Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Hiking and Life: Another Common Metaphorical Essay

It's no surprise that I love to hike. I talk about hiking a lot on here, because that is a family activity that we all enjoy doing --yes, even the young ones who sometimes complain.

When we were hiking the "Y" yesterday, I was surprised at how hard it was for me. Yes, I was carrying the 6 month old, and yes, I'm out of shape, but still, I was really, really slow. By that afternoon, though, I was really sick, and so I think that had a lot to do with it. But I never complained, you know. I was slow, but I kept going. What surprised me the most, however, was that #4 (who is 5 years old) only complained a little bit. He was such a trooper! #5 (who was on Brandon's back in the Beco the whole time) never begged to be let down (much). Really, all in all, it was quite a pleasant hike! There were hundreds (dare I say, thousands?!) of people hiking the "Y" --all those BYU students making use of their holiday, plus, I'm guessing it's a family tradition for most (like us) to hike the "Y" on Labor Day.

As I hiked down the mountain, I thought about how hiking is such a great metaphor for life. I'm certainly not the first one to think of it, and I'm certainly not going to be the last. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to write down my thoughts. I mean, my wisdom of hiking, imparted to you, dear reader, could be the stuff of legend! Or something!

1. One foot in front of another:

It's easy to get discouraged when you see the entire mountain in front of you. Especially when you see how many miles it is to the top, or how high the elevation gain will be, or how many switchbacks are necessary, or... That's why when you hike, you shouldn't look at it in those terms. The "Y" hike is special because at every switchback, there is a post that tells you which turn you are on, what the elevation is, and how many miles it is to the next switchback (luckily, a lot of them said .05!). These were tiny goals we used for the kids (and myself!) to get to the next phase. "Look, kids! We passed turn 5. We're halfway there!" or "See? Only .03 miles until the next turn, and I can see it up ahead! Let's go!"
So much like life, eh? If you focus on the Big Picture, it can be discouraging. How many of us ask questions like:
*Why am I not married, yet? When will it happen?
*Am I done having kids, yet?
*Where will we serve a mission when we're old?
*When the kids are grown, then we can...
*I can't wait until... or until... or until...

Instead, we should probably be focusing on the next turn, or, sometimes, the very next step. As I was walking up the mountain, I was slower than the 5 year old (strange). He and I kept each other company and helped each other. Sometimes I would count, "1, 2, 3, 4..." as I took my steps so I would just put one foot in front of the other. Then, without realizing it, I would be at the next turn, where my kids, my husband, and water was waiting for me.

Time goes by at the same pace, whether or not we are focused on unknown future events or on the present. Take your journeys one step at a time. You'll still get there in good time!

2. Those passing and being passed:

There were all kinds of people hiking, yesterday. You had your kids, your babies, your parents, and your teenagers. You had obese people, struggling to make it up, and incredible athletic people running up and down the trail. I was passed by a lot of people, and every once in a while, I would pass someone (not very often, eh?). But here's the clincher: Nobody cared. It wasn't a race. People started at different times, people arrived at different times. We were all on our own different schedules, and we weren't there to judge each other. Truly, hiking is one of the best places to feel comfortable because everybody is focused on their own progress, not anybody else's (well, unless they are hiking with you, of course).

Occasionally I would hear the following as I passed by people (who were stopped, waiting for others in their party):
"There goes supermom! Wow!"
"Hey, she's got a baby. If she can do it...!"
"Is that a moby? Where did you get it?"
"Wow, how do you do it?"
But the thing I noticed between everyone was the positive vibe. It's kind of like an unwritten rule in hiking, I guess, and it's happened on every hike I've been on; People are kind. Here's how:
1. People are encouraging to each other "It's just over that hill! You're almost there!" "You are doing so well!"
2. People count on each other: One lady held my baby so I could re-wrap my moby (because Brandon was further down with the kids).
3. People help each other: On a hike a few months ago, there were some people who needed some first aid, and luckily, I'd remembered to bring a first-aid kit. This time, only #5 needed a band-aid (which was expertly administered by #1). I remember, over a decade ago, hiking to the top of Timpanogos. On the way down, we ran into an older gentleman (my former BoM teacher, Bro. Benson) who was running low on water. Since we were almost done, we gave him most of ours.

Life is so much better when you are surrounded by people who are encouraging and helpful. Life is also easier when you are partnered with someone who has the same goals in mind. Getting through life is not always easy (like hiking a mountain), but when you are surrounded by such support, it's a lot more safer, and a lot more fun!

3. Being prepared:

We had plenty of water, a first aid kit, and hats. I wish I had put more sunscreen on the baby (he got a smidgen of pink) and my neck (ouch), but at least we had some, eh? We didn't pack snacks this time, but we regretted it. We hike a lot, and so we knew what to expect (falling rocks, heat exhaustion, sliding on the way back down, etc.) and we were careful to stay on the trail (as not to find unsuspecting rattlers and/or start mud/rock slides).

Had we not taken water with us, we surely would have been in a world of hurt (especially me, since I wasn't doing well to begin with). Water, is, of course, the most important thing to have when you go hiking (or any physical activity, eh?). And what should we have to get through life? How do we prepare? Education, really. Yeah, it's a short metaphor. If you want to add to it, knock yourself out!

4. Reaching the destination:

It's always worth it, you know. The hiking, the sweating, the panting, the aching muscles, the strain to reach the top. When you reach your destination (a lake, a waterfall, a clearing in the woods, the top of a mountain, the big white "Y"), you stop and soak it all in. It's a beautiful reward for your hard work. Sitting on the "Y" yesterday was wonderful. Sure, it was crowded, but the view was magnificent. It felt surreal to be so high, looking down on our valley. The city looked so organized and tiny. At one point, a small airplane flew over us (very close!) and everyone on the "Y" cheered loudly.

It's worth it. The hard work. The daily mundane of life. Teaching children how to work. Changing plans because of circumstances (like majors, who to marry, whether or not to serve a mission, career paths). The work sometimes feels like work, and other times it won't, but it is always, always worth it (and please note that I'm talking about good works).

5. You never have to do it alone:

Brandon is an amazing hiker. He could have gone up and down that mountain in less than an hour if he was on his own. But he wasn't. He was hiking with a 3 year old on his back, 4 kids walking, and his slow wife w/ baby. He could have been impatient with us, complained at our slowness, or left us behind. But he didn't. Every single time I approached the turns, he was there, waiting with the older kids, smiling, encouraging me to drink more water and told me I was doing great. When #2, #4, #6, and I were really slow coming down on the last two turns (#4 gets scared of tripping, so he stops often while going down), he left #1 in charge of the other two and came back up the trail to find us.

Life is complex and difficult, with highs and lows, joys and sorrows, but there is always Somebody there waiting to help you. I mean, life is hard enough without allowing the Savior to help you along the journey. Even more, He WANTS to help you, and He not only makes it possible, He makes it joyful!

And there you have it. Cheryl's hiking metaphors! Yay?

And here's another great quote about hiking/life:
“I’ve learned that everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.” — Unknown


Gina M. said...

I have never been an outdoor girl, but I think that after this baby is done cooking I will attempt some hiking. You make it sound enjoyable!

Michelle said...

Thanks so much, Cheryl. It's good to know I have friends everywhere watching after my children.