A few weeks ago, Mr. O and I watched Wild. (A big Saturday night for us now includes a movie that we may or may not watch all the way through. So far I’ve seen How to Train Your Dragon 2, Unbroken and now Wild, all in 20 minute increments. There is a lot of pausing when you’re also wrangling a 5 month old.)
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the general plot, Wild is about a woman (Cheryl) who hikes the Pacific Coast Trail after her life hits the skids. By “hits the skids” I mean her mom dies, she becomes a heroin addict, and engages in otherwise destructive behaviors. The movie is really well done. Mad props to Reese Witherspoon. She did a beautiful job.
While Cheryl is hiking the trail, the movie flashes back to her past, to what brought her to the point where she is willing to hike 1,100 miles. A lot of it focuses on her relationship with her mom, which helps explain why her death was such an inflection point. Cheryl loses herself. Hiking the trail is what brings her back.
I had to find my own way out of the woods. It took me four years, seven months, and three days to do it. I didn’t know where I was going until I got there.
As corny as it sounds, I get this movie. I GET IT. These past few years have been just plain shitty for me, what with infertility, my mom dying and the resulting fallout from that. In the process, I’ve changed a lot. Not for the better, mind you. When I look back on who I was before, I really was fearless. Falling down didn’t scare me because I had so much faith in my ability to pick myself back up and move forward. I now know I can fall down — and just lay there devastated.
I liken what’s happened to repetitive stress injury, like my IT band strain from a few years ago. This is a really common running injury, so much so that it is often referred to as “Runner’s Knee.” On a day to day basis, I was fine. But over time, tiny stressors on my body resulted in a full-on strain that made it painful for me to walk. I remember vividly when I knew there was a problem. I went out for a 5 mile run, and 2 miles in I was crying on some stranger’s stoop because I quite literally couldn’t move. Months of PT later, I was okay. But even to this day, my IT band will give me drama if I’m pushing myself too hard, too soon.
That experience taught me the difference between “Ouch” and “Holy shit.” Emotionally, I’ve hit “Holy shit.”
I’ve changed. In real, tangible, not-great ways. I’m not trying to fix myself, to “go back” to who I was before. But I would like to find ways to live my life with less fear. Of not being afraid to fail.
I kept telling myself what I need is a BHAG. In office speak, that stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goal. Like hiking the Pacific Coast Trail. Only not that because I’m not insane. I need to fix a target and aim for it. It doesn’t even matter to me if I make it. I just want to TRY. I want to want to try.
I’ve spent the past few weeks thinking about what this BHAG would be. Learning to bake bread? That seems too tiny. Running a marathon? Honestly, I don’t have the time for that right now. Every single idea I have seems too small or leaves me bored.
Moving to the other side of the country?
Now that feels about right…
When I was writing my mom’s obituary, I started off with the usual “Mom was born in Point A, died in Point Z.” This is how all obituaries start. I remember thinking my mom would never have guessed that she would end up where she did. Not that I thought she’d be disappointed. Just that when she was a kid in her small town, I don’t think she fathomed every where her life would go. You see, even if an obit tries to summarize a life by Point A and Point Z, I knew about all the points in between. Her life was full, even at times adventurous.
I need more points in between.
That feels big and audacious.