When I was 15 I had my first “boyfriend”. Then I had a boyfriend every year for the rest of my life. Before I met Patrick I spent some months alone. Going out with friends and to parties as a single girl. But other than those months there has been very little time since I was 15 that I did not have a boyfriend.
This past week was our Spring Break. What an amazing friend I have that let us use her family’s vacation house in the mountains, on a river for a few days. It was my idea of a dream. Hiking all day, beer at night, quiet, peaceful views of a full moon. And a lot of alone time on a mountain.
I think I always had a boyfriend because I thought being alone wasn’t ok. Or maybe I was insecure. Or unsure enough of myself. That I “needed” another person to confirm that I was worthy or lovable or whatever. I know there’s a lot of psycho-babble crap that applies. Im not sure I really liked myself all that much. I guess we all struggle with our self esteem. At least I did. Ive said this before but dear God I love my 40’s so much more than my 20’s or 30’s. I told my Mom yesterday before she left to go back to Dallas that I am happier now than I think I’ve ever been. Then I took the long way home from the airport. And turned the radio up very loudly and drove. Just drove. Alone.
There are not enough words on the planet for how much I miss my Dad. And how much I miss my Grandfathers. And how much I miss the guy I married. Lots of men gone. Or going. When Patrick & I first married we lived in Austin and hiked and biked every single weekend. We were very active. He did some biathlons and lots of bike races and we went to the gym a lot. I loved having a partner that enjoyed the same things I did. He is not that guy anymore. He is different. I love that he has a trike and can get out there on his own or with me chasing him on a 2 wheeler and do his thing. Have some freedom. But it is different. And I look at couples and sometimes get sad. Or hope they realize life is not promised.
It is the strangest thing to grieve someone when they are still alive. Your physical body is so much a part of who you are on this Earth that as it changes and fails you there is a grief. A loss. I remember when I realized I’ll never hike with my husband again. I’ll never climb a mountain with him. Ill never go mountain biking with him. Ill never do a lot of things we used to do. And even though you know Brain Rot will take those things it is still shocking how fast it all happens. It makes me sad. I rarely hike alone. I have a posse. My girls, my sisterhood of women is unbelievable. I cannot imagine life without them. I don’t know how a woman doesn’t have other women in her life. How lonely. I’ve always said…if a girl doesn’t have some seriously loyal friends, and I mean the kind that would bury the body and never tell, then she’s not the kind of girl I’d be friends with. I’ve buried some bodies. With some sisters. And it will die with me.
So I am so grateful for those hiking partners and friends and women and trouble makers. But I’ve never really REALLY hiked alone. I even took a partner up Pikes Peak. So this past week at the vacation house I decided I was going to go on a real hike alone. And let me clarify. I get the feeling some people think “hike” is synonymous with “walk”…. IT. IS. NOT. I ascend 2,000 feet in elevation at times, scurrying and bustling over large boulders on edges of cliffs. I am ready for mountain lions. I am at times lost. I lose the trail at times. I HIKE.
I took a long hike one day this past week. Alone. I got lost. I bouldered. I crossed the Arkansas River. I got scared. I lost the trail. I sat and had a cry. Then I got up and kept going. When I wrote about my climb up Pikes Peak last summer I wrote that instead of “finding” whatever I thought I was looking for on that mountain that I “left” some things instead. Things I needed to leave. Well. I think maybe I found some things on my Spring Break solo hike. I found out Im really strong. I found out I never “needed” a boy. I found out I like myself. I found out I will be ok. I. Will. Be Ok. Sad things are ahead. But I can hike alone. I can survive alone. I can do “alone”. I don’t want to. I didn’t want to lose my hiking partner, my biking partner, my security. But sometimes we don’t get the things we want. And falling down in the middle of a mountain to cry about it is ok. It is ok. As long as you eventually stand up. And keep moving. And I came out at the end of the trail, the hike, the bottom of the mountain, stronger than when I started the ascent. I went up that mountain alone. I came down that mountain alone. And I’ll do it again.
I wouldn’t change things about my early life. But I would certainly tell that girl how incredibly capable and strong she will be some day. And that she CAN. She can do it. When you can be alone with yourself, no one around, no one to share the moment or the view or the scenery or the feeling with and still be genuinely happy, genuinely filled with joy, contentment and PEACE….you have learned to live.