Over the Fourth of July, I vacationed with my wife and a couple friends in Glenwood Springs. It was my first time that far west on I-70 in Colorado and one of the most famous hikes in the whole state is just outside that quaint little town: Hanging Lake.
Before my back injury three and a half years ago, I was an avid hiker. My best friend, Stacy and I went out almost every weekend on an 8-10 mile hike. We loved the challenge of exploring new trails and training for our ultimate goal, which was hiking Pikes Peak. We planned, trained, and prepared, and we finally achieved our goal late that summer. Then we slowed down and took a bit of a break for awhile. And life, as it so often does, started to get in the way. As much as I loved escaping to the mountains, my real life with its struggles between faith and sexuality were proving to be hard enough. I got to the point where I didn’t want to work so hard at everything I did. I wanted something that I could just enjoy, without it being hard. I needed some reprieve. Stacy’s unending support led us to choosing some easier trails, and though we didn’t go out as often, when we did, it was on a trail that we enjoyed without struggle. In fact, it was on one of those very trails that Stacy and I discussed how I was going to come out to my family.
But then more life happened: Stacy moved out of state, I moved to Denver after coming out, and hiking ended up on the back burner for a time while I struggled just to survive everyday life. Not long after that, my back injury followed and hiking was ruled out almost completely.
It’s now been three and a half years since my back injury and in all honesty, I’ve managed about one good hike a year. Pathetic for an adventurous soul like me. But it’s been all my physical body and crazy schedule could manage, though my soul has desperately longed for more.
I’m a bucket list girl, an adventure girl, a throw-caution-to-the-wind-and-live-life-to-the-fullest girl. I don’t like watching from the sidelines, and I don’t like that my pain has caused me to be more cautious, more fearful, and less prone to adventure. Nor have I liked accepting the fact that certain things on my bucket list are things I may now never be able to do. It’s a tough pill to swallow, especially since I’m still haven’t even yet hit 33.
So when I got to Glenwood and my friends wanted to hike Hanging Lake, my heart and mind split and divided themselves in opposite directions. My heart, which still longs for adventure and beauty said, “Yes! This is a Bucket List moment! I definitely want to do this!” My head, which now filters everything through a lens of pain management, was, I’ll admit it…scared. Laying in bed the night before we planned to hike the trail, I thought about the trail stats that claimed to climb over 1,000 feet of elevation in just one mile. As a hiker, I knew what that meant. It meant it was hard. It meant it was nothing but up. It meant my body would hate me. I admit the more I thought about it (and about the setbacks I’ve had because of other similar choices/experiences over the last couple of years), the more I began to work myself into a tizzy. “What if I can’t make it?” “What if I hold everyone else back?” “What if I have a setback that takes days or even weeks to recover from?” Fear rose up inside me. I even started coming up with excuses of why I shouldn’t go and why everyone else should just do it without me.
But then, with everything I could muster, I began to reason myself down from a state of panic in the dark and quiet bedroom that night. If you know me, you know that not making it to the top is pretty much not an option. Once I’ve started, by golly, I’m going to make it to the top! But as I lay there, I told myself that I would take it slow. I told myself I didn’t mind if I had to send the others ahead. I told myself I would just do my best. Because the truth is, I want to continue to live a beautiful, exciting, adventurous life regardless of my chronic pain. I don’t want to just sit by and watch others live life around me. Yes, I need to be smart. And yes, there are some things (right now, still many things) that I just have to say “no” to. But I’m going to keep trying. I’m going to keep pushing myself and working at getting better. I’m going to keep facing my fears, because I want to truly live.
Upon returning from Glenwood last week, I pulled my Bucket List up on my computer to check in and see where I was at. I’d been putting it off because I’ve been discouraged at how many of things I can’t do and know I maybe never will again. But as I read down each line on the list of over 200 items, what I found instead was that I had actually checked several of them off. Yes, there are a few that I may never get to experience, but there are still so many that I can. And realizing that lit a candle of hope in my spirit where discouragement has been sitting.
Oh, and if you’re wondering? I did make it to the top of Hanging Lake. One of my friends, at the very bottom of the trailhead pulled a sturdy stick from the stream for me to use as a hiking stick, and everyone was more than gracious and patient with my pace. I spent most of the next day in bed, but with lots of TLC, I recovered quite nicely and was overall proud of how well my body did.
We had a great time. We made it. And we got the Bucket List check! So the question for you this week is:
Because Love Makes All the Difference,