Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Wrestling with Myself

Today I had a near meltdown after my gracious hosts delivered me back to the trailhead. I announced to friends and family that I was calling it quits and taking a bus home when I got to Great Barrington. Then, I texted my wife to see what it would cost to get to the nearest bus station (there was actually one closer than Great Barrington, in Pittsfield) and the cost to get home.

When I was wrestling with myself, I wasn't really clear on what was making me crumble. Looking back, I realize there were a few things. The really minor one was that when I picked up my resupply package yesterday, it didn't include things I had asked for and I got upset. As it turns out, the package had been opened and retaped, either as a result of an accident with the package or an intentional theft. Definitely not enough reason by itself. The really major cause centered on things that had been happening at home. First, my son started Kindergarten, and I wasn't there to encourage him. Second, he got sick several weeks ago with croup and strep throat and had to be hospitalized for several days, and I wasn't there to console him. Third, Hurricane Florence threatened Charlotte with flooding, and my wife had to handle all of the preparations herself, and evacuate my family at 8:00 at night to higher ground as the river behind our house rose. All of the feelings that had been lurking in the back of my mind for the past weeks suddenly became overwhelming. They almost broke me.

I really wanted to quit and maybe I should have, but something in me wouldn't let me and that is really aggravating. After many texts back and forth with my wife, I decided that I am going to keep going until either that thing lets me quit, or I finish the hike. I was just so over it today. I miss my kids. But like I said before, I need to have the ability to back myself when I say to them, "Don't quit."

And this is the challenge of the trail. For a while the battle is with the weather and gear and terrain and your legs and all the other small things like cooking and getting water and planning and executing that plan and so on. Then, you conquer those things one by one and that is when the real challenge hits: yourself.

I remember seeing NOBOs (northbounders) with about 400 miles left and saying, "Hey, congrats! You're almost done!" They had an absent look about them, and they would say what I feel now, "Only 400?! I don't feel like I'm almost there." Sometimes the finish line on the trail feels farther away the closer you get. After 1,300 miles, 1 mile equals 10. Small towns become big cities; misery gets magnified. I'm sure that at some point closer to the finish line that will flip, and I'll get a second wind, like I did before the Mahoosuc Notch and before the White Mountains. Until then, whenever that is, ugh...I push on.

Body and mind say quit loudly. but I knew the doubts would come. I really thought it would happen sooner. I began to think it might not happen at all, but clearly today it did, and now I have to laugh. Because all right then, to hell with whatever in me is telling me to quit. Show me what you've got, and I'll show you what I've got. It's not going to be a pretty fight, but I'm gonna win. The finish line is mine. I know it because I saw it before I started. 😆

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