So I finished reading Wild – From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, a memoir, by Cheryl Strayed. Cheryl tells us about how, in her early 20s, she lost her mother to cancer and how, in her desperation and grief, Cheryl’s life goes completely sideways. Not only does she lose her mother, but her siblings and step-father, in their own grief, also retreat in disparate directions. She does some things that people do when their lives become unmoored, like having numerous affairs on her perfectly good and loving husband and doing drugs. As a result, Cheryl’s life comes apart, including her marriage.
She decides to walk the Pacific Crest Trail alone, from the Mojave Desert through California, Oregon and Washington State. Eleven hundred miles, through extreme cold and heat, hunger and thirst, covered in dried sweat, with bruises and welts from her heavy backpack and the exertion of walking for miles on end in boots that are too small.
What happens to her through it all is that she comes to find the strength that dwells within her. In her words, she decides to “labour on this journey until I know myself to be strong and whole and true.” It may sound cliche or predictable, but it’s what we’re meant to do in this life…find the authentic core of who we are and truly realize the strength and beauty we possess at that level of our being. In Cheryl’s case, she had so depended on her mother to make her life o.k. that, when she was no longer there, there was no anchor to keep her in the game of life. Until she discovered the anchor within herself.
Along the way on the PCT, she finally was able to face her greatest fear materialized. The journey became a form of alchemy, like being forged in the fire – a ritual where she was pulled and pushed to the limits and then re-woven together whole.
And I think that’s what we’re all here to work on, even if we’re not completely aware of it…to face our deepest fears and find the strength to re-work ourselves (not necessarily the situation which we usually have little or no control of) and to find the reservoir of strength that lies within and through the grace of God.