But, aren’t we all?
A few months ago, when my California friend was in town, we spent some time reminiscing about where we met — an adventure trip in Colorado in 2012 where we got to know each other while hiking and biking (okay, okay… truth time: she biked really REALLY slowly so that I could keep up while going uphill…). What neither of us realized going into the week-long trip was that this was a very touchy-feely “let’s be vulnerable and talk about everything” kind of trip.
I never really wrote much about that weekend. I’m not sure why, whether it was because I wasn’t really writing back then, or found it too close and personal to share, but now, a few years removed from the experience, I want to talk about how that week was the prelude to me finally making some decisions and changes. And how I leaked more tears in the span of week than I ever thought were possible to produce in the first place.
The week was billed as an adventure week… at least that’s how I remember what I read on the website. It was all hiking and biking and happy, smiling faces. Sure, there were mentions of yoga and other spiritual practices, but I conveniently ignored those parts — they didn’t fit into my vision of a rough and tumble week.
After being there no longer than half a day, I realized with growing panic that there must have been about 10 pages of fine print that I neglected to put under the microscope. I was in the midst of about 20 women who were all sharing their feelings and being vulnerable, and not only that, but also subtly peer-pressuring me into doing the same. Of course, they would likely say instead that they were simply giving me a safe space and girl power encouragement to explore my feelings and that I jumped in willingly. You know, like I would jump willingly off a cliff. Or jump willingly into the chilly 53 degree Lake Michigan. Or jump willingly off a cliff into Lake Michigan into the waiting jaws of an incredibly lost shark, complete with Jaws theme music.
The entire week followed this routine: sweat and gasp for air, cry, gasp for air, cry, eat dinner, meditate, share, be vulnerable, cry. Go to bed, get up, do yoga, laugh at myself doing yoga, be vulnerable, cry, eat breakfast, almost pass out from overexertion and lack of oxygen going uphill, cry, whoop going downhill, cry, celebrate and then cry. You get the idea — a lot of water being shed, either in the form of sweat or tears.
On the last day, Colleen — the incredible woman behind the magic of the Women’s Quest trips — told us to go out to the river and find a place to be by ourselves. She told us to sit quietly, take in the beauty and reflect on the week and what we had learned.
After nestling into a tree nook, I noticed a flower not far from my foot. It was little ragged and hidden in the shade, but it was a gorgeous shade of purple, just begging to be noticed. And I thought: that flower is just like the rest of us. None of us are perfect — we’ve all got scars and torn edges, but we’re all growing and beautiful and we’re enough just as we are and deserve all the love and attention we receive.
It was during the walk back to the lodge that I started thinking about what changes I needed to make to be happy, indeed even just figuring out why I had spent the entire week bawling my eyes out. I knew that what I wanted out of life was right in front of me, that I just needed to reach out, but I needed help — I hadn’t yet been able to do it on my own. The week demonstrated how much of life needs only some space to grow and a community of friends to grab our hand while we shed some tears. I would start therapy shortly after returning home, finally understanding that that my own journey would require a support team of my own.
And the lessons learned for the week?
- Every person has a beauty about them. Myself included, even though it might be easier to see in other people.
- After the snot was kleenexed away and breathing returned to normal, I realized that all the tears were cathartic. It was the first time in a very long while where I felt that my insides were on the outside for people to see. And that vulnerability was good for me, no matter how difficult.
- I don’t know how people do anything active above 8,000 feet because there truly is no oxygen up there in them parts. Really.