It took me a while to write this because I was literally on a mountain time high for the few weeks it took me to sit down and actually start typing. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know where to start. I am so incredibly grateful for the experience that I had in Yosemite, but words just don’t express how I feel. My hope is that my description of my time out there will paint a decent, if not vivid, picture of what it was really like to experience what I experienced. My heart is racing and my hands are shaking with excitement as I write this.
I had the most amazing time in the backcountry of Yosemite for the Outward Bound/Project Grace trip in September. The views were incredible, the people were incredible…the whole trip was incredible! It was great to see myself in a position I never thought I would be in (hiking 20 miles with a 40 pound pack on!) and then to realize that I was thriving in that environment, both physically and mentally.
My brother, Ryan, died in 2007 when at work he was pinned between a loading dock and a large vehicle. He bled internally and died shortly after. My intentions for the trip were not only to honor Ryan, but also to let go of social expectations and standards and to be strong, physically and cognitively. I can say that my intentions were very quickly pursued by the sheer drive to get to wherever we were going (as we had no idea!) and also by the drive to intentionally become part of nature for the entirety of my trip. I wanted to enjoy nature, embrace my surroundings, forget about my bank account and my cell phone, think deeply about the important things in my life, and just be one with this incredibly beautiful planet that we so often take for granted.
On this trip I especially felt Ryan at about 9,700 feet (our highest point). We sat for a long time together and everyone talked about their loved ones and set their intention rocks down in a pile. It was pretty incredible. But I feel his presence all the time so this trip was more of a self-health trip than anything for me. I think I needed that because I had yet to really focus on myself, especially after my son Oliver was born. I think part of the grieving process is taking care of yourself. I think it’s hard to do that because we have this preconceived idea of grief that makes us think we need to be sad all the time or that if we aren’t sad when we think about our loved ones, it’s wrong because society expects us to be sad. But I don’t think that’s accurate. I think our loved ones want us to be happy and I think part of being happy is taking care of yourself.
I had no expectations on this trip other than to cry and to listen, and I did just that. On the third day, on the way down this huge rock wall we had climbed earlier and after a long (and much needed) solo mountain time, it all of a sudden dawned on me that I had completely forgotten about everything in my technologically based life that wasn’t as important as I think it is when I am engulfed in it. I hadn’t thought about my bank account or about the guy that I may or may not have been dating. I hadn’t thought about things that seemed really, really important when I left the real, unmindful world that I come from. I was present. I was fully engrained in the dirt and the lakes and the mountains and my backpack. I was so…..so so so present. It was beautiful.
So beautiful in fact that when we finally reached a spot where we could see the cars driving past the ending trailhead…..I paused, and almost ran back into the forest.
Needless to say this experience was more powerful than I could have ever imagined and I want to thank all of the donors that contributed to my trip. I felt so loved and encouraged and just driven to take on those mountains. I am grateful for each and every one of you that donated money but also the ones that supported me psychologically in my journey. In our world, admitting that you are hurting or feel broken is not easy. Sometimes it takes a lot of courage and a lot of forgiveness of yourself to be able to talk openly about your feelings and your needs. I love Project Grace for that reason. Leaving the comforts of your world to embark on a journey that is unknown and scary and incredibly uncomfortable can be really challenging but I think Project Grace is a stepping-stone (if not a giant leap forward!), and life can only get more grand afterwards.
So thank you Project Grace and all of my donors for affording me the opportunity to participate in such an amazing experience.