I had what was probably the most physically challenging day of my life on Friday. As I train for my 47-km Juan de Fuca Marine Trail trek next summer, I am taking on more and more challenging hikes and, on this particular day, I was in way over my head. Thankfully, I was with a group of wonderful, supportive and experienced hikers who pushed me, inspired me and cheered me on all day. As I climbed nearly 600 m to the summit of Little Ware Mountain, one inch at a time, I learned some things about myself, my virtues and my vices.
Temperance is a Virtue
Easy does it. Save some for later. Don’t spend it all at once. Pace yourself. What is this strange language you speak? I’ve never paced myself – not even once. My approach to life, food, music, love and everything I do is go hard until you collapse in complete and utter exhaustion. Which can be amazing. And devastating. From annihilating my Hallowe’en candy by November 2 as a kid to watching 14 hours of The Sopranos in one day to meeting a new guy on Tuesday and never spending a day apart ever again – temperance is not a virtue I possess. It turns out, much to my surprise, the same applies to physical exertion. I spent the first three kilometres of the Little Ware Mountain hike at the head of the pack. Energetic, powerful and maybe a little cocky. And then the grade changed. As the elevation rose, my exuberance quickly waned. By the time I (finally) reached the summit, I was among the last. By the end of the descent, I was relying on the kindness of strangers to keep me from being bear bait alone in the woods. I reached the parking lot dead last – aching, exhausted but still pretty damn proud of myself.
Pride is also a virtue (but only sometimes)
Let’s get real for a moment here: had I been alone on that hike, I’d have taken one look at the ascent above the tree-line and made a b-line for a sunny spot by the creek and a snack. But with a group of people, my pride would not allow it. I would not be the one who couldn’t do it. Even when I was taking only one step in between breaks on that hill, failure was not an option with a group of fitter, faster people already enjoying their lunch at the top. Don’t get me wrong, pride can be a cruel mistress. I’ve sacrificed comfort and my internal organs by squeezing into a size 14 pair of fancy-ass black stretch jeans by lying down on my bed and doing up the zipper with a coat hanger because I was NOT a plus size…for example. Or, on a more somber note, I never reached out for help when I was feeling deep and profound despair, because I wanted people to think I was strong and that everything was alright. Pride can get in the way of progress. But on this particular day, pride pushed me and I found myself at the very top of a mountain. A FREAKING MOUNTAIN!
Humility (For the times when pride isn’t a virtue)
When I was a kid, you did NOT want to go bowling with me. In the town where I grew up, there was a swimming pool, a bowling alley, a mall and an arena. That’s pretty much it. Given the options, we spent a fair amount of time bowling in the winter. When things were going well on the lanes (which was never) I was a delightful child. But as soon as the gutter balls started rolling (which was always) the prideful demon emerged and temper tantrums of epic proportions rocked Shamrock Lanes to the very core. Men in two-coloured shirts ran for their lives, children clung to their mothers, the shoe guy ducked behind the desk and prayed for deliverance. I wanted to be good at everything (I still do). Bowling was not (and is not) one of those things. Somehow accomplishment and achievement became equated with “good” in my mind and losing a game meant I was a losing at life. Let’s say it didn’t make me an ideal birthday party guest. Fast forward 30 years and you have a 41-year-old who weighs 250 lbs at the back of the pack, huffing, puffing and aching in the knees as the group gets further and further ahead. The 10-year-old would have been mortified. I was humbled. I wasn’t the fastest or the fittest or the best hiker. In fact, I was the slowest. But I was outside on a beautiful day in one of the most beautiful places on earth putting one foot in front of the other. My feet! What could there possibly be to be upset about?
If there’s one thing I learned by starting Nourishing Camie, it’s the power of community and connection. Friday was no exception. I was shown such incredible kindness on a very challenging day. As I struggled to reach the summit, one of my fellow hikers called down to me with a better route and ensured I made it to the top. The group cheered as us stragglers each summited the mountain, poles in the air, triumphant. Three hikers modified their pace for me as I limped along the last couple of kilometres, exhausted. At least, I’m pretty sure that’s what was happening – as I never felt like they begrudged the slower pace. They were encouraging, gracious, helpful and enthusiastic. After the hike, I received the following message from the organizer – a seasoned hiker:
“Nice to meet you today and chat with you.Glad you accomplished the hike. As you do harder ones you will get better and build your confidence. Hope to see you on a future hike of mine.”
And from a fellow hiker with whom I’d shared my story:
“Hi Camie, I was a pleasure meeting you on the hike yesterday, and I wanted to tell you that I admire your determination. It takes a lot of courage to join a group to pursue your goals, and the hike was difficult for some of the regular hikers – you should be very proud of yourself!! I wish you continued success and hope to see you on hikes in the future. You are awesome!! :))”
I share these not to brag (well, sort of…pride, you know) but to illustrate how taking a moment to say a few kind words can make a real difference for someone. These kindnesses made a profound impact on me. And, if you’ll indulge me in a little preaching, I encourage you who read this to reach out today and say a kind word to someone who has had an impact on you. Imagine if we all did this as a habit?
Finally, as I was driving away from the mountains (my screaming quads begrudging my choice of a standard transmission), I saw the sun setting on the amazing Rocky Mountains in my rear view mirror and thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have that view in front of you all of the time, no matter where you’re headed?” And it immediately occurred to me that I’m living into a possibility and walking towards a future that inspires me. I DO have that view every day. And it’s beautiful.
Love and light,