Telling my story has been therapeutic. Your comments and rich dialogue take my therapy to the next level.
One reader, John Coleman, left a comment on my post about self-analysis, which triggered a memory. It was the catalyst for this post, which rounds out the final entry in this five-part series. You can read parts one, two, three and four to get caught up.
…When I was running like a nut, I was always a mid-packer. But when I was standing around after the race, sipping Gatorade, I loved watching the last ones cross the finish line because, honestly, I was so proud of them. The distance was much harder for them than for me, and I felt somehow or other that their effort blessed me. It was an honor to watch them try so hard…
Friday morning at breakfast I approached TJ, the hiking program director at BLR, to tell her about my very low blood pressure and my very high resting heart rate. She was sufficiently concerned for my physical wellbeing that she insisted I move to a slower hiking group.
In fact, she was overly cautious, and moved me from van 4 (middle of the pack hikers) to van 7 (the slowest group). It’s perhaps not surprising that van 7 was not only the slowest group, but also the heaviest.
I felt awkward joining a new group on day five.
I also felt like being in that group made me a loser.
I winced as I typed that. I almost deleted it. It’s how I felt though.
My friend had upgraded from van 4 to van 2 and I had been downgraded to van 7. This bothered me to no end.
After breakfast, I slowly made my way to van 7.
The last one to arrive, I found all the front and middle seats taken. The diva in me was all set to start bitching about how claustrophobic I am, how I don’t do middle or back seats. Then I looked around and realized how uncomfortable it must have been for any of these folks to have made their way to the middle and back of this van.
I bit my tongue.
The van looked pretty full and I wasn’t sure I’d fit, but then I heard a voice from the back row, “Come on back, we’ll make room for ya!“. Ethel, a lovely woman with a great big smile, gestured me in.
I got settled and we all exchanged names.
The friendly banter during the morning commute to the hike was well underway. I marveled at how this tight-knit group seemed to be having a great time, and contrasted that with the memories of my angst-filled van rides all week.
I was lost in thought when Helen, a brash, no-bullshit chick, turned to me and said, “Hey, you’re little, why are you here? What’s your deal?”
I heard a gasp from sweet Ethel, who immediately jumped in with, “HELEN! You can’t say that!”
I laughed nervously and asked if she meant why was I in van 7, or why was I at BLR.
Everyone else in the van had stopped talking and all eyes were now on me.
I started out with my standard response. “Oh, I’m not little, trust me. I’m just the master of hiding. The right clothes can make you look a LOT thinner…“; my voice trailed off as the reality of what I was saying, and to whom I was saying it, set in, hitting me like a ton of bricks.
Insert painfully awkward pause.
What the fuck was I doing telling a van full of people who weighed between 280 and 375 lbs that it’s possible to hide your fat with the right cut of clothing. I wanted to crawl under a rock.
Instead I decided to hit the reset button.
I began again with, “The truth is, I gained over 40 lbs in approximately 4 years due to a stressful job and a totally unhealthy lifestyle. I am taking daily blood pressure medication and just found out I’m pre-diabetic. I have a history of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes in my immediate family, so this is really scary for me. I’m unhealthy and unhappy, and I want to change. I’m hoping this week will help me kick-start a new healthier lifestyle.”
Everyone was very supportive, telling me they could relate. The mortification of having inserted my foot so deeply into my mouth started to dissipate.
They welcomed me with open arms, promising me a fun hike.
I could feel myself relaxing, my breath slowing, the anxiety leaving my body.
The Yerba Buena trail in the Santa Monica mountains is very picturesque and features some interesting terrain, including several steep hills. At one point we even had to make our way over some rocks to traverse a small creek. I was surprised at how challenging a hike had been planned for van 7. That showed me not to make assumptions about others’ abilities.
The group split up pretty quickly into two sections, a faster group and a slower group, with one hiking guide in each. I realized that the pace of the faster group was still not fast enough for me. I didn’t want to complain because I was starting to feel like Goldilocks. Van 4 was too fast. Van 7 was too slow… Oh shut it, Miss High Maintenance.
Still, high maintenance or not, I realized that this hike was for me. It was for my benefit. And I planned to make the most of my last two full days at the resort. I was finally ready for a challenge, so I asked the hiking guide if I could hike ahead. The rule is that every hiker must be within eyesight of a hiking guide, so I was only able to go as far as she could see me. Clearly that wasn’t going to support my goal of pushing myself harder. The guide came up with the idea of having me jog back and forth between this front group and the group in the rear to give me more cardiovascular challenge. Brilliant!
When I made my way back to the slower group, I noticed Sergio. He had been sitting in the front seat of the van when I arrived, so I didn’t immediately notice his size. Easily the heaviest guest at BLR that week, I would estimate Sergio weighed at least 375 lbs. I watched as he slowly but surely propelled himself forward. Sheer determination on his face. I was humbled.
I thought back to my previous hikes that week. How hard they were. And then I thought about how hard any of these hikes, at any pace, would feel to Sergio.
I jogged back to the group in the lead, and looked up at a large hill looming ahead. That hill would have killed my spirit 24 hours earlier, but today it looked like a nice challenge. I hiked to the top, lungs working hard, heart beating fast. And I felt great! Challenged, but not to the point of being sick. Tired, but not to a point of stupidity.
The top of the hill offered spectacular views, along with a nice rest area, so I took a seat on the bench and watched as the other hikers in the front group made their way up. There faces told beautiful stories. They were working hard but they were doing it on their own terms. Not everyone made it up the hill. Some of the slowest had already turned around so that we would all finish the hike around the same time.
As we all regrouped at the trailhead, there was no need for apologies, no embarrassment, no shame. Everyone gave as much as they had to give.
Sergio appeared a few minutes later, Sweat pouring from his face, arms and legs. He was a hero.