I hiked a mountain yesterday.
I love hiking and no matter how many times I do it, I will never stop loving the quietness of nature, the sound of leaves crunching under my hiking boots, the scrambling to get to the top of the mountain, the way the whole world kind of melts away. And this hike was especially wonderful because it was with two of my best college friends and conveniently, two of the best roommates I’ve ever had.
Now, I know, really and truly, that hiking a 4000 foot mountain isn’t exactly within my recovery “rules”. My recovery body has not experienced exercise in over 7 weeks. Not even a short run around the block. Not even a brief stint on the elliptical. I do some yoga stretches sometimes, particularly when the sunshine (or moonshine) is coming in my window in the morning or night but that’s about it. But this was one of my best friend’s first time ever in New Hampshire and what is New Hampshire without mountains? So I admit, I broke a recovery “rule”. But I actively made the decision when they told me they were coming up that this hike would not be about calories or about how I was “burning off” my meals or how I was “earning” food. This hike would be about friends and trees and nature and Earth. And also, I’ve lived with many-a-rule for much too long and even though my no-exercise rule is in place for a good reason, it was worth breaking to appreciate this time with my friends.
The world slips away when you’re hiking. You aren’t surrounded by people and noise and useless chatter. You’re not comparing yourself to other people you say either in real life or on social media. You’re not scrolling through your Instagram feed looking at people who have “perfect bodies” and you’re not watching Snapchat stories of people having “more fun” than you. Your idea isn’t filled with other people’s ideas and images; it’s filled with your own thoughts, your own imagination with nothing but the dirt and the sky and the trees around you. When I’m hiking, I’m not comparing myself to the perfect-looking girl in the advertisement, I’m not pinching the parts of me that are not “perfect”, I’m not counting calories in my head. I’m just appreciating the fact that I’m made up of the same stuff as the dirt and the sky and the trees and that I deserve to be here too.
Hiking a mountain parallels recovery in a lot of ways and there’s a lot of metaphors (or similes if we want to get really technical about things) that I could come up with. Like how it’s easier in the beginning and then after awhile, it starts to get really hard and suddenly you’re finding it much more of a challenge than you did in the beginning. Or how there’s always going to be parts where you trip or possibly fall. Or how there’s unexpected parts where it’s slippery (because it’s March and there’s still ice- and because there’s always going to be places in recovery where it’s easier to slip up). Or how good it feels to get to the top after so much hard work.
I haven’t gotten to the “summit” of recovery yet, I’m not even close. Full recovery doesn’t happen in 7 weeks. It happens in a year or two years or eight years or twenty years. But I can say with certainty that I’m getting closer everyday, even when I don’t feel like it. Even when I feel like I want to sit on the ground halfway up the mountain and just enjoy where I am without pushing on farther. But I don’t. I don’t give up because I know there is so much more at the top. I know that I’m cutting myself short if I stop. That even though I might be comfortable where I am right now, it’s not where I’m supposed to end up. That if I keep going, there will be so much more and I will be able to breathe so much deeper and see farther and have an even better perspective. Because that’s how it feels to be at the top of a mountain- you can take a deep breath and enjoy. Look around, spread out your arms and embrace all of the beautiful Earth around you.
I haven’t gotten to that point in my recovery yet, but it’s coming slowly but surely. And until then, I’ll refuse to give up, I’ll refuse to stop climbing, I’ll refuse to sit down and I’ll keep looking ahead to the day where I can spread my arms out and breath a little deeper.