Day 59: Sierra Mountain High

I’ve been trying to find my way for years, and today I realized that my path is clear, at least out here.
Today we went up and over the highest point in the PCT — Forrester Pass (13,010). We walked and climbed and my stomach complained the whole day long. It minced and yelped and stabbed and moaned. It even threw up a little.

So today, in my little misery, I spent in memory. 

 I woke up and started hiking with headphones on, listening to John Denver bring these high Sierra meadows to life around me. I kept being dragged away from the present with memories of the past.

I once felt sick regularly — drinking heavily and eating terribly left me with a sore stomach many mornings. I drifted back to the days I used to spend working at the campus library on Saturday mornings. The world was quiet and the beautiful smell of books surrounded me. I felt horrible, a lurching, uneasy stomach always accompanying me. I would go to the empty bathrooms and make the whole thing smell of alcohol. I would go back to the books and recite the entire alphabet each time to get them shelved right. 

 That library was once my happy place, a place to just be. And today I thought about what a sad, small existence that was for me — always chasing a high that could never stay.

Today I felt the same sort of nasty — churning stomach, dry heaves, then wet ones. I had the sting of sickness in my eyes, and tried to keep going without jostling my body too much. But I hardly ever feel that way now, and the feeling passed just in time to climb up high on the path. 

 As I remembered the feeling of years past, I remembered that urge toward being not me. I remembered, walking through a barren wasteland between the mountains (where no trees or even grasses dare to live), the evil self hatred that lived with me every moment — that feeling that I needed to get away from at all costs.

Through thousands of miles on bike and foot, I seem to finally be coming home. And that home, I am surprised to find, is right here within me. What do they always say about the last place you look? 

 In early days of not drinking I was told I was the problem, and that I took myself everywhere I went. That is still true today, but there is so much more inside of me than just my problem self. There is the whole of the universe, all of the love in the world, stashed alongside my littleness.

And there is always a choice of what power I can call upon. 

 For a lot of today I focused on that sick part of me, the yucky ouchiness of it all. But then there were those vast moments, eternities of time, where I forgot that small pain and looked outward to find the mightiness of the great world in which I am allowed to live. And then there was the moment when I was higher than anyone else on this journey — a high that can last and last and last, even as I am hiking down and moving on. 

 Today was a hard day. And today was unimaginably perfect.