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Slipping on iced over snow and unanswered prayers

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POSTED August 28, 2017 12:52 a.m.

About the time it was 102 degrees in Manteca on Saturday I lost my footing on iced over snow and slid down a fairly steep incline about 20 feet on my left side.

I happened to be at about 10,800 feet hiking along the Pacific Crest Trail north of Sonora Pass.

This isn’t another “the-klutz-went-hiking-and-looked-what-happened” column. Instead this is more along the lines of doing whatever you can when someone is filled with angst to have the patience and determination to help them see more than two inches in front of their nose — or more appropriately —their fears, sorrow, and dread.

How the two are connected has everything to do with communication — the superficial technical side and real connections.

The last time I was hiking on the same trail was August four years ago. There wasn’t a patch of snow visible anywhere and cell service was non-existent. On Saturday there was a significant amount of snow hugging the sides of peaks and patches crossing the so-called “100-Mile View” segment of the Pacific Crest Trail. I also had cell service from Verizon.

I got a text from an acquaintance from years ago who at one point as a 17-year-old had been consumed with despair over a series of events in his life. For some reason he had opened up to me about it at a very inopportune time. I had to get to work. But instead of brushing him off, I listened. I was kind of stunned since he seemed to have it all together. In retrospect, what was driving him to share the belief he thought his life was ruined forever was typical teen stuff. But to him it was his entire world.

What he needed to know and understand was that virtually everyone else has been ther before: Life goes on. What is a morbid crisis freezing you in fear and triggering dark thoughts will fade with time. And, the most important of all, life is a journey and it may take you places you never dreamed of that will make the dark moments pale and become oblivious with time. 

Instead of pontificating, I shared something extremely personal that I rarely had told anyone to make it clear I’d been there before. It was so he understood that I wasn’t feeding him a line about how the passage of time reduces perceived and real doom and gloom in our lives to mere hiccups as the years roll by.

The text Saturday was nonsensical chatter about cycling and hiking. But after talking with him face-to-face for the two weeks prior for the first time in years, even though time, distance, and life changed the dynamics of our friendship it was clear that he grasped the concept that embracing the journey of life was more important than measuring oneself by a preconceived destination.

At age 17, hiking wasn’t even a concept that I could picture anyone in their right mind enjoying, let alone being a way to achieve a level of happiness. The idea of me hiking when I reached the ancient age of 61 was so far out in leftfield it never appeared on my radar screen as anything I’d do in life. Then again neither was moving to Manteca, falling in love, getting married, and getting divorced.

I can honestly say I’ve gained from it all — including the parts that hurt like hell. No matter how bleak moments can get or how dark we can let our minds make them, the sun always manages to rise on a new day.

As a whole, we weren’t as good as we could be about communicating with people rather than just talking at them before the advent of the Internet and social media buried heart-to-heart talks under a tsunami of babble. When people do share their fears and hurt too often they are quick to ridicule or talk tough in the virtual world instead of taking the time and effort to do so face-to-face with a bit of empathy.

Getting people to understand there is more to life than what is happening in the moment is getting tougher and tougher in a world with 24/7 cable news channels, blogs, social media, Twitter, and such. They all create one big blender of noise while slicing to pieces those that don’t fit in particular cliques and pulverizing those struggling with emotional wounds.

There’s a Garth Brooks song dubbed “Unanswered Prayers” that relates how God’s greatest gifts are those prayers we believe are in vain.

As humans we have a nasty habit of convincing ourselves a certain person is the perfect match for us, a particular lifestyle is what we must secure, a particular physical look is an absolute or a certain career path is key if we want to attain happiness. We can get so wrapped up in the abstract that we don’t appreciate reality and ignore other paths.

I was consumed by one goal for much of my 20s. I didn’t want to be overweight. I was driven by my physical appearance and not by health considerations and certainly not by the immense fulfillment and joy I have found over the years in cycling, hiking, and exercise in general that my drive to never see the dial on the scales hoover at 320 pounds brought my way.

I wasn’t praying or striving to be active, to be healthy or to wander through the desert and hike mountains. I wanted to lose weight for vanity reasons.

The bottom line is we need to share with others who have self-doubts and fears that we are all human and we all take falls. If you doubt that go hiking with the klutz sometime.

 

 

 

 

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209.249.3519.

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