On endings and beginnings. On fear of failure and success. On moving forward.
If you’ve ever read “the Long walk” by Stephen King, you’ll recognize the image I’m about to pull up.
When I was walking on the Appalachian trail a few summers ago, we got caught in a thunderstorm several miles before the shelter and stopping for the night. We had pack covers, and light rain gear, but frankly, we were soggy messes. We knew we had several more miles. The path was slick. The foliage was bright green and glowing in the rain and growing twilight. Skin chafed with the wetness. Wetness chafed with the wetness. Sweaty, dirty hair dripped in our faces. Stopping wouldn’t help. We were in the middle of the forest. The only thing we could do was keep heading north, and keep moving toward the shelter.
Sometimes on those long walks, the only thing you can concentrate on is putting one foot mechanically in front of the other. Running a 10K or a half marathon is similar. Pick a foot up, put a foot down. Hiking poles and pack can be swapped for running belt and sneakers. It doesn’t matter. Pick a foot up, put a foot down.
This is how I’ve been doing some of my writing lately. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think sometimes its’a necessary thing. I’m excited about my writing, and I’m excited to move on to the phases of submitting stories and sending queries.
What I’m terrified of is reaching the shelter, sleeping in the thunderstorm, and then having to put those wet boots on, moving sore muscles, choking down oatmeal mixed with protein powder, and shouldering that forty-pound pack. I’m not looking forward to using my headlamp to keep an eye on the black widow in the outhouse, or using hand sanitizer to wash my hands afterwards. I’m not looking forward to the blisters, the duck tape protecting the soft raw skin of my feet.
I’m a little giddily anticipating the bears, though. Because those surges of adrenaline, combined with the mileage at the end of the journey, combined with the camaraderie and laughter and stories of the people you’re traveling with. Those are the things that make you lay back in your soft bed in your dry house and think “I did it.”
Right now, I’m slogging through the rain. I’m going to be eating dinner out of a tin pan over a tiny stove, and hopefully the mosquitos won’t be too bad.
Someday, I’ll be able to say “I did it.”