The Year Two Thousand Sixteen I’ve come to call The Year of Extremes. The highs were high and the lows were low and the middle ground was nowhere to be found. A relationship ended for me in the middle of the year and I’ve spent the latter six months utterly determined not to allow it to be the defining factor, jumping feet first into everything I could: I got my advanced scuba and nitrox certifications, I began archery and now I’m just about ready to get my first bow, I learned photoshop and started doing some pretty cool stuff with my photographs, I became a super yoga rat. I started a blog. That’s right 2016. I came for you anyway.
I joke to myself sometimes that *guy* and I broke up because I didn’t like football–didn’t love football. Oversimplified, of course, but in a nutshell, it’s actually kinda true. I didn’t like things, do things, or think about things in the way he wanted me to like, do, or think about them, and it had a disheartening effect on me that grew exponentially. The person I loved wasn’t really seeing me and was defining me by what I was not, comparing me to some ideal he had in his head. He put me in a place so high, the only thing I could do was fall.
Part of healing the heart came from shaking up my routine with these new and sometimes scary adventures. I really didn’t want to write about the ending of the relationship, but how can I not? I know I would have opted for a much more conventional Thanksgiving otherwise. Going to Zion National Park for the holiday was part of the collateral fallout you might say. How much can I pack in? How much can I experience this year? What do I want to remember when the ball drops next month?
So a kindred spirit drove from Phoenix (symbolic, no?) to meet me Wednesday evening (Thanksgiving Eve), while I left Tuesday night, driving with entirely borrowed camping gear and no backup plan to Zion’s South Campground to wait in line for a first-come-first-served campsite. I drove, found a gas station that sold healthy snacks I could actually eat (read multiple food allergies), took a nap in the wee hours of morning in a Denny’s parking lot in Vegas, drove in high winds through a mountain pass at the corner of Arizona, got stopped–but not ticketed–by the police in St. George, and made it to South Campground at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. Campsite scored by 8:00 a.m. thank you God. I put up my tent with the help of my 10-year-old campsite neighbor, Nathaniel (“Ummmmm, do you need help?”), and shortly thereafter threw up the nothing that was in my stomach. Yeah, I was pretty sick, but I chalked it up to altitude (it was actually a stomach bug), and I kept on keepin’ on.
What to say of Zion? It looks like it must be the child of Sedona and Yosemite. Huge monolithic redrock, incredible views, and starlit skies. I mean, name one national park that isn’t worth its salt, so I get that it’s redundant, but . . . oh, Zion. It is a special, special place. It is the place I ran to for solace during this holiday when most people I care about spent it with one another. I spent it with a loved one and with total strangers. Strangers who helped me put up a tent, taught me how to use my propane stove, lent me a beanie when mine went missing, invited themselves to my campfire, invited me to theirs. I stayed filthy for three days, wore a very cool headlamp, and got to take in the awe-inspiring beauty that is Zion. Wondrous beauty. Vast. Reminding me that I am small. Reminding me that I am also something larger. Reminding me that people will help you and that people will see you for who you are. Sometimes not the people we most want to be seen by, but that has no bearing on our worth. I’m okay not loving football. I love many other things. Many, many, and varied. We can choose how we define ourselves.
Experiences that require you to step into them remind you of your essence if you’ve forgotten, or if it’s been sidelined by pain…say the pain of a breakup. These experiences have the capacity to awaken aspects of yourself you may not have known were even there. They show you that life can be more expansive than the routine to which you’ve become accustomed. And that someone who was part of your life you can choose to carry in your heart or you can choose to do without. It’s all okay. It’s all in. Just be sure to steer your vessel. I guided mine to Zion. And I am very thankful for the kindness of strangers.