Tuesday, September 27, 2016

How wild it was, to let it be.

A couple of weeks ago, my mom and my sister and I went to see Cheryl Strayed speak. Cheryl Strayed is a writer and the author of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, which is about her experience hiking the PCT. I loved Wild when I read it, but after I heard Cheryl speak, I discovered I relate to her even more than I had previously realized.

Cheryl decided to hike the PCT a couple of years after her mother died. In those years between when her mother passed and when she hiked the PCT, Cheryl's life kind of spiraled out of control. She cheated on her husband, used drugs, and just lived a life she wasn't happy with. As Cheryl put it in her talk, she had decided to continue her life after her mother died in a way that would best honor her. She had decided not to thrive because she couldn't bear the thought of living without her.

Cheryl's absolute love for her mother in as portrayed in Wild is something that I so deeply connected to when I read the book. Simply put: I absolutely love my mother and can't imagine how I would go on without her. Without her mother, Cheryl is simply broken, and I would be the same way if I were to lose my mother.

So a couple of years after her mother's death, Cheryl decides to hike the PCT in an effort to get here life back on track. Having grown up in the wilderness of Minnesota, Cheryl knew that she connected deeply with nature; it was a place where she felt completely safe and whole, a place she had just always loved. And she wanted to do it alone.

After three months of enduring extreme weather and complete loneliness and an emotional reawakening, Cheryl finished her hike on September 16. By pure chance, we saw Cheryl speak on September 16, so we got to spend her 16th anniversary of finishing the PCT with her, which was a super cool experience.

There were a couple of things that Cheryl said during her talk that have kind of stuck with me since, and I wanted to share them here.

There will be things in life that are too big for us to handle.
This is an idea that I've never really considered before, and I still am not quite sure how I feel about it. All of my life I have heard and been told that nothing I face will be too big for me; I am made to face anything that comes my way. But Cheryl's words disagree. Cheryl says that there are indeed things we will face in life that we aren't built to go up against. And I'm not quite sure which side I agree with.

On one hand it's comforting to have the confidence that I can face anything the world throws my way. I'm strong enough to take on any challenge, any obstacle that comes at me.

On the other hand, I don't have to be able to do it all. There are in fact some things that will knock me down. In this case, it's kind of nice to know that I'm not expected to have all of the answers, to have all of the strength to go up against every single obstacle that I may face.

I guess I'm going to continue to stand in the middle on this one. It's nice to have the confidence that I'm strong enough to take on anything; but at the same time, if something huge and unconquerable is thrown at me, it might be nice to take a step back and not be expected to throw a punch back.

Writers don't have the answers. They help you seek the questions. 
I actually love this quote so much. I didn't take notes at all while Cheryl was speaking {if I had, I probably would have tried to write down everything she said word for word}, but when she said this, I just had to scribble it down.

So often we turn to stories or books or quotes to find comfort or answers when we need guidance or advice. And while we can find some solace in these words, it's so true that they also help us to think of the questions we need to ask ourselves about pretty much everything in our lives. We can learn about ourselves by asking ourselves the questions we discover in these books and poems and articles and journals and just all of these words.

Just don't fuck it up.
This was actually something that Reese Witherspoon, who portrayed Cheryl in the movie adaptation of Wild, told Cheryl before she filmed her cameo in the movie. Cheryl was nervous about the line she had to give, so she asked Reese for some advice. And all sweet, kind, Reese had to say in response, with a completely straight face, was, "Just don't fuck it up." While this may be some tough love advice, I actually think these words are pretty powerful.

What this comes down to is giving everything you do your all. In everything you do, give it everything you have. As long as you try your hardest and try not to fuck it up, you have succeeded in my book.

Thank you, Cheryl Strayed, for your beautiful words. You've inspired me and touched my heart, and I'll never forget listening to and learning from you that night a couple of weeks ago.

What's something someone told you once that has always stuck with you? I'd love to hear your favorite words!

Lots of love,

Cheryl Strayed, "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail"