How an invitation was the wind I needed
Two years ago I joined the Outdoor Writers' Association of America (OWWA). You could argue that I mostly did it because being a member gets me pro discounts on a lot of cool outdoor goods (true but not the main motivation).
You could also argue -accurately- that the events of the past several years as pertains to my relative badassery in the adventure travel world had drained some blood from my body of work. I haven't been able to do much, and what I have done lately pales by comparison to how I began a decade ago.
Those of you who have followed me over from Medium and who have been watching this space are well aware of what I've been through. What I've chosen to put myself through, rather. I'm not sure I realized it at the time, but marching straight into the buzz saw of surgeries, along with all the side effects which seem to have gone on for bloody forever, took a great deal out of me.
It's been a minute since I've felt strong. Able. Competent.
Recently I saw the effects of all this on a series of chapters I was writing for my third book, made up of stories from my adventure travel. A trusted friend read them and made some caustic comments about the amount of lookitme and chest pounding.
That hurt. It was true.
I pounded my chest so hard I went down two cup sizes.
I re-read my stories through wiser eyes and heard someone struggling with loss, in grief over the loss of an identity and body agency, and desperately trying to state that I still matter. That I really did do all that.
Of course I did. As to whether it makes sense to do all that again, that's another issue. Some of that, maybe. What troubled me more was the needy tone, the pain I was hearing in my words.
We really do leak our truth. The louder we try to disprove a notion, the more we prove it. From the standpoint of being a writer, such experiences are priceless, for the insight that it gives me on people's lives, how we age, how such losses cost, and whether or not a comeback is even available. They are, albeit perhaps not the ones in movies.
Ours likely look very different. I'm living one right now.
As I've slowly begun to heal, as being able to walk again was less of a miracle and now is part of my workout plan, I've been wondering where the next adventure lies.
I miss the international exploration. I'll still travel and I'll still explore, and I'll still do some sports, as long as I can fund those things.
But as I've made stumbling strides towards that rather wobbly future, I've been challenged in a way I didn't anticipate.
Let me explain.
OWWA is a community that embraces all aspects of hunting, which doesn't appeal to me. However. It's much broader than just that, and it's also struggling to be more inclusive, with precisely the kind of Old White Male resistance we see in the corporate world. Young, smart, female, transgender, Black, Brown, Asian, disabled and other marginalized communities show up and make a splash.
I want to help that community be more inclusive. That industry isn't addressing ageism yet. It's rampant in that world. I want to help change that.
I'm on their diversity committee, but so far that's all I've done. There was a conference this year, and I chose not to go.
I've been afraid.
Isn't that interesting.
Here's a chick who thinks nothing of kissing a cheetah, paragliding off a cliff in Thailand, hurling herself off cliffs, bridges and out of airplanes, and I'm afraid?
At some level, I felt like a righteous poseur and a nobody.
I had started Walkabout with a dream and that dream had tanked. The business had tanked. My body had tanked. Parts of the house tanked.
Everything around me had tanked so badly that I grew fins.
I'm not sure I really understood how deeply I'd been feeling all these things until just recently.
A short while back the friend who sponsored me into OWAA sent me an offer to be part of a press junket going to a conference in Tucson. I blew it off.
The whole thing is free, the press gets to do all kinds of fun things like ride bikes and horses and hike and and and, a great deal of that which is within reach even with my recovery still underway.
It's a soft adventure.
Why did I say no?
No excuse, except that I had lost my nerve to push myself outside. It's been a while since I stood on a cliff and leapt off it, even figuratively.
I dug into that resistance, then dug out of it. Ohfercryingoutloud.
What an opportunity to get back into it. No it's not Mongolia. But it is a gentle return to what I love, and a lot more, too.
In a hurry to secure the last spot I said yes, and was accepted.
Sometimes we forget how to push ourselves outside into the wind.
Sometimes we forget who we are.
Fellow travel writer and essayist Kristi Keller wrote this recently, after a very rough time during which she lost her only child, a son, lost her job, shattered her knee, and a few other challenges thrown in for good measure:
She used to be able to figure out the true meaning of life just by observing the setting sun. She went out of her way to find that meaning and she exhaled many times during her search.
Old Kristi successfully found beauty in every situation, even in the cluttered life she didn’t wish to be part of. She had a knack for finding magic everywhere she looked.
Current Kristi says she doesn’t have time to look for it anymore because she’s busy trying to keep her head above water.
Perhaps the most important aspect of old Kristi is that she didn’t just appear to be living this way. She actually did live this way. Her hair was always carelessly blowing in the breeze and her feet were always dangling over the edge of beauty. (author bolded)
If you ever wonder why I am so driven to write, it's because I am so aware of how just the right words at just the right moment can be just the impetus, the perspective you so badly need. Hers were a boon for me.
I really missed that wind. The wild ones, not the kind that you allow in for just a moment and then roll the car window back up, shivering.
The kind that you soar upon. It's not just about adventure. It's about taking a risk that scares you. Really scares you. Those are the ones that matter.
OWWA opened the door.
I walked outside into the wind. It's where I love to be, it's where I belong.
These winds are nothing like the blasts that nearly blew me to China on a high pass in Mongolia four years ago. Does that matter?
Those parts of me which pitched that tent in dangerous winds are still inside me. Those parts of me which rode that swift stallion in Egypt are still inside me. All those parts which had done all those things are still inside me.
The courage to say yes when every other part of me is screaming NO.
We just need to dip a spoon into the quietly bubbling parts of us which can offer something relevant to right now. Not be that person again.
To draw from what gave us the guts we need now in order to be the next person.
Those parts of us never went away. They're waiting, so that we can take off again in a new direction.
That secret that I promised in the title?
Just say yes.
After that, you just grow wings.
Dear Walkabout Saga Reader:
Thank you so much for taking a few minutes out of your life to read my work. WalkaboutSaga is an act of love and devotion, and I hope that you found value in it.
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Such articles take time, resources, research and effort. Even a small amount of support truly helps me keep this going. In challenging times, I recognize that even a small amount is hard. Those who can give, I appreciate it. Those who cannot, I hope my words are helpful.
My purpose is to Move People's Lives. I can do more of that with your help.
However you decide to partake of my writing, again, thank you.