Saturday, December 13, 2014

Picking up the pieces

By now it's clear that a lot of my blog posts are about things that go on in my head. Many of these ideas came to me during thru-hikes where I have lots of time to think.

And that's no accident. I was drawn to thru-hiking because it gave me time to think. Many people want me to write a book about my big hikes. But they'd probably be disappointed. They want to read about my "great adventure," but what I experienced first and foremost was what when on in my head.

I was really messed up when I first started thru-hiking. A 10-year relationship ended and I thought that I had failed. To maintain a positive self-image all those years, I'd told myself a lot of lies. I was so emotionally constipated that I honestly didn't know how I felt. I couldn't trust anything I'd decided in the last 10 years because so much had been her idea, including me becoming a Christian. I also wasn't sure about my career choice as a silicon valley engineer. I was burned out. Backpacking was a childhood interest that I could trust as my own, so I took a leave of absence and thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail.

It was a good thing that my dad came along on that thru-hike. His presence helped distract me from the potential avalanche of raw feelings that would have overwhelmed me. And I really enjoyed getting to know him as a person.

For a long time, thoughts and memories danced randomly through my brain. But which were mine?
Like Descartes, who based his pyramid of thought on "I think, therefore I am," I started with a quote from the Bible. "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." John 8:32

It surprised me that I started with the Bible, because as I said earlier, becoming a Christian was my girlfriend's idea, and thus on the list of the most questionable aspects of who I really am. But it made logical sense that sorting out the truth might be a good place to start.

I was not ready to handle truth, so I started with lies. I knew that I had lied to my girlfriend, telling her things I thought would make her happy. "Sure honey, I'd love to do that." But when it later became clear that I didn't, she was hurt. That led to guilt. Guilt led to more lies and more hurt. Unwinding that loop of lies allowed me to realize that I wanted that relationship to end! I was not a failure; I was free!

1 comment:

Andrea in ABQ said...

Another hiker and blogger has dug into the psychology aspects as well, and written a book about it: I do believe that the mental work that is done on a hike IS something folks want to read about; it is just not exactly the same group of folks that want to read adventure stories.

Cheers, be well, and hope to chat with you soon, Brian.

Andrea . . . of Hardrock days and that teeny tiny Stony Pass section with you in 2001.