Photo credit flickr/Andy Porter
I read Cheryl Strayed’s book “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” a few months ago, and I just watched the movie. And I imagine I felt similarly to many other deskbound people who had the urge to put their jobs on hiatus and shop at REI, because those are the two easiest, fun parts. But when I watch it, or hear anyone talk of feats ranging from the PCT or Appalachian Trail, or even just a 5k or a demanding career, I get a little bitter.
I’m bitter because, like Strayed, I have demons. This isn't really a spoiler, but be alerted nonetheless: Cheryl Strayed develops severe issues with drug use and adultery in her 20s after the traumatic death of her mother, then tries to heal through taking a grueling, extensive trek by herself.
I had the urge to put my job on hiatus and shop at REI, because those are the two easiest, fun parts.
My demons involve chronic illness with a smattering of OCD. And this demonology demonstrably benefits from being whipped back into submission with fast, hard running or other vigorous exercise every single day. It really, really benefits. At first.
But if I run 3 miles one day, two days later I will be flu-level wiped out for a week or more. Which my angsty brain slurps up as an indication that I’m weak in character or body or both, and that I can’t do anything with my life. And then I can barely even slither my way to work, let alone run a race, and why did I kid myself into feeling free as the wind when where I really belong is with Netflix?
It’s not like Shelby in "Steel Magnolias" or anything, but my limits are more than eager to present themselves whenever I get a little excited about doing something physically impressive. Like "American Ninja Warrior," or even pruning the bushes in my yard on a bad week.
Cheryl Strayed’s slow march was not easy, physically or emotionally. But she got to plan, save money and set off without concern for her lupus or rheumatoid arthritis acting up. She didn't have to bring dozens of those chemical cold packs for her biweekly biologic injectables. And she didn't have to get COBRA coverage in case she needed emergency cobra-bite treatment (maybe she should've done that regardless of health status).
I’ve never been one for patience or moderation. But I also haven’t given up yet, despite the vast amounts of medical tests, surgeries, doctor's appointments and statements of benefit that come with IBD. And I'm still hopeful that each new day, month, year might leave me feeling better. So I guess I’m reluctantly training for patience by default (in lieu of a 5k). And in the meantime, there are plenty of ways to be mildly wild, like using designer luxury toilet paper, sleeping in ridiculously late on the weekends, or installing an enormous TV in your bathroom.