Today I sat down to look at the past two weeks (it’s been three weeks now since I finished the trail!), reflect, and try to bring some focus to the coming month.
A very brief trail recap for some context: My two months on trail in Arizona were filled with much joy, calm, sunshine, gratitude, connection with nature, face-to-face connection with humans, and daily journaling. I gained confidence, inner strength, and physical strength. I finished the trail a different person from the young woman who began hiking in March.
I stayed very much in the present throughout the hike, so it was a shock to the system to return to the midwest on May 15. The air was humid, curbs were full of great items leftover from garage sale weekend—which were headed to the landfill instead of St. Vinny’s/Goodwill, the houses were immense, roads busy with cars, etc. To walk without a pack felt like I was flying!
For some reason I had it in my head that I needed to find a job now, so my first two days back I submitted some resumes and wrote some cover letters. Relatives were quick to ask the question which doesn’t serve me, “So what’s next?” I didn’t know what to focus on, so in addition to feeling ungrounded without my trail, I felt stuck in a chicken-egg paradox: Do I buy a vehicle so I can get to a job to pay for the car? Or not buy a vehicle, and spend that time on my projects/art/growth, but live with my parents?
There were many more questions and options—there still are—but now I feel much less of a time pressure. I realized there is no need to rush; I completely have the means to buy groceries for years if that’s my only expense. I needed post-hike transition time, and I’d forgotten to give it to myself! Once I made that realization, much of the ungrounded feeling left. I’ve been trying to connect with that inner calm I had on trail—the endless energy from nature, and offer the space for things to unfold as they come, while trusting in the universe.
Bit by bit, pieces are illuminating or being let go of. Like early last week—before the above realization—when I got a call from the post office in town, saying they were interested in me for the rural delivery position I’d applied for (a job I’d fantasized about over the years, every now and then). Before I knew what was happening, I had told him that I wasn’t going to stay in the area past the summer. The opening had been for a long-term full time position, so I took myself out of the running. That initial reaction on the phone showed me I do not want to spend the winter here.
A friend invited me to an afternoon English tutoring session with two adult learners. While there, I arranged to give a talk about the AZT in July at my local library, photocopied The Encouraging Times flyers and a flyer offering Spanish tutoring, and learned an old high school classmate is homesteading in the area.
An opportunity presented itself to teach English online with VIP Kids, and I’m in the final stages of the onboarding process.
Bread crumbs are appearing, and I’m going to patiently follow them and see where it leads.
Mixed in with these bread crumbs have been Instagram (which I rejoined at the end of April, after four months away) and Netflix (hey wifi, hey computer!). I need to set new boundaries, because I don’t want my current usage to continue as it’s been the last two weeks. My mind was so clear without any of that on trail!
And with that quick catch-up, now I’ll look back on my two focus items for the past two and a half months.
March – May 2019
Obnoxiously Encouraging Thoughts + Non-Comparison
This went excellent on the hike! A great continuation from January and February. Even before I got on trail, a friend came to help me package food for my resupply boxes, and we both wrote encouraging messages on the ziplocks and packages.
The first couple of days on trail, my PMA (Positive Mental Attitude, a term we used often in my conservation corps) was off the charts.
You filtered that water so well, without getting your shoes wet! You’re amazing!
You’re doing it! You got yourself here! You’re hiking on the AZT!
Wow, you picked a great spot to camp! You rock!
Even after the PMA calmed down, my thoughts and attitude remained incredibly supportive and compassionate towards myself. Sometimes I’d have gentle conversations with myself:
A: So… are we staying here on break the rest of the day?
B: No, I’ll get up again.
A: It’s 3:00 and I know you’re tired—can you walk for two more hours today?
B: Hmmmm yeah, I can do that.
A: Okay, what do you need for that to happen?
B: Brownie Clif bar!
A: Okay hun, we can do that. Have the extra Brownie Clif bar and start whenever you’re ready. We’ll stop wherever you are two hours from now.
B: Yes! Brownie Clif bar! Thank you. Thanks for looking out for me.
A: You’re welcome, you make it easy. Thanks for walking! You’re doing a great job.
Filling a Poetry Notebook
I wrote 14 pages of poetry crap (this is the goal) in one end of my trail journal while on the AZT. I used poetry to process some grief, as well. (I also wrote some beautiful poetry in my head while hiking! Over the years I’ve written the best poetry, speeches, and essays in my head. What is it about the pen and paper—or the voice—that makes everything jumbled?)
I haven’t touched any of my poetry books yet since returning home, though, so I can put more focus on that next month.
Things I want/need to be doing:
The Encouraging Times. (Share it, mail flyers, put up flyers) VIP Kids. (Make intro video for parents, start booking classes, wake up at 4am to teach classes) Tend garden. Daily yoga. Play guitar/ukulele. Meditate. Punch needle. Paint. Paint portraits. Write AZT logistics posts/guide. Car shop. Gratitude snail mail project/creation. Find Spanish students. Read books. Get outside. Walk. Cook. See relatives. And so forth… so I found it hard to narrow things down this coming month.
Obnoxiously Encouraging Thoughts
- Read “The Art of Living” by Thich Nhat Hanh.
I checked this book out from the library and will finish it this month. I’m finding my thoughts and beliefs resonate pretty well with Buddhist teachings, so I want to get deeper into the learning.
- Meditate 3x/week.
I’m going to track meditation this month, and aim for 3x/week. I need to keep in mind that for me at this point, frequency is more important than amount of time spent meditating.
- Lean into Goddess card.
My friends and I turned over Goddess cards again at the new year, with one card per month plus an overarching card. I brought along print-outs of March and April’s goddesses on my hike, and found the focus and guidance really useful.
The card I’d drawn for June is “Butterfly Maiden,” the goddess of Transformation. I copied the description into my planner/notebook, so that I can be reminded to let the old shed away and to be open for new gifts:
Filling a Poetry Notebook
- Track 10-min. poetry play sessions.
Poetry is another item I put on June’s tracker (below), and I’ll aim for 3x/week. I have my poetry prompt books and plenty of paper/pens, so I have every reason to do this. The key will be thinking of it as play and/or filling pages with garbage.
Since coming off trail (and subsequently reading “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains”), I’ve felt extra aware of screen time, while also turning to Netflix for a feeling of comfort and mindlessly opening Instagram.
- Track IG and Netflix frequency in monthly tracker.
You’ll notice I included IG and Netflix on my monthly tracker, as I want to see how often it really is, before imposing rules. Well, Instagram I’m going to try only opening on Sundays—for max 15-minutes and see what it feels like, hence the boxes.
- No phone in bedroom.
Back in Flagstaff when I was 2/3 of the way through my hike, I finally did the software upgrade my iPhone had been bothering me about for… months? I was excited to see the iPhone now has a feature that shows you how much time you spend in each app, and how many times per day you open each app. Yes! That’s a move in the right direction. You can also set time limits and personalize it by day.
The other night I programmed a schedule that from 8pm to noon, my apps will not be available. (There’s just no reason; I can go weeks and months without. Having wifi + phone service for 8 hours a day feels extravagant, and yet at the same time I’ve been checking it mindlessly.)
So, what will aid all of this—and push my other projects forward—is implementing a new no-phone-in-bedroom rule. I’ve been spending most of my time in my bedroom since coming home: it’s where I work, play, read, create. I’m either here or in the kitchen. But, when I’m writing I don’t need to be notified of a new text; it can wait.
I’m going to experiment with this in June, give the phone a new home, and nurture a phoneless bedroom environment.
- Check email max once per day.
Again, I’d go weeks at a time without checking email, and my mind/body absolutely loved the lack of interruption. The emails I receive aren’t urgent. Since once a day is “extravagant” for me, there’s no need for me to check it more than once a day (as I have been since coming home).
This could be a lot to change at once, or maybe it’ll go swimmingly, but this is where I’ll start.
So, that’s where I’m at today and what I’m feeling drawn towards. You’re welcome to use the space below to share how your month has been.
I also invite you to join me in taking some time for personal reflection.
A few questions to get the wheels turning: What are you proud of? What’s been going well lately? What would you like to illuminate in June? What is no longer serving you?