I mentioned in my reflection on 31 days of hiking that the whole experience provoked a TON of thoughts that I wanted to write about eventually… today’s post is one of those I have been drafting for a long time. Some weeks the post just writes itself over the weekend and is ready to post early the next week. Other posts, like this one, sit in drafts for weeks or even months. In both categories, I’ve had posts that feel deeply uncomfortable to actually hit PUBLISH on, but those are usually the ones that end up resonating the most so here we go…
One of the things that was weird about my 31 day hiking experience was posting about it every day on instagram. I did this for acountability, but I felt super uncomfortable about it. On the most basic level, I worried people would get really sick of me since I don’t usually post every day. I worried people would look at some hikes and think to themselves “well THAT doesn’t count.” I worried that people would look at it and think “why isn’t she spending more time with her kids instead?” or “babywearing on that mountain looks dangerous. how dare she. what an awful mom” I worried I would share a thought and someone would have followed another account that JUST said something very similar, and roll their eyes about how I said it in a much lamer way… And after a LOT of worrying about this and many other made up comments in my head… I remembered that I was posting on my own account with my own voice about my own best judgements for a challenge that was supposed to be helping my mental health, not leading me in a spiral of worry! And so I kicked those voices to the curb and posted away, and was pleasantly surprised…
It turned out just by being me and doing what I set out to do, I had inspired others to move their bodies and/or get started on their own journeys of what makes their minds feel clearer. For some that was doing the same thing I was doing- getting out and hiking or running. For others that was taking a daily walk or taking time to journal each day. I was shocked as I kept getting messages or comments when I hadn’t felt like I wrote anything particularly inspiring in my posts, I was just being… me. A me that has fought through a lot to find what brings my mind a little bit of peace and my body a little more strength.
When I modeled saying no to the crazy and overfilling my schedule so I could complete my 31 day hiking challenge, it made others feel empowered to do the same. And that makes total sense because you know what? I had messaged another instagram account I follow a few months earlier about how her 31 day challenge had inspired ME. Again, just BEING and DOING led to inspiration. I am positive that YOUR being and doing can and will lead to inspiring other too, whether you ever get the privilege to hear about it or not. (I am so thankful for friends and followers who don’t suppress a generous thought and share when they feel inspired by or grateful for something I have written or shared a photo of or just talked with them about! It is a deeply humbling and confusing experience sometimes but I’m learning to just focus on the thankful part.) And I want to be clear that if you are not feeling me on the athletic pursuits, that is not really what this post is about. Let me share two quotes that point to the bigger picture of what this is all about- one is Biblical, the other by one of my creative guides:
You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.
Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket;
it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house.
We are meant to shine. This doesn’t mean you have to share everything on social media for it to count or to start a blog (unless that’s what you feel called to do! Though I warn you it feels very “old fashioned” right now in the world of “reels” and sound bites…) it doesn’t even mean you have to use your words at all necessarily, but it does mean that sharing your authentic self will inevitably help others…
While I think it is really important to model the need for alone time to other parents, I have also found that just existing in the world and doing things WITH my kids challenges all the toxic messaging about how kids are the end of all things exciting or of things that in any way relate to freedom or success (and trust me, there is a LOT of that messaging out there…) And while I haven’t had ENTIRELY positive feedback about bringing the kiddos along (I have been yelled at that I am abusing my kids by having us mask on busy sections of the trail or told that I have taken my daughter on a trail that is too difficult for her when I know what she is capable of… the judgements are there and real too, it definitely isn’t all encouragement) I have had much more positive feedback than negative. In fact, one of the happiest moments during my 31 day challenge was when I was hiking with the baby on my back and a young couple passed by me in the opposite diction and did a double take, clearly surprised to see her there. (They aren’t the only ones, many people on the trail assume you are carrying a hydration pack until they get up close and notice there are legs poking out of your “backpack”) As I kept hiking, I overheard one say to the other, “See, if we have kids we don’t have to stop hiking…” I didn’t hear the rest of their conversation, but just that snippet was enough to make me glow a bit.
That’s the same example I have tried to set with my work in theatre (remember theatre? oh man do I miss theatre… please let live theatre come back safely soon…) because there is STRONG stigma about people who choose to have a family AND try to pursue a career in the arts. I believe it is something that leads to the crazy gender disparity in the industry. YET, after years of being told I had to pick one or the other, I still felt strongly called to do both. And just by being a mom in theatre, and occasionally finding work where I could bring my family with me to rehearsals, I helped others realize that option could be a possibility for them too. I didn’t do anything heroic or big and flashy, I just did “me” and found others who saw the value in that.
Which leads me to the second quote…
This quote by Julia Cameron was shared with me in grad school by a dear friend. She shared it after we became known as “the badass women who wouldn’t be tamed” for refusing to participate in our school’s thesis production of Taming of the Shrew. We petitioned for, rehearsed, and performed a successful production of Paula Vogel’s Desdemona: A Play About a Handkerchief (a feminist reimagining of Othello) in spite of several obstacles thrown in our path. This is what my friend and fellow cast member shared with the other two of us and our directors/production crew before opening night:
We are like songbirds. When one of us gives voice to our true nature, it is contagious and others soon give tongue as well. We do not live or create in isolation. Each of us is part of a greater whole and, as we agree to express ourselves, we agree to express the larger self that moves through us all.
One training run, publishing one post, having one hard conversation, raising awareness or money for one cause you are passionate about, can be the spark that ignites immense courage, or more endurance, or a deluge of hope in people around you. Sing your song. Give voice to others. Encourage their light to shine too.
You might be riffing on the same theme someone with a huge following just talked about- they won’t say it in the exact same way as you. And just because they have a following doesn’t mean people are really LISTENING to them the same way a close friend or family member might listen to you.
You might think the hour for yourself is selfish, but if your hour to recharge inspires others to do the same, maybe we can all come back to the table with clearer heads and hearts with space to listen.
Your existence can be a radically inspiring act. What is it for you that you feel called to do? to say? to stop doing? to take a break from? Whatever it is, you aren’t the only one and you will be helping others do the same.