I went for a hike yesterday on an island near the city I live in. This part of the country is full of expert, well-outfitted hiking enthusiasts, and then there is also me. I fear sleeping outside, inevitably eat my trail snacks too early, and dislike dressing in Subaru-colored fleece. And yet, I do love a good ramble. I think I’m destined to be one of those elderly women walking the entire coast of England one day, hopefully trailing a few sheep. For now, let’s call me a day rambler.
For this ramble, I was pretty well set. Long pants: check! Sturdy shoes vs. the Prada ballet flats worn on my last, more spontaneous ramble: check! Water: left it in the car, but then totally went back and got it. So check! The only problem? A 70% lack of clarity about finding the trail. Signage at the park was rather *casual*, and there were two well-trod paths to choose from, only one of which would get me to the bluff climb I was seeking. And I’d have to walk almost a mile to know if I’d chosen the right one.
Well, this just did not sit well with me at all. When I said I like a ramble, I really meant I like a ramble that goes exactly as I want it to and shows me exactly the sights I want to see. So there I am, standing on the edge of a beet field, frantically googling trail reports in the hopes that some stranger could tip me off. ‘Why can’t I just *know* where I’m going to end up?’ I found myself whining. Finally I just picked a trail and started tromping across the meadow you see in the photograph. As I walked, I got calmer and quieter, and within half a mile it hit me: ‘This is why it took you so long to get sober.’
I said it again to myself and knew it was true. For at least two years I wanted to quit drinking, but I wanted to quit with a guarantee, a promise that X, Y, and Z would happen if I did. (Preferably on a pre-set schedule.) I couldn’t *tolerate* the thought of just quitting and seeing what happened–to beat the metaphor into the ground, of just walking with no promise I was headed to the bluffs. I thought the disappointment would be too hard. And even more, I thought the *walking* would be horrible. I wanted to just be an ex-drinker without any uncertainty or discomfort, because I thought I couldn’t handle them.
I’ve been sober for 89 days. I still don’t understand why, with all my fears and predictions, I was able to make Day 1 happen. But I do know I was wrong to think I didn’t have the backbone to handle it. And I know I was wrong about the walking, too. It’s not horrible. It’s actually pretty nice most of the time. And I’m so glad I got a chance to find that out.
By the way, the bluff trail was amazing. Of course, it led me to the beach just as the tide was coming in (what, you thought I might have pre-checked a minor detail like that?). So rather than walk the second half of the loop on the shore, I had to climb 300 feet back up to the bluffs, including a good quarter-mile on *sand.* But that’s a story, and a metaphor, for another day.