Today is an important Trailiversary for me. One year ago today, I started my Appalachian Trail journey.
What a day!
I started in Grayson Highlands State Park in southern Virginia. We had glorious cerulean skies and, as I'd hoped for, there were ponies!
What I'm thinking about a lot today is how grateful I am for my incredibly supportive husband, Ralph. Trail name: Silent Bob. He let's me do all the talking.
Here's why I'm grateful for Silent Bob...
Not once did he give me grief for disappearing for five months.
Not once did he whine about taking care of things at home while I "played."
Not once did he get jealous of my male hiking partners, throw a tantrum, pressure me to come home, act like my hike was in any way about him or getting his needs met. He even laughed at my stories of Naked Hiking Day.
He met me in New Hampshire and chauffeured my hiking partners and me all over the White Mountains, welcomed us all to our cabin even though it meant less alone time with me and commiserated with me when I had to get off the trail in Rangeley, Maine because of an injury.
When I finished in October, he was thrilled to have me home, willing to acknowledge that I'd just done an amazing thine (hiked 1,800 miles) and that my little stroll up the Eastern Continental Divide had "obviously done me good."
Not everyone is so blessed to have their own Silent Bob.
I'm thinking about that today because I was reminded again recently how not everyone who decides to follow a dream like this are blessed to have a Silent Bob in their lives. A big problem for a lot of hikers is that they are not just not encouraged, but actively discouraged from chasing this crazy, epic, life-changing dream.
I met a section hiker who confessed frustration at being unsupported by his wife, whose happiness seemed to depend on him getting off the trail and giving up on his hike. Every time he came out for a section, he had to factor that emotional hardship into what is already a difficult task.
I met one who had to tell little "white lies" to his spouse to stay out of trouble even though the only trouble that was happening out there was lifelong friendships being formed, sometimes with members of the opposite sex, sometimes not.
U Turn met a thru-hiker whose husband spent six months in a rage at home and wouldn't even call to congratulate her when she summited Katahdin and finished all 2,190 miles of the AT, the achievement of a lifetime.
My husband reports that several men back home seemed surprised that he "let" me go off by myself and hike.
WTF? I don't get it!
I don't expect people to understand what inspires their loved ones to leave their comfy homes and answer the call of the trail in the first place. It's unusual and not a thing most people will see as a responsible, grown-up thing to do.
But what I don't expect is for people who say they love us to stand in the way of our dreams.
I have a difficult time understanding how someone might profess to want what's best for their husband or wife, but then do everything in their power to stand in the way of something that will make them a better, happier person.
I know hiking transformed me in ways that have been really good for my marriage and my relationship with Ralph.
I know leaving for five months to have an epic adventure wasn't meant as any kind of statement about him or our marriage.
It was about me. What I needed. My journey. My call to develop resiliency and self-love and self-reliance and to recognize my own power.
It was about doing the thing I needed to do to nurture and live a deep soul life. To feel at home in myself in a way that I'd never experienced.
Self care or selfish?
Does that sound selfish? No doubt it will to some.
But because I've seen my own self-care ripple out to others in the best of ways, i.e. into my marriage and into my friendships and into my unwillingness to step back into situations that make me feel dead inside (cough, day job, cough), I hope others who hear the call of the trail will step onto it with or without the support of the people at home, and trust that this level of self care only brings good back into the world.
Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.