I talked with a woman in my hiking community who was sad that day that her daughter had stopped talking with her. She had poured out her story that since she had started going on long backpack trips, her daughter just didn’t seem to want to talk with her. And then, her daughter’s infant died. Her precious daughter, whom she wanted to comfort, refused her compassion, cutting her off from her other grandchildren.
My heart went out to her! I could hear the sadness, the guilt, the frustration, and the yearning to reconnect with her daughter.
I’ve reached my sixtieth post in what I had innocently started as a project to celebrate my sixtieth birthday by thanking sixty people for their contribution to my life. My first list, to see if I could come up with sixty people to thank, reached 94 within the first 45 years of my life! And those were just the ones I have a story about! I realized this was a bigger and richer project than I had thought. As I have remembered, cried, laughed, and smiled, I have also discovered patterns of growth and certain threads of consistent challenges that have been weaving through my life.
Your Children are not Your Children
They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
John Lemberg is my hiking companion and someone who knows from experience what it’s like to be a middle child in a large family. He’s been the voice of hope and resilience when I needed it most. He’s been a navigator when I’m disoriented. He’s a warm body on winter backpacking trips. He’s a ridgerunning colleague and fellow long distance hiker with no plans on stopping at a mere 10,000 miles.
Perhaps what I’m most grateful for about John, now that I’ve known him for a little over seven years, is that he is someone who wants to consciously relate with me in a way that honors us both as precious and unique individuals. That’s no small feat with someone like me who loves to go deep into feelings and meanings and self-discovery. He’s willing to engage in those kinds of discussions. He is getting really good at living our lives together as if we’re in a Satori Board Game.
I need a word to describe the group of people I want to thank today. If you have one, please share it with me!
What keeps coming to mind is “cotillion” because I’m seeing all the women and men who have been dancing with me and my idea of Forgiveness Walks in this sort of flowing, artistic, festive movement of creative formation. This is not quite an expression of Southern society, however.
Seth Godin’s coining of the word, “tribe” comes close. “A tribe is any group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea.” That works, except that there’s a hardened, rough-edged quality that word suggests to me that doesn’t quite capture the soft, vibrantly colored warmth that I feel when I bring these people to mind.
“Regina, that’s not right. You’ve got to stand up for yourself.” Rachel’s words struck terror through my whole being, but I knew that heeding her words could be a turning point in my life. This situation, I knew it, was the latest version of my repeating pattern of powerlessness and resignation. I had been studying transformation and the creative cycle enough to recognize this as an opportunity to transform my own pattern, rather than do what I had always done before – go off slinking in defeat.
What’s missing is “relatedness”. That’s what I was coming up with for the exercise I was doing in my Landmark Education program to explore next steps for growing my business. The assignment was to discover what was missing, the presence of which would make a difference in me getting what I wanted. I wanted clients signing up for my programs and my coaching. I wasn’t “relating” to women who might be interested in transforming their fears and doubts about hiking, so they weren’t available to sign up.
I love the relationships that seem to begin with a fortuitous meeting. That’s what meeting Wendy Lippard was. I had posted a request in my local neighborhood listserve for an accountant. Maureen Nolan, whom I had not met before, responded that didn’t know an accountant but that she had looked at my Forgiveness Walks website and suggested that I meet Wendy. I called her and within the first fifteen minutes of our conversation we knew we had work to do together!
Wendy became my first long-term client, meeting with me almost weekly at Big Trees Nature Preserve for over a year as we took turns coaching each other while walking through the preserve. It was a mutually perfect fit. One week, I said, “This would be even more perfect if you were paying me a hundred dollars after each session.” Oh, of course I understood that we were coaching each other, but there was something about the money that would make it real! Wendy said, “Well, let’s do that!” Starting the next week, we handed each other a fresh one hundred dollar bill. I would put mine in my new business account, proof that my service was valuable.
Gratitude simply gushes when I consider my community of supporters on the Appalachian Trail, and I’m talking about people supporting me as a Ridgerunner, not as a hiker! The list of “trial angels” on my hike from Maine to Georgia in 2007 would comprise another whole list!
Since April, 2010 for a three-month season each year, I’ve been working for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy with the main task of “talking with hikers on the 80-mile stretch of the trail between the James River and Rockfish Gap.” That position has the catchy title of Ridgerunner.
My Gratitude List would not be complete without thanks to the mechanics of my life!
Wherever I have lived, I have always sought out at least one mechanic within walking distance of my house. My main criteria have been their willingness to talk with me about my car in language that I can understand and a hesitance to fix everything under the hood when a modest repair would be sufficient.
Let’s see how many I can remember.
In Arlington, VA that was the teacher of a basic car repair class that John Reiter had taken. I don’t think I ever met him, nor can I remember his name. His greatest contribution was to advise us to replace the radiator on our Volkswagon Rabbit. Oh, and he recommended a mechanic to replace the whole engine when we had the misfortune of driving without the oil cap for 150 miles. (It was not entirely our fault as our lawyer friend, Tom Scheffey, argued, winning shared fault with the gas station attendant who closed the lid before any of us made sure the cap was on.)