In two days I will have been exactly two months since I’ve finished thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail and I’ve been struggling with energy and motivation. Struggling to do anything at all productive.
I’m slightly concerned that I may have picked up Lyme disease. It’s hard to differentiate the symptoms of Lyme with those caused by long-distance hiking. More likely this is a combination of extreme over-training, winter, and possibly some vitamin/mineral deficiencies.
There isn’t much I can do except to rest and to heal. To do what I can and not beat myself up for not doing more. That’s what I want to write about here – this idea of going with the flow. Of trusting the process.
Nature never hurries
I came across a piece of graffiti in Vermont that said something to the effect of “nature never hurries yet it gets everything done.” I often reflect upon that phrase. I think the spontaneous nature of Nature really is amazing. How without seeming to try it can accomplish so much. Seeds grow into giant trees. Small streams cut deep gorges. There’s a process at work in Nature. It can’t be rushed. It won’t be stopped. It is.
What I’ve felt in the last eight weeks could easily be characterized as depression except that I don’t really feel depressed. I’m tired and unproductive. I’m sleeping sometimes 12 hours a day. Even simple tasks like exercise are beyond my ability some days. But I don’t feel depressed.
Weird right? How can I have all of the symptoms of depression and yet not feel depressed? I think a key is that my hike deeply ingrained the idea of “trust the process.”
Because even though I’ve been tired and unproductive for two months now I trust that this is all part of a larger process and a larger cycle. And as part of a cycle and process this means that it’s not permanent. That my energy and motivation will come back. And that at the end of this cycle I will be able to look back and see that it was completely necessary in order to push me toward a direction that I may not have otherwise moved toward.
And so with this understanding I’m able to avoid that hopelessness which is a hallmark of periods of depression I’ve had in the past.
Life is not random
This must have been early November, a Monday, when I hiked down Leigh Gap into Palmerton, PA. It was a long day – I did about 19 miles and I got into town at 7:30pm, well past sunset. My plan was to eat and stay the night at Bert’s Steakhouse. They allow hikers to sleep in the garage next to their restaurant. Unbeknownst to me their hours had changed and they now closed at 2pm on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Crap. It’s 8pm. I still need to eat and resupply. So I probably can’t get out of town until 10pm. Then it’s another three miles to the next shelter. So I’m looking at a really late night walking in the dark and cold. This time of the year the temperatures at night are dipping to the mid 20s.
There’s no point in fighting against reality. So I made peace with the situation and went off in search of dinner. On the way I came across the Palmerton Hotel and thought “great, a hotel, I’ll see if they have any rooms.” So, I don’t know why, but the Palmerton Hotel is actually only a restaurant. They don’t have any rooms. Whatever. I’ll just get food here and then buy groceries and hike out.
As I order a man approaches me and asks if I’m a hiker. We talk a little bit and he invites me to his table where he’s having dinner with this wife and a co-worker. Turns out that he’s planning to thru-hike the trail in 2017 and starts peppering me with questions. To keep this story short – he buys me dinner and some beers and invites me to stay at his house. I get a nice warm bed, a shower, and his wife even made me breakfast in the morning and took me by a grocery store before dropping me off at the trailhead.
This is just one of a hundred different stories I have of synchronicity that I experienced on the trail. I’ve said for years now that there are no coincidences in life. But I don’t know if I truly believe or even knew what I was saying. Maybe I was only repeating a phrase that sounded good.
After hiking the trail I really understand deep down in my core that there are no coincidences. And I believe that if we’re open and receptive that life or the universe or God or Vishnu or whoever will provide us with exactly what we need when we need it.
This gives me peace. It allows me to relax and trust the process. Things will pick up when they need to pick up. For now, I’m playing a lot of video games and reading books and it’s great.