Circle of Inspiration

Yesterday morning I completed another 5k, the She Power 5k.

20190128_152212_hdr copyI had signed up for this 5k back in July 2018.  A while ago.  I had done this race in February and loved the race and the medal, so I knew I wanted to do it again.  And the medal this year was beautiful!  Who doesn’t want the bling from a race, isn’t that why we do it?  Well I also signed up with the intention that this was going to be a PR for me.  My fastest 5k race was in January 2009, 10 years ago.  I was 10 years younger and 20 lbs lighter and had trained for a couple of months.  6 months was plenty of time to get ready to make this 5k a Personal Best.  Sometimes the greatest intentions don’t always work out…..

I did not prepare for this race other than a couple of walks here and there and a 5k in November that told me I was REALLY out of shape…. But I still had time.

Everything was pretty much stacked against me for yesterday’s She Power 5k… no training, extra weight, my husband wouldn’t be able to be beside me and encourage and motivate me along the way…. Yes, things were stacked against me.  And thoughts did enter my mind that maybe I would just walk and set a goal for next year, putting off my goal for a future date.  The problem with that is that the future date usually doesn’t arrive.

Yes, circumstances, lack of preparedness and my thoughts were threatening to keep me from this 5k, until….

My Circle of Inspiration.

We all have a Circle of Inspiration, made up of friends, family, co-workers, strangers we meet or see on TV or read about, individuals who walk into our lives for a moment and so many more.  Many individuals form our circle, inspiring us along the way.  And we find inspiration and give inspiration within this circle.  The great thing about a circle is it has no end; the inspiration is all around us.  What a wondrous thing to be able to find inspiration in so many ways, from so many different individuals.

I have a wonderful and wide-spread Circle of Inspiration I can draw from.  And it is in this circle that I find the strength to fight on, to work harder, to keep going when all I want to do is quit.  Whether it is about just getting through my day, getting out of bed, stepping outside my comfort zone, continuing my journey of health, facing hard things in life or crossing a finish line when I don’t think I can, inspiration is there.  My husband, my sons, my daughter-in-law, my extended family, my friends, the strangers I have met and so many others inspire me to just do it, to take the leap and fly!

20190127_073024 copySo, with everything against me, what made the difference for me yesterday morning was these ladies, part of my Circle of Inspiration.  Some had done a 5k before and for some of them this was their first.  And they inspired me on my journey.

When I worked as a WW Coach (formerly known as a Weight Watcher Leader) I had the privilege of getting to know many individuals who inspired me every day, every week.  These women met in meetings I led.  And I was blessed these past couple of years to have been a part of their journey.  I have laughed with them, cried with them, celebrated with them, and commiserated with them.  And I have had the privilege of getting to know their individual stories.

Each of these women came to this race yesterday for their own reasons and with their own goals, inspiring each other along the way.  That Circle of Inspiration.  Some struggled with physical limitations, and some faced mindset challenges, yet each of them was willing to set aside the challenges that could have kept them from walking this 5k and instead they chose to step outside their comfort zones.  I have often said that stepping outside that comfort zone is where our greatest growth happens, and these ladies were proving that to be true.  Having the privilege of knowing their personal stories gave me the strength to show up and to cross that start line.  And they gave me the courage to push myself beyond what was comfortable so that I could finish strong.

We gathered before the race and lined up at the start together.  When it was time to go, we went at our own paces.  Each of us had our own personal goal we wanted to reach.  And that was scary for some of us, maybe for all of us.  But because of this Circle of Inspiration, because of the support we found in each other, we were able to push forward.  One-step-at-a-time, literally!

I was inspired by all of them, whether it was their first race or one of many…. I was inspired by their enthusiasm and excitement at completing a race.  I was inspired by their determination to push past the physical barriers that had kept them from even 20190128_152234_hdr copydreaming of doing a 5k race, those physical barriers that at one time kept them from even walking around a block, let alone 3.1 miles.  I was inspired by how they changed a mindset from “I can’t” to “I think I can” to “Yes! I can”.  I was inspired by the support and encouragement they showed each other.  I was inspired by those who conquered their fear and were willing to do this race with little preparation. I was inspired by seeing the empowerment that comes from believing in oneself.  I was inspired by the resolve to finish faster than the last one.  I was inspired by their faces, the joy, the pride after finishing this race. I was inspired by the courage shown to finish a race despite a fall and injury, and not just finish it, but finish strong, something I am not sure I could have done.

To say that these ladies inspire me is an understatement.  Each one of them is an inspiration and I am so very blessed to know them and be encouraged by them!

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Congratulations, my friends! You thought you could and you did!

We all finished this race yesterday morning, proud of each other and proud of ourselves.  We each met or exceeded our personal goals.  And yes, we are ready to do it again!

I know that without these ladies I would have still done this race, but I am not sure how hard I would have pushed myself without my Circle of Inspiration, those who inspire me every day in my life and these ladies who gave me the strength and courage to push myself faster and to see what I was capable of.

I didn’t finish with a PR, but I finished faster than the She Power 5k 1 year ago and faster than the 5k I did in November.  I walked and I ran, knowing these ladies were somewhere amid the sea of women and they were pushing themselves too.

I was just 3 ½ minutes slower than my fastest race 10 years ago……imagine what I can do with a little inspiration, a little training, and being a little healthier….  Next year will be my year, I have no doubt!

With a vast and far reaching Circle of Inspiration, WE CAN…. I CAN …do anything!!

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The Power in one word

Why?

A question.

A word.

There is a lot of power in that one little word.

Last week I led my last workshop for Weight Watchers, having resigned my position last month.  One last meeting and the topic was on our why.  That word.  Why.

I did a lot of thinking about that 3-letter word as I prepared for my last workshop.  Why do we do anything?  Why don’t we?  Why do we start or stop something?  How can getting in touch with our why help? 

I wrote about finding my why last year (here) after realizing that my “why” was missing and that was part of what was holding me back.  And now I had an opportunity to delve deeper into the why, the reason for what we all were doing on this journey to get to a healthier us.  And deeper into the power of that one little word.

You see, the why…that reason, is what fuels us.  It gives us the energy, the fuel we need to achieve what we have set out to do.  Our why gets us to our goals. 

And the why is different than the goal.  The goal is what I strive for, my focus.  But my why, well that is the whole reason for doing it, for working toward that goal. 

And it hit me when I was preparing for that last workshop that a missing “why” is what makes New Year’s resolutions not work, at least for me.  I have written and shared that I don’t set New Year’s Resolutions anymore because they just don’t work for me.  I am not good at them.  And now I realize why they don’t work for me.  That word was missing. 

New Years Resolutions were always the same—set them on New Years eve for the New Year.  Lose Weight.  Get Healthy.  Exercise.  And I set them for many years.  Because that is what one does for New Years.  I just did it. 

But why?  Why did I set those resolutions?  What reason would fuel me?  I set those resolutions without a reason, without the personal why that made them my own.  The reason that meant something to me. 

Setting a goal needs to be one that means something to me.  One that is mine and not a goal someone else sets for me.  And then I need to ask myself why?  Why this goal?  What does this look like for me, in my life?  Why do I want this? 

Our why is the fuel we need to move forward toward our goals.  And setting a goal without a “why” is like driving a car on empty.  Yes, we can get a few more miles down the road when the fuel light comes on, warning us we are about out of fuel.  And then we stop.  Our travel ends.  Our progression stalls.  We don’t get anywhere without more fuel.

That is what our why does for us.  That is what my why does for me.  My why is my fuel.  Without it, I am not going far.  And I won’t reach my goal.  And sometimes I lose sight of my why and need to remind myself the reason I keep doing what I am doing, the reason I want to reach certain goals I have set for myself.  When we have the fuel we need, the gas in our tanks, the why for doing this, well then, we can achieve anything we set out to achieve. 

I can reach any dream or goal I set as long as I know why!

There is a lot of power in that one little word… why.  What are your goals?  What is your why? 

The Unknown Bucket List Item

Sometimes an opportunity presents itself that you never knew was a bucket list item… not until you have an opportunity to do it, then realization hits…. THIS is a bucket list item.

In years past when the National Anthem was performed prior to kick-off of a football game, I would watch and wonder what it would be like to be one of those on the field holding up the HUGE American flag, the super flag. 

I NEVER thought an opportunity would present itself and I would ACTUALLY be one of those people, on the field before the game kicked off, holding up a football field sized flag while someone sang the National Anthem.

New Year’s Day 2019, my husband and I were among the over 200 volunteers to do just that at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl. 

It was a few weeks earlier, that my husband had received an email offering him the chance to volunteer to hold the “super” flag at the Fiesta Bowl here in Arizona.  He told me about the email and asked what I thought, would I want to do it with him? 

He had to ask? 

Of course, I would do it with him. 

Luckily, he could bring guests.  So, he applied to hold the flag and added me as his guest.

A few weeks later, he got the email that we were chosen to hold the American Flag.  Yes!!  That was going to be cool!  The anticipation grew as the day got closer.

More emails followed giving us more details.  It would be an early morning on New Years Day with us needing to be at the stadium to practice by 8 am. 

Finally, January 1st arrived, and we were up very early and on the road by 6:40 am to make sure we would arrive in time for the practice.  It was a COLD morning for Arizona, with temps in the 30’s and we were layered up and had our gloves and hand-warmers. 

We arrived at the field along with the others there for the practice and of course, the many who would be tailgating before the game. 

I was so excited!  This was going to be great!  A bucket-list item that I didn’t know was a bucket-list item, until now. 

Once we all were gathered on the practice field, the instructions began. 

There is a lot more that goes into holding the American Flag on the football field than I ever imagined.  It wasn’t just show up, hold the flag and then you are done.  Nope!

The process and roles were explained.  We would practice on the practice field, then we would line up and walk together down into the “pit” and process through security.  Then we would line up again in the pit, remove the rolled up flag from the van and hold it until it was time to move inside.  Once inside we would be staged near the entrance to the field…still holding the rolled up flag.  Then we would walk out onto the field with the flag and would have a few minutes when we would be able to take pictures while carrying and holding the rolled up flag.  And then, finally, it would be “showtime” and we would then quickly leave the field and take the flag back outside to load it into the van.  A lot more than I thought went into it. 

Once directions were given we were then divided up into our roles…. Holders, Runners, Pullers, Side people.  My husband and I chose to be holders, at the top of the flag where we would hold the flag tight while the pullers would pull it open, covering the field.  That also meant we would be carrying and holding the rolled up flag for about 45 minutes.  No setting it down to rest our weary arms.  This super flag was HEAVY (around 2000 lbs!). 

When I heard how long we would be holding he flag, I had a fleeting moment where I thought, what if?  What if I CAN”T hold it?  What if I can’t carry my share of the load?  No way!  This sounds really difficult.  But that was only a fleeting thought!  I knew I would be able to do it!  If only because it was that unknown bucket list item, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me.

I have always been a patriotic girl, from a very young age.  And the flag has always held a very emotional meaning for me.  So, this was an opportunity I would not let pass by.  I was going to do this no matter how difficult or how heavy!  What an honor to be on that football field, holding this American Flag, while listening to the Star-Spangled Banner being sung.  And to do it standing next to my husband was the icing on the cake.  I was getting pretty emotional standing there waiting to enter onto the field.

Then it was time! 

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We carried that flag out onto the field and stood holding it while the LSU Marching band finished their pre-game performance and left the field.  There were a couple more presentations and then a moment to honor our military.  And then it was time.  They introduced the National Anthem performer, Retired Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Wilson….

The first note sounded and off went the pullers.  I held tight to my end of the flag, raising it up to keep it from touching the field and holding it as the pullers stretched the flag across the field.  The runners ran in between us and under the flag, their job was to keep the flag from touching the ground. 

Fiesta Bowl 2019 Super Flag
Fiesta Bowl 2019 Super Flag

The emotions ran through me.  My pride swelled.  This was my country, my National Anthem and my flag.  Wow!  I cannot even describe all that I was feeling standing there, tightly holding this super flag.

This was AMAZING! 

And then it was over, and we quickly moved toward the middle of the flag, pulling and gathering this beautiful flag against us, until we met the pullers in the middle.  My arms ached.  We were almost done.  We carried the gathered and rolled up flag, quickly off the field and back outside to the pit, where we would load it into the van. 

And then we were done.

Opportunities come to us, expected and unexpected.  I could have said no.  It was New Year’s Day and I had lots of things that needed to be done.  It would be an early morning and we would have to drive a while to get there.  I could have said no, and let my husband go alone. 

But I said yes.  Sometimes things happen and we don’t realize just how much it will mean to us or that it is a bucket list item until that opportunity is presented. 

THIS was one of those events.  A bucket-list item I never knew was a bucket list item.

Sometimes we just have to take the leap…. Say yes and enjoy!  Oh, the riches those opportunities bring! 

Taking the Leap into 2019

It is that time of year again. Time to reflect. Time to learn from the past year. Time to look toward the new year with anticipation.

As I look back over 2018, I am filled with peace. It has been a while since I have felt this amount of peace at the end of a year. But after the past couple of years, well, this feels really nice.

This past year has brought more good than bad. My family is doing better this year than the last couple of years.

My son is finally getting real, effective help. He has a team supporting him. And we are no longer alone in the fight for our son. A huge burden was lifted when that realization happened right before Thanksgiving. We are no longer fighting this fight alone…. There are others fighting too. My son is happier. He is more present. He is more a part of our family than he has been in a while. And we are not forcing him to be! We are better today, at the end of 2018 than we were at the end of 2017. What a difference a year can make!

We started the year with a trip to Disney World and my first 10k race. We traveled to see our youngest son and daughter-in-law. We explored more of Arizona. We went to movies. I supported my husband as he planned and then completed one of his bucket list items—hiking the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim in one day and the bonus was our youngest son and daughter-in-law hiking it with him. We had visitors. We hosted Christmas events. We had a backyard oasis created and I spent lots of time in our new pool. And I reconnected last month with a long-lost dear friend, a sweet unexpected gift this past year.

2018 found us rediscovering “us”. And leaving the stress behind.

As I sit her reflecting on the past year, I am not only at peace, but I am enjoying the memories, the lessons learned and the personal growth that occurred this past year.

And I am ready to leap into 2019.

I am excited for what this next year holds for me and for my family.

As I have said in the past, I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, because they just don’t work for me… I am not good at them. So instead I commit to new things, new ways of thinking and mantras. The past couple of years have involved pushing past my fears and embracing adventure. I have spent the past couple of years saying yes and pushing myself to discover what I am capable of. And it has worked. Most of the time, anyway.

So, as I look toward the new year, I am excited. 2019 is going to be a year of discovery, growth, taking chances, trying new things and change.

Change has always scared me. Change has always been uncomfortable. So, I want to embrace change and use it in this New Year to help me to grow, to rediscover or maybe to redefine who I am and what I am capable of. I know I am stronger than I thought I was and that was proven the past few years. But now I want to know what more I am capable of and what my next adventure, next calling is.

And that is what 2019 will be about for me.

I am starting this new journey with a change in the first weeks of January. I am making a change that has been a difficult decision for me but once I made it, I found a sense of calm. After 10 years, the last 4 years here in Arizona, I have decided to resign from my job with Weight Watchers (now known simply as WW) and yes, I have already let my boss and managers know that I am stepping down from my job as a Wellness Coach. I have loved helping others on their own journey to health and weight loss. And I will miss my weekly workshops. I will miss my teams. I will miss those I helped. And I will miss those I was inspired by each and every week. But it is time for me to move on and to take care of me. Time for me to focus on my family and myself. Time for me to step outside that comfort zone and make a change.

2019 is still 2 days away, but it is already getting off to a fresh new start.

And I am ready.

I am taking the leap….. let’s see where that leap takes me!

Christmas Comes Early to Our Home and Hearts

I love Christmas.  And yes, Thanksgiving is this week and I enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday.

But I LOVE Christmas!  I wrote about my family Christmas’s in 2016 here.  That year was made special because my son and now daughter-in-law were home for Christmas.  2016 was the first time in 5 years that both of my boys were here and it had been 4 years since spending Christmas with my youngest son.  So I was happy.  And it was a good Christmas….. but there were some underlying stresses that made it difficult too.

Hopefully, my youngest son did not see how much of a struggle it was for me….for my husband…. Christmas that year and the year before and the year after were difficult to say the least.  Like so many families across the country, we had our stresses to deal with, our burdens to bear.  And sometimes life is difficult, especially during the holiday season.  I really think that it is only because we love the Christmas season so much and all of the magic it brings that we were able to celebrate at all.

Christmas 2015 was the beginning of the chaos with my oldest and I didn’t want to celebrate…. But I did because I had always promised myself that no matter where life took me, no matter what was happening or who I was missing, Christmas would still be celebrated, I would still decorate and bake and sing and shop and so much more.  So I did.  Despite the pain and chaos.  But that year, 2015, I actually started to put away the Christmas decor on Christmas eve.  I was done.  It takes a lot to get me to that point and I had never been there before.  But there I was.  Done.

Christmas 2016 found me exhausted.  I had spent weeks trying to find treatment for my son, navigating the mental health system and the justice system and I was emotionally exhausted and completely drained.  But there I was on Thanksgiving weekend, decorating like I always did.  I played my favorite Christmas music.  I baked.  But my heart wasn’t there.  I was exhausted.  And overwhelmed.  And at one point I just wanted to skip Christmas….me!  The Christmas person.  But my son was coming home and it would be the first Christmas my now daughter-in-law would spend with us, so I kept doing the things that made it Christmas for my family and my wonderful husband picked up some of the slack for me and took over some of the things that were overwhelming me…  I was excited to have my family together and am so thankful they were all here or I may have completely missed my favorite holiday.

And then last year, Christmas 2017, was hard for all of us.  We had been spending months with the fear that my son would have to go to prison…. And how in the world would I be able to do Christmas with him there?  Thanksgiving weekend, I again got out the décor and ALL of my trees and decorated.  It was my distraction from the pain and stress.  We found out in the middle of December that year, that he would not be going to prison and that should have made for the best Christmas…. But the stress took its toll and for the first time EVER I slept through most of Christmas eve, getting up after 8pm.  I just wasn’t into it, still.

BUT this year is way different!  In every way!  My son is doing well.  He has been getting the help he has needed.  There is no court to go to.  There are no lawyers to talk to.  There are no emergency visits to psychiatrists needed.  The stress is so much less.  Things are good.  REALLY good!

So in October, yes before Halloween, when my husband started singing Christmas songs, I thought someone had taken over his body…. What?  Where did my husband go?  Who is this guy, disguised as my husband?  My husband loves Christmas too, just not as obsessively as I do, so this was very strange!  Usually my guys won’t let me play Christmas music until Thanksgiving and then I get the “eye-rolls” from my guys when I say the only music allowed in the house or car is Christmas music.  But here was my husband singing Christmas songs.  And it was October!  And then we would go shopping and he wanted to see the Christmas decor….and we bought some….in OCTOBER!  IN OCTOBER!  Then there were the days my husband would run out to do an errand and he would come home with more Christmas decor for inside and outside!  What happened to my husband?

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All the years of being married to me finally rubbed off on him!

outsideMy husband started decorating the outside of our house the first weekend in November.  I was shocked.  And very happy!  He was making me laugh and smile and we were having fun!

And I started to decorate inside too.  Just the rooms that did not have the fall decor, those insidewould have to wait until after Thanksgiving.  It has made me really happy to decorate.  We started playing our Christmas music a couple of weeks ago and we started watching hallmark Christmas movies then, too.

Christmas was coming early in our house and in our hearts.

I couldn’t figure out why we started so early this year (we never start before Thanksgiving) or why my husband was so into it…. Not until my son asked if I had an extra tree that we could put in his room….. he had NEVER wanted a tree in his room….. of course I had a tree for him!  He says that we are so into Christmas this year that he just wanted to give us a little gift and have the tree in his room to participate in the Christmas spirit.

And that is when it hit me.

This year the stress is gone.  He is stable.  We are all feeling good right now.  The chaos is minimal.  Compared to the last three Christmas seasons, well this has gotten off to a near perfect start!  We have all come a long way this year.

And that is why we are all excited about Christmas.

I hadn’t realized the toll the past few years had taken on us or on our joy of the Christmas season.  I hadn’t realized that it had affected my husband as much as it had affected me.  Or the effect on my son.  And I was pretty good at hiding my lack of Christmas joy from the world outside our walls.  I was trying really hard to find it in the midst of the chaos, but just couldn’t get all the way there.

But we are REALLY excited this Christmas season.  There is NO faking it!  We are ready for the magic.   We are ready for the spirit of the season.  The lights.  The smells. The goodies.  The events.  ALL of it!

So, yes, we started early this year with our decorations.  My friends think we are nuts.  So do our neighbors.  And I am more than okay with that!

Our jumping into Christmas early, isn’t about skipping any other holidays or trying to rush the season.  Our early Christmas spirit is ALL about wanting to enjoy it…. ALL of it…… and ALL that we missed the past few years.

joy

 

This year Christmas has come early to our home and our hearts!  My heart is happy and full of joy!

Grand Canyon Rim to Rim 2018

Today I am letting my husband guest write this blog.  Here is his story…in his own words and in the pictures he, my son and my daughter-in-law took.  Still so proud of them!

“The Physical punctuated by the Beautiful”

49 IMG_3800 copy copyI checked my watch. 5:15 am.  Not bad, only 15 minutes behind our scheduled start time.  We adjusted our headlamps and backpacks and then stood three abreast as my wife snapped a quick photo to record the start of the adventure.  Only moments before, we all had exited our cabin on the north rim of the Grand Canyon, looked skyward, and wondered at the incredible number of stars blanketing the dark pre-dawn sky.  At 8,200’ in elevation, this less-visited part of the park was the perfect place to stargaze, if only for a few moments.

The thermometer was just dipping below freezing at the North Kaibab trailhead, so we donned our hats and gloves and then said goodbye to my wife.  My youngest son, daughter-in-law and I would use the trail to cut across the canyon and my wife would drive the four hours around to the south rim to pick us up once we finished.  Our Rim-to-Rim journey would start in the dark, and we’d have to make swift progress to ensure we wouldn’t finish after sunset.

The three of us headed down the trail, my son in the lead with my daughter-in-law and I close behind, all of us armed with our trekking poles and backpacks.  We disappeared into the forest of tall pines, yellow aspens and red maples, each illuminated by our three headlamps.  We headed towards our first stop on the trail, the Supai tunnel.  As we descended 1,400’ over the next 1.7 miles, we could see the headlamps of hikers farther down the trail glowing like fireflies.  We stopped briefly and then passed through the tunnel and pressed on towards Roaring Springs. 

We crossed over Roaring Springs canyon using the Redwall footbridge and followed the narrow trail carved into the redwall limestone. 

05 waterfallA little ways down the trail, we could see and hear the water rushing out of the cliffside on its way down the canyon to form Bright Angel creek.  As we pressed on towards the Manzanita rest area, we enjoyed the first hints of sunrise as the very top of the canyon glowed bright in the day’s first light.  We arrived at Manzanita before 8 a.m., having descended 3,600’ and 5.4 miles of trail.  My son was setting a great pace, but I was starting to worry that the soreness I was already feeling in my feet might become an issue with over 19 miles to go.  We all shed a layer of clothing and I adjusted my hiking boots in the hopes of achieving some relief.

From Manzanita we headed towards the Cottonwood campground, crossing a footbridge over the Bright Angel creek.

As the trail tracked along creekside, we enjoyed a riparian environment of cottonwoods, reeds and willows.  We arrived at Cottonwood campground having traversed 6.8 miles and descended from 8,200’ to now 4,000’ in elevation.  We took a short rest and refilled our water.  It was now around 9 am.  We had a long, relatively level stretch of 6.8 miles to get to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon. 

This would be the longest uninterrupted stretch of trail, as this section enters the inner gorge.  The trail winds through rock that has been dated at over one billion years old.  With massive cliffs and incredible beauty, the trail along the gorge was striking.  This stretch is also known to be unbearably hot during the summer months with temps well over 100 degrees, but on this October day we enjoyed sunny skies and only about 60 degrees.  We had a time goal to meet however, so we rested infrequently.  At one short stop, I was enjoying a quick snack (a Clif bar ironically) along with my son and daughter-in-law when suddenly we noticed several rocks splashing in the gravel just a few feet in front of us.  I made the mistake of looking up at the cliffside to see where they were coming from just in time to see gravity pulling another small stone straight at me.  With no time to move, I took the blow right on the forehead.  While keeping my sleeve pressed against the wound to stop the bleeding, we all quickly picked up our gear and moved away from the stony cliffside.  The kids helped clean the small gash on my head and we slapped a Band-Aid over it.  Wrong place, wrong time I thought.  Though I was glad it was only a minor injury.  I was also glad the stone had hit me and not my son or daughter-in-law.  This trip had been my idea from the start and the thought of either of them being injured along the way would have unacceptable to me.  The stone had my name on it, and I was OK with that.

07 phantom ranchWe passed over several more bridges across the creek before finally making it to Phantom Ranch.  At about 2,400’ in elevation, it is the lowest point on the trail. It was just before noon and the ranch was a warm 70 degrees. We quickly found an open picnic table and settled down for some lunch.  The kids grabbed a small snack from the tiny canteen and we rested and ate lunch.  We had covered almost 14 miles of trail.  After just under half an hour which included time to change into fresh socks, we packed up and prepared for the last 9 miles of trail.  Before leaving the ranch, I took time to read one of the historic signs on the way out.  In 1913, Theodore Roosevelt had stayed right here, back when it was known as Rust’s Camp.  So cool to think we were walking the same ground as TR.

We headed out of the ranch and past the Bright Angel campground.  Before long, we were at the Colorado river and the Silver bridge.  By far the largest bridge on the trail, it is only used by hikers.  Mule trains cross at the Kaibab bridge just upstream. 

We crossed the muddy Colorado (which is Spanish for “colored”) and start to parallel the river downstream on what is known as the River Trail.  Vertical walls of rock rose over 1,000’ on our left as we followed the muddy river, even passing through a small area of sandy dunes.  The trail led us to the River Resthouse where we took a short break before heading up the Bright Angel trail.  The trail here follows Pipe Creek.  The lush creekside environment and its tiny waterfalls made for a pleasant distraction as we started our slow climb towards the Bright Angel trailhead, still 7.7 miles and 4,400’ away.

My feet were no longer sore.  I really hadn’t noticed when they had stopped bothering me.  Instead sore shoulders and a sore lower back accompanied a slow fatigue.  But there was no stopping now, and ever since we crossed Silver bridge I knew that we were going to finish.  I just didn’t know how long it would take us to reach the trailhead.  I did have a goal in mind however, to finish in 12 hours and 59 minutes or less.  That kept me moving.  My son and daughter-in-law were kind enough to let me take the lead and set the pace.  Though I knew that they could cover the last 7 miles of the trail faster than I was hiking, I was very happy to have their company and to stick together.  Months ago, I had originally planned a solo hike on this day, not knowing that anyone would want to join me.  When the kids volunteered to come along after I mentioned my plan in a phone call, I knew the hike would be much more memorable with the three of us making the journey and my wife as our support crew.

09 devils corkscrewWe continued to head up the trail towards our next stop, Indian Garden.  We hiked up the switchbacks appropriately named the Devils Corkscrew and then up through an area of pancaked sandstone called the Tapeats Narrows.  At one point, I was so focused on putting one foot in front of the other that I didn’t even notice the single deer grazing about six feet off the trail.  Fortunately, Daniel did notice and we stopped for a couple of pictures.  Finally, after 3.2 miles and over 1,300’ of elevation gain, we had made it to Indian Garden. 

Indian Garden was a beautiful section of the trail, with massive cottonwood trees and fed by several springs, it was certainly a garden among the desert trail.  We rested there for a while, finding some empty benches directly next to the water source.  Here we met two gentlemen who were “running” rim-to-rim-to-rim, over 46 miles!  They had passed us on the North Kaibab trail shortly after we started and here they were coming down from the Bright Angel trailhead on their way back to the North Rim.  A journey that they expected would take them to 10 or 11 pm, more than 17 hours from start to finish.

After a short rest, we headed out for our next stop, the 3-mile resthouse.  We were now only 4.9 miles and just over 3,000’ down from the south rim.  It was 1.7 miles between Indian Garden and the resthouse which included a 900’ elevation change.  Just prior to the resthouse, we hiked up through another series of switchbacks known as Jacobs Ladder. 

10 3 mile resthouseAnother short break, and then we pressed on towards the 1.5-mile resthouse.  Up another 900’ of elevation and about 50 minutes of hiking and we had made it to our final official rest stop.  I had cell service for the first time during the hike and sent my wife a quick text “ETA 5:45 – 6:00 p.m., all are well. Luv u. C,” so she would know we’re on the way.

    It was just after 5:00 p.m. when we left the resthouse and I was feeling every bit of the previous 22 miles of hiking.  The last mile and a half proved some of the most difficult steps of the journey.  As we climbed over 1,000’ of trail, I found myself needing to stop about every 10 minutes.  We hiked through one small tunnel as we approached the rim.  We knew we were close when we started seeing more tourists who had hiked a short way down the trail for better photos.  I chuckled inside when I thought of their short journey compared to the over 12 hours we had been hiking. 

11 tunnelAs we passed through the last short tunnel, and by more tourists, with only a few hundred yards left to go, we finally spotted my wife up at the top.  She, of course, had seen us much farther down the trail with the benefit of her camera and had been busy capturing the end of our journey.  I was very happy to see her—she was a sight for sore eyes and tired bones.  We made our way over the last few yards of our hike and arrived at the top of the south rim. 

We had been hiking for 12 hours and 50 minutes, and the sun was still 5 minutes away from disappearing in the western sky.  On top of the rim there were hugs and big smiles all around as well as a “we’re done!” photo.  We had descended 5,700’ over 14 miles of trail down from the north rim to the bottom of the canyon and then climbed over 4,300’ over 9.5 uphill miles to reach the opposite rim.  I was exhausted but happy—it had truly been a journey of the incredibly physical punctuated by the absolutely beautiful.  

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A Solo Adventure

It was dark.  REALLY dark.

We were on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  It was 5 am.

Hundreds and hundreds of stars twinkled in the dark, pre-dawn sky.

49 IMG_3800 copy copyThe time had finally come for me to drop off my husband, youngest son and daughter-in-law at the trailhead.  They were going to do the Rim-to-Rim hike in the Grand Canyon.  And they wanted to get a very early… before the sun comes up… start to their hike.  The three of them planned to complete the hike in one day.  Yes, one day!  Before they even started I was proud of them.  Very proud and a little jealous of their adventure together.

My husband had been planning this hike for quite some time.  And originally he was going to go alone.  I was relieved when he asked our youngest son and daughter-in-law to go with him.  This meant he wouldn’t be alone and I would worry just a little less about him.

As I left them at the trailhead and drove back to our cabin, the darkness and silence intensified how alone I felt.  I know I have said this before, being alone and doing things on my own is outside my comfort zone.  Being alone brings back all the emotions and fear of my early years, when those who were supposed to take care of me, left, leaving me alone.  The feeling of abandonment, the fear of being left alone, the fear that those I love will leave and never come back… those feelings come rushing back.  I know that I am not alone, but those feelings send me into anxiousness and are the basis for the discomfort and fear I have when I am faced with being alone.  And the darkness only intensified those feelings as I drove away, leaving three of the four most important people in my life at that trailhead.

Back in the parking lot of the lodge, I stepped out of the van to walk back to the cabin.  It was dark.  REALLY dark.

And I was alone.

Our original plan was for our oldest son to come with us and for him and I to drive together to the south rim to meet the other three.  But just a few days before we were to leave, the doctor at his clinic said he couldn’t go with us…. They would not give him the medicine he would need while we were gone and he would have to go to the clinic every day….

It is funny sometimes (or maybe not) how I am forced by circumstances beyond my control, to step outside my comfort zone, to discover what I am capable of…. and to learn about me.

So the plan changed.  I was going to be alone on the drive to the South rim…. Only about a 4-hour drive, but the cell reception is little to none on the route, which made me nervous…. There would be no talking to anyone while I was driving, no connections to anyone…. Just me on the open road…. Alone.

So, here I was, in a very dark parking lot needing to walk back to my cabin.  Did I mention it was REALLY dark?  Like I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face, dark?  Thankfully, I had my cell phone, so I turned the screen on to help me see the path and find my cabin.  I spent the next couple of hours talking to myself, wondering how the three were doing on their hike and working up the courage to get into the van and drive to the South Rim….. telling myself it was an adventure and I should find a way to enjoy it.

I have driven farther distances by myself in the past.  To Colorado from Louisiana.  To Virginia from Alabama.  Across the mountain passes in Washington.  Yes, I was capable of doing this much shorter drive.  But each of those longer drives was about getting to my destination while only stopping for gas, food and restroom breaks.  And on each of those drives I was alone, but not really alone, as I was able to talk to my family and friends through the Bluetooth while I drove.  Ahhh, technology kept me close to others and kept me from feeling completely isolated and alone.  But this drive I would not be able to use my phone.  There would be no calls to others to keep me company as I drove.  And I wouldn’t need to stop for gas on this drive.  I decided in my conversations with myself that morning, that this drive needed to be different than those in the past, if I was going to enjoy it and make it an adventure.

Finally, it was time for me to load up the van, check out of the cabin and get on the road.  My heart was racing as I started the engine of the van and put it into reverse.  It was the stepping outside my comfort zone, doing something different that created the discomfort for me.  I like routine.  I like comfort.  I like the known.  And I like the safety of others being around.

But true personal growth only comes from pushing myself out of that safe place.  Realizations, learning and healing come from stepping outside my comfort zone.

And so I pushed myself and off I went.

The morning was beautiful.  The day before had been cool, cloudy and rainy.  This morning, though cool, was sunny and bright.  A perfect day for a drive.

I turned on some music and drove.

I wasn’t far down the road when my heartbeat slowed to normal and I began to take in, REALLY take in, the beauty around me.  There was more snow and the white covering the trees was beautiful.  Calming.  I saw deer feeding in the meadows.  And the glowing yellow and orange leaves of the aspen trees made me smile.  The scenery had me turning off my music and rolling down the window.  I was present in that moment.  Smiling.  Laughing.  Talking to myself.  And enjoying the beauty around me.

And then I realized just how much I was enjoying the “me” time.  I was enjoying the time alone.  The time with nature.  The time to think about things, to work through things and to realize how much I like me.

As I drove down the road, I talked with God.  I talked with my mom.  I talked with my mother-in-law.  There was a lot of open road on this drive.  And a lot of time to think and figure things out.

I drove down the open road, the wind blowing through my hair and my thoughts were the only music I was listening to.  Yes, I knew where this fear of being alone came from.  And yes, I understood how the choices made by the adults in my young life had deeply impacted my adult life.  Understanding the impact and how it still manifested in my life meant I could now change my response.  I realized on that open road that I could either let that fear and the emotions from my childhood continue to affect my life or I could take it for what it was and use it to make my life experiences even greater.

And in that moment I chose to be in the moment…. To know that as long as I had me, I would never be alone.  That yes, people leave, but that doesn’t mean I have to be alone forever.  I have my husband.  I have my children.  I have my extended family.  I have my wonderful friends.  And I have God with me, ALWAYS!

I chose, in that moment, to enjoy this solo adventure.

I stopped at the viewpoints.  I had never stopped to sight-see when traveling alone.  I pulled off when a pullout came along.  I got out of the van.  I took pictures.  I looked around.  I breathed.

It was pure joy!

It took me a little longer than planned to make it to the South Rim, but that was because, this time, I was enjoying my time on the road.  I was having fun.  I was stopping to see the beauty surrounding me.  I was taking it all in and enjoying the adventure!

I finally made it to the East Entrance on the South Rim.  I was proud of myself for taking some time to enjoy the day, not just to get to my destination.  And it didn’t stop when I entered the park.  I pulled off at the viewpoints.  I got out of the car.  I stood on the rim of this amazing canyon and looked down into it, wondering where the others were… were they enjoying their adventure?  Were they having as much fun as I was?  Maybe, just maybe I could see them…..

And I wondered at the beauty from God!

This was a healing and empowering adventure for me.

114 20181009_164425_HDR copy copyFinally, after many stops I arrived at our lodge for the night in the Grand Canyon Village.  I managed to get us checked in and everything in the rooms.  And then I planned to rest for a while…. But I wanted to continue my adventure, so I headed back out to explore more of what the Grand Canyon had to offer me.  Eventually I found my way to the parking lot next to the trailhead where we planned to meet.  I explored the area for quite a while, taking in the splendor of the Grand Canyon.  I was amazed and awed by the colors on display in front of and below me.  Nature’s art at its finest.  And then I made my way back to the trailhead.

I stood above the trail, watching as person after person made their way up the trail to the top.  I was watching for my three.  Hoping to see them soon.

133 IMG_3919 copy copyAnd then I saw them!  I yelled in excitement.  The people near me laughed.  Relief took over as I watched the three of them make their way on this last part of their journey.  I was not alone.  And when they finally reached the top, I hugged them.  They did it!  An amazing accomplishment for them—23.5 miles and many thousands of feet of elevation change, all in 12 hours and 50 minutes.  Wow!!  They did it!  I was so very, very proud of them (still am!).

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And though my accomplishment was not as physically demanding, I realized I was proud of me too.  I stepped outside my comfort zone, though I really did not have much choice.  But I did it.  And I found a way to enjoy my adventure instead of just getting from one place to another.  Instead of letting my nerves and discomfort keep me from enjoying the moment, I embraced it!

I stepped outside my comfort zone and in the process found that I can have fun on my own.  I can enjoy the world around me even when I am alone.  And the world around me, especially the natural world, is worth spending time in, with or without others.

And being alone does not mean I will ALWAYS be alone.

Each event that causes me to step outside that comfort zone is an opportunity for me to learn, to grow and to heal.

It just takes a leap…..

I look forward (with a little trepidation) to my next solo adventure.