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Archive for June 16th, 2007

Recovery

Atop Kearsarge pass along the PCT

I am go-BIG and I am a recovering thru-hiker.  Almost exactly one year ago today, I was in this exact spot as I hiked from Mexico to Canada along the PCT.  They say a thru-hike will change your life-I know that to be true from personal experience.  What they don’t tell you is that some of the changes will be significant and hurt so much that if you knew what was coming you may choose to get off the trail of life if that was an option offered.

During my hike I truly learned what was important to me- my wife, my family, my friends, our natural world, and the communities we live in. Unfortunately I did not learn a darn thing regarding how to actually live my life differently in order to foster better relationships and contribute more to life. Rather, I returned home lost and I fell into a depression that first left me without a rudder, then broken paddles, and finally sank me to a very dark and lonely place. When I was so arrogant to think that life could not get much tougher, I was told by my wife that she wanted to consider a separation, then I was told she did not want to be married any longer, next came a request for a divorce, and finally an acknowledgement that she was no longer in love with me and that she was involved with someone else.

The panic attacks lasted for a few weeks and the throwing up subsided after a few days. That was 94 days ago; March 15, 2007. I will remember that day for the rest of my life.

And I remind myself everyday what a departed friend always used to say: “Out of seemingly bad, always comes good…..always”.

I am not used to failing at things and I never planned to fail at my marriage; and yet here I am getting a divorce- dealing with the shame, guilt, embarrassment, and remorse. And to be very clear, I own 100% of my part, and while I have my moments I can not stay angry for very long as I care deeply for Liz and even now think warmly of her and hope she finds the greatest happiness.

The hike in was really nice. I am hiking with my 06 buddy Rolling Thunder who flew into from New Zealand a few days ago. With us is go-BIG daddy. We are doing an on trail resupply for Scout and Frodo (formerly Barney and Sandy). We are also trying to dispense some trail magic as a very small “thank you” to all of those who helped us along our way.

Things with mom are really good; amazingly good in fact. She has completed her chemo therapy and radiation and while the treatment was brutal her pathology numbers are very good, she is feeling well, and the prognosis is positive. And, in classic form to demonstrate how good things are she insisted that Dad join us on for this hike. It is good to be hiking with Pop again as we did not get out at all in 2006 given my thru-hike and mom’s cancer.

Thunder broke ahead to Vidette meadows and we are staying at the designated meeting spot. Scout and Frodo should be in tomorrow by noon.

When I set out on my thru-hike I told my wife that I was scared she might not want to be with me after a prolonged absence. She said she had the exact same fear. At the time that made me feel better but I see now that I was in a place of fear and fear is not a healthy emotion for a relationship. I also see now how much I defined myself by my marriage- how much I define myself by external things. Things like hiking the PCT, my career. It is like I walk around carrying a sandwich board with the menu items being definitions of who I believe I am. I also am seeing how much I like my sandwich board and how I really get upset when people erase some the the menu items; erase who I thought I was.

I shared with Liz recently that my heart was broken and she acknowledged she understood as her heart was broken intermittently over the years. I never meant to break her heart but I see how my actions could and did have that effect.

And my family and friends – have been by my side, carrying me to a better place. Shannon who incurred a $650 phone bill; telling me I was a great man…I needed to hear that a lot in the beginning. To Pam, Shannon’s partner who finally said “get off the phone, and invite Robert over for dinner – several times”. To Alan and Michael who invited me on bike rides, shared their very personal history with me, and showed me through their relationship what is possible in a growing relationship. To Dave who took a call from a friend and responded with an outpouring of support. To Nick and Christy who had the brilliant suggestion that house sit in their beautiful Mt. Shasta home for a week- just what I needed. To Sheri and Cathy who took me into their home, found me an apartment, the insisted I hang pictures and make it my home.

Nutcrackers are calling as the last rays of light fade into a glorious Sierra nightfall. The Kearsarge pinnacles are blushed with pink (photo on banner of this site) and I am happy and content.

To Larry, my JMT hiking partner, who calls every few weeks to simply check in. To Sugar Daddy and Eric Valentine who have been generous with their Christian perspective. To Joe and Michael who listen carefully and make laser like observations that would cut like a knife for me not knowing they are given with absolute kindness and caring. To Ray who has been willing to and capable of helping me see my short comings while prescribing a course of action to “get over it” and move beyond being so self focused. To my parents who support only like parents. I am grateful and so blessed to have you all in my life…I am a rich man.

Thunder and I did a PCT presentation in Mt. Shasta on Father’s day to a full house at the stage door coffee house. We had never done anything like this together before and yet our 1600 miles of trail last year made our delivery seamless. We laughed, I cried a bit, and we generally had a ball in this outreach program for the PCTA and the Mt. Shasta Trail Association. Have I mentioned that everyone needs to support organizations such as these.

Speaking of support. Prodeal put together an incredible video of our class of 2006. With each copy he sent out he provided a letter requesting that all thru-hikers become life time members of the PCTA – I felt very very good about writing that check. Ironically, I did not get an acknowledgement receipt and let the PCTA know as they are super diligent about such things. Would you believe it, they keyed in my new address wrong. I ultimately got one of the nicest most sincere, and most “professional” apology voice mails from Liz. I was very appreciative and yet it hit me fully that I was not getting a call from my wife who just happened to be the Executive Director of the PCTA but rather a call from the Executive Director who just happened to be my former wife.  That hurt a lot….just part of the process of moving on.

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