Through the years, I have often heard Oprah say or ask if we are living our best life. She said it often on her award winning show, her magazine has written several articles on it, she offered a Master Class in living one's best life, and the list goes on.
But what does living one's best life mean?
About a month ago, my plant lady friend and I were talking about hikes we'd like to try. I mentioned that I'd like to try hiking around Fairy Stone Park and she mentioned the Devil's Bathtub Hike. I had seen pictures of the Devil's Bathtub and I knew I wanted to complete that hike first! Her response to my enthusiasm about hiking to Devil's Bathtub was, "Let's do it."
There is a major difference from theorizing a trip, to actually participating in said trip.
Plant lady friend is pretty fit. She genuinely loves exercise. I just started intentionally exercising in August so I wasn't sure I'd be able to keep up with her. However, the thought of going on a hike, with no kiddos, and having some quiet time seemed to out weigh my fear of not keeping up.
As we got closer and closer to our trip I noticed I started to worry about a LOT of stuff: would my plant lady friend hate me after spending so much time alone with me, would I physically be able to do all our activities or would I be holding her back, what the heck were we even going to eat and how do you plan a plant-based camping trip, and (insert irrational worries here). At one point I wanted to call the whole thing off. There was too much to do at home, the house was a wreck, I didn't have meals planned for the family, I wasn't sure if my plant-based meals turned out, I didn't have the right clothing (or so I thought), what if I got sick, what if our cabin was terrible and infested with something, and on and on and on.
Fortunately, I didn't call off the trip, and neither did she.
Our trip ended up being life changing for me. We decided to do the long loop for Devil's Bathtub and it took us about 7 hours to complete! We were both thinking the hike was going to be around 2 or 3 hours, so imagine our surprise when we were 3 hours in and not quite at the half way point.
Something I realized on this long hike was, that I am literally afraid of everything. I had a panic attack as we started the hike because of the elevation I needed to climb at the beginning of the hike. I simply thought there was no way I could keep climbing for 7+ miles with increasing elevation. If you're a runner and you've hit your wall, well this was my early wall. I told my plant lady friend I was panicking and she responded in the most perfect way, "Lana, we've got all day to do this trail." and this created an emotional response I wasn't prepared for. The panic was still there, but I knew I needed to keep moving. I wasn't in a life threatening situation, this was recreational, but I realized in that moment I had been missing out on so much because I have let fear drive my life.
Throughout the hike I continued to feel my fear ebb and flow.
The following kicked up:
1. snake on the trail - whelp this is how I'm gonna die, snake bite
2. nausea on trail because I wasn't hydrating and panicking - omg I have the flu and this is where I'm gonna die.
3. trail taking much longer than anticipated - omg we are going to have to spend the night out here and all the wild animals are going to eat us and I'm gonna die
4. we made it to Devil's Bathtub and both of us slipped on the rocks hitting our hips hard - omg we broke our hips and there's no way we can get outta here and we're gonna die
5. Plant lady friend wanted to take a dip in the Devil's Bathtub cool spring water - omg I can't put my feet in the water because my heels are rubbed raw from my shoes and I'm going to catch a killer bacteria and die in a week
6. we had to walk the final 2 miles over 15+ creek crossings and we were already exhausted - omg I don't think I can navigate these rocks and I'm gonna die
7. I slipped and hit my knee hard - I broke my kneecap (I didn't really) and there's no way to get me out of here and I'm gonna die
What's interesting is I didn't consider myself a fear-based person. I would have swore to you that most of my day didn't consist of me thinking about what I'm afraid of. What this hike did was bring to the forefront all the ways fear shows up in my life. I didn't have access to distractions (phone, ipad, projects) to distract me from my fear, so here I was on a trail, with my adventurous plant lady friend, and my mind. Nothing to distract from the fear, nothing to tuck the fear away in a corner to fester, no projects to keep my mind busy with fear plotting my demise.
Just me and my thoughts.
The whole hike wasn't dominated by fear. What would happen is my fearful thoughts would come up, run their course and then die down. At the part where they'd die down I would actually be present on the hike! I would notice the sky, the color of the trees, the shape of the leaves, my breath, how the terrain would change, how I was grateful for my plant lady friend, etc. As much as I was afraid, I equally felt joy.
When it comes to breakthroughs, it seems like there has to be some breakdowns one needs to go through first. My breakdowns weren't me on the floor sobbing (even though I wanted to do this) they were me wrestling with taking another physical step forward on this trail. Each step forward was taken in faith that I would get through the fear and experience something other than fear. Each step forward was a step towards me living my best life!
I don't thinking living one's best life is just spa days, ocean retreats, fancy meals and other luxurious moments. Living one's best life is enjoyment AND growth. To me living one's best life are those fearful moments, of failing and trying again, of being present with yourself and not distracted with life.
My plant lady friend and I completed our hike and continued on to canoe, eat delicious plant-based meals and explore the area. Fortunately, she did not tire of me or my endless questions, and we are planning future hikes (maybe not 7 hour hikes, but who knows) and adventures together.
I'd love to hear from you and your thoughts on this topic: firstname.lastname@example.org
P.S. Make sure to check out my latest podcast with Mindie Adamos, Fearful Heart! http://fearfulheart.libsyn.com It's available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify & More!