Last week, I shared my story of taking a much longer hike than anticipated. For me, it was a reminder that some paths take more time, and faith is required to keep going, left foot right foot.
After that surprise 18.2 miles, I got food and sleep, and was up early the next morning for day two of the hike.
We filled our packs with provision for the day and headed into the canyon. Since day one was from the west rim to the canyon floor, day two would be a climb. We'd start where we left off, and climb to the east rim.
The map said 7.5 miles.
I've done the first part of this hike before. It's mostly switchbacks that lead up into Echo Canyon and Observation Point. At the 2.5 mile mark, there is a small sign with an arrow on it. "East Rim Trail".
It was a very hot, dry day and I was looking forward to the east trail, which the literature described as lush forest surrounded by pines. Woohoo! Right now we were in the desert. Trees sounded good.
Shortly after we turned off the main trail, we found ourselves on a very rocky cliff. It wasn't clear where the path was, really, except for a few cairns, stacks of rocks that serve as landmarks on a trail. We made our way slowly from one to another. I was having to hold onto the rocks with my hands, take big steps up and down, and do those little heel - toe - heel - toe steps down slanted slick rock to make our way forward.
I am not skilled in this area. I am from Ohio.
It wasn't long before a voice in my head started up. "This is not what I thought this would be. I am afraid. I am in fear of falling. This is stupid."
In the past, I am almost positive I would have shoved that thought down hard and pressed on. But I've learned a great deal about boundaries lately, and it was time to practice.
I looked out over the rocky terrain and said, "I'm not going down there. It's too much for me. You guys go on ahead. I know my way back."
Everyone stopped, and for a minute it was quiet. I turned completely around and started carefully hiking out of this area, back to the well-traveled trail. To my surprise, they were following me.
When I got to the trail, I sat down beneath a small tree and pulled out an apple and some pretzels. I needed to regroup. The hikers I was with decided to keep climbing. Their plan was to try another trail called the Mesa Trail to see if it was easier terrain. I decided to head back.
As I walked 2.5 miles down the side of that massive rock, I had two thoughts competing for my attention. "You quit, you failed." And, "You boundary-setting, self-respecting, courage-wielding, rock-climbing empowerment-superhero."
It didn't take long for the voice of the enemy to be drowned out by the truth.
Lie: I quit, I failed.
Truth: I rocked my boundary.
We all face that kind of rocky terrain every day. If you are like me, it is tempting to go for the most people-pleasing outcome, not what is most authentic for me at the moment. My hiker friends could have railed against my boundary, called me names, shamed me, withdrew, etc. People often react negatively or even explosively when confronted with a boundary. That is why it takes such courage to stand in one and hold it strong.
When I reconvened with my hiking crew, they told me how GRATEFUL they were that I spoke up. That was not the trail they wanted to be on either, and the other one ended up being perfect to get to the east rim.
I share this with you because I think it is difficult for all of us to navigate our way through trying to get fit and healthy, worrying about giving up too easily or being a "wuss", pushing too far and getting hurt, and then learning to speak up, honor our authentic selves, and hold our boundaries when necessary. It's challenging!
I am far from perfect at it. What I do know is this. Setting healthy boundaries requires vulnerability and courage. I had to be willing to be disapproved of by my hiking crew (so glad I wasn't) to show myself the self-respect that was required in that moment to feel safe. Their disapproval would have been a bummer.
But disapproval of myself for violating ME is worse.
My job is to speak up. Stand strong in my empowerment. The more I do that, the more I learn that the reactions of those around me is on them, NOT ME. Those who love and respect me, love and respect my boundaries. And...sometimes even thank me for them.
"I'm never more courageous than when I'm embracing imperfection, embracing vulnerabilities, and setting boundaries with the people in my life." - Brené Brown