Into The Wilds
Into The Wilds
I recently finished reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed. It was made into a movie starring Reece Witherspoon, which I have not seen, a few years ago. The book is a fascinating tale of a woman in her twenties who decides to walk the Pacific Coast Trail from California to Portland, Oregon, alone, with no weapons and barely enough food or money to survive on. She felt compelled to walk the trail after the devastating loss of her mother and the resulting dissolution of herself and her marriage. It is not only the story of a physical challenge but a deep and spiritual journey of the inner self.
One of my first thoughts as I read was, I can’t imagine doing something like this! It was brutal. High heat, cold, no water at times, very little food, snow, rain, the trail disappearing, physical injuries, and a lot of the unknown. And though I greatly admire and applaud people who push past their comfort zones in such profound ways, I definitely wouldn’t want to do that kind of journey alone. But I caught that thought as it flew by, and wondered, well, why wouldn’t I do it alone? I wouldn’t feel safe, I answered. That led to the uncovering of a firmly set and unacknowledged fear.
So what is it exactly that am I afraid of? Not of being alone. I like being alone. And likely, I would prepare a little better for the trip than she did in her despair. As I reflected more, lightbulbs began going off. I am not afraid of what I might find in the wilderness. I am more afraid of who I might meet on the trail. I am more afraid of the people than the wilderness!
Wow. Now I am expressing my vulnerability here, and it’s tempting not to continue. But, continue I shall. I have always been one to face the things in me that want to hide and this book did a lovely job of spotlighting this one.
So, am I afraid of all people? Well. No. Not all people. Turns out, only men. Only men cause me to immediately put up my guard and stand back warily. I simply don’t trust them. I am very aware that most men are larger and/or stronger than me and that overpowering me physically would be quite easy. As for emotionally, experience has taught me to trust them even less. I often feel unsafe around them (and I push it down). Yet I have met a lot of individual men in my life who are my friends, men I care about and trust wholeheartedly. Still, as a group, I view the male gender with a deep sense of suspicion.
Egads, that’s a sad realization. Half the population on this planet creates wariness and distrust in me, distrust in the basic kindness and good will of human beings. In the book, during her three-month hike, Cheryl only had one encounter with a man who came at her with ill intentions. One. The rest were kind and helpful, not threatening at all. Yet, I would be reading along and thinking, oh no, don’t accept that ride, no, don’t go there, or oh my, I wouldn’t do that with him, be careful! anytime she encountered strange men of any age. All but one were non-threatening, and I still thought she was crazy to voluntarily walk into the situations she did. It has highlighted the underlying distrust I feel inside as I interact with men, and I can clearly see where it holds me back from exploring new experiences. She would have missed out on a lot of good things if she had acted like me.
At this point, I am only able to acknowledge and love the wounded female in me. Healing it seems extremely challenging, simply based on what we see happening daily in our world. I need to bring it in close to me and notice when I’m reacting like that. Just noticing is 90% of the battle says my spiritual teacher. Definitely is a work in progress for me and likely, for a great many women.
There’s a lot about Wild that fascinates me: Cheryl’s perseverance, her observations, her growth, the people she met, and the trail itself. I see myself reading it again to take in what I missed the first time, all while continuing to let it inspire my own growth.
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