I would love more than anything to be able to continue giving my talks. I feel as though it is a perfect merging of what I love to do, what the world needs, and what I am good at. It fills me with a great sense of purpose.
However, I could really use some help with finding other organizations that would benefit from hearing my presentation. If you have any suggestions or connections to places that might be willing to host me, I would be very grateful!
You can always send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
I would also love to add to my list of testimonials! If anyone would like to add theirs to my website, please e-mail me or list one below.
Finally, if anyone has any ideas for a second presentation I could offer, I would love to hear them! I am open to any suggestions on topics people would like me to speak about in the future.
Thank you all so much for your help!! I deeply appreciate it!
The first day of spring, March 20th, was my six year anniversary of starting my Appalachian Trail thru-hike. I normally don’t think of this day (or my AT hike) as a big deal. Lots of people hike that trail. And I rarely think of moments from that particular hike, as I have better backpacking memories from the trails I hiked after that one. But I started thinking about what I have done since that day that I took my first steps in Georgia… I have backpacked approximately 5,500 miles, began a serious yoga practice, became certified to teach yoga, have been teaching for the past three years, chose to leave a job I had spent a majority of my life unhappily in to pursue my inherent interests, created a successful presentation that I have delivered 40 times to date (to over 1,100) people, written over 600 pages on my experiences on the trails, and have started to explore my artistic side. I feel as though “most” of my life has happened in these last six years (in terms of me stepping into my own power and not living as others have expected me to). And yet, it feels like I have done so little in this time! For more than 2 of those years, I have been “unemployed” and living well below the poverty level. For much of this time, I have felt stagnant and have been struggling tremendously in many ways. I have suffered from numerous injuries, been continuously internally sick since my second month of my Pacific Crest Trail hike, and recently had to have knee surgery (as a result of listening to my yoga teacher instead of myself), ending my hopes of attempting to hike the Continental Divide Trail this year. Although I have experienced most of my best life moments in this period, I have experienced some of my hardest, as well (the thread of which seems to be continuous). Thinking about all that has happened (and all that has not happened) within this seemingly short period of six years makes me feel as though I am living in some sort of time warp! The Appalachian Trail feels like such a distant memory- like it happened a lifetime ago. How could I have done so much in this relatively short period of time and yet feel as though I have hardly done anything at all?
This past week has been emotionally very difficult. I haven’t been able to get the Continental Divide Trail out of my head, no matter how many times I tell myself it’s just not possible this year. I’m still experiencing the same kind of sharp pre-surgery pain in my inner knee. I felt it about 6 or 7 days after surgery and I still can’t do any kind of hip opener (which makes 25-30% of a yoga class off limits to me). (I also can’t yet put my knee on the floor or on my arm, which eliminates another 20% of postures, but those will become possible once the surgical injuries heal). The sharp inner knee pain occurs when I am simply sitting, sometimes standing, sometimes walking, and always when I try to bend and externally rotate my leg. This pain is worrisome. I told my surgeon about it during the 30 seconds I saw him 2 weeks after the surgery. He quickly dismissed it. “There were sharp instruments in there!”. Every time I go to my physical therapy appointment, we spend at least 10 of my 30 minutes going over my pain symptoms (the same thing every time!). On Tuesday, I asked him if that sharp pain was normal. “Ummmm… Ahhh.. Nnnooo”, he said looked down at my chart. I first saw him 2 weeks ago for my initial assessment. He pressed down on my quads while I tried to fight against his weight. Both of my legs are weak from not being able to walk or move much for the past four and a half months, but the surgery leg is particularly weak. It fell right down. He tested the side strength and the hamstring strength, as well as my adductors and ankles. It was clear I needed to do a lot of hip strengthening. He gave me four exercises to do at home and I saw him again the following week. “Should we test my strength again?” I asked. He said it takes 2 weeks to gain new strength. Fine…
It’s also clear my injured knee has no stability and no ability to track. It wobbles all over the place whenever I try to bend or straighten it the least bit.
And yet, it’s been really hard to get rid of the belief that I can gain enough strength in the next month to start the CDT. (The planning time is another issue…). Every time I see my PT, I ask him if it is possible (he defers me right back to asking my surgeon), and what would happen if I tried to do it this year. (He thinks I am putting myself in the position of needing a full joint replacement very early in my life if I put too much stress on my injured knee. I guess this is a good time to say that this is not a far-fetched possibility. My mother had a double knee replacement when she was 49 ). After the PT or surgeon tells me it’s not a good idea, I say, “Fine. Okay. I won’t try. It’s too late, anyway.” But when I return home or go for a short walk, I think, maybe I can still do it! They don’t know what it is like to thru-hike! Only I do! It’s the only thing I really want to do! Now is a good time- it’s a low snow year. Who knows what it will be like next year? I don’t want to wait a whole year and then likely have it delayed for another year or two after that. The one question that I get asked at EVERY one of my talks is “What’s next? What trail are you going to hike now?”. If that is the question that ALL of those people ask me, they must know that that is where I belong. I don’t want to spend another year stagnant, in the exact same place. I really want to go somewhere!
I feel very stalled in finding new places to give my talks at. In the last couple of weeks, I have contacted or re-contacted about 50 libraries and universities and got only one response. I feel as though I am failing and that I have to find another way to try to make a living very quickly. I wish I could leave everything behind and hike for another five months and figure that all out later. But on Friday, I officially let go of that idea. I know that the first 90 miles on the CDT aren’t even on a “trail”- that you have to find your own way through the New Mexico desert from point A to point B, and that uninjured people are feeling a lot of foot and leg pain from the uneven terrain. My spirit thinks I can do that, too, but the reality is that my body can’t perform in those conditions at this point. It’s time for me to create something new- to find a sustainable place in the regular world, where I can survive until I am able to hike again. It’s time to come up with another idea for a second presentation I can offer, figure out a way to get people to realize that my talk is not just for people interested in hiking, and time to write my story down.
I have been wanting to make these tree of life pendants for over a year now, and am very excited to have finally done so! More on the way soon!
(Monday, February 16)
It was -3 degrees in the morning, with a -30 degree wind chill- the coldest day in a decade! I had no desire to get out of bed and was glad I had chosen to have my surgery during the most brutal month of the year. I doubt many people would have come out to my talks on the 12th and 17th anyway. Reports of collapsing roofs took over the news. Most people had leaks in their homes. And it was being reported that it would take another month before public transportation would be restored.
My knee was still locked in a semi-bend and I felt like a prancing horse whenever I tried to gingerly walk on it. Before my surgery, I had asked for exercises to strengthen my quads. One of them was a wall sit. The nurse said I should do 10 reps of 30 seconds each, with a 15 second rest, 2 times a day! Given that I had only 6 days before surgery, that would mean I had time to do a total of one hour of wall sits! I actually ended up only doing it twice. I wondered how many people actually did those! I didn’t think the instructions were all that smart. They didn’t leave any resting time!
Since I was growing bored with sitting on the floor, tightening my quads 90 times and holding for 5 seconds each, I decided I would rather up the intensity and get my “exercise” over with faster. I decided to try a wall sit. I don’t know why I didn’t take my socks off first, but I managed to stay for 2 minutes before sliding down onto my bum and resting on the floor for a bit. I thought that was pretty good for not even a week after my surgery!
My intestines started to hurt in the afternoon and I did not feel up to doing any more of my exercises. I spent the remainder of the day on the couch.
By midnight, I saw a knee starting to appear, however! Signs of progress! I could see the kneecap bruising turning yellow.
My intestines never calmed down, however. At 2 and 3 in the morning, I was still awake in my bed, unable to sleep because of the pain. Just before 4, I got up out of my bed as quickly as I could and vomited. Ugh! Not again! Fortunately, I didn’t feel as weakened as when this happened in early January. I felt thankful for that! I returned to my bed and tried to rest. Two hours later, I vomited twice more. It was now 6am and I had not yet gone to sleep. I’ve been having a really rough go of it these last several months!!
(Sunday, Feb. 15)
It had snowed another couple of feet overnight. When I finally looked out my windows, I saw that no one had cleared a path in front of my door. How was my neighbor going to check on me? After I ate my breakfast, I put my boots and coat on, made my way down my steps for the first time, opened my front door, and saw this!
I decided I better grab my shovel and start getting to it, since no one else was! It hurt my back more than anything, since each shovelful had to be heaved over a 9-10 foot mountain of snow on either side! Eventually, my landlord showed up. “I thought you were bed-ridden!” he said. I felt like it would be good to get a bit of exercise and the fresh air felt nice. After I finished, I made some hot cocoa from scratch!
Joyce came by for a visit and sat with me for a bit. “Somebody shoveled out your door,” she said.
“I did!”. I had invited her and her husband to my housewarming party when I first moved in many, many years ago, but they didn’t come. In all these years, we said hi to one another when we saw each other out, but this was the first time we had spent any time together and got a chance to learn a little about one another. Joyce said that she could tell we were kindred spirits just from glancing around my apartment when she first stepped in. She brought my mail up and I opened a letter from the hospital. It was my pre-op instructions that the nurse forgot to give me! They were mailed the day AFTER my surgery!
When Joyce left, she said, “I like visiting you!”. I was thankful for her check-ins, but surprised and disappointed that no one else had come by.
My calf continued to hurt. My exercises were already starting to become boring. I started doing 30 reps at once instead of 10. Every day, I was supposed to do 90 of them!
Sleeping in my bed was better on my back and neck, but it was still tough not to be able to move my legs. My mood had sunken back down again. I felt very tired and couldn’t find a reason to get out of bed. I seemed to be settling into a pattern of feeling good (or bad) every other day. When I finally got up and tested my ability to bear weight on my surgery leg, I noticed that my calf hurt a lot! I probably strained it by trying to see what I could do on it when it was still too swollen. One of the indications for a blood clot is tenderness in the calf. I was supposed to keep an eye on that (as well as my body temperature) and call the hospital if I noticed anything. I was pretty sure the strain was caused by me, though.
I managed to do my physical therapy sets (I hate having to do them three times per day instead of all at once!), but spent most of the day sleeping. I did not feel good!