust her.
When it’s better not to know
There were times on the way up to Lonesome Lake when couples and families were going my pace, and other times when we took turns resting and overtaking one another. My eyes were glued to each step because I am clumsy (I’ve broken my feet 3 times), and this was no time to fall. Of all the things that could go wrong, I was vehement about not twisting an ankle. So, as I plotted foot placement, I wondered this; if it takes thousands of steps to reach the top, had anyone had ever taken my precise route? It was possible I was treading an entirely unique path, and that made me happy. Life is like this – full of tiny decisions that make each journey new.
Guess what I won’t be posting on Instagram. The pitiful selfie I took at the top. Julia knew what she was doing in leaving some of the details out. She does love me. I wish I would have shown up with a lot more healthy respect for the mountain that day, and a little less coffee, but it’s not the first time lately, or this week, or today, that I have eaten humble pie. It turns out, even if we are bumper stickered race veterans, we are still only as strong as our last endurance event, and blissfully forgetful about what it took to cross the finish line.
It takes what it takes
Today I was reading from Savor, a book I adore by Shauna Niequest (who has another new book coming out in August!), and a verse graced the page that looked so dear. I feel like I know this one, my heart said. I feel like I know it very well. And the way a passage calls us like family, like good news on the doorstep, I heard it tapping.
That is not the version that I know the best, but it is the verse tattooed on me. I remember it this way, if people ask me, and this is how I say it:
In my distress I called on the Lord, and he heard my cry and set me free.
Years after events I thought would kill me, I got that imprint because I knew that I would always need to see those words. Candidly, I have been in distress. My heart has wanted to stop beating, but refused to. And in those times, I have wanted a rescue, not a spacious place. I have wanted a new easier path to appear, not a cancellation of bondage.
But, God. Oh, God.
He has the long view in mind. He loves me irrationally. He always hears my cry (especially the wordless cry I don’t know how to pray at all), and because of this, he chooses relentlessly to press into my hands the things my soul can’t live without. He never holds them back.
Long story short, I survived.
On the way down the mountain that day, I ran into my daughter and her friend on their way up. I heard a voice say, “Mom”, but it sounded so far from me. Then in no time, we were face to face. After a day of no one knowing me, no one helping me, it was a shock to belong to someone. After I hugged her, I told her that I was so mad at her! How could she think this trail would be no big deal for me? Then Julia’s friend chimed in that they’d just been talking about me and the fact that I’ve done hard things before. I said, “Are you joking?”, feeling like this might be some kind of sarcasm at my expense. Then Julia’s friend replied, “No way, she said, ‘my Mom is tough, and she’ll be fine.'”
And I am.
And I will be.