Something happened on my camping trip that, in retrospect, is interesting and important to me. At the time, it was not interesting, it was just upsetting. And I've been thinking about it a lot since then but haven't been ready to post about it before now.
First, let me say how much I did on that camping trip and how far I've come since 18 months or a year ago.
Eighteen months ago, I could not lift a gallon jug of milk. I had to buy milk in half-gallon jugs. I got my hair cut because it was too tiring and painful to lift my right arm to wash or brush my long hair. A year ago, I could hike for two miles with Isaac if it was a flat, easy trail. At one point last summer, I remember going to a state park about an hour away and trying to walk on this trail that was supposed to lead to a bridge and a really cool view, and the trail was somewhat hilly and there were rocks and tree roots and things and I had to turn back. I couldn't manage that trail. By the end of last summer, I could do three miles on an easy trail and I could even manage two miles on a difficult trail, like the one around the lake at the state park near my home, but that was with much difficulty.
But now? Well, Isaac and I hike on that trail recently. There is one part near the beginning that is very steep. I remembered the trail as having other steep, difficult parts. But now? The trail seemed much shorter than I'd remembered and also easier. When I realized we were near the end, I was confused. What happened to those other steep parts? Well, they are not very difficult for me now.
On this camping trip, I slept on the ground and got up each morning without any assistance. I felt slightly stiff when I got up. By the time I'd walked to the bathrooms, I was not feeling stiff any more. I lifted a heavy cooler. I carried some firewood. I helped put up a tent, which involved bending and getting down on the ground. I collecting kindling for the campfire, which involved a lot of bending forward. I hiked probably four to six miles a day both days, about half in the morning and about half in the afternoon, on trails that were hilly, that had a lot of steps, that were rocky, that were rough, etc.
That may not seem like a lot to some people. The fact that I can easily lift a gallon jug of milk probably doesn't seem like anything to celebrate to most people, either, but I know it is.
So that's what I did on my camping trip and that is how far I've come.
So what happened that upset me? On the afternoon of our last day, we hiked to this rock formation called Rock House. It's sort of a cave, not a huge one, but it's cool-looking. The trail is very hilly. And just before where you can enter the cave-like rock formation, there are some big boulders. You have to climb over them to get to the entrance.
Well, I considered it and decided I could not do it. I could not do it safely. I might get over the boulders but I might not be able to get back to the other side again, and then what would I do? I might slip and hurt myself. I cannot afford to be injured. Besides the fact that I don't want to deal with the pain, I live alone. I had to go home that day and unload my van. I had to carry all my heavy stuff into my house. There was no one to help me do that. Having an injury, especially a back injury, simply wasn't an option.
So I said I was going to wait on the safe side of the boulders and let my friend that was camping with me go in to the Rock House by himself. Actually, with Isaac. Isaac loves climbing over boulders.
Well, he started trying to talk me into trying to make it over the boulders. Don't you even want to try it? he said. You're missing the best part. I'll help you. Come on, you're not even going to try? Are you sure? I don't want you to miss it. Aren't you even going to try?
I was mildly disappointed that I couldn't reach the Rock House but I wasn't upset about it. I'd had a great camping trip. I did, however, get upset as my friend pushed me to try to do something I knew I was not able to safely do.
He finally relented. On the way back to the car, I was fighting back the tears. He thought I was upset over my limitations. I wasn't.
I was upset because I felt that he was judging me. He thought I should be able to make it over those boulders. He thought I wasn't trying hard enough. After all I'd been able to do on that camping trip, it all seemed to come down to a few boulders and since I couldn't get over those, well, doing my best wasn't good enough.
That feeling of not being good enough is an old feeling and I know it was not just about this hike. I grew up in a home where nothing was ever good enough.
But at the same time, I'd been feeling good about what I'd accomplished on that trip. I have been working really hard not to judge myself by the standards of other people but here was a reminder that other people are always judging. I wished I'd gone camping alone. I wanted to become a hermit and live alone in a cave or something, so I could avoid the judgment of other people all the time.
My friend apologized. He said it wasn't his intention to make me feel that way, and I am sure it wasn't. But still... other people are always judging, it seems.