When Eddie and I lived in Colorado and our friends had people visit them, there was always a lot of talk leading up to these visits that focused on which bike ride, hiking trail or rock climb they were going to do when their guests arrived. When people visited me, the talk leading up to the visit was focused more on what sale was happening at the mall, what time happy hour started and what movies were in town. It’s not to say I’m against the outdoors, it’s just to say I don’t crave it the way many of my Colorado friends do. For years they all tried to convert me…taking me rollerblading on Boulder creek path (hated it) girls weekend getaways to rustic cabins in the mountain (pour me another) and hikes that promised to help me feel closer to God (not so much).
One particular attempt was about 15 years ago when unbeknownst to me my girlfriends forged a plan to trick me by getting me to the top of a mountain and proving to me how awesome it was and worth the trip. They told me that the plan was that we were hiking for about 45 minutes then we would go to lunch…. The turkey club waiting on the other side of the hike convinced me to go (they knew it would) and I was also looking for a way to get them all off my back and figured 45 minutes in hell was worth it. We started off on the hike and I noticed they were all very engaged with me (part of the distraction plan) and before I knew it we were an hour in and still headed up hill away from my turkey club. Whenever I would ask about this (roughly every 3 and 1/2 minutes) they would distract me again until I finally just stopped dead in my tracks and asked what the hell was going on. The question was met with deep sighs and lots of eye contact avoidance. Then my friend Kristen confessed that they all wanted me to get to the top of this mountain so they can show me how magnificent this whole hiking thing was and they know I’m going to love it and could I pleeeeaaase just stay open.
I was NOT happy and stayed cranky pants the whole rest of the hike. When we reached the top….AN HOUR LATER…..I was ornery and hungry and when my friend offered me an organic wheatgrass granola bar she nearly got pushed off the cliff. I proclaimed with one hand on my hip and the other one pointing to each of my besties that IF things go bad on the way down and we all get stranded and I die from a bear attack, dehydration or tragic fall NONE OF THEM WERE ALLOWED TO EAT MY FLESH IN ORDER TO SAVE THEMSELVES. NOT ONE BITE WAS ALLOWED BY ANY OF THEM! NOT ONE BITE.
” But Megan, look around! It’s so beautiful! ” don’t you feel so close to God?” I did not feel any closer to God than I would hanging out with Eddie, or picking out placemats in Target or at home watching a movie on my couch. The mission was a big fat fail and that was the last time I was invited on a hike. Fine by me.
But when Eddie and I were talking a few days ago about our trip to Boulder this weekend he said that he would really love it if we went on a hike together. DAMN IT!! Ugh… Really?? Eddie doesn’t really ask that much of me so when he does ask for something , I usually say yes. So yes Eddie I will go on a stupid hike with you.
When we started up the Chatauqua Trail I wanted to take a break about 20 steps in. I appreciated the view but figured I could just as well enjoy it sitting there on the side of trail with a Diet Coke watching other people hike it .
How the hell long is this hike??
It’s hot out
I can’t breath in this altitude
I feel fat
I’m too out of shape for this
I’m slowing Eddie down
I’m no good at this
Poor Eddie, he should have gone by himself
When will this be over?
I’m letting Eddie down
Why can’t I be like everybody else here and want to go hiking?
I spent a few minutes in this thought process before I remembered my whole spiel that I give people about the human thought process. That the mind does not naturally go to the positive or the place of gratitude. It takes conscious choice and intention to get ” beyond ” the fearful thoughts and into a deeper understanding of what God is offering us in any given moment. Our negative, self defeating thoughts are simply a layer of the mind we need to work through to get to the deeper truth about what is happening for us. There is always something more, something richer, beyond our initial negative thought process. And in this moment I was faced with a choice to grind out this hike and feel miserable the whole time or I could practice what I preach and look deeper into what I was being offered beyond these stifling thoughts.
So I started to focus on things besides my thoughts….
Eddie and how much he makes me laugh even when I’m cranky
That I was healthy enough to walk up this mountain
The sound of the birds
The sun beaming down on my face
My girls back home having fun with a babysitter
Seeing all our Boulder friends
The green grass, blue, sky and white snow capped mountains…
My body began to relax. I stopped dreading myself and just focused on Eddie and the mountains and the river and the experience of doing something new. I looked up and saw Eddie waiting patiently for me a few steps ahead of me and then it hit me. The gift beyond the negative thoughts was for me to relish in the fact that even if I needed to stop 100 times on that trail I had married someone who wouldn’t mind, who cared so much about how I felt that he would just stop whenever I needed to.
I had married someone who when I looked up at the mountaintop and said “isn’t that beautiful? ” his response was ” Not as beautiful as you.” What God was giving me a chance to see is that I’m safe even when I’m not awesome. That I have pretty much weeded out hanging out with anyone that wouldn’t have stopped with me on the trail. I have chosen people in my life that love me and accept me and that it doesn’t matter that I am not good at everything. Nobody is good at everything. The gift behind the thoughts was to relish the fact that I am deeply loved and this is what mattered, not that I was a perfect-in-shape-hiker-girl, but that I am deeply loved. Accepting the acceptance Eddie and the people who love me offer me was the gift my negative thoughts almost kept me from.
I almost missed an awesome day outside in Boulder with Eddie. I almost missed the rock formations, the birds and the sun on my face after a long New Jersey winter. I almost missed all of this.
Thank you God for awareness and for choice. The turkey club I had afterwards was one of the best I’ve ever tasted.
Refelection: The next time negative thoughts are starting to take over, make the conscious choice to look beyond them and see what the real purpose of the experience is beyond your own stuck thoughts.
What are you being asked to see more clearly in your life that exists beyond the initial negative thoughts?