Wednesday, January 8, 2014

154. The Potential for Cheering Up

Whistle told me a story today about a time before we met her and Hotdog. This was early on in the trail, when every single mile was fascinating, incredible, and full of endless pain. They were headed down a mountain toward the Nantahala Outdoor Club (NOC), an outfitter and restaurant that was directly on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. Whistle told me that it was, for whatever reason, incredibly hard that day. Her knees were hurting, her feet were hurting, she was exhausted and cranky. The trail leading down toward NOC felt like it went on forever, each step sending a series of reverberating lightning bolts of aches to the still-fragile early-trail knees.

Whistle and Hotdog both were feeling a bit forlorn. They knew that if they could just keep going, they would be able to make it to a great little restaurant. Endless fresh food, cooked by someone else, was waiting for them. But sometimes knowing that something great was at the end of the day made the day itself feel awful. It was a little like being a donkey with a carrot dangling in front of its nose, tantalizingly out of reach. Furthermore, early on the trail it was impossible to gauge how long it was going to take anyone to hike any distance. All we knew was that it was going to "take a long time, be really cool, and all of us are going to hurt like we just somersaulted down 7 flights of stairs."

In a fit of pique, Whistle fished her cell phone out of her backpack and called one of her best friends, Elizabeth. Elizabeth had always been very supportive of Whistle, and was good at being direct.

"Hello?"

Whistle explained her current circumstances, about the long hard day, and the NOC looming forever on the edge of the horizon. She expressed that both she and Hotdog were feeling pretty bummed, and that they needed some words of encouragement. 

On the other end of the line, there were a few moments of silence, then Elizabeth spoke.

"Let's get straight. Your problem right now is that you don't want to walk downhill for burgers?"

"Well, yes. But... But I'm tiiiiiirreeeedddd," Whistle whimpered, in that endearing pathetic kind of way.

"Alright. Let me tell you about my day. I woke up at 5 am to drive an hour to work, where I've spent the entire day being yelled at by my boss."

"...Right."

"Do you feel better?"

"Yes."

"Good. Love you, bye."

Whistle hung up her phone with a smile on her face and a little spring in her step. She shared the conversation with Hotdog, who also felt a lot better. They made their way down to the NOC, and ate the crap out of those burgers.

When you're out in the wilderness hiking, even if it's only for a few days, or for weeks or months, all it takes is a small reminder that brief freedom from the regular constraints of society is perfectly worth all of the pain of hiking. Being able to have that opportunity, no matter how short or long of a time, is an incredible privilege. Even when you have to work super hard to get the time off and save up the money to go on your adventure, it's still a privilege that you are able to get out there and do it. Sometimes being reminded not to take that privilege for granted is all it takes to be positive. 

It's not always easy to be cheered up on a long-distance hike, but every once in a while, that happiness is closer to your fingertips.

Love,
Clever Girl


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