A few mornings ago I decided to go on a hike up the mountain near our place. As I began trekking up the path I came upon a young man all geared up in what looked like the poster child of a true hiker: expensive boots, nice backpack, walking sticks for climbing the Himalayas, and a great windbreaker. He was standing on the middle of the trail in deep thought staring at the tracks on the dirt. I said, “Good morning.” Took off my headphones when his lips started moving.
“Are these bear tracks here?” He asked with great concern pointing to the soil.
“Yes, they are! You do know you are on Bearwallow Mountain?”
“Are you going up?” He asks with hesitation.
I answered, “That’s my intention!”
“But what about the bears?”
I say casually, “They don’t bother anyone. I’ve been hiking this mountain for several years and have never come across any on the hike. I have friends who have but they are more scared of people than you can imagine. I’ve seen them down on the road while driving.”
“Oh….I don’t know,” He adds while taking off his cap and scratching his head. I saw the fear and anxiety spew out of his pores. He was definitely out of his comfort zone.
I passed him with a smile and said, “Good luck then. Believe me, if you are meant to see a bear you will see one!!!”
As I continued my trek I kept thinking of him and how well he dressed the hiking element. He looked the part. He was ready to climb, explore and experience freedom. I sat on the summit admiring the 360 degrees of mountain ranges with joy on a clear-cool-autumn day. A while later I saw him below reaching the entrance of the path with a map, sunglasses and a complete disorientation that would make a drunken man seem sober. I giggled, not at him, but at how we are in our humanness. We are lost in the illusions of what we expect. He was so confined to the presumption of what would be up on the mountain that he missed the opportunity of enjoying the journey. And, it is a gorgeous trail.
We play our parts well. Sometimes not so much! Here was this man dressed up to hike on a mountain alone. I can assume this was huge for him to be in a different part of the Appalachians and conquer this moment, which is exciting, nerve-wrecking, and an exploration to something in his spirit. Hiking is a rush, a form of meditation, and a way to join with the dance of nature. I am reminded that I have been him a million times before. I have played the part to a specific drama, said the right lines, worn the perfect outfit, to later find that I wasn’t being authentic to my spirit. I was just acting out what society expected. We tend to wear costumes for the places we expect to conquer. We put the uniform that best suits our purpose and move through the motions of leaving the comfort zone. But, all along the comfort zone is still secretly holding us from venturing outside of our minds. We live on fear and the claws of uncertainty.
I have very few fears. They are not snakes or bears. They are tiny lizards that when crossing my path on a hike I get off the trail running hysterically. Seriously, a lizard, gecko, salamander or whatever looks like one will push me over the edge. I have tried to get to the bottom of this phobia and it seems it’s paralyzing. I am not afraid of spiders, or anything that can actually kill me. I am afraid of a reptile that logically is more frighten of me. How do I go hiking? How do I garden? How do I enjoy nature? Well, I try not to think about it. There is no such thing as lizard tracks…so I must go on through the trails praying I don’t come across one. I don’t dress the part. I know my fear. I don’t pretend to be a hiker. I am a hiker. I sat up on the boulder watching this young guy hoping he found solace and congratulated himself for conquering the mountain…and not coming across a bear. I sent him love from up there, soul-to-soul, padding his back with a “job-well-done affirmation.”
Fear is a costume we choose to wear. I am consciously aware of this. And, unfortunately we attract those things we fear (because I find lizards in places that shouldn’t have them). I know the way fear feels when it’s close to the surface. We dress our parts with pretenses, avoiding the underlining issue for the trauma, circumstances, and/or event. This encounter made me very aware of my own fear of lizards and how much it presents itself when I am doing what I love. Kudos to the ones who surpass the anxiety and find their truth. It is beautiful. If you can undress the nuisance, find the rawness of being vulnerable with yourself, admit it to you and others, then you are far more advanced than many. I take my hat off to you! It’s not easy to show our helplessness. It’s not fun to show the humanness of vulnerability. But, it is our right to respect those fears in others. We all deserve at least that!