During my recent trekking adventure in Oregon that was nothing like I thought it was going to be, I realized that there are some important life lessons that I could take from the experience. Here are my 5 lessons from trekking:
1. Roll with it.
My Oregon trip was suppose to be a 4-night adventure in the Sisters area with beautiful fall weather – you know, crisp sunny days, blue skies, cool nights. Not rain, snow, or alternate plans because where we planned to go was getting dumped on. Not two in-town days because it would have been suffer-fest otherwise. But, so far, I do not control the weather. In fact, the more time passes in my life, the more I realize I simply have control over just about nothing. Not one thing.
Except myself. I have control of myself and how I respond to things when they change. So, in this moment, even though I had spent time (and money) envisioning what this vacation was going to be life, I had to accept that things were going to be different. They were not going to play out they way I wanted them to. They were going to play out just the way they were. with rain and snow and wind. In the past, I have had a tendency to be frustrated in these situations – unable to move past what I wanted and what I had hoped for. Which, surprisingly, did not change my situation and just made me, and anyone who was around me, miserable.
And so, the rain and snow came down in the mountains… I drank tasty Oregon IPAs and laughed with my friend while we sat around her fire and made plans for a different hike.
Sometimes it’s hard, we want things to work out one way so badly, which I am wildly guilty of. But, often enough, if I just roll with things, and let it all play out, everything is just fine. I guess this lesson could also be known as: trust.
2. It hurts now, but it’ll pass.
Our trek up into the mountains in the Diamond Peak wilderness started with a light drizzle, that turned into a heavier rain, transitioning into wet snow. And the higher we went, the more snow that was on the ground, until eventually we were walking through several inches of snow. By the time we reached the site where we planned to bed down for the night, our feet were soaking wet and the temperatures were dropping. We spent the afternoon and night in the tent, eating tasty warm food and burrowing deep into our bags. In the morning, our thermometer read 26 degrees. In the tent. Yep, it was a cold one.
Cold enough that our shoes froze. Solid. Putting those puppies on was not one of the more fun things I have done. The first hour was excruciatingly painful. Even though the sun came out and we had to walk uphill which warmed up my body, my feet were still damn cold and painful. I have over-exposed my feet to cold temps so many times that doing so now causes me to hobble in pain, which is where K found me at the top of the hill — hobbling, gasping in pain, on the verge of tears. She looked at me and calmly said - it’ll pass. It wasn’t magic, my feet didn’t stop hurting at that moment – but it was a good reminder that this was temporary. They have hurt before, but they would stop hurting eventually.
And…. the same with other times I have been in pain, emotional or physical. It passes. The heartbreak over that man? It passed. That shoulder surgery? It healed. Those things that feel so big, that hurt so much…. eventually that pain pass. Eventually that hurt heals.
3. The signs are everywhere, we just have to look for them.
Because the ground was covered in several inches of snow, it made it hard to navigate the trail. In the beginning, we made many wrong turns (or rather, missed the turns we should have taken). We followed routes that seemed right, but weren’t. We spent time searching for the trail. But, as time passed, we got better and better at it. Over time, we started to notice where the snow lay in the trough of the trail. We started to notice trees that had been cut to clear the trail. We started to see the signs that had been there all along, we just had to look for them.
And this, seems to me, to be not far off from the way things really are. That relationship that you keep going, in hopes that it will get better? The signs have been there all along that it wasn’t right. That job, that apartment, that friendship, that guy you’ve been on a few dates with? The signs are there, telling you if it is right or wrong, there to stay or time to move along. But, so often, we don’t want to see those signs when they don’t jive with what we want or hope for. So, instead of seeing the signs that are there, we keep moving in the direction we think is right, hoping for something that is different from the reality in front of us. If only we’d slow down, start looking and listening at what is actually in front of us, versus the story we have made up in our minds, it seems that a lot more would be clear.
4. When you think you’re lost, trust your gut.
K and I got to a section where we just couldn’t find the trail. We searched for at least an hour. We contemplated turning around (and we loathe to go back the way we have come). We circled around, following false starts and elk paths. We even got to the point where we thought that we would just go over land and bushwack our way back to the car. We consulted our map, took bearings on our compass and we searched. We saw a trail, but it appeared to just circle back to the trail we had been on. So, we searched some more. It was frustrating. It started to snow. We took a bearing, headed out, going NE planning to go until it was dark and we found a suitable place to bed down. As we climbed uphill, skirting around rocks, not knowing what was in front of us, I stopped us – feeling like we needed to go back to that trail. I just had a feeling….
And sure enough, we followed it, and as the sun started to go down, we came to where we had planned to camp all along.
If, in that moment, we had slowed down and trusted our gut and actually tried that trail, we would have avoided several hours of messing around. I didn’t know that was the right way, but I had a feeling that it was. Instead, I talked myself out of it. What would happen, when faced with a decision, if we always listened to our gut? If we took the time to slow down and actually listen to ourselves? Listened to what we were feeling to find out what was the right answer? I imagine our choices might be different. And even if the results weren’t actually different, would we feel different about them because we had made the choice ourselves? My guess is yes, yes it would feel different.
5. Laugh in the face of it all.
We got lost. It snowed. It was freezing. It wasn’t the trek we planned on doing. We spent more hours in our tent than we ever planned on (which is what happens when you get into your sleeping bag at 4:30 in the afternoon). But through it all, we laughed. We supported each other. We saw beauty in our surroundings and we celebrated our good fortune.
There is so much to celebrate in this world of ours, it just seems that we should make the time to laugh each and every day. In the face of all that seems unfair and unjust and wrong and painful, there is so much to laugh at and celebrate. Be thankful when you have a buddy with you to laugh at jokes that never get old. And when you’re alone? Laugh at the absurdity and make sure not to take yourself too seriously. ‘Cause there’s just too much joy with out there!
I guess when I think about these 5 lessons — they are really just come down to trust.
To be here now and trust that everything will fall into place. ‘Cause it does. It just does.
And in the mean time, drink a hoppy cascade-hopped ipa and laugh with an old friend!