Where do YOU feel the most YOU?
(One option may be atop cattail clumps)
First disclosure - I (poorly) photoshopped the gray out of my part in the photo below. I HAD to. I didn’t want you to think you were getting a newsletter from a skunk.
Second disclosure - Some amazing things have happened in the last couple of years for me. And some horrible things, too. Most of you know that I closed my beloved magazine (horrible thing). And most of you know that I launched my new business, Michigan Girl (amazing thing). I had to question everything I had been doing and who I had been doing it with.
Today, I want to talk about this: Where do YOU feel the most YOU?
As I’ve worked through the pain of the last several months, I’ve started to pay more and more attention to what is good in my life, what is working, and where I am the most “me.”
I made changes in my days. I did new things. I returned to things I missed. Things got quiet around me and inside me. And the healing started to arrive, bit by bit, like sun seeping in. And I realized I was healing the most in the places were I was the most “me.”
Hence, last weekend’s adventure in the woods.
OK, let’s get this post started.
This past Saturday, I went on a hike - but not just any hike. The kind where you think you might die. Courtesy of my husband, Tim, an avid outdoorsman.
For a quick preview, this is what the trail looked like for a while:
We were cutting through swamps, over deadfalls and down rivers, on state property… with no foot trails and zero life rafts to be had. For FOUR hours.
Please stop a moment and respect that number.
Things started out well. I was delighted to go hiking off the beaten path. We’d been going every chance we could in the last few weeks, with the ferns down and no snow on the ground. It made everything open and available, unlike any time of the year.
I did not, however, expect this hike to turn into a test of our marriage.
We hiked hills, found tiny waterfalls, identified trees. I used a compass for the first time since 6th grade. The best part was when Tim would point out a deer trail and ask me to follow it, while he went on another one, telling me to meet him on the other side of the ridge or across the valley.
Each time I was alone in the forest, walking someplace I’d never been before, it was a thrill. I liked being alone. I liked having to pay attention to the roll of the land, to where the best footing was, to the animal tracks on the forest floor. I loved looking up at the sky - the sun! - and looking down to see porcupine droppings and quills at the base of a tree.
Moments like those - when you’re alone with Mother Nature, the sky and a pile of poop? We dare only dream of.
Another time, Tim sent me up a sidehill while he stayed in the valley below. We could see each other, and we paced along. Me above, him below.
I had to go, so I scurried along and found a spot behind a tree. I waited for him to notice I was missing. Finally, he checked in.
“Do you see anything up there?” he shouted.
“Just the moon!” I shouted back, with a well-placed step and turn.
“Ohmygod,” he shouted. “Get down here!!!!”
IT WAS THAT.
I used to play with him like that all the time. But, for too long, I hadn’t been paying attention to the good parts. I had been too busy keeping afloat in the chaos.
Now I was keeping afloat in the middle of muddy little creeks with him. And in that moment, I was delighted to remember the me who did funny things like that.
Another mile in, just when I thought we would turn for home, we came upon a huge swamp. Tim studied the terrain map and decided we needed to hike to what appeared to be a little island in the middle of it. “To see” - the world’s most obvious reason.
It would mean crossing a swath of dead cattails surrounded by black muck hidden under frozen flats of icy snow.
I looked at him.
“Just step on the cattail clumps,” he said - and took off.
I had no choice. I didn’t want to go, but I didn’t want to miss out on this either. I started following his every step. Literally. If he survived his choice, so did I. If he sank, I tried stepping left or right or once, begging to go back.
We crossed the front half of the swamp inch by inch until we reached the creek (as pictured above). Which turned out to be a break in the action. We could hike it freely - until Tim stopped once and pumped his feet against the bottom - causing the sand beneath my boots to quiver. “Feel that?” he asked.
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My screech confirmed that I did.
We waded the creek for a few yards before heading into the last half of my patience. By then, I couldn’t possibly stand another decision to be made in the cattails. Deep, boot-sucking mud grabbed my feet and lacy, cold branches whipped my face. Everything seemed dead around us. Once I grabbed a branch - the only thing available - and it disintegrated in my hands.
I was ready to give up and throw in the cold, frozen towel.
But then. A shout from Tim through the brush just ahead of me.
“We did it! We’ve reached the island!”
I poked through the last of the thicket and looked around. It was not the paradise I was hoping for.
It was just more deadfall, bad promises and swamp. I walked past my husband and sat down on a log.
“I’m done,” I told him.
“You can’t be done,” he said. “We need to get back to the truck.”
“No,” I corrected him, “I’m done with YOU.”
The second longest pause of the day arrived.
“We’re having fun, aren’t we?” he insisted, throwing a little stick, like a bomb he had to detonate from afar.
I couldn’t respond. My lips were set like botox in the wind.
But he was right. I was having fun. Maple was having the time of her life, and I had never crossed a swamp afloat on cattails clumps before now. It was the most delightfully good time.
Still, I listed off the ways he would repay me for the swamp ambush as we made our way back to the truck. A massage, a large pizza with extra cheese, 2/3rds of our assets.
In the end, I was glad I had been out there in the woods - muddy, wet and tired. My heart was at ease, I was happy. And I felt more me - out there on the cattail clumps, laughing with Tim - than I had in a long time.
For four hours.
WHERE DO YOU FEEL THE MOST “YOU”?
Comment below & thank you for sharing your “YOU” story!