I just keep putting one foot in front of the other…

I have a blog! It feels a little weird to be honest, but I finally caved to the peer pressure from my twitter buddies @Gingerheaddad, @ShawnDPhelps and @theekarenesq

One of the things I discussed with Shawn Phelps when she and I met in person were the reasons why I should blog and what I would blog about. I gave her an example of one of the stories I wanted to share and she told me that it should be my first blog post. So here we are –  jump on board, I hope you find it an interesting ride.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a historian (yup, I was an itty bitty dork). I have a BA and MA in History and maybe one day I’ll do a PhD. Or maybe not. I mention this because one of the things you’ll likely pick up on from this blog is my interest in and need to connect with the past. This is true in a personal sense as much as an academic one. I periodically find myself reviewing memories of powerful events that occurred in my past. I remember how I felt, the insights (if any) I derived from the experience at the time and whether those insights have evolved since then. One of the reasons the idea of a blog was appealing to me is that it’s a way for me to record these memories, share with others what they meant to me at the time and what they mean to me now and find out if this touches a chord in anyone else. So, I’m interested to see how this experiment pans out… and please let me know what you think?

The first memory I’d like to share with you is from September 2002, one year after 9/11. I was travelling solo in the Southwest United States, meeting people along the way. Part of the trip was spent camping and hiking in Southern Utah with a small group of women, predominantly in Zion National Park. One of the day hikes we did was in the Narrows – a canyon cut through the rock by the Virgin River. The trail itself IS in fact the river so we spent an entire day hiking (bearing in mind I’m 5 ft tall) in mostly crotch-depth water (sometimes waist deep).

These women were all taller than me

The trail is susceptible to flash flooding if it rains but the weather forecast was good and we didn’t run into any problems. We wore sticky, grippy water shoes and had walking sticks that were longer than I am tall.

Like I said, itty bitty dork...

The water was cold and the going was slow as the river bottom was rocky and slippy and we couldn’t actually see our feet. At the time I described it as “similar to skating on boulders, blind-folded”. We used our walking sticks to bump the bottom of the river in front of us in order to check for the best place to step next. The sticks were also useful for maintaining balance, especially on the parts of the trail where the water was deeper and faster moving (particularly vital for me given that I’m not the most co-ordinated person on the planet). Usually when you hike in a group there’s some chatting as you go, but not in this case – we spread out quite a bit as we each found our own pace. Everyone was always in shouting sight of each other but it felt like a very solitary hike. That was basically how we spent most of the day – bumping the river bottom and then taking a step; bump bump, step; bump bump, step.

When I tell people about this they often ask “why on earth would you do that hike?” It’s an understandable question given that it was wet, cold, there was a risk of flash flooding, there were no stunning vistas to see or peaks to surmount, and it was a mostly solitary experience. In all honesty though, in terms of feel-good factor, it was probably the best hike I’ve ever done. It was like meditation – intense focus on one thing (I.Will.Not.Fall.Over!), no talking, in fact the only sounds were the water and my breathing. I got into a rhythm (bump bump, step) and slowly, steadily just kept putting one foot in front of the other, over and over and over again. Those times when I took a break I’d see the light hitting the canyon walls and the warm colours were a beautiful contrast to the cold water. I felt completely blissful after that hike; it was a peaceful and transformative experience.

The light was beautiful and the canyon itself was pretty majestic.

 

It’s a memory that I find popping into my head quite frequently of late, especially when people comment on how hard my life must be. I’m a single parent, I have no family here in Canada, I am the mother of 5 year-old twin boys who are both on the autism spectrum and I have to work hard – both to make ends meet and ensure my children’s considerable needs are taken care of. Just like that hike it can be tough going, it sometimes feels cold and solitary and most of the time I can’t see where the heck I’m stepping next. So yes, my life is a challenge. But also like that hike, it’s rewarding in a way I have never experienced before.

When people ask how I do it I say that there’s nothing complicated about what keeps me going and its a philosophy everyone is familiar with. It’s simple, powerful and often very hard to do. You hear it when Scarlett O’Hara says that tomorrow is another day at the end of “Gone With the Wind” and when Dory in “Finding Nemo” tells Marlin to “just keep swimming”. Sometimes I have wonderful days when I find my rhythm and I feel like I can go on forever. Other days my major achievement is getting out of bed. On those days I put my head down and single-mindedly focus on just putting one foot in front of the other, over and over again. Bump bump, step; bump bump, step. And eventually I catch a break and get to enjoy some sunshine.

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17 Comments on “I just keep putting one foot in front of the other…”

  1. Gingerheaddad May 25, 2011 at 7:49 pm #

    Congratulations on your first post. Like that hike, your life proves you are a determined survivor. I am so pleased you are going to document your memories and so pleased to be part of the ‘ad hoc’ committee that pressed blogging on you. I can’t wait for your next memory.

    • OMum22 May 25, 2011 at 8:09 pm #

      Thanks Jim! I’m so glad you’re my first commenter.

    • Rhiannon Fieri May 25, 2011 at 9:20 pm #

      What he said…except for the bit about taking partial credit for the placement of this next step of yours. 😉

      • OMum22 May 25, 2011 at 9:29 pm #

        You know he always does that… 😉 Thanks Rhiannon (I went to Uni in Wales, love your name, don’t think I’ve mentioned that to you before).

  2. Handflapper May 25, 2011 at 8:21 pm #

    Lovely first post! Scarlett is one of my heroines–“I just won’t think about that now. I’ll think about it tomorrow, when I can stand it better.” Your kids are lucky to have such a determined mom.

    • OMum22 May 25, 2011 at 8:33 pm #

      Thanks so much! And your comment reminded me to subscribe to your blog because it’s hi-larious 😀

  3. solodialogue May 25, 2011 at 11:56 pm #

    Just as I suspected, amazing post! There is so much beauty in that riverbed. No wonder you wanted to use those photos! What a fabulous analogy. You are on your way! Hitting it out of the ballpark on your first swing. Beautiful!

    • OMum22 May 26, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

      Thanks Karen, I’m so glad you liked it. Your blog is quite the inspiration. 🙂

  4. danidawn May 26, 2011 at 12:16 am #

    Amazing!!! You are one strong woman.. I was a bit of a history geek as well. I spent the first 11 years of my life visiting every historical site in Germany & surounding areas in the late 70’s (my dad was a huge WWII buff). My father was an Army Intelligence Officer; so I got to see stuff most kids just read about. Gave me an interesting perspective on history & what really went on durring that time.
    I understand what you are talking about..
    Good for you & I will be coming back to read more…

    • OMum22 May 26, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

      Wow! That’s such a kind comment, especially coming from you 🙂 Good to hear about your history geekiness, I’m planning on a post which will touch on the first world war, a personal connection, an experience in Austria and some tangential thoughts. (Hope that doesn’t put you off). I’m new to the blogosphere so I’m looking forward to you folks showing me the way around.

  5. ShawnDPhelps May 26, 2011 at 12:38 am #

    Beautiful post, Deanne. “Just keep swimming.” I love it! That’s what I do too. 🙂 And stopping, whenever possible, to be in the beauty that always exists in the space and silence of the moment, like on your hike. You described it so perfectly. I can’t wait to read your future posts!

    • OMum22 May 26, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

      I’m so glad you liked it Shawn. Look what happens when we have tea – we should probably do that again soon? 🙂

  6. jillsmo May 26, 2011 at 11:55 pm #

    How is it possible that I wasn’t also peer pressuring you?

    Congrats on your new blog!! 🙂

    • OMum22 May 30, 2011 at 5:18 pm #

      Heh – too much of a twitter social butterfly methinks 😉

      Thanks for the congrats and for taking the time to comment *high five*

  7. Jenny May 29, 2011 at 3:56 pm #

    This is wonderful! As I was reading I thought, “Hey, that’s like living w/autism!” and then you said, “Hey, it’s like autism.” I am going to share this.

    • OMum22 May 30, 2011 at 5:19 pm #

      Thanks so much for sharing it Jenny. You saw where I was going with this – great minds think alike, or something.

  8. CmarieGo May 30, 2011 at 10:05 pm #

    Congratulations Deanne on a beautiful post! I was inspired AND learned so much about you. Like you I love history and study it though not as formally as you have. My Dad is the historian extraordinaire, especially the Civil War and WW II. He has had such an influence on my life because of his appreciation for where we have come from and the sacrifices made by others before us. I also love the phrase “Just keep swimming” and had to laugh because Aaron FREAKS out when he see Finding Nemo and won’t watch it because of the scary fish at the beginning! I’m glad that we have connected on Twitter. Maybe one day I can start my own blog as you have just done!

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