What I love about east Tennessee in January is that snow could be in the forecast one day and the next day will be sunny and warm. Last weekend the weather was perfect. The boys and I took full advantage of it with a couple of hikes. I am not much of a hiker but I have recently read two books about women hiking alone. One hiked the Pacific Crest trail and a sixty-seven year old grandma hiked the Appalachian. I suppose this was my inspiration to hike.
I am a bookkeeper and January is a busy month. It requires extra work, closing books, sending out 1099’s and w-2’s, not to mention all those reports that the CPA needs. I work one day a week at two different companies, but with all this extra work it is nearly impossible to get it done in that time frame. Last week, I was extremely focused on my task, and one of my employers commented that I must like what I do because I was so good at. The reality is that I do not like what I do, and I am only good at it because I have done it for a long time. There is a difference. I started doing this type of work because it was the only quality part-time work I could find while raising my children. I actually find it mind-numbing and un-fulfilling. I have sat in the parking lot and literally needed to force myself to walk into the office and face that chair where I will be spending the next five to seven hours. So when I read a book where women leave everything behind and “run away”, it grabs a hold of me and won’t let go.
As I mentioned, I am not an avid hiker. The rest of my family loves to hike and there are always conversations going on about taking an overnight hike. We never end up going because of me. I am not in the best shape, I don’t exercise much and spend majority of my time sitting. So being inspired by what I have recently read, I decided that I wanted to go on long hike with my family in the spring, but first I must get in shape.
The first hike we took last week was a trail we have not hiked before. My older son loves exploring new territory, so he convinced me to attempt this trail. It was just the two of us, the rest of the family had other obligations, so I was a little nervous hiking a trail I did not know. I am the type of person who has no sense of direction and could easily get lost. Along the way, I became distracted by the jackhammering sound of a woodpecker. I stopped to search the trees for it’s red head, when I noticed that my son had left me on the trail. He has the tendency of wandering ahead when we hike and I didn’t think to tell him not to. I did not see him for the rest of the two-mile hike and I spent the rest of the time in a slight state of panic. I stopped once to call him on my cell and I spooked an owl. It flew a few feet over my head; this terrified and thrilled me at the same time. Anyone who knows me knows I love birds of prey, especially owls. This encounter made the scary hike worth it.
The second hike took place a couple of days later, the boys were home on a school holiday and the weather was still perfect. We brought along a neighbor friend this time. We decided to hike a two-mile loop trail, which means that the trail ends where it starts. As we stood at the trailhead deciding which direction to go in, the boys thought it would be fun if I went one way and they went the opposite. We would see each other somewhere in the middle and they would wait for me right here at the trailhead when they finished. I wasn’t onboard with the idea. Yet, when I looked at these boys, I realized they were almost men and they needed to act like men. I was the one who was afraid of letting them go, because that meant that I would have to go it alone.
I watched them go, excited, young and free. It took everything I had to not run after them, telling them that I had changed my mind. As I hiked up the mountain, I stopped when I wanted to stop and admired whatever I found interesting. At the top I could see the lake through the bare trees, I felt the sun as it filtered through the branches and I heard nothing but the sounds of birds, interrupted by the sound of my breathing. As I stood there, taking in all the sights and sounds, my panic faded and I felt a sense of peace overcome me. I had nothing to fear. I passed a young couple about half way down the mountain. We stopped briefly to talk about the length of the trail when she asked me “are you hiking alone? Aren’t you freaked out? I would be freaked out!” Laughing I answered, “no I wasn’t freaking out, that it’s actually pretty awesome, it’s one of the best hikes I have done.” Thankfully she didn’t meet me fifteen minutes ago, when I would have answered, “yes!”
I believe that this is the lesson I am to learn, that I am at the crossroad in my life where my boys are getting old enough to go in their own direction and I am unsure of which way I am to go. I have been a full-time mother for twenty-five years and worked only a little to get me out of the house and keep my mind sharp. When the boys no longer need me, then my title as full-time mother is no longer valid. So where does that leave me? I have no desire to do the mind-numbing office work full-time. The time is quickly approaching where I will finally have the opportunity to work in a profession I enjoy yet, I have no idea what that is. I am standing alone on that path, not sure where it will lead me, and I am in the “freaking out!” stage. I know the answers are further down the road and I will then be at peace, but until then I am a little crazy.