In addition to Tyrannosaurus Rex fossils, there are lots of hiking trails connected to the campground along that river. One afternoon, we decided to go exploring. We each took a bottle of water with us, and after looking at the park map, we set off on one of the trails that headed into the woods.
I don’t remember exactly what time we left the campground. I do remember what an extremely hot day it was as we hiked and checked out different scenic views along the path. We walked and walked. I gulped down my water and sweated so much my shirt was completely stuck to my back.
At some point, we started to get concerned. “Shouldn’t we be back at the campground by now?” The trail was a loop, so we kept thinking we would arrive back at our tent and cooler filled with food and water any minute. It wasn’t happening. We tried to figure out what was going on. Were we almost there and it had just taken a lot longer than we expected? Or did we somehow turn off the main trail and were now walking deeper into the woods, away from camp.
Our water bottles were empty and the boys, although they had been troopers, were over it. I was getting scared. I was so hot and thirsty and hungry. The sun was starting to go below the tree line, which was really frightening. One thing I did not want was to be stuck out in the woods, lost somewhere in the middle of Texas, at night.
This was before cell phones and GPS. We had a map but it didn’t help because we didn’t know where we were on the trail. I started shivering.
Right about then, we came across a shaded area with a rocky bank. We ducked in the shade to cool off. I was definitely overheating and dehydrated, as was everyone else. Once we were tucked away from the sun, I saw the water. It was one of those little ponds with slimy green gunk across the top with water spiders gliding around. It was such dark, murky water we couldn’t tell how deep it was. But we were dangerously hot so one at a time, we climbed in.
Turns out it was about a foot deep, so I had to scrunch down while sitting in the water, to get more of my body wet and cooled off. I cannot describe to you how freaked out I was about what might be in that water. But I leaned my head back to wet my hair. I did not want to die in these stupid woods.
I think of that pond a lot. I think of it when I am talking to a client about being willing to sit with her fear and pain. I think of that pond when I am struggling with something and realize I need to take some time to sit with my stuff. My fear, my grief, my shame. The stuff I don’t want to face or deal with.
The problem is, if I don’t face it or deal with it, it stays with me. And it is these old wounds that are the main reason it is so difficult to get healthy and stay healthy. It is all connected.
It is all connected.
After several minutes in the little pond, we got up and got back on the path in the direction we had been heading before. We were cooler now, but it was starting to get dark. Then, a miracle. Five minutes after getting out of the water, we encountered a solo hiker, who told us we were going in the right direction for camp, and in fact we were just minutes away.
So many times, when I would feel something uncomfortable, like grief or fear or shame, I would eat. It was a great escape. But there were consequences to that. One, I was unhealthy and felt terrible about myself and my body. But two, I was never free from the power those things had over me. As long as I was unwilling to acknowledge them and be with them, they controlled me.
I had to get into the pond. I had to sit in the muck and the green slime. Turns out once I did, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. It was just old stuff.
What I never expected was the freedom that came with being brave. That is what led me home.