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I now have two mantras that run through my head on repeat:
“I do not fall”
“I am strong. I am fit. I am healthy.”
I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve said, “WTF?”, “This can’t be the trail”, “Seriously?”, or simply scream out loud “No!” to the so-called path in front of me.
The Appalachian Trail in these northern states has consisted of jagged rock piles, jumbled boulder fields, slippery rocky river beds, slabs of steep smooth slate or granite, clusters of tangled roots, or my personal nemesis, steep rocky waterfalls (the trail is literally a waterfall in places). Did I mention the rocks?!
There have been many times when Ken and I wondered if the people blazing this trail were inherently sadistic or merely drunk.
In some places, it needlessly wanders in haphazard directions that make no sense. In Connecticut we finally had a little reprieve from the crazy terrain and were walking along a lovely flat(ish) river trail. Suddenly, the AT veered uphill to the right instead of continuing alongside the river. After a bit of uphill climbing, then back down, the trail rejoined the river side path. For no apparent reason, the architects of the Appalachian Trail want hikers to always suffer just a little.
Perhaps they think we won’t feel accomplished unless we earn it?!
Being told to go a different way in order to avoid tragic losses was equally terrifying and entertaining.
Surprisingly, this sign was only spotted towards the end of New Hampshire as we headed up Mousilauke Mountain. It could have been at the base of every mountain! Thankfully, I was finally feeling more confident by this time and scrambled up without an issue.
The notorious Mahoosuc Notch in Maine was the site of my second rock climbing induced anxiety attack. Although much more minimal than my reaction to the first day on Katahdin, this area threw me for a loop. At times a fun challenge and considered the slowest mile on the entire Appalachian Trail, it was interesting, but definitely not my favorite part.
Other areas were as intense and often scarier than a haunted house (for height challenged folks like myself anyway). But in some cases the trail at least offered some assistance.
When man-made efforts weren’t involved, trees were very helpful offering assistance with branches, trunks, and roots. I made a point of thanking every tree that helped me in even the smallest way. Of course I may have cursed a few that tripped me along the way too.
After falling a bunch and generally beating myself up for not feeling athletic enough for this experience, I suddenly had the awareness- “I’m already doing this!”
There is no point in feeling bad about something you are making happen. So I decided to switch my thinking. That’s when I started chanting the mantras above in my head, especially “I am strong”. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said (out loud) “I don’t know what to do here.” Then promptly started moving forward. As long as I’m making progress (no matter how slow), I call it a win.
I hope I can retain this lesson... when I don’t know how to move forward in life or the studio, action is better than contemplating endless possibilities. If I didn’t choose to push past fears and move forward, I’d still be looking confused and sad somewhere in the middle of Maine.
I’d love to hear what challenges you are conquering in the comments below!
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