Just turning up

“She realised she had this one. This big, bold and beautiful life. And she realised she didn’t want to live it chasing and crying and apologising. Starving and fearing and regretting. She realised she wanted to live it proudly and freely and creatively. Lovingly and fully and sweetly. She realised she could choose. And so, she chose.” Unknown.

The guide leads the ride out of town, yelling in his heavy Italian accent and broken English, “holes”, “this way”, and my favorite, “bumpy.” His arms are flying to communicate signals of where to go. I have no problem understanding given the terrific hand show.

I laugh and shout to him, “I love listening to your accent.” Immediately, he is somewhat alarmed, and moves to my side to question me, “you say you love me?” Oops. I have to try and explain myself, talk my way out of it.

I finally reach a point of maybe him understanding but that’s when another rider, an Australian troublemaker, yells out from the back, “that’s not what you said before.” Great. Now I just look like an awestruck Aussie girl and it is all wrong.

I remind myself you should never use the word love with an Italian unless it is actually love.

His turn now, he asks if we would like to go to taste the ashes of the bean. We all look perplexed. Another Australian translates the meaning. He wants to stop at a cafe where they roast their own coffee beans. What a relief. I’m for all things coffee except possibly the burnt taste.

The conversation and banter is absolutely entertaining. Just like being in the bunch back home but with more room for misinterpretation.

As I said, I love the Italians, but with this disclaimer, no one in particular.

On another ride, we are steadily on a climb. The day is getting hotter as we reach midday and every part of me in drenched in sweat. The guide stops to take photos and as I ride past I puff, “so much for the Italian flat.”  He lets out a mighty shriek of laughter, “this no Italian flat, this is fuckin bastaard climb.” My turn to giggle, seriously, what can you say to that!

Yet another day, my feet were burning from hours of heat and ill-fitting inner soles. The Italian solution, shoes off and feet under the cool of the water fountain. I was a little shy at this suggestion, I mean it is Italy and all about style, but I was assured it would be instant pain relief. Turns out it is true.

With that said, the Italians have got both decorum and practicality. I mean my cycling kit was pretty stylish, and pink, even if I was barefoot in the fountain with my companions chuckling at me.

These are the moments you remember and look back upon.

I’ve become a seasoned solo traveler, and yet with each trip it increasingly becomes about connection. I continue to meet amazing people living incredible lives, opening up my mind and heart to possibilities.

I long to live in Italy, even just for a portion of the year, and I have been haunted by this for some time now. My past three overseas adventures have landed me there, for part, or the whole trip. The fact my great nona was Sicilian might explain a few things!

Although I never knew her, my father’s recollection of how she explained the Italian Mafia when he was a young boy made me instantly love her. Rather succinctly she stated, “they’re only there to shoot the pigeons son.” I cannot look at those birds now without thinking of her.

If only my great nona didn’t donate everything, land included, to the church to immigrate. I’m sure there is an avenue to obtain an Italian passport in there somewhere. I just cannot imagine the paperwork involved, nor the navigation required to do so. Tourist it is.

I do wonder how this will unfold. My life always seems far from boring. I have four teenage children happily settled where we live with a few years of high school left. Sometimes I just feel divided. I have been mothering for eighteen years now, and whilst it is an absolute honor and joy, there is a part of me who is edging beyond the everyday responsibilities of child rearing.

I don’t know the answer…yet. I am curious. I trust the opening in me.

In the meantime, as I explore and look out into the world, beyond mothering, I am continually connected with people who live a little differently, I guess outside the norm. And what is normal anyway? People keep turning up linking me to my next directed step, which allows me to trust a bit more in what is developing.

Speaking of trust, there are many skills to learn as a cyclist, and one of my favorites at the moment is sitting on a wheel. This means you ride close to the wheel in front of you, just centimetres apart. You have to know the rider in front is reliable, consistent and safe. I choose carefully.

Back to Italy, I was always going back there, as I sat on both Italian and Australian wheel of some incredible cyclists, I contemplated often how much you have to trust the rider and the process. Although it is a team effort, I have found it is about surrendering control to the leader for the ride, otherwise it just will not work.

Sometimes you cannot see past them in front, and yet you have to believe they have got you. As I sat on the back of one wheel, pushing 45kms per hour, the fastest I have ever ridden on the flat for a good period of time, I felt this again. Just doing my part, pedaling, judging distance and speed, then letting go and trusting that it will all work.

With that arrives the pure enjoyment of the ride unfolding as it needs to, with speed and ease. Very much like my longing to be on the move and living in Italy, I have my part to do for sure but there is a point at which I hand over what it might look like, and even how it will materialize. As I have always said about cycling, I just turn up, and extraordinary events and connections have transpired.

Remarkably, I also have that same trust in life. Bellissimo.

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A 45cm sterling silver wearable affirmation to remind your self, or someone you love, who is trying their hardest and refusing to give up that like us, you’ve got this.  No matter what. See https://leaning-inwards.myshopify.com/products/youve-got-this-necklace

About love

I have learned someone can love you with their whole heart, and still break yours.

And that hurt they carry has nothing to do with you, but everything about the relationship they have with themselves.

I have learned no amount of love can heal another’s pain.

They have to love themselves enough to find their own way. I can only walk calmly beside them in their distress.

I have learned that is enough.

And that, this is love.

I have learned if someone wants to wreck something incredible I cannot stand in their way.

I have felt the pain of stepping aside, to take care of my own heart. At times, this has meant walking away without them.

Shattered.

And that, you can never predict this moment of truth, and its delivery is a ruthless, harsh blow.

Because of this, I understand the wretchedness of leaving someone, or being left, even though you would give anything for it not to happen.

Even if it is for the best.

Loss and rejection has made my heart tender when once it was hardened by fear.

I have learned you have to save yourself when someone is destructively unravelling.

It is down to you or them.

For in my past, I also have been that person grappling and trying to find my way in love, and failing.

Beautifully, this has somehow gifted me the grace to not be cruel even when I have felt rage beyond my understanding.

For the broken deserve the most love.

However, this does not mean I stand willingly in harms way, or that I will not be fierce in protecting myself.

I understand betrayal is not a story about what is wrong with me, but rather where a person is in profound struggle.

I have cultivated compassion, born in despair, both towards myself and others, welcoming healing rather than remaining bitter.

This is freedom and creates heart space to eventually move on.

I have learned you can love someone with your whole being long after they’ve gone.

And that is okay, it is the way it is meant to be.

I have discovered a gentle space within where you do not have to disconnect from your heart. No matter what you or they have done.

Rather the more you wish them well, the happier you become. I also know reaching this place takes time and emotional fortitude.

I have learned the art of both enormous love and letting go. And eventually being okay with both.

I can live in that contradiction.

For when you open your heart to love, you risk hurt. I have found it is worth the gamble.

I have experienced the opposite too, where I have padlocked my heart. This has meant I closed myself to everything, not just love.

I do not wish to live that lonely way.

There are no guarantees and I have stopped looking.

However, I am learning the way of discernment, for not everyone who stops by is worthy of my heart.

Reaching a place of strength, I would rather allow love to break me open than break me apart. This is within my power. No one can take that away from me.

I have learned a person can only meet you as deeply as they have met themselves.

These days I am able to stand in the invitation of loving someone whilst I take care of myself.

To be fully and humanly present in the ecstasy, mess, joy, and darkness of loving.

And if I find myself bleeding, bruised and broken over love leaving, I will hold myself in the grief of these callings.

From loves departures, I am finally in the place where I feel imperfectly whole on my own.

And ultimately, what I have learned is from this space, where I am already complete, only more love can arrive.

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A 45cm sterling silver wearable affirmation to remind your self, or someone you love, who is trying their hardest and refusing to give up that like us, you’ve got this.  No matter what. See https://leaning-inwards.myshopify.com/products/youve-got-this-necklace

Miss adventure

“Let go of certainty. The opposite isn’t uncertainty. It’s openness, curiosity and a willingness to embrace paradox, rather than choose up sides. The ultimate challenge is to accept ourselves exactly as we are, but never stop trying to learn and grow.” Tony Schwartz

In the days leading up to my departure to Europe, I started this blog to capture the time before the beginning of my hike.

Of course, I had these writing ideas but it never turns out to be what you think. Read on.

I’ve finished work for the next five weeks, all nicely negotiated into my contract. I’m down to the smaller logistics before I fly out. My mind is full of last minute tasks but experience shows some of those will fall away as I let go.

The house is quiet. The fridge emptied and Summer is off on a very long doggy date. The kids are happily with their father in Japan. We are a family that seems to like a bit of travel.

Right now, it seems surreal I have created this next adventure for myself.

The seed was planted two years ago when I was solo hiking the Alta Via 1 in the Dolomites. Another hiker at the refugio was chatting about this epic hike she had heard of, but didn’t know the details.

As she spoke, I felt the yes move through my entire body, landing softly right in the centre of my heart. I knew right then, in the middle of the Italian mountains, that I was coming back to do that hike.

I guess you would call that setting an intention.

That left me tracking down a hike my heart blatantly committed me to. Turned out to be the Walkers Haute Route, ranked in the top twenty of the world’s best hikes.

The trail starts in Chamonix, France and ends in Zermatt, Switzerland, and it’s 180kms in length crossing 11 mountain passes. By the end I will have climbed a total of 12,000 metres and descended another 10,000. Ouch.

A tad strenuous, a little mad, or a mighty undertaking. I type that laughing out loud. Take your pick. I don’t mind.

I will be as high as 3,000 meters. At that height your heart connects with how much there is to this life that remains unknown, and all the questions just fall away.

I wondered last time if this was what death would be like? Where all about you just is and it’s all okay, Mother Nature holding you in her embrace. I hope it is.

Back to this earthly plane, to bring this intention into reality, I added the plan. This included the timeline, saving, training and educating myself on the hike.

When your heart knows the way, you trust the calling.

Sometimes living wholeheartedly requires me to defy logic. My pre-frontal cortex does battle with it, and it goes like this, “what the hell GEORGINA are you doing?” This is followed by a whole series of inquiries, and a lot of raised eyebrows from others!

The executive functioning runs amok with trepidation, anxiety and all the things that could go wrong. Well that is its job, the inbuilt safety check.

I appreciate reasoning and sensibility, it creates a basis for making sure I do my preparation, but at some stage I have to depart from my thinking and be who I am.

Quite frankly, it can be a long way from your head to your heart.

Self-doubt has had its fair share of time in my life and I’m not prepared to give it much play these days.

Don’t get me wrong, my thinking has been screaming at me these last couple of weeks. I’ve felt so very raw and vulnerable knowing I’m about to push myself outside my comfort zone.

Again.

Although, that harsh voice would have once immobilised me by undermining my confidence to my very core, it has become just that. A voice. I acknowledge it’s there, playing the tape, but I tend to give it much less time.

For I know it’s not the truth about who I am.

The bigger voice now, which is ironically still and quiet, is based in strength, empowerment and boldness. If want to live from my heart this is the calm voice I embrace.

I am both terrified and excited.

I have first hand experience in what a long distance mountain hike can do.

And this is the part where my planned blog changes.

Thanks to my friend I was cycling with in the mountains of Annecy earlier this week, we were talking about the wilderness. She had just come off the trail from a multi day mountain hike. The word she used was recalibration to describe what happens, this includes the physical body, mind and of course, your soul. We agreed, there can be no other way.

With the sun warming our skin, our legs pedalling to keep pace with the bunch and the feeling of being free, she spontaneously takes our conversation in a different direction. She said, “G, I know you’ve had a tough time personally of late, and I want to say to you if you just keep getting on with your life, something will happen.”

Seems a pretty simple piece of advice, however I’ve never spoken to her about that ache. She just knew. Her timing was perfect, as was her intuition. Such wisdom is embodied in that for me.

Now the reason I write about my friend’s words, is that I had planned to blog about all the things I expected to happen to and for me on this hike.

Except now I’m not.

I had presumed to know based on past experience but I have no idea.

Well….I did actually just buy myself a leatherman knife in Chamonix in anticipation of celebrating the finish of my hike. As my hiker/cyclist friend says, “you need something to cut the cheese.”

Every adventure chick should have one.

This brings me to start of my hike. I’m publishing this blog on the eve of day one. In the morning, at 6am, I hike out for what will be a 21 kilometre day. Rest assured it’s probably the easiest part of the walk. A lovely way to ease in.

As the quote says at the start of my blog, I commit to letting go of certainty and open myself to curiosity, by embracing what the mountains reveal to me.

More importantly, as my friend said, “something will happen”, by living my life, and you know I’m going to blog about that!

In the mean time, where’s the cheese? A girl needs to use her knife.

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A 45cm sterling silver wearable affirmation to remind your self, or someone you love, who is trying their hardest and refusing to give up that like us, you’ve got this.  No matter what. See https://leaning-inwards.myshopify.com/products/youve-got-this-necklace

Smashing it out

“They won’t tell you fairytales of how girls can be dangerous and still win. They will only tell you stories where girls are sweet and kind and reject all sin. I guess to them it’s a terrifying thought, a red riding hood who knew exactly what she was doing when she invited the wild in.” Nikita Gill – Girls of the Wild

With my inherent love for the mountains, how could I say no to our friends asking us to leave town a week before Christmas and camp. Get away from the lead up and the madness? Hell yes. The alternative of staying in the city felt untenable for many reasons. And who could knock back days of swimming in the lake? I was enormously grateful for the invitation as we packed up and left. I had no idea when we booked I would soon be holding a heart laden with grief. This kind of heartache in me belongs in the wilderness, where her tenderness soothes more than any other place I have ever known.

If you’ve read my previous blogs, you’ll know I’m a girl who honors the call to be somewhere out in the wild, and sometimes that shout out requires some serious logistics to pull it off.  In recent years, I’ve woken up to how vital it is for me to put my oxygen mask on first. I spent years putting myself second, and um, very last, with everything. Turns out those airline safety announcements have actually come in handy!

I borrowed an old road bike for this camp to decide if I would take on this cycling gig back home. From our site, I watched my lycra-loving friend take off to ride and up down the mountain. I was filled with both curiosity and envy about what it would be like to do this kind of climb on a bike. The thought was enticing and incredibly overwhelming, it had my attention. I already felt its pull.

Already climbing on foot with hiking, I knew the joy and exertion in reaching a summit. As I watched my buddy ride off, I recognized a glint of excitement in in his eyes, and I vowed I’d be back to ride up this mountain as my first serious cycling goal. I hadn’t even brought my bike yet. You’ve got to be careful what you wish for. You might just get it. Another wild call.

The next directed step just appeared. Why am I not surprised? I registered for the women’s supported ride up the very mountain I set my intention to climb. Yep it just came up in my newsfeed. Three months into my cycling life I found myself standing listening to the briefing, softly sinking into the muddy autumn earth filled with the same sense of adventure that draws me out hiking.

Nothing is ever straight forward when you’re a beginner, there seems to be so many small fine-tune ups to this cycling. My very next lesson involved having so much mud in my shoe I couldn’t clip in. I didn’t discover this until I was in the bunch riding. Oops. I had to drop off once I realized what the problem was. Did I mention rookie? Yep.

As I stood on the side of the road trying to fix my problem, more bunches rode past asking if I was okay. Internal groan. There is so much humility in cycling. I needed help. And then he appeared. A very loud and Irish ride marshal ringing his cow bell at me. Couldn’t we just do this quietly? Apparently not. Mr. Charming handed me the bell and instructed me to shake it at the bunches coming. You know I smashed that out. Cool, so that’s now off my bucket list.

As my shoe was inspected, he decided we needed a pointy object to service it. He reached for his pocket and said, “the pen is mightier than the sword”, I giggled as he got to work.  As the next bunch came along the now Mr. Swordfighter yelled out, “I’m just seeing if the glass slipper fits.” What a dude. With my problem solved, I declared him my hero for the day, and took off to smash out my first real mountain.

As I cycled up, I called out to another rider to let her know I was passing. Spinning her legs, she puffed, “yep, another person going by me, I think I’m close to last now.” This is where all that math came in handy from high school, I churned the numbers in my head, we were probably in the middle, not the fastest, not the slowest. There was a heap behind us. She seemed relieved.

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Fascinated, she told me about a serious bike accident she had just two weeks ago. I told her she was pretty awesome and gutsy. She immediately tried to rebuff it with negativity. I wasn’t having that. I had also come off my bike a week before on the tram tracks. We were both doing our thing climbing that god damn mountain. That’s worth celebrating. And so is reaching the top.

Taking a quiet moment, I acknowledged my efforts to get to this day, and how I am no longer that person who allows fear to tell me what I can’t do. Interestingly, I quickly label fear but I’m starting to see it’s actually excitement. My inner commitment is to find and do what makes me come alive. The strong hold gripping me for years caring about what others might think has all but gone. Now I am motivated by what I believe of myself. This keeps my life continually opening up to more adventure. Bring it on. My part is allowing myself to be a beginner and learner, and that makes me one hell of a happy girl doing her thing.

After rocking that first mountain climb, there was an optional much longer ride the next day so some of us took off early morning. To say it wasn’t daunting or I was very ginger on the huge descent is understatement (think tram tracks) but I still did it. As I pushed myself way out of my comfort zone, I had to trust in the training coupled with the enthusiastic voices I carry within me of my loving friends, and of my own heart knowing I’m doing what I love. The magic for me is in the turning up. Not just with cycling, but everything in my life.

Going back to the top of the first day climb, another cyclist wanted to ride beyond to see what was there. I knew already. I jumped at the chance to ride a few extra kilometers, actually I always do, and yes there were a few eye rolls when I declared a recovery ride for myself later that afternoon. The sun was shining, we were coming down at a cracking pace and there it was, the lake, I almost squealed. I was returning to a place that knew me well. A few months ago, my tears had softly fallen upon this earth and the lake met me exactly as I was.

And here she was again, holding me in another time where my heart was whole and opening to love. This time she received my happiness. I was on my own bike and was reflecting on how I can never know what will unfold at any moment. Through turning up in the messiness, I knew I was finding my way back to trusting in life. I thanked her silently for I suspect she already knew how the timing of my life is always, always perfect.

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A 45cm sterling silver wearable affirmation to remind your self, or someone you love, who is trying their hardest and refusing to give up that like us, you’ve got this.  No matter what. See https://leaning-inwards.myshopify.com/products/youve-got-this-necklace

Being too much

Courage is not shaped by a Wonder Woman cape, it is an everyday girl facing that which terrifies her and saying yes anyway.” Quote unknown.

Two years ago, at age 44, after completing only two overnight hikes of around 20kms each I was compelled to travel to the Italian Alps. Originally, I looked at a hike in Sardinia but June was going to be too hot. Look up North they said, the Dolomites, there are some good walks up there. The Alta Via 1 is around 150kms. I never questioned my ability aside for a few jokes with my friends, I just took it in my stride I would do it.

In hindsight, when you are hiking a path of this scale, it might have been prudent to buy the topographical maps first and have a look. I cannot explain to you the drive that propelled me to choose this one. I did not question the call and I booked my flights. In the end I think my hike was about 200kms. You’ll read why.

I make myself sound like I didn’t do any research. I read a lot. I put out a call on Facebook and sure enough a friend of friend had done it the year before. Awesome. He sent me a billion photos and answered my questions. Did he use a compass? Was the trail hard? Trail markings clear? Problems with altitude? He answered in word, sending more photos of him hanging off cliff faces, holy crap, he looked fit.

I found a reputable tour company and booked a self-guided walk. This meant people knew I was out there and I was expected nightly at each Refugio. Perhaps the question ought to have been, should a gal who has been hiking less than year take on this trip solo?  Maybe subconsciously I knew what the answer would be so I never asked. I refused to listen to fear.

Of course, I trained, well what I thought was training for this hike. I took hikes with a hiking group who all reassured me that I could easily do the AV1. A few of them had done it but I failed to see they did it in a group. I added in stair work and hiking on sand, and for the record that did not prepare me for snow, nor did my regular Bikram yoga classes. Damn it, the snow was a hard slog.

However, as always, yoga prepared for me the mental anguish and despair I faced. I had learned to not give up, acknowledge the pain, name the struggle but keep on going. I also hiked amazing routes above Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast before the AV1, covering many kilometers with steep ascents and descents. The rest of the fitness came on the hike.

A handsome Italian guide, Andrea, briefed me on the maps marked out with highlighter, saying it was easier to follow and he did it for all his clients. Looking at the map, I thought maybe he was just sick of going to search for lost hikers. This was not just one straight path, it was crazing making spaghetti like trails. The map was a one big mass of green and grey with trails of blue, red and a little bit of orange. What the hell do they all mean anyway?

I was about to find out. I have a friend who talks about waking up bit by bit when you’re on a spiritual path, and maybe this was true for your first real hiking path too. There is no argument I wasn’t awake about how demanding it would be. The alarm was about to scream so loud I would be fully awake soon enough.

Back to Andrea, he asked if I had hiked before, um yes. Was I okay about being out there on my own and did I understand that people die on this trail? Sure, I said. I mean the hotel receptionist just called me the adventurous type. I guess that was the Italian assessment of my hiking ability. He said I could call him any time, as long as there was phone range, and if I needed him he could come to me.

He then cheekily suggested meeting me at the end of the AV1 for some via ferrata (Italian for climbing route instead of hiking). I nearly choked on my food. I remember thinking he definitely had an element of likable crazy to him. He laughed, said it would be fun. I did wonder if that was opposed to this not being fun. You know I’m so going to try via ferrata next time!

Had I thought this through? Yes and no. I believed a hike in the Dolomites would be spectacular and beautiful, pretty meadows, stunning mountains and cow bells. What I didn’t know was it would push me beyond all my physical and mental limits, allowing me to witness courage, exceptional fortitude and to uncover how self-doubt can easily rob me of encountering how capable I actually am. This was mighty girl stuff.

There’s a lot out there about moving outside your comfort zone, well this hike took me to a totally new level of discomfort. I experienced a few utterly desperate moments where I just had to surrender and lapse into absolute powerlessness. Paradoxically, I then watched the magic arise through bravery in action: making decisions, finding solutions, losing my temper and returning to a calm state once again. I nearly threw my hiking poles over the side of the mountain at one point. Not helpful.

With mountain after spectacular mountain, both majestic and daunting, I had many moments of awe in the vast spaces I found myself in, I had to stop walking to take it all in. There was fear bordering on panic when I took the wrong trails, like I could possibly lose my mind at any moment. Well some might have argued I had already lost it. At my lowest moments, I just wanted lie down on the trail and take my last breath. Dramatic I know.

Self-doubt was ever present and dominating, screaming through me at what I loser I was to be out here. Ironically, it is the first time I looked at my self-doubt and knew with absolute truth it was a liar, to be pushing my boundaries like this does not take a loser, it takes a warrior.

Surprisingly, I write that with sarcasm, getting lost was a combination of some poor signage and let’s face it my own inexperience. I felt both enormous joy and sobbed my heart out, sometimes at the same time. My toes caused me excruciating pain in the last few days making me cry even more. I lost five toenails in the end. In contrast, my body was astounding and powerful as I walked up, down, over and through knee-deep snow, mud, massive boulders, little rocks, pathways, streams and meadows.

Climbing heights to 3,000 meters where it became this mystical realm beyond the world as I knew it, in-between layers of cloud, where anything seemed possible. I wandered through green valleys to the sound of only cattle and goat’s bells, curiously raising their heads to watch the lone hiker walk on by as they grazed in the morning sun.

Alone for hours in my own company, with both peaceful thoughts and dark, desperate ones. Forced to find my way when I just wanted to give up exhausted. I distinctly recall climbing one mountain, sobbing, and unreasonably wishing for someone to appear before me and hoist me off the mountain. At the same time, knowing to the contrary the only person who could save me was myself, you know be your own hero, by taking step after step to the top. Relief flooded me as the hut came into sight each day (which also meant a macchiato and Italian cake) as I navigated my way along those trails with wonder, doubt, happiness, confusion, agony, aches, energy and a force I never knew I had.

One of the days I hiked with a gorgeous young lady, Allannah, who was taking the same route, she was a perfect companion and geologist, very handy.  Day eight I hired a local guide, Roberto, knowing I was bordering on physical exhaustion with an 18km trek over five snow slopes, one mighty peak and severe descent. I remember the snow easing the pain in my toes. He even carried my backpack, a hiker’s dream. I declared I loved him in Italian. He couldn’t stop laughing. He spoke very little English but he said the mountains were in his heart. I could tell.

As I followed Roberto I remember thinking this is an exquisite walking meditation as I didn’t have to think. Asking for help was totally unplanned but instinctively the right thing to do for that day. Some trails were busy, some were remote, and regardless I kept on until I found myself grief-stricken with sadness on the last day, not wanting to leave these mountains both holding and changing me.

There were two common questions on my return, “did you know what you were getting yourself in for?” Ha, I have sufficiently answered that. Secondly, “what did I learn from my hike?” I saw both a contradiction and an erroneous belief, I thought the more vulnerable I felt the weaker I would be, but as I pushed myself into the most self-exposure I have ever known, the more robust I became.

Interestingly in this state where my thoughts grew dark I discovered I could hold myself in those spaces, indeed I was strongest in what I would once have labelled as pathetic. Essentially, it did matter how I treated myself in those moments, in dropping into extreme vulnerability I found resilience and self-compassion for the tenacity it took to be on the trail on my own. Experience and living in the unknown, the part that is beyond the plan, is where I found the magic, the inexplicable depths of who I am.

Back at home, I was recounting my tales to a woman in her sixties, with my then 10-year-old daughter snuggled into my side. I was a few months into a new relationship and the question was raised “with all this adventure, do you think you will be too much for him?” Well aware my daughter was listening to every word I replied kindly but fiercely, that I didn’t care about being too much for anyone because this is who I am. I realised how far I had come.

I have spent a great portion of my life pleasing others and thinking I am not enough, and now I was being presented with the idea I might be too much. I know this woman had good intention, I love her dearly, but I also understand this is no longer my story. I do not have to tone myself down for anyone nor do I even have the slightest willingness to do so.

In the relationship mentioned, we had talked about the possibility of hiking the Walkers Haute Route together this year. Little did I know this was going to be our last conversation, a few days later we ended abruptly and for good reason. This was a few months back and with my heart broken open, I booked the flights anyway. I am now happily planning my return back to the mountains of Europe, solo. This time I will take with me confidence and the experience I have earned. I’ve even mapped the route myself!

And that girl cuddled into me, well she is one of three gutsy daughters, and I also have a great son. I know they watch very closely in how I live my life. There is no space within me to give up on my dreams because I am on my own. I am busy seeking adventure and daring myself to keep on turning up to life in a mighty girl way. Some may label that too much. I would call it wholehearted.

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A 45cm sterling silver wearable affirmation to remind your self, or someone you love, who is trying their hardest and refusing to give up that like us, you’ve got this.  No matter what. See https://leaning-inwards.myshopify.com/products/youve-got-this-necklace

These are the moments

Every Wednesday morning about 6am the garbage truck arrives to collect our rubbish. Like clockwork, aged 2 to 5, my son jumps out of his bed and runs full force into the bedroom, and into bed. He hides under the covers, cuddled up against me. He hates the sound of it and he finds comfort with his mum. These are the moments. I find it a little amusing and relish in our snuggles, until he outgrows his fear. I let go.

I spend endless years reading books and doing jigsaw puzzles with him. We search the library to try and satisfy his need for Paul Jennings. We go to an Andy Griffith’s book signing. He thinks I’m ace. We bake goodies and he asks me for yet another story. I spend years bowling to him in the back yard. These are the moments. Until he declares that I’m a lousy bowler, and his Dad does it so much better. That is actually true. I let go.

Aged 11, he skips happily away towards the bus. He’s off on school camp so excited to be with his friends. He missed out the year before. A broken collarbone. It’s like he suddenly remembers, turns around to me, smiling, and yells “see you Mum, I love you.” I say it back and with that he leaps up the stairs, sits next to his best mate and starts waving like mad out the window. These are the moments. He then becomes too cool for that. I let go.

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“Little boys should never be sent to bed. They always wake up a day older.” Unknown.

Grade six graduation. The kids put on a concert. One of the songs they sing is Hall of Fame.  This night was some 6 years ago and yet etched into my mind like it was yesterday. There he stands singing his heart out to the words “and the world’s gonna know your name.”  He looks to me in the crowd. I know that look, it’s between a mother and her son.  I don’t have to let go, he’s still doing that. These are the moments.

Aged nearly 13, he sits diligently at the kitchen bench as we work out this high school homework timetable. We talk time management strategies and how his day was. These are the moments. After a few months, he asks, “Mum can I go and study in my room from now on, the girls make too much noise?” Of course. I know that’s over too. He collects his belongings and wanders off. I let go. I still bring him cups of tea whilst he’s studying. He always says thanks. These are the new moments.

At 14, he has to do a massive hands-on project. He asks me to help him. He chooses a sustainable house and garden. I spent endless nights with him making clay bricks. We chatter the hours away. It takes a few months.  He writes in his project notes saying we work well together. These are the moments. I feel sadness the day we carry it into school. I let go.

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“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” Peggy O’Mara.

These next few years are hard. He disappears into the tunnel of adolescent boys. He barely talks, but grunts instead. He doesn’t want to be touched. He moves out of the way when I reach for him. He wants to spend most of his time in his room, or watching TV. Any kind of conversation is met with “huh”, “what”, “yeah”, “whatever”. I struggle.  All I can see is my little boy, his curls and big brown eyes looking up me as he asks to be lifted. Still I let go. Every now and then I walk past him and reach my hand out to just touch him on the shoulders. Sometimes he lets me. These are the hard but new moments.

I look to engage him when he is open. Mostly whilst he is sitting on the back deck, taking a study break or eating food. I sit with him. We chat. We make each other cups of tea now. We talk psychology, physics, which I don’t understand, study pathways and he gives me his hilarious thoughts about religion from having to sit in chapel. He has a very dry sense of humor. We laugh a lot. We throw many weird ideas around on that back deck.  It has become a bit of a sacred space, especially so in the warmer months.  These are the moments. I had to let go to get to this. I am grateful.

A rare night out to dinner. My daughters are all away on various school trips. We eat a beautiful Vietnamese meal. I automatically think after we’ve finished eating he’ll want to go home. When you’re 17 it’s all about the food right? Turns out I’m wrong. He says, “let’s not leave yet Mum, let’s just stay here and talk.” My heart melts for the next hour and a half.  I just appreciate this time with him.  These are the new moments.

To now, when he is up on the school stage shaking the headmaster’s hand. He is a bright kid, motivated by wanting to succeed academically. He receives his award, and he looks into the audience to find me. I know he wants to know I am there, even though he knows I am attending. It’s a moment of eye contact and a knowing look. I’ve seen it for many years now, except it is now between a young man and his mother.

Some moments never change.

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“We didn’t realise we were making memories. We just knew we were having fun.” Winnie the Pooh……. My son and his three sisters playing soccer with a rock in Paris.
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A 45cm sterling silver wearable affirmation to remind your self, or someone you love, who is trying their hardest and refusing to give up that like us, you’ve got this.  No matter what. See https://leaning-inwards.myshopify.com/products/youve-got-this-necklace

Finding True North

Unhinged. Full of fury.  A recklessness rising up in me. I cleared my weekend schedule and took to the trail.  Not one of my more sane hikes but nonetheless I smashed about 40kms in under 24 hours.  I could not stop until the rage began to soften within me.  Not generally an angry person, I knew this grief was raw in form.  I felt extraordinarily exposed and like nothing in me was contained. My usual calm disposition was nowhere to be seen. And like many things in my life lately, my intuition was right on par to take to the trail, to hike this energy out.

As I descended one side of a mountain, I could see the cove ahead and I saw two hikers walking along the beach way off in the distance.  I made a mental note that that was where the trail head would begin again after the beach walk. Needless to say, I hiked along the beach, head down, beside myself with frenzied thoughts of confusion and trying to make sense of recent outcomes.  I came to the end of the beach, to what I assumed was the trail and started my angry ascent.

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If we stay present with the rawness of our direct experience, emotional energy can move through us without getting stuck.  Pema Chodron.

Much to my confusion, the trail ran out and I found myself in scrub.  I pushed my way through thinking I’d somehow force myself to find the track.  The bush got thicker and I was seething at myself to find a solution, to bash my way back to the trail. Surely it was around here somewhere. Again, the recklessness screaming at me, and I did not care I was off trail.  I stood there willing the universe to take me on. And then the moment of softening arrived, where I saw myself hurting and lost, realising these are the times people need to be rescued for wandering way off trail.

Disorientated, and not just because I was off track.  I reminded myself of the rule that when you get lost on the trail, you always go back to the last physical point where you were orientated.  I needed to back track.  Within ten minutes the trail head appeared, which I had hiked right past in my heightened emotional state.  I was back walking the trail.  There actually would have been no way through from where I stood in the scrub lost, and as I was so clouded by my emotions I could have made a whole series of dangerous decisions.

And so it is with my emotional life when powerful responses are arising in me. I can see there is a stability and safety in not straying far away from what I know is the core of me.  These intense feelings are there for a reason, they demand to be felt but I also know they are not who I am.  They could easily drive some erratic decisions, if I allow it, and have me acting in ways that would continue to disorientate me into murky waters.

Instead, whilst taking this particular hike, I was reminded I need to keep closely orientated to my true self, to what I know to be nurturing and that which helps me soften, not harden, into the changes.  Feelings are real but they are not facts.  Even when I feel completely stripped bare, I want to lean inwards, and to live this life wholeheartedly.  For me there is no other way.

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You are the sky.  Everything else is the weather.  Pema Chodron.
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A 45cm sterling silver wearable affirmation to remind your self, or someone you love, who is trying their hardest and refusing to give up that like us, you’ve got this.  No matter what. See https://leaning-inwards.myshopify.com/products/youve-got-this-necklace