Even when it’s fifty-five degrees in the morning, I can work up a sweat hiking. Especially if I’ve just climbed up a very steep section gaining at least 300 feet of altitude in a very short stretch of trail. I’d just emerged from climbing up the side of a gulf and through the Great Stone Door in Middle Tennessee when I saw a couple, probably in their sixties, approaching me. The man turned to the woman and said, “See dear, I told you you had nothing to worry about with that pack. It’s not nearly as big as hers.”
That smile and the fake sweet tone, plus the woman’s response about, “Trying to get back into shape” spoke volumes. Sure, I’m red in the face and sweating, but that’s just me going uphill. I wasn’t even that out of breath thanks to all the work I’d been doing.
“Oh we were backpacking yesterday,” I replied, keeping my tone friendly, “I just pulled all the sleeping stuff out to day hike today. But I always hike with the ten essentials,” at this point I directed my gaze to the woman who was carrying a very tidy-sized day-pack, “It’s good to be prepared.” She smiled and nodded, and I moved on, personally unbothered by him casting disparaging glances at my gorgeous forty-nine liter new backpack carefully selected from a cottage maker that he’d probably never heard of. After all, I might still look heavy to some people, but can they hike eight hours a day with thirty pounds on their backs?
What bothered me was that he was using me to insult the woman with him. By acting friendly, he was being insulting to both of us by just assuming things. And it bugged me that at least from that brief interaction she was doing this careful balancing act of trying to do what she felt like she needed to do while not causing problems with the man she was with. I’ve seen that fearful two-step far too often, and it usually involves one person contorting themselves into something entirely unfamiliar to the person they were in order to placate the person they are with. And it ultimately stunts the growth of the person they could be. No one should demand this of their partner, but it happens too often. And sometimes people just impose it on themselves, trying to fit into a mold of what they think society says they should be.
This couple stood at the trail sign reading it as if they’d not studied the trail maps. They were standing on a 200 foot drop off, at a trail juncture that was about to either drop about 700 feet into a gulf or meander up and down some rises along the rim. What would happen to them if they did hike down the gulf only to discover they didn’t have what it takes to get back out? Did they know that there’s no signal down there? Did they sign the trail register at the beginning? Did they tell someone where they’re going? Did they know that even if they did all those things search and rescue doesn’t come until morning, so getting stuck generally means spending the night, even on a four or five mile hike? Was she really safe hiking with someone who clearly acted like they knew everything while disparaging those willing to take precautions, and who was unaware that there were backcountry sites with 50 plus miles of trails leading off from where he was standing?
Spending the last year researching and practicing has gotten me to a point where I feel like I know my own competence in hiking. I’m not an expert, I’ve not done any extended backpacking trips (yet!), but I’ve learned a lot and have gotten to where I could definitely help get newer people started. And it made me wonder just where else in life do I let other people undermine my own knowing about my competence? Trusting our knowing is something that is a big theme in Glennon Doyle’s book Untamed, and the concept has stayed with me in the two years or so since I read the book. Trusting my knowing feels like an exercise in balance. But unlike the balancing act that would make me contort to pacify another person, trusting my knowing allows me to balance between the fear and what is possible, to stretch my comfort zone while trusting the work I’ve done to get there, and to become more fully, well, me.
What does trusting your knowing look like for you? Drop me some thoughts in the comment section and let’s chat!
Book News: Inward Apocalypse
I’m excited to announce that as of October 13th, I’m under contract with Resource Publications an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers for my book Inward Apocalypse: Uncovering a Faith for the Common Good to be released late next summer or early fall.
Stay tuned right here for more details on the launch and how you can join the launch team!
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