Appalachian Trail Happiness: Change can be a good thing
As many of you know I hiked 1000 miles on the Appalachian Trail this summer. A long trip like that is bound to create some change in you personally. On the trail you spend a lot of time thinking. In your hammock/tent at night you have a lot of time to lay there and think about life. Throughout the day as you walk, your mind is cranking away all of the time, not at a conscious level but down underneath things. When you are walking you have to be unbelievably present, the moment your mind wanders off of the trail there’s a root on your toe and you’re on the ground. The forced mindfulness is one of the things I love about being on the trail.
But underneath the wheels grind, at night you process more consciously. A couple of different times on the trail this summer I had conversations with people who woke to epiphanies about things that they had struggled over for some time. For me, like most of us, I had some of my own baggage to work out, past relationships, family relationships all bring their level of noise into your life that you have an opportunity to quiet on the trail.
Eventually as Colin Fletcher says, you examine yourself and there is time to get into the true depths of who and what you are. You have time, for one of the few times in your life, to really examine yourself and contemplate these ideas. I’ve written previously that I thought the trail and this process had some definitive impacts on me. I felt that I had slowed down, become mellower, softer if you will. The trail I believed made me more open to others and a little less anti-social, it showed me that with the right community I really did have a need to be social and connected to others.
The last few weeks have been rough, my grandmother’s passing hit me like a ton of bricks. I generally held it together but emotional trauma robs you of the buffers you have to interact with other people, you become raw. Typically in this state I’m a dangerous person to be around because my tongue is free and unfiltered and I have been known to inflict damage with it. That hasn’t happened this time, I found myself in a situation with a friend where ordinarily I would have unleashed verbal and emotional fury and walked away. That didn’t happen, I’ve slowed down in life, I paused and did something that I haven’t always done and put myself in their shoes. This led to a phone call that was honest and direct (that will always be me) but I pointed out I understood why what happened had indeed happened. I stressed our friendship and the connections and what behaviors couldn’t happen again. I asked my friend what they needed.
This brought us to understanding, friendship with this person will never be easy, it hasn’t been easy. But I care about this person, so the effort is worth it. Realize, I’ll never be a doormat and I certainly still play by baseball rules, three strikes and your out. I have always advocated ridding yourself of people who bring you down, but now it seems I’m a little less quick on the trigger, a little more forgiving, a better friend.
Tonight I’d ask you to find a few minutes my friends, contemplate your own trigger, how fast you pull it. Ask yourself how often you’re putting yourselves in the shoes of your partner, your children, your friends and to just pause a bit longer than normal before you react. It’s been making things better for me, perhaps it can help you as well. So maybe what I have found is a new version of me, a version I like and one that I hope will continue to bring me happy days my friends ~ Rev Kane