Things Keeping Us Going: An Excessively Long Hike in the Mountains

I’m a mother. I’m a grandmother. I’m a human being. I am also an educator whose field of expertise is childhood trauma. So, my response to the horrors at Robb Elementary in Uvalde has been visceral.

I cannot watch the news anymore, because it makes me ugly cry. As the director at my program, I have had to have conversations with staff where I was unable to reassure them. I could only let them know that I share their heartache–and their fears. More gut-wrenching, I have had to have conversations with frightened children.

None of this is okay. I am not okay.

I am soul sick.

When I teach about trauma responses in children, I talk about “fight, flight, or freeze.” Every single one of us will respond to stressors by lashing out (fight), running away or avoidance (flight), or shutting down (freeze). I’m a “flight person.” This weekend, I fled. I packed the car, grabbed my husband, and drove three hours north to our family’s house on an island in the middle of a big lake.

Because I am a grown adult who is not supposed to run away from home, I was able to tell people that we were opening the house up for the season, in preparation from my snowbird parents’ return from sunny Florida. I was TOTALLY running away, though.

The moment we came around the bend in the road, and we caught our first mountain view, I started to feel lighter. It wasn’t until we were driving over the bridge onto the island, and I audibly exhaled, though, that I realized how tense I have been.

We busied ourselves getting the house back in order. We made a quick trip to the market. Had lunch at our favorite hippie burger joint. The busy-ness of the day kept me from thinking too much.

Late afternoon, a couple of our closest friends arrived. They, too, had needed to run away. While we cooked burgers on the grill and watched the sun set over the lake, we made plans for the rest of the weekend. Tomorrow, us girls were going to go on a leisurely hike.

Morning comes, we gear up and head to Lee Mountain. It’s really just a hill, and so while there is some incline to manage that gets your heart rate up, it’s an easy 3 miles up and back. Unless you are chatting when the trail splits on the way back down, miss your turn, and you travel 2 miles out of your way up Turtleback Mountain. Yeah, about that. I’m a seasoned hiker on trails I know VERY well. This was a bonehead mistake that should never have happened. Thank goodness for forgiving sisterfriends…

In retrospect, I think that maybe my girlfiend and I were both in need of 7 miles of trees, mountains, birds, and rushing streams. We have been managing toxic levels of stress for too long, and a 3 mile walk wasn’t going to cut it. We needed the 21,000 steps and 2,000 feet of elevation to keep us going. AND the long, hot showers afterwards. AND the sunset dinner cruise on the lake that night.

Sometimes, a quick “flight” is enough to bring you back to yourself, so you can keep on going. What about you? Are you a fight, flight, or freeze person? What do you need to keep going this week?

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