As a young college student studying therapeutic recreation, many of my classes involved learning about psychology and the holistic health benefits of recreation. Classes were an exciting mixture of lecture and skills courses. One summer day, I distinctly remember sitting at the top of a mountain ridge, with my classmates, overlooking the valley below. I noticed dozens of boulders, that were bigger than cars, had fallen into the valley. In some places the rocky earth jutted out sharply making the valley seem treacherous. As I gazed down into that valley, I thought to myself, "I would hate to find myself down there." It seemed like an excellent place to break a bone, get lost or worse. I reflected on how thankful I was to have a safe, reliable trail to climb on our way up; but then a powerful thought occurred to me. I realized that I have, in fact, been down in that allegorical valley.
I laid back and closed my eyes, letting myself ponder about every time I had been in that valley. I willingly opened the door that many years of confusion and pain were locked behind. I confronted it, acknowledged it, and felt its sting on my heart. In that moment, I visualized my pain becoming a valley and I freed myself. I acknowledged my current self laying peacefully, happily, on a sunny mountain top while willing the negativity to resurface only for a moment, to then be cast into that valley. The afflictions of the past were not welcome on my mountain top, but I respected the pain for what it was--a motivator. Living in the valley of darkness and pain was more difficult to bear than the climb itself. When I opened my eyes, I once again looked down into the rocky valley below. This time I noticed streams and wildlife trails; even small trees growing between the boulders. Wild flowers poked their colorful petals through the cracks in the arid soil. The beauty of the valley revealed itself to me in a way I will never forget. I was overcome with gratitude and perseverance. I was overcome with the knowledge that I was made for the climb. None of us want to stay in our deep, scary valleys. We want to bathe in the sunshine on a mountain peak. We want to live high up, comfortable, closer to more noticeable and easily accessible beauty. But those majestic mountains would not exist without valleys. You see, valleys provide us a way back up. Valleys provide the boulders of life a resting place, and every boulder we climb is another step up the mountain. Without pain, we would not know joy. Without mountains, we could not look into our figurative valleys and see the beauty in our pain.
Finding yourself in the wild is an astonishing reality that many have discovered. I encourage all women, especially mothers, to make time to find yourself, look at your pain square in the eyes; and overall, let the beauty of the Earth nestle into a little space within your heart. It is imperative to acknowledge the astounding treasure that our valleys hold for us. What a gift it was to will myself out of the valley and onto that mountain peak. As I have grown, I continue to fail, but the wilderness never fails me.