Monsters in the Night

Michelle EllwangerMichelle's Journal6 Comments

I wanted to ease into things.

Hence, the weekend day hiking trip with my spouse Mike followed by the four day section hike with my classmate Dave. This would assure no extended time alone. It felt safe and familiar.

Now it is time let go of safety even if it means facing my personal monsters in the night.

I have spent time alone with my inner self in the past. I have a broken part that is fractured and wants to heal but doesn’t quite know how. It is this broken self that stays hidden and can go unnoticed when I keep busy and distracted. But keeping overly occupied isn’t a formula for success. Living in high gear without direction is neither sustainable nor fun.

I am now seeing this hike as my own journey versus sharing in my son’s journey. Kerry’s been trying to get this point through to me quite some time. He explicitly commented from the beginning, “mom, you gotta hike your own hike.”

Which is fortunate because he recently called to informed me that his stress fracture in his foot is not healing and his hike will need to be put on hold. This comes after he has already told Microsoft he is leaving. Not having a job doesn’t seem to worry or phase him. Unlike me, he is not afraid.

I tell my clients that life is full of curve balls. And instead of trying to duck when life throws us one, we are better off learning how to hit curve balls.

So I will continue hiking my own hike of 500 miles.

My current section takes takes me beyond Erwin, TN. And my first day, I meet Karin, a woman in her late 50’s from Germany. She delights in my broken German and we talk all afternoon, eventually making it to a campsite with plenty of other hikers.

Time passes by. Karin pushes ahead, also being a stronger hiker than me. I don’t mind being slow. It’s only a problem when I feel I have to be something I am not. When I accept who I am and what I can do, it becomes easy. And even though I am alone at the end of a long day, it feels good when I make it to Erwin.

It’s Friday and Mike is waiting for me. He smiles as he walks across the bridge to where I exit the forest. He will be with me all weekend at a local Farmstay. We have a bed and bathroom all to ourselves. It feels more luxurious than some of the 5 star hotels I have stayed at. Luxury is relative to one’s current state of existence.

The weekend feels literally and figuratively like the top of the world. We enjoy the panoramic views from Beauty Spot and enjoy delicious homemade food. But Sunday afternoon comes sooner than I like and Mike drops me back off alone on the trail.

My sad heart gets sadder as evening approaches and I make it to a campsite where no other hikers have stopped.

I set up my tent and hang a bear bag for the first time alone. It’s pathetically comical watching me throw my bag over a branch 20 feet high. I finally get my food secured enough to feel safe and crawl into my tent.

The wind howls and I ask myself, why am I doing this?

Then I remember. I don’t want to run away from the things that scare me. I want to face them and overcome them. I know I can do this. I think about my favorite quote from Frank Herbert’s Dune:

“Fear is the mind-killer. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

I say it to myself several times until I know I will be fine tonight.

Next post: Facing Roan Mountain

6 Comments on “Monsters in the Night”

  1. Hi Michelle,
    I did not realize till today that there were more entries than just the Monsters one. They didn’t show up on my visit to your site yesterday I think it was. I hope you will keep posting, but I understand if you are too tired to do it. It is very interesting to me. It is like live feed. I will try to think of something encouraging to share. I do love the outdoors and I do relish the idea of standing on my own two feet in the world. Perls would say this is the goal of real growth, because after all, it is basically each individual and the universe. I always liked Perls for his authentic way of living. I am sitting in the lap of luxury–windows and AC and admiring your guts. I am currently reading Shapiro again, and really for the first time, and also a book, Welcome to Your Crisis. I am starting my book too…..which I am procrastinating about at this present moment. Would that be considered a project like yours? Out into the unknown space of discovering what I can or cannot do. Hugs, gwynn

    1. Hello Gwynn. Yes, alive and well. Seems like I would have lots of free time but that hasn’t been true so far. I am taking some time off the trail with it being the peak heat of summer for some vacation time. I will add more posts to get caught up with where I currently am on my adventures. Very happy to hear you are writing a book. Way to be creative and brave! I wish you all the best.

  2. Wow, Hi Michelle. I watched for posts initially and then gave up until now. I missed you, but now I am curious about your adventure. You make me think of Cheryl Strayed. I can feel how it would feel. Mike is brave too. I can’t imagine how alone he must feel with his own fear. I am going to see if there are more posts….

  3. What a lovely blog Michelle and how brave of you to push your comfort zone in this way! Thank you for sharing your adventure with all of us. It is very inspiring!

  4. Thanks for the email update that brought me here. Loved your thoughts and comments in your journal about the hike and why you are doing it. Have a great time and rest on the remainder of your hike and sabbatical.

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