The month of January was marked with a remarkable amount of rain and after almost two solid weeks of it being nonstop, we had a sunny Saturday. I was feeling restless and needed to clear my head so I decided to do one of my favorite things when I was in Colorado and hike a quick trail. There was one trail in particular back home that I loved doing because it was a steady incline so I was able to work out any of my frustrations on the way up and when I got to the top I would run down it, past the sandstone rocks and on the red dirt feeling so much joy. It was one of my favorite feelings and I wanted to try to find it again in California.
I decided to try a new trail in a neighboring town since my old one was now surrounded by permit parking (still mad about it, and have researching “how to get a pass” on my to do list). The reason I picked this particular trail is I read that 1) there is a people always on it who use it to work out so you are fine if you go alone and 2) parking is free (win – win). Ready to be outside on a warm sunny day in January and escape to something I love, I headed to the trail.
I found parking relatively quickly and started up the trail. Even after close to three years in California, I still forget sometimes how many people actually live here (spoiler: it’s a lot). Even more so, I didn’t realize how many people would decide hiking on the first sunny day in weeks would be a good idea like I did. So my hike was short spurts of up, then standing to the side while lines (LINES) of people came down the trail. I’m not kidding. It felt like all of California was on this trail. I quickly realized for the first time, the rules of hiking in California is different than the rules of hiking in Colorado so I found myself accommodating people. People who were trying to run down a single person trail and around blind corners, people who didn’t want to move off the trail and were annoyed when I wouldn’t get off the trail because there was no safe spot to do so, and my favorites, the “trail runners” in all their not needed technical gear who would try to bypass the lines of people and run into me instead. I was run into three times and the third time almost sent my phone down the mountain. It was also after the third time and the guy not caring that was the kicker and I stopped for a minute.
I stood on the trail looking out over this great view of LA, on a clear blue, warm, sunny day in January knowing that it was days like these I wished for in the middle of a Colorado winter feeling frustrated. I could see crowds of people coming up and coming down and I thought “none of this would happen in Colorado” and just like that, a tidal wave of homesickness hit me. It felt like a gut punch to the stomach and I couldn’t breathe. I looked down and realized that instead of seeing red dirt and yellow sandstone that I love so much, I was seeing brown dirt and grey rocks. Nothing was familiar and I had to put my hands on my knees to steady myself. I closed my eyes and let myself be sad.
A few months ago, I had a conversation with a friend who told me when he has any negative emotions, he works through them by talking to his inner child. His theory being, that he is too hard on himself so the way he doesn’t let that happen is he talks to his inner child, because his inner child doesn’t know better. Much like talking to a kiddo. It gives him the space to work through his emotions in a tangible way without thinking negatively about himself. At church, I volunteer in the toddler room and they are always having a melt down about something. I never get mad at them or expect them to get it together like I do to myself. Instead get to their level and tell them in a soft voice that it’s okay; their mom will be back, just because that kid took the block you were playing with doesn’t mean there isn’t 50 other blocks for you to play with, you will get snack just not right now. I realized if I’m talking to a little one with that much kindness over something so small, why don’t I extend that kind of kindness to myself? So on that trail, I used the same voice I use with the kiddos at church and told myself it’s going to be okay. We’re going to be okay. And I let myself be sad. Sad that I couldn’t find what I was looking for, sad that I felt so lost and frustrated.
I think sometimes as Christians, we are taught to always be joyful and to realize how blessed we are. Often I see Christians (me) take this to the extreme opposite and be hard on themselves if they are struggling or pretending like everything is fine when it is not. I don’t think this is what God wishes on us at all. Even Jesus got upset sometimes but He never berated himself for it, instead he worked through it in His own way. Someone I greatly respect once told me it’s okay to be discouraged, frustrated, or upset over something as long as you don’t start building a house there. “You can maybe pitch a tent if you need extra time” she said “but don’t start building a house there”. The good Christian in me found great encouragement in having the permission to pitch a tent in the midst of the hard parts in life.
I stayed on the trail for a few more minutes and then headed down deciding trying to get to the top was not worth it. It was just as frustrating going down and I texted one of my hiking buddies back home who is much more level headed than me and has seen me at some not so shining moments about how much I hated hiking in California. He gently reminded me that we were spoiled in the hiking department back home but he understood and that made me feel better. How do I manage to keep him as my friend? I don’t know, but I’m grateful. I sat on a rock at the bottom of the trail people watching for awhile and continued to speak kind words to myself before packing up my metaphorical tent, and heading home. I may not have accomplished what I had set out to do that day but I established a goal for myself for 2017 and that is to be kind to myself. To pitch a tent when I need to and not get frustrated when I feel homesick. Colorado is an easy place to miss after all.
My prayer for you dear reader, is that you find encouragement in this post and when you get to the hard parts in life that you speak kind words to yourself in whatever way that works for you and pitch a tent when needed. Your inner child will thank you…trust me.