They asked me to write for the newsletter at work. We train our brains to tell us that we aren’t enough. We tell ourselves that nobody cares, or wants to listen, or worse yet, even if they do, we don’t want to burden them with our problems. Our concerns aren’t important enough, they aren’t as serious as other people’s problems in life. Why do these terrible thoughts come so easily to us?
I had a bad day at work. One of those days where every last thing seems to go wrong. I didn’t go there that way. I woke up happy, I went in happy, I tried to make everybody around me happy. This is something I strive for every day. I guess you could say I’m a “people pleaser” in a way. I like to see people happy. Seeing people happy brings me great joy. I am not perfect. I have days where I am the one who needs someone to pick me up, but I look at a world map every day for perspective and I try to practice gratitude on a daily basis and this particular day started out good.
I don’t know where the downward spiral began. I was doing my job, trying my best, and then, in what seemed like an instant, everything went wrong. Guests were angry, management was annoyed, coworkers were irritated. Words were said, more words were said, and voices raised. Feelings got hurt, anger showed up, and then came the proverbial kick in the stomach when I was down. You can relate to this, right? It was one of THOSE bad days at work. So bad that you don’t even want to say goodbye to anybody when you leave. So bad that you wonder why you even chose to get out of bed that morning, much less attempted to be in a good mood. So bad that perspective is impossible and gratitude is a distant memory. All I wanted was for this wretched night to end and to go home. It did, so I did.
The next day was my day off, so I threw some clothes and food in my backpack and left. I am fortunate enough to live and work in Glacier National Park so “getting away from it all” isn’t a very difficult thing to do. Everything was still on my mind. Everything that happened. I couldn’t let go of it. I felt sad. Very sad that everything went the way it did. Sad that I didn’t even know really what the problem was, sad that I handled it the way I did. I felt attacked, and hurt and just…bad. I had gotten my back country permit the day before and I set out on the trail feeling heavy with negative thoughts. I was looking to nature to center me and ground me a bit. She has a way of doing that, as you all know. I wanted to think about something else. Anything else.
I am a slow hiker. I am not old, but I am not in my 20’s. I am not fat, but I am not light on my feet either. And I like to stop a lot along the way. I like to take pictures, really look at everything around me, and breathe. I like hiking alone for this reason. I like not having to keep up with someone or feel guilty about slowing them down. I like the silence and not having to talk. It was sunny, but not too hot. Winds were calm. The birds were singing. I found myself thinking less and less about the awful day at work, but it was still there, weighing on my shoulders. There were very few hikers here. Everybody was pleasant, but nobody stopped to chat. I was grateful for that. I am a server in a restaurant and when I work around so many people so many hours a day, so many days of the week, time to myself is an absolute and unequivocal priority.
I got to the campground much faster than I anticipated and feeling lighter. The worries of the day before were still there but not so forward in my mind. I was hoping I would be at the campground alone, but shortly after I got there a lovely couple from South Dakota arrived and we made small talk. Shortly after that, two other people arrived and one of them was an old friend from Big Sky. I knew him when I worked there a few years ago. How ironic it was to see him in the back country, of all places! We hugged and talked about mutual friends and about Big Sky and about how much we love it there. He told me that he still lives there and about his new job and I tell him how good it is to see him. He left me to set up his tent so I decided to make dinner and talk more to the couple from South Dakota. We see a mountain goat and decide to explore the area a little together. There is a waterfall and I get caught up with fascination for the moss that blankets the rocks, and the fungus I find on the leaves of a shrub. I take pictures of all the little things which is something I love to do. A plant growing out the side of a rock, a caterpillar eating a leaf, the beams of light from the setting sun shining through the pine trees. The couple asks me to take their picture and I smile at how happy they look and how clearly they love one another. I decide to give them time alone and go lay down in my tent and as I do so, I realize that I had completely forgotten about the day before. I had found my happy again. I realized that while the day before was not to be taken lightly, it didn’t have to be taken that seriously either.
I fell asleep early and woke up in the middle of the night looking at billions of stars and the silhouette of the pine trees against the night sky and I felt peace. I fell asleep again and the sun woke me up early the next morning. I made a cup of tea and stared at the reflection of the mountain on the perfect stillness of the lake and again, I felt peace. I thought about my life journey, how I ended up here, why I am here, and where I am headed. I gained perspective.
We are told by everyone around us to live in the moment, and living in the moment is important. If we don’t live in the moment we don’t have memories to share with the world. Perspective is the ability to see beyond the moment. Perspective is what gives us something to strive for while we live in the moment now. Sometimes, we lose perspective when skies get dark. Sometimes living in the moment is impossible when our boots are heavy and we are trudging through the mud. What we all need to remember is that there isn’t a competition for the world’s worst problems. We all have problems. It sounds trite, but rings true. When you have problems, lean on your friends. This is what friends are for. Some people in the world really are all alone. I am not. I am lucky enough to have close friends all around me. Here at Many Glacier I have the best kind of friends. I am surrounded by my tribe.
When I went home from work that night I poured my heart out to my roommate. I am lucky enough to have a roommate who cares. She let me scream, she let me cry, she told me I was worthy and that I was not a burden. She is a true friend and a blessing in my life.
I hope that all of you have someone you can turn to. Someone to help you get perspective in those times of need. I hope that all of you train your brains to tell you that you are enough. I hope you know that there are people out there who do care, who do want to listen and who do not consider you a burden. I hope you know that while you may not be starving or beaten, or repressed, or abused, that your concerns are important. If it matters to you, it also matters to people that love you. Lean on them. Let them listen, let them help you regain perspective. Not just on bad days, but every day.
Today I am grateful for my backpack; for the courage and ability to hike slowly, by myself, and be quiet; for my roommate who is a beautiful human; for bad feelings and good feelings and everything in between; for mountains and moss and fungus and sunshine and stars and silhouettes and reflections; for bad days at work and good days on the trail; for all the friends I have made and will make on this crazy life journey; but most of all…most of all I am grateful for perspective, which brings me peace.