*Disclaimer: This is not a trail description*
“There!” I said aloud as I placed the last bobby pin in my hair to hold my bandana in place. I had just gotten my hair dyed and wanted my newly streaked bangs to show. I had to look cute for pictures in case they got posted, and my ex-boyfriend saw them. I had recently broken up with my boyfriend because he started talking to another girl and relapsed on heroin. My heart broke for him, and I wanted so badly to help him but knew that I couldn’t. I had to walk away. I felt sorry for him, yet I also felt angry and betrayed. All of these emotions made me feel incredibly vulnerable and insecure. I had to show off. I had to show him and the world that I wasn’t sad or lonely. I had to show them that I was sexy and popular. I had to be confident because if I weren’t, I would crumble. I would crumble into a million pieces, and I wasn’t sure if I would recover this time.
I continued to get all dolled up as I sorted through my emotions and then chuckled. This was crazy! I was getting all cute and dressed up to go on a hike in the woods with bugs and dirt! Why was I so worried about what I looked like? Why was I so concerned about what others thought of me? This was my second hike. My first hike was Rattlesnake ridge. I had fallen in love with the adrenaline rush, the excellent workout, the massive flood of endorphins, and the sheer breathtaking beauty of it all. I had no idea what I was doing out there in nature and didn’t have a car, so I was entirely reliant on friends to take me. I was what I call now a “baby hiker.”
I needed this hike. I didn’t know what it was about nature, but I knew I felt rejuvenated after the last one. Although, I was a bit nervous about this one, I was hiking with a group of people this time. I had only hiked with my friend Nicole on my first hike, but Nicole was a very close friend and knew I was a hot mess, a city girl, and a bit of a street rat at that moment. I always identified with Nicole and could be myself around her, but on today’s hike, we had some friends joining us. Would they laugh at me for not having hiking boots or for using a child’s school backpack? Will they know that I am living pay check to pay check and had just broken up with a guy who was addicted to heroin? What will we talk about? I assisted in surgery, but I didn’t have a fancy degree or a big career. Would I know what to say? Why did I care so much about what they thought?
I took one last glance in the mirror and headed down to the lobby to jump into Nicole’s car. We chatted and caught up on the latest dramas, her ups, and downs with her boyfriend and my crazy guy troubles. She was all decked out as usual. Her hiking boots, a camelback and her dog in the back of her car fully equipt with his doggie hiking vest. She was all smiles and so excited to take me to see the jade green/blue waters of snow lake. Could I ever be as independent and fearless as she is one day? When we got to the trailhead, we met up with the friends that were joining us. There were two girls and one guy. They didn’t look or act prestigious in any way? They were very warm and welcoming. Was it just me? Was it all in my head? I knew they all had very successful careers and definitely made more money than I did. Why did I assume they would laugh at me or treat me any differently? They were just regular people that were as excited to go on this hike as I was. Had I pre-judged them?
We started the hike. Snow lake is tucked away in the Snoqualmie Pass region of Washington. You begin the hike at a ski resort area. This did not help with my self-conscious anxieties. I watched as people walked around with their fancy snowboarding and skiing gear. I never really got into snow sports growing up, mainly because I couldn’t afford to. Would I ever know what it was like to live life like these people? To be able to drop 100 dollars in a day to swish down a mountain? I grimaced as I sincerely doubted I ever would.
I started heavily breathing as we trudged up the 200 ft climb of log steps. Having to focus on pretending that my smokers lungs were still functioning helped me to forget all about the fancy skiers and snowboarders. One breath in. One breath out. One breath in. One breath out. Breeeeeathe!! Don’t let them see you struggling. Don’t let anyone see you struggle. Don’t let them see….
As I was desperately trying to stay alive, I watched the one girl and guy interact and talk as they hiked. I quickly figured out that they were on a date. I watched in total bewilderment. People went on dates in the woods!? How odd? She was not wearing anything especially sexy or revealing. She would eventually get all sweaty and not the pretty club sweat kind of sweaty. Why would she do that? What was she thinking? Maybe she wasn’t overly smitten with this guy and didn’t care? The same went for him as well. He can’t buy her drinks or be flashy and show off with his money. He can’t rub up on her in any way without it being awkward. How was he going to impress her? He was asking her about her life and answering questions about his as they walked, but he wasn’t loosened up by alcohol or drugs!? Neither of them were drinking or on drugs!? This whole scene was incredibly weird!!?? I felt like I was watching an episode of national geographic’s: “The odd mating habits of successful people”! I was sincerely baffled. They were genuinely enjoying each others company and flirting in nature. They were dirty, sweaty, and sober. It seemed quite beautiful actually. It was safe, peaceful, and without vanity or embarrassment, degradation or regret. Could I ever have this? Would I ever be confident enough to go on a date like this? Will I ever get to a point in my life where I am not intimidated by ordinary, healthy, successful men? I doubt it. I am so screwed up. I am damaged goods. My finances were scary, I was not witty and was slutty with a whole boatload of baggage. I don’t have a degree. I wouldn’t know how to talk to, let alone hang out with a clean cut man. He would never want me, maybe only to try to fix me or just use me and drop me.
“Shooooooooosh…….” Shooooooosh….” “Shooooosh….”
What was that?
I listened closely. It was the distant sound of the small waterfalls and streams trickling all around us on the mountain. The soft shooshing noises of the streams sounded like consoling whispers. It was as if nature was shooshing me. Anytime I would start to tear myself apart again I would get distracted by the faint shooshing all around me. It would calm me. It would distract me from my painful self-hate and abuse. It was as if it was trying to say to me:
“Shooooosh…Be gentle with yourself….Shoooosh….be kind to yourself.” On repeat.
I had never experienced this before. In all my years of drugs, self-mutilation, booze, sex, moshing, or punishing exercise my mind had never been calmed or quieted so quickly. Was this some sort of mountain magic? Whatever it was it was fabulous. My doubts and self-conscious feelings melted away and I began to look around to soak up the beautiful landscape as we walked. It was a picture out of an epic movie scene. The rocky granite cliffs loomed over everything in their grand majesty. The small patches of snow dotted the surrounding landscape like strings of sparkling gems. The air was crisp, and the sun was bright.
We reached a patch of snow that we would have to cross. I bit my lip in fear as I realized I had on tennis shoes with no traction. The group could see my concern and handed me a hiking pole to stabilize me as I crossed over. They all watched in support and were on the ready to help if I fell. As I got off the snow patch, I was filled with a sense of accomplishment. I did it! I also realized that I didn’t do it alone. I felt enormous appreciation for the support of my hiking companions. Was this what it felt like to have friends that pushed you to new heights and yet reached out a hand to pull you along if you needed it? I was so accustomed to friends that required me to solve their most recent drama or friends that pulled me down to wallow in their sorrow with them. There were also the friends that I partied and drank with. They were a blast, but when things got terrible or boring were they still there? There are times and places for these types of friends, but this was a new kind of friend that made me want to be better, to be healthy, and to find joy in self-achievement. It was wonderful!
I was taken back by the snow as well. I grew up on the East Coast and was not very outdoorsy, so the snow always meant hunkering down indoors. Right now I was outside trudging through the snow in shorts and a tank top! It was wild! I watched the dogs prancing around and rolling in the snow in unadulterated joy. The dogs got wet and muddy then ran to their owners and got them wet and muddy. It put an ear to ear smile on my face that made my mouth sore. I hadn’t smiled like that in a really long time. I had been too busy partying and bringing down others around me. I had been too busy searching for healing in all the wrong places. I was so focused on my looks or my social status or continuously obsessed with trying to transform myself to the liking of the person I was dating at the time to feel accepted or loved. Who was I kidding though? I could never afford hiking gear or a car or be brave enough to go on a date with no makeup or without wearing sexy clothes. What’s the point? Why should I even try?
“Shooooooosh….” “shooooosh…..” “shooooosh…”
The surrounding waters shooshed me again.
“Be kind to yourself.. Be gentle….” They whispered.
We continued on, and the landscape began to open up around us. I could smell the fragrant scent of pine and dirt. We finally reached a rocky outcropping where many other people had stopped to sit and eat as well. We all sat down to pull out our snacks. I munched away on some nuts and smiled in complete contentment. I looked at all the different people sitting around us. There were probably some that were wealthy and successful and yet some that may have been poor and new to nature like me. I am sure some were emotionally stable and happy, and some were seeking wisdom and healing that day. Everything was equal out here, balanced, and welcoming. I forgot all about my ex-boyfriend. I forgot all about trying to look cute or having to impress anyone. I forgot all about my fear of being alone. I felt good enough. I felt worthy.
I overheard my friends saying how disappointed they were for me because the lake was still covered in snow; though the name of the lake is “Snow lake” it is known for its breathtaking blue/green glacial waters. They wanted, so badly, for me to have seen it that day. I smiled at them and reassured them that it was okay. I got to see so much other beauty that day, and I would see the blue/green lake one day. I continued eating my snack and stared at the snow-covered lake.
I closed my eyes to listen to the birds and the soft shooshing of the nearby streams before having to go back to the chaos of the city.
“Shooooosh….” “Shooooosh…. Be gentle with your self….Be kind to yourself…Be patient…”
I heard it whisper one last time.
Then I heard mother nature say to me, “ I did not want you to see my beautiful blue/green waters on this day. For today, I did not want you to see MY beauty….I wanted you to discover YOURS.”
Sending you all love and light,
*This entry is dedicated to my fierce and beautiful friends: Nicole Dwyer and Kat Cozza -Thank you for changing my life. *