I wish I could capture the amount of growth I have experienced over the past fourteen months.
This growth has come in surprising, subtle, and incremental shifts, and I hardly recognize the person I was just a year and half ago – a person who could not imagine flying to a large city alone; a person who was terrified of anything that took her away from her family and everyday life; a person who would see opportunities as something to fear, not adventures to be had. For so long, I kept myself from growing into my true potential. I held myself back.
I am learning that with each new adventure, comes growth. And sometimes, adventure shows up disguised in the form of something simple.
As part of the Touched by a Horse certification program, we attend multi-day intensives called COREs. On schedule, I registered for my 2017 COREs in the fall of 2016. As can happen, life shifts, and plans change. Unexpectedly, I needed to rearrange my CORE schedule after accepting a full-time teaching job, and suddenly, I was looking at somewhat last-minute trip to the Calgary area. Faced with expensive flight costs, I decided to drive, assuming that I could find someone to join me. Instead, as the days passed and no one could commit to the time away, I began to consider the possibility of making the trip – 2,600 miles in all – by myself. Solo. Alone.
As a high introvert, I require a lot of quiet, solitary time to process and recharge. As the keeper of my own busy life, I carve out whatever time I can, but it is often in small amounts. As women in our culture, we are not taught self-care. Instead, we sometimes silently praise one another for being martyrs – for putting the needs of others before our own, be it our spouses, our children, our jobs, or our crazy schedules. Too often we compare the chaos of our commitments, thinking that the more we have to do, the better we measure up. This trip would allow me four days alone – four days to spend in the car, by myself, however I chose: to think, to create, to be. This time became a way to care for myself. And you know what? I felt excited – almost giddy – for the opportunity. Suddenly, this simple road trip felt radical. Radically simple self-care.
My familiar companion fear stopped by for a visit as I prepared for my trip. As it turns out, when given free reign, fear and worry are not a sound form of preparation. Fear showed up in other people’s worries that it was a bad idea for me to travel that far alone. So much could go wrong. Fear showed up in imagined flat tires along the Trans-Canada highway (or perhaps even worse: in rural North Dakota). Fear showed up as questions about what to do if I had trouble crossing the border. Fear showed up in the form of the many things we as women are taught we are vulnerable to if we travel alone. What if my phone didn’t work? What if I ran out of gas? Should I buy pepper spray? Vulnerability.
In those moments, I did what I was unable to do a year and a half ago: I paused, took a deep breath, and checked into my own knowing. All was well. I remembered: My dad taught me long ago how to change a tire; I have paper maps should my phone not work (We survived a long time without our devices, after all.); I reminded myself of my trust in the overall goodness of humanity. Should anything go awry, I’m very capable of sorting it out. Trust.
When asked why my trip was so amazing, the answer I found is rather simple: In the face of fear, I stepped outside of my comfort zone and went on the trip anyway. The real lesson was in taking the step to begin with – to feel into my fear, check in with myself, and move forward. Stepping out of my comfort zone always leads to adventure, and adventure leads to growth. Taking this solo road trip is one of the most self-empowering things I’ve done to both challenge and care for myself. Radically simple.
In what radically simple ways will you care for yourself today?
By the Numbers: Road Trip Statistics
Road Trip Insights
As I set out on my trip, a friend wisely suggested, “Take backroads whenever possible.” Truth. I’m sorry to say I did not heed her advice on my trip west. As it turns out, the Trans Canada Highway must be built through the most desolate parts of the country. (Sorry, southern Saskatchewan.) I decided to drive a different route on the way home, which prevented me from banging my head on the steering wheel out of boredom.
That being said, it was a great opportunity to practice what I preach to my kiddos: look for something positive.
The tiny sunflowers that grow on the roadsides of rural North Dakota and Canada are not just a beautiful bright spot. They’re to be admired for their resilience. They are beauty growing up through the asphalt, shining their pretty faces toward the light.
Until I made this drive, I did not fully realize how prevalent trains are in the Plains. They are e v e r y w h e r e. I began to look for the familiar Canadian Pacific railcars just so I could check out the graffiti as they passed by. Graffiti, after all, is (unsolicited) art, someone’s creative expression. I began to look forward to seeing what the next train had to offer, to see what message might be hidden in the graffiti.
The major highways such as the Trans-Canada Highway are a by-product of our fast-paced, gotta-get-there-fast world. How much do we miss when we forget to pause in the moment to appreciate what’s right in front of us – like the resilience of sunflowers and creative expression within graffiti?