Do I Want to Be Cheryl Strayed or Her Mother?

It’s not that Cheryl Strayed hiked 1,100 miles, a trip chronicled in her book, Wild: Lost and Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.  It’s that she did it alone. She chose to be alone.  No cell phone. No hiking partner. No thin string connecting her to rescue. What I admire is not the hike because I think many of us could do the hike.  I admire that she wasn’t afraid to be afraid.

In a scene that will stick with me for a long time, she stops to take her boots off and rest her really messed up, blistered, damaged feet.  One of her boots falls off the side of the mountain into a forest of trees below.  Her decision to then throw the other boot off the side and make her way in duct-taped flip-flops pretty much tells her whole story. That’s her deal – to just keep going. My deal would be to look for a guy.

Decades of feminism that started with the unpleasantness of unshaven armpits and legs in the 70’s and now manifests in history lessons for younger colleagues haven’t gotten me to the point where I could be alone on the trail in the mountains with no boots and just keep going.  I want to be that person.  I want to not be afraid of being afraid.  Instead, I’ve got my little internal crone of a reflex to look around for a male face every time the motor stops running, the tire goes flat, or I am emotionally out of gas and witless.  It’s not clear to me how to change a reflex that sprouted when I was wearing anklets and saddle shoes and dresses with sashes that tied in a bow in the back. If the picture on the TV went fuzzy, it wasn’t my mother who climbed up on the roof to adjust the antenna.  Is there a reprogramming camp where I could go for a week and emerge with Cheryl Strayed’s balls?

If I can’t be Cheryl Strayed, maybe I could be her mother.  Well, not her mother, but beloved and revered like her mother.  And forgiven. Her mother wasn’t perfect and their relationship wasn’t perfect.  But it was unconditional. Strayed doesn’t seem to carry around a long cash register receipt of complaints and missteps, miscommunication and bungled opportunities.  She chose to consider those things just context for the unconditional love she had for her mother and her mother for her.  Their connection superseded all the wrongs that might have happened between them like progress on the hike superseded the loss of the boots.  It’s another version of not being afraid to be afraid, if you think about it.  It’s another form of magic for mothers and daughters to get to that place in their relationship.  A reprogramming camp for that would have lines winding around the globe. 

Ah, so much to think about, so little time.  Maybe I should take a long hike.

7 Comments on “Do I Want to Be Cheryl Strayed or Her Mother?

  1. It isn’t that a person isn’t afraid, or that they aren’t afraid to be afraid, it’s that they are able to move forward in spite of that fear. Personally I didn’t like the Wild book. But since I live quite near the Pacific Crest Trail, and for many years lived off grid, I understand that fear. It’s a completely different kind of fear when what you face is nature and your own limitations than say, when your car breaks down. I have had to melt snow on a wood stove for hot water, face bears, cougars, falling trees, floods, and huge snowpacks. Not to mention the frosty outhouse seat, which may just be the worst. Some of that I did alone and it was much more terrifying by myself than when my husband came along. Not necessarily because he was male, but simply because it meant companionship. Back up. I know I can survive living like that. I know what to do. But at night when the cougar is screaming outside and it’s pitch black because there are no streetlights or electrical glows, and to get light you have to fumble around for a flashlight or light the kerosene lantern – it’s much, much easier to face all that if there’s a pair of hairy legs under the blankets nearby. Does that make me less of an independent woman? I don’t think so. Well, I hope not.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “Perhaps by now I’d come far enough that I had the guts to be afraid.” – Cheryl Strayed
    Is my “A HA!” moment of the book. I agree with you, it was the miles she conquered, it was the journey. I am still trying to roll around the thoughts in my head about this book. It has many meanigns for me.I love your perspective of the book. This leaves me with more thoughts to roll about my head while I run in the mornings 🙂

    Thanks for the pingback!

    Like

    • Hi there – Yes, Wild is really a book full of things that connect to women – well, probably all people but I see it from my own world. Your post was really on point because it really was all about the guts to be afraid and how one gets to that point. I’m 64 and still wondering. Somebody told me I need to go camping without a tent by myself. Ummm.

      Like

    • Hi there – Yes, Wild is a book full of things that connect to women – well, probably all people but I see it from my own world. Your post was on point because it really was all about the guts to be afraid and how one gets to that point. I’m 64 and still wondering. Somebody told me I need to go camping without a tent by myself. Ummm.

      Like

  3. Pingback: Wild about Fear « The Edmonton Tourist

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