It would be disingenuous of me not to share how HARD it was for me to go to Guatemala. That may have been clear from my earlier post that mentions the soul-searching I went through to decide to go in the first place. I am nothing if not risk averse. Or from the tears I cried when it was actually time to go to the airport. It was really HARD to leave – there were so many unknowns and my old friend self-doubt had a lot to say about my decision.
Sure, I’ve been brave before – ostensibly. I’ve traveled all over the world, I’ve taken jobs in states and countries I had previously never even been to before arriving for work. But so much of that bravery was born of desperation or an “it can’t be worse than this” attitude, not actual courage. And so much of it was before having children. Going to Guatemala, on the other hand, was a choice to do something different when things were going perfectly fine. And that kind of rocked me.
One of my favorite all time quotes is: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived”. That’s from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. It’s a message I picked up decades ago, and it’s one I’ve carried with me since.
In my twenties, I would literally go to the woods, especially my sanctuary around Katahdin in Maine, where I found my people, my place, my footing in this world when I needed it most. I find life there to be a little less noisy, a little more simple, and the scenery so beautiful that it soothes my busy brain.
As I’ve gotten older and my responsibilities to and for others have expanded, I try to find ways to simplify my life, to front only the essential things, to bring the peace that I find when I am in the woods home with me. Despite all my family responsibilities, my anxiety, my self-doubt, I don’t want to forget to live. I want to live authentically and bravely and not, like Thoreau says, from the vantage point of looking back at the end of my days, discover that I had not lived.
And so I choose, daily, to face into the fear. I get on the plane (heck, I buy the plane tickets!) to Guatemala; I push the publish button on this blog while cowering behind the screen awash in vulnerability; I belay at the rock gym even though, fully trained to belay, my mind still tells me it’s awfully risky; I participate in a triathlon for the first time ever when my Rheumatoid Arthritis is finally in remission and I think “maybe I can still do something like this after all”; I drive my beautiful, vivacious, young and also scared mom to the doctor and hear the Alzheimer’s diagnosis we have suspected but been dreading; I go to the woods with my kids and share with them the joy I’ve found there, though it’s not nearly as simple or quiet with them in tow! I stretch the boundaries of my comfort zone. I breath through the self-doubt and the fear and I LIVE.
My life has been the very definition of bittersweet these last several years. And I am so incredibly grateful for all of it. Without the fear, how would I find my courage? Without the bitter, how would I taste the sweet?