My “ecotherapy” group for this weekend’s hike consisted of four people; myself, Mike, Maria and Billy. We completed the Billy Goat Trail and C&O canal loop in about three hours and forty minutes. We each did the same thing, yet we each had our own unique experiences, and takeaways. This hike is a “buffet of trails,” with it’s wide variety of differing terrain. Some parts of the trail are wooded, others are very rocky, there is a bit of a rock scramble, and some stretches of walking on sand. The metrics from this weekend’s hike varied on each of our phones, and none of our devices came anywhere close to what All Trails said the hike would be. All said and done it was about 9.7 miles with an elevation gain of 333 feet. Our conversation, like the terrain, vacillated from deep to shallow topics such as the frustrations of being an educator in a hybrid model, to spirit animals, without judgment. The Billy Goat trail provided a bevy of wildlife- we saw many heron, turtles, freshly bloomed flowers, and we each saw a black squirrel when we arrived (all separately).
By all means, our hike was a success. We finished. We kept a good pace. But if those were the only two factors of a successful hike, then I wouldn’t keep going out on hikes. Each individual has their own idea of what makes something a success, even in a group activity. What made this hike a success for me was that I got a list of books to read, a mental reset and an overall sense that I have the best kind of success in life right now – I am happy with who I am, because I keep striving to be better. I am not sure what the others in my group took away, but I know we all felt the high after the hike and continued to text about how much we enjoyed ourselves once it was over. Each human sees the world differently, literally. “We sometimes think of colors as objective properties of objects, much like the shape or volume. But research has found that we experience colors differently, depending on gender, national origin, ethnicity, geographical location, and what language we speak. In other words, there is nothing objective about colors.” (Psychology Today) Despite the differences in how we perceive the world, or more specifically this one hike, we held a few common threads in our conversations during the almost four hours- animals, soul mates, what’s truly important to us, and the word “discipline.”
I have been “off my game” in the last few weeks. I allowed stress to provide an excuse for too many things. All the while I kept seeing turtles. I mentioned this at the beginning of the hike and on the last stretch, where you walk along the C&O canal, we saw many turtles sunning themselves on logs. We looked up what it means to have the turtle be your spirit animal. What Maria found was, “The turtle totem wisdom teaches us about walking our path in peace and sticking to it with determination and serenity.” What an amazing thing to read while hiking. “Slow moving on earth, yet also incredibly fast and agile in water, those who have the turtle as totem or spirit animal may be encouraged to take a break in their busy lives and look around or within themselves for more grounded, long-lasting solutions. Traditionally, the turtle is symbolic of the way of peace, whether it’s inviting us to cultivate peace of mind or a peaceful relationship with our environment.” It’s been a few days since the hike and I have continued to see turtles. Most of my life I have been dismissive of the idea of a God, or higher power, but in the last few years I have become more spiritual. If there is a universal force guiding us all, I can let go of my desire to control, manipulate and force change, and learn to be more comfortable in my new environment. I can relax a bit, knowing what is meant to happen, will happen. Mike mentioned that all the highly successful people he admires all have very similar advice- eat fruits and vegetables, drink water, get sleep, exercise, and have faith. It is hard to have faith when you face obstacles, heartbreak and major life shifts. Before the hike that was all I could see on my path- financial obstacles, a heartbreak and the situation with my ex shifting under my feet.
David Goggins talks about how motivation is crap. It’s an excuse to not get something done. You have to just get up and start doing. Then do 10% more each day. After the hike, I got the perspective I needed to see more clearly what is on my path. I cannot, and should not, try to force that which I cannot control. I will adapt to my new financial norm. My measure of success lies way outside how much money I have in my bank account. I accept that someone I admire does not love me back. Neither of those perceived obstacles are part of my pillars, so they don’t deserve the attention I was giving them. My pillars are being a good mom, mental, physical and spiritual health, being a good friend and creativity. I will “do” each day and make sure each of my pillars gets a bit more each day.