My Own Pace
by Colleen Chiddix | September 14, 2016
I didn’t know how to respond past giving my name when asked to introduce myself that first night at dinner. Everyone else seemed so enthusiastic, confident. They all gave their names and buoyantly told their goals and aspirations for the trip. I remember simply saying my name and that I had run away from home. It was the painful truth. I didn’t have any ambitions other than to survive. Survive the trip and my life.
Eavesdropping was not on my list of things to do that day sitting in the stands watching my son wrestle. It was going to be another long day. Then serendipity happened. The wrestling coach’s wife was a couple of seats below and began talking to another parent about the “Wild Women” trips. Having had three neck surgeries the past summer, I was hesitant to try anything. I pulled out my iPad and went to the website. I came across the Scotland Hiking trip. The tab on the right said “Book Now”. So I did. Just like that. I looked at my husband and told him that I was going to Scotland that June. He rolled his eyes and told me to have fun (and not in the sincere form of the phrase). We had been on the verge of divorce for years. Silent, cold treatment was his favorite tool to dominate me. To control me. To punish me.
I was hoping to have a single room but, thankfully, didn’t get one. I had Rachael as a roommate. Her gracious, grateful, gentle nature was infectious. Serendipity had made her awesome appearance once again.
The first full day as a group began with sea kayaking. Having always been told that I am no good at anything, I did not have high hopes for success. But, the moment I sat in the kayak and paddled my way into the arctic-blue water, I felt the ice in my soul begin to crack. I didn’t think about what to make for dinner; whether or not my husband and children were OK; if things at work were getting done; if the dogs had been fed. I was PRESENT. I was present in my own life, for myself only, for the first time in my adult life. I didn’t want that moment to end, even when the rain moved in.
Every day we would lace up our hiking boots, grab our lunch, load into the van and follow our leader Zoe to the most magnificent places on earth. She would tell us tales of geologic events, heartbreaking historical incidents and local folklore. And every day I would choose to hang out at the back of the group so as to avoid conversation and risk disappointing anyone. But each day the ice broke a little more. I was beginning to find my own value. I was beginning to see that I mattered. Zoe would always tell us that we didn’t need to hike at any pace except the pace we wanted, “It’s your hike, you set the pace”. Not only did I find her words appropriate for hiking but for my life. It’s MY life and I can set the “pace”.
The climax of the hiking was Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK. There was never a doubt in my mind that I was going to do this. I just wasn’t sure how this was going to look. All my life I had been a coward or a quitter. How did I expect this to change? Each step drove the anger and frustration from my soul. Every encouraging word from my new sisters replaced the emptiness that had become my being. The summit of this mountain saw tears. Tears of exhaustion; tears of joy; tears for overcoming; tears for years of pain; tears for a lost child; tears for a little girl who became a a broken woman. Everything I have carried for 50 years was laid to rest in the stone cairns atop Ben Nevis.
This is my walk. This is my hike. This is my life. I will set the pace and make it my own.