I’m currently reading AWOL on the Appalachian Trail by David Miller. After reading Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed, I’ve been fascinated with these long, daunting hikes across North American mountains. Both books highlight the difficulties and awe-some aspects of such hikes. However, no book can truly convey the realities of taking on such a tremendous hike across varying heights, climates and terrain. As I read and think, “Oh, I could do that” I think back to my “simple” hikes at Ghost Ranch last fall – the ones that left me winded and a bit unnerved going over rocky hills. I consider myself to be in shape (I have ran 10-half marathons over the last few years…), but I didn’t train for trails or hikes, so I wasn’t fully prepared for what I encountered.
(I also think about how grateful I am that my husband pushed us toward a beach vacation this spring, rather than the mountain one I originally suggested. I think we would have returned more tired and with blisters due to me urging longer hikes and more strenuous trails, rather than being relaxed and tan, like we did just a few days ago.)
David, a.k.a. Awol, quit his job for his adventure on the AT. He also left behind his wife and three daughters for his multi-month exploration. From where I am in the book, he’s close to the end of the trail and has no more insight to his future or what he wants to do next as when he began. Like many folks, he’s tired of the day-to-day job stuck in a cubicle. He wonders what the point is of all of it. Granted, he has a happy marriage and loves his children dearly, but something is missing and he hasn’t found it on the trail. I’m not done with the book yet – I hope he has some revelation before I get to the end!
Whether it’s a long weekend or a 7-day getaway or a long trek an entire mountain range, I think we all expect something different when we get to the end. We wonder, “Ok, what’s next?” Most often, what’s next is the same thing we had before we left – back to work, back to family, back to life (back to reality). The circumstances don’t usually change when we get home. But, maybe the mind set does?
I ended up taking two full weeks of PTO, so although my husband has been back to work since Tuesday, I still have some time off (although Friday and Saturday are my usual days off, so technically today is my last day of PTO). I’ve used this time to clean, do laundry, catch up on my sewing and some other errands that needed completed. That’s what was next for me – the stuff of life. I could have resented it – and I could have longed for the room service and the poolside drinks and the warm sun. (I have just a little bit.) However, I do enjoy my home – I enjoy having space to spread out, rather than being confined to one room. I enjoy spending time with my dog and seeing the greening of our yard. I enjoy caring for myself (most of the time). That’s what was next for me – enjoying my home.
My word for the year is Gratitude and I’m really trying to take that seriously. I want to appreciate each moment – gratitude for the beach getaway AND gratitude for the normalcy of being home, gratitude for the time off AND gratitude that I have a job to return to on Sunday, gratitude for this 24+ headache that causes me to slow down AND gratitude for the relief when I realize it’s gone (I think I’m almost there).
I know what’s next in terms of what’s on my calendar. I know what’s next in terms of my day-to-day living. Beyond that, however, I really don’t know what’s next. It’s a bit of a mystery right now. I do know that whatever is next will be filled with Gratitude, because that’s the attitude I choose. Whatever comes, wherever I’m lead, I know I’ll be grateful.
I’m not putting out the realm of possibility that one day I’ll hike the PCT or AT – maybe not all, but parts.
I don’t know what’s next, but I’m ready. It’s like I’m in the movie and watching the movie at the same time. That’s kind of a cool place to be.