I am pretty much the textbook definition of an extrovert: I get my energy from others, I thrive around people, and I rarely want to be alone. I joke with my friends that I would have coffee with a serial killer if it meant not being by myself. So, given that information, when I have a strong need to be alone for an extended period of time, it means I have some major shit to work out in my head. With remote learning beginning for my three kids, I needed a day to reset and ground myself.
This past Saturday I headed up to Bong Recreational Park in Wisconsin to spend some time in nature, hike, and let my thoughts take over. Even though it was only 45 minutes away, crossing a state line felt like a breath of fresh air. I packed snacks, lunch, water, sunscreen, and, having looked at the trail options, planned on hiking the eight mile red loop. Notice I did not list bugspray? Yeah, first lesson of the day: Always trust your gut – unless your gut says you do not need bugspray. In that case, tell your gut to shut up.
After a little assistance finding the trailhead from the parking lot, I set off to find the red trail. The scenery was beautiful and I quickly felt calm wash over me as I started walking. A sense of direction has never been my strong suit, but I felt confident in my ability to find my path (foreshadowing). Fork in the road…choose one: blue or green. Wait, what? Blue or green. I was so sure I had headed north to the red loop. In a moment of guidance, I felt certain that for some reason, I was not meant to be the red loop even though it had been my original destination. Go blue or go green? Always “Go Blue” (see what I did there? I’m a UMich grad).
As soon as I chose the blue loop, I started seeing signs that let me know I was on the right path. I saw a purple flower on the ground, which is the spirit sign from my Grammy Fay letting me know she is with me. “Thanks, Gram,” I said out loud, “but I think you can do better than that.” I turned a corner and a full bush of purple flowers greeted me. I laughed, thanked her again, and let my mind start to wander.
I thought about how significant it was that the path I thought I wanted was not, in fact, where I ended up. Maybe where I want to be is not where I need to be. The map was supposed to offer guidance and a sense of control, but it caused more distress when I made mistakes and did not end up where I had planned. I recently learned from a voice teacher that in wanting to gain control, the best thing to do is actually choose freedom – to release and let go. In that particular case, it was regarding control of my belt. In the woods, when I decided to put the map away and choose freedom, I felt so much more in control of my choices as I listened to my inner-self.
Side note: When I talk about listening to the voice in my head, I don’t mean the voice that sometimes pops in to say I’m not good enough or not pretty enough or not thin enough. That voice sucks and is not real. I am talking about my true inner-voice – my higher self that knows me better than anyone else and often gets silenced by the noise and chaos around me. The unexpected and beautiful twist of the day was listening to, respecting, and connecting to that inner-voice. She is amazing and quite smart.
As I let my mind go where it needed, I started thinking about various relationships in my life, some that fill my cup and others that can be toxic. I believe we have something to learn from everyone we meet, so I spent time thinking about what I am learning from the relationships that do not always serve me and how to bless and release. I looked around and spoke outloud to the flowers and birds. A friend had encouraged me to wrap my arms around myself and, while at first it felt silly, I did it and I felt loved and held and supported. I took time to honor who I am right now, the good, the bad, the ridiculous, the flaws, and the brilliance.
In a fun spiritual moment, I only checked my phone one time the whole morning to see what time it was. It was 11:11, the spirit number that means: you are on the right path. I appreciate a good sense of humor in my spirit guides.
The blue loop was about four miles and when I made it back full circle, I tried again to trust the map (more foreshadowing). I took what I thought was the trail to get me to the red loop (I don’t know why I was so set on finding that red loop). About a mile and a half in I was able to deduce from the map that I was not on any kind of hiking path, but rather a horseback riding trail that was on the completely opposite side of the park from where I thought I was. I hate maps. I back tracked, found my way to the entrance, and stopped for a bite and some air conditioning in my car.
I realized that had I hiked the red trail in the morning as planned, I likely would have headed home after lunch. Why stay if I came, saw, and conquered? Instead, I decided to stay and explore more of the park and find out what path was next…no map.
With a full belly and full water bottle, I headed out again, excited to see where trusting the path would lead me. You know where it lead me? To the fucking RED LOOP. That’s right. A young couple stopped to ask for directions back to the main area (read that again: THEY STOPPED TO ASK ME FOR DIRECTIONS). Having been lost (guided?) all morning, I was able to direct them back. As I was about to walk away, the young man said, “I hope you have bugspray…this trail has a ton of mosquitos.” I borrowed his bugspray and recognized the synchronicity this moment offered.
I heard my inner-voice say loud and clear: You knew where you were headed all along. You needed to make some mistakes, take some wrong turns, and learn something along the way. That girl…she is wise. I should listen to her more often. Then I burst out laughing, smiled, wrapped my arms around myself, and headed onto the eight-mile red loop.