I strapped my shelter, food, water, and clothes to my back because I wanted to try something new. I went camping because a friend asked. I backpacked through Scotland for three days of forecasted storms because time expires and water dries.
I knew it would be tough. I’d never camped before. I tend to not like bugs. I knew my bag was heavy and the hours ahead long. I knew the forecast, I knew I’d shiver, I knew I’d be caked in my own B.O. I’d been given fare warning.
The thing is, though, that as prepared as we like to pretend we are, sometimes we just aren’t. We just can’t be. You see, I think backpacking is like childbirth. I know I don’t have a kid, but I’m pretty sure that’s what it’s like. You just don’t know what you are getting into until you do.
No amount advice and stretching prepares you for the pain. Every push hurts more than the last, but you have to take one more step. When you’re deep into the woods, there’s no aborting. Sometimes the emotions and pain of pregnancy swarm together into a blur of pure awfulness. You question why the hell you thought you could do it in the first place.
And then, suddenly, you’re crying, but not because it hurts. You’re blubbering because it’s more beautiful than you’ve imagined. You feel a kick for the first time and you realize it’s your DNA alive inside your tummy. You realize this thing is your child. You look out over the water, on top of the mountain you just climbed, and you know God is real.
But the feeling passes when your water breaks and suddenly you are in labor. It’s when you’re in the middle of nowhere and you’ve just pulled off ten ticks from your legs. You had to climb a mountain to dig a hole, praying nobody stumbles upon the treasure you buried. It’s right after you and your friend’s discussion turned fiery because you’re both drained. Your traps scream and you have the biggest blisters you’ve ever seen between your two big toes. It’s everything all at once and there’s no escape at this point. You want it to end. But doc says: ‘Keep pushing’.
Then the doctor brings the baby into your arms. She’s slimy and bloody and definitely probably an alien. But she’s the most beautiful alien of them all. And it’s because your vagina ripped open for her. It’s because you carried the weight with your own body.
Beauty does not exist without pain. It’s easy to forget though. As soon as the pain subsides, we’re all of the sudden ready to do it again. But it’s every bit as awful as before. We tend to choose to not remember.
If I learned anything from three days in the woods, it’s that my body is stronger than I let myself believe. It’s that the real battle is all mental. This world bends towards chaos. When the midges come swarming as we set up camp, I have a choice. I can pout, wipe sloppy tears onto my already dirty sleeve.
Or I can laugh. I can smile and see how beautifully ridiculous it is. I’m dirty. I’m in the woods. I’m tired and just want my tent pitched. And it’s the first and only time it will rain these three days. Why wait a year for it to be funny? It’s absolutely hysterical and I want to laugh now.
Some things are simply out of our control. The woods taught me that. And I’m re-learning that now, sitting in my bed with a clogged ear and broken cough. We can wash our hands all we want, this world still gets us dirty. But I think that’s how it should be. Because there’s something extraordinary about a hot shower when your body aches and you’re shaking dirt from your head.