May turned out to be a very difficult month for me. Physically, I felt awful (suffering from nausea, migraines, and a depletion of energy) and in this time, I gave nine talks (the most ever in a month for me). I felt so nauseous before one of them (for a reason I couldn’t comprehend) that I wondered how I was going to get through it. Another talk took place in my hometown, where I lived from the ages of 3-11, and which turned out to be much more emotional than I expected. Fortunately, there were a lot of sweet moments interwoven through the tough times. I have received a lot of touching responses from my presentations. Some people have tears in their eyes, some ask for hugs (which I love), and some tell me what they most liked about it. Here are a few of my favorite moments from last month.
My last talk in May was hardly advertised. I noticed that it wasn’t listed on their website a few weeks beforehand, and I e-mailed the director to let her know. Since it was a good 2 hour drive each way, I wanted to make sure I would have an audience before heading out. It wasn’t until the day before that they posted it on their website! I arrived at this inner city library and asked the girl at the front desk where I should go. There were no posters or any indication that I would be giving my talk there and she had no idea anything was happening. She went to look in a binder and came back to say that there was only a story hour at 11. Finally, someone appeared that knew I was presenting. No chairs were set up in the room. I wanted to ask if they could put up a sign on the front door, letting people know this was happening, but I refrained. As I was putting some of my cards out on a table in front of a window, a teenager ran in and said, “Can I quickly look at these? I saw them from outside. I love flowers! I’m in the gardening club.” I said of course he could and told him where they were taken. I pointed to the screen that was paused on the map of the US showing the three long trails.
“Oh, I want to buy an RV and travel around the country,” he told me.
“You should come to my presentation!” I told him. He was the perfect audience for it.
“What time is it?” he asked.
“Oh, that’s perfect! I’ll be back then.”
I smiled at the librarian. I had just doubled the size of my audience all on my own.
Unfortunately, he did not come back for the presentation. However, I did see him on my way out. “I’m so sorry!” he said to me, one friend on each side of him. “My friend dragged me to another meeting where there were free donuts.”
I asked if he could go to the one in a neighboring town when I came back at the end of summer. “Yeah, that’s just a bus ride away.” He entered the date into his phone.
And then he gave me a hug. It was the best moment of that whole day for me.
In my hometown of Ashburnham, one woman turned back to look at me during the slideshow, put her hand over her heart, and mouthed the words, “thank you”. After the event ended, I was talking with a former faculty member at the private school in town about how it was so hard for me to get people to understand that this is a presentation about universal principles (something everyone can relate to) and that it’s not meant as a presentation for people who like hiking. He agreed, saying, “It’s not about hiking.” I said, “That’s the entry point.” Standing in the parking lot, he suggested that I could be a teacher. I shook my head and said I don’t think I would be good at that. His response was “You just taught a whole room full of people!”.
In Westfield, a young woman had to leave early, but came over to me to shake my hand and said, “You’re an inspiration.” And a very sweet young girl (who was brave enough to ask me two excellent questions from the back of a room full of people), wanted to shake my hand.
In Athol (where I was nearly not able to show my slides due to a malfunction of the projector), I met a couple who asked me to tell the audience what trail magic is. They later told me they asked that because five years ago, they happened to meet two young AT hikers in CT, and invited them back to their house to spend the night, gave them their keys, cooked them dinner, and took them out for breakfast the next morning. They still keep in touch with the young men. How incredible! After a long hug from the nice woman, she asked me to hold out my hand as she placed a little golden charm of a bee in it. She said, “I give these to people who have touched me. It’s for them to remember to ‘Be well and Be happy.” Her husband nodded and repeated, “Be well and Be happy.” I was so honored.
Another man told me that he was “blown away”, I received a standing ovation from another one, and one woman told me that the hike itself was an extremely brave thing to do, but talking about what I do is even braver. “It’s like you were stripped bare up there.” I took that as a huge compliment. But perhaps my most favorite story came at the end. A young woman in the audience came up to me last. She said she could relate to so much about what I said. At that time, she was preparing for her own southbound AT hike. At a flea market, where she was selling all of her possessions, she met someone who told her about my talk. Somehow, she was able to find a ride to the library. As she listened to me talk, she found herself in disbelief. She said she had been thinking a lot about the root chakra recently (something I mention in my talk) and had just gotten a tatoo on her forearm. It said, “I AM”. My eyes widened. A couple of weeks earlier, I had seen a simplified diagram of the chakras with only two words describing what each one stood for. The first was “I AM”. In the days following, I found myself repeating that simple phrase to myself on a couple of my walks to the beach as the first and foremost condition of being alive; of having worth. And here this young woman, about to start her own long hike, was showing me this phrase tatooed on her body after seemingly living through a lot of similar things that I had. She said she felt overwhelmed on her way out.
I also had a few nice moments in yoga. In two different classes, one of my teachers (probably the most physically gifted one), said, “Beautiful, Wendy!”. I couldn’t believe it. Me? (I remember one was a pointed foot lunge and one was transitioning into half moon with both hands on our waist). Also, my teacher David asked me if I could demo something to the class because I was the only one who knew what he was asking us to do. He came over and knelt down beside me. But before he had me demonstrate, he said to the packed room, “This is Wendy, everyone. She teaches yoga (she’s a yoga teacher), and an artist (at which point I laughed, because I definitely don’t consider myself one), an explorer (:) ), and a TED talker (she gives TED talks all over!), [someone at one of my talks said I should give one of those and he saw that posted on Facebook). She does all of those things! She’s amazing. You should talk to her afterwards. But right now, she’s just going to do a backbend”. A lot of times, my lower back hurts when I backbend (which is common), but he had prepared us well during class, and that day I had no pain at all! He wanted me to hinge at the hips in wheel and then push back up, and as I did so, it felt like I could keep expanding outward forever. I heard someone say, “That’s amazing.” And that is how it felt! Later, I thought about David’s words and was extremely touched that he has been paying attention to what I have been doing, and took the time to acknowledge it in front of everyone. It was a rare and special moment for me.
And lastly, on the Tuesday after Memorial Day, I saw the teacher who I took the yin yoga class with that one time in April. He remembered me a month later and asked how my groin tear was. I told him I couldn’t take his class that night because I had to go grocery shopping, but that I really liked him as a teacher. He said that he really enjoyed having me as a student (which might be the first time someone has said that!). He said he would see me again and I said definitely. That little interaction really lifted me up for awhile! It is amazing what someone’s full attention and kindness for a couple of minutes can do.
These are the memories that I want to hold on to.