Updated: Apr 6, 2020
"Say my name, Say my name." I sing with my best Beyonce head bob. LOL. I know you did too!
I was recently given a book writing prompt by the wonderfully talented, Tia Meredith. She's an amazing person and writer that has managed to help give me the push to write my book. We had a pretty deep writing session via ZOOM many moons ago when I was living in San Diego. That session opened my eyes to a life lesson that I thought I had shoved deep down inside. Needless to say, I didn't shove it down deep enough. One can never do that. It will always come back up until you can love, embrace, and hold it with gratitude. I'm still trying to do that.
My writing is bit of a secret. Although I have been writing since I was a little girl, it is very very rarely that I will let anyone read it. That's all changing now. Not only with writing on my blog again...but I am writing that damn book! My story is unique. It's nutty and at some points, absolutely insane. HAHA. I write some of the things down and even I can't believe that they are real. I am the one that has lived through them!
I was following along with some of the "book writing prompts of the day" that Tia posts on her Instagram account and found myself a bit surprised at how those prompts drew out of me something different. My writing took these prompts in a direction that was a bit unexpected. I wasn't writing about the true literal meaning of the prompts. They drew out deeper stories. That's why I love Tia.
THIS IS HOW I GOT MY NAME
She posted this prompt on March 24th and immediately my pen hit the paper. I like to write my drafts the old fashioned way. Pen to paper. I wasn't writing about how I was named Michelle. I don't really know that story, nor do I really care. I immediately started writing about my trail name. For those of you that are avid Backpackers and hikers, you will know and understand what a 'trail name' is. For those of you that don't, a trial name is a name given to you by fellow hikers, climbers, backpackers, friends, etc. You some what earn them. For example, I gave a friend the trail name "Slappy" because he would slap his own face in the mid afternoon to wake himself up. I have an old trail friend we called "Snickers" because that was all she would pack. Hahaha. Another trail siSTAR of mine, we call "Dash" because she hikes so damn fast. Get it now? I, personally, have been given quite a few trail names throughout my years on the trails. My husband calls me "Horse Trough" and "Feed Bag" because all I do is eat on the trail. LOL. Those 2 are more of a joke between us and not my official trail name. My first trail name given to me is "Michelle Mountain" and the most recent trail name given to me is "Warrior"...... Which brings me to why I started hiking.......
I started hiking to heal. Hitting the trails one foot in front of the other. That hard work, determination, and sheer strength of the body is what brings me back to those trails day after day. The connection that my feet have to the Earth, the way my heart pumps, the way the heat builds up inside my body, the feelings of accomplishment, the way my mind quiets and emotions level out, and those views! My God, those views! Those are the reasons why I do it. Put one foot in front of the other. I feel the energy flow within my body weaving together the fibers of my being. That energy sews over my wounds, trauma, and heartache.
As cliche as it sounds, so many of us hike to heal. There's something to let go of, or for me, MANY things to let go of. Sometimes pain can latch on so deep that we don't even realize it's there. It hurts too damn much so we just simply try to forget it, although, we never really do. It will manifest it's way into a random outburst of emotion. A burst of anger emerges and will consume me so uncontrollably. I sometimes feel like I am engulfed in flames. Sometimes random pain will show up in areas of the body or fear, depression, and anxiety begin to take over your life and you find yourself numbing EVERY emotion just to stop feeling the pain. Just to stop the bleeding.
I grew up in a suburb on the Northwest side of Chicago. There weren't any grand trail systems or even small trails at the time. It was all such new development and a lot of prairies. As the Midwest tended to be at that time. There weren't many scenic views or mountains to climb. I didn't have any family members that were into the outdoors or were much of adventurers. I didn't grow up with this strong connection to the trail or for nature at all. I never went camping with the family. I went a few times with some close high school friends so that we could drink and smoke weed together but that was pretty much it. It was not to immerse ourselves in nature. I didn't really know what hiking was until I moved to Colorado at the ripe old age of 17 or, what I really should say...when I RAN AWAY to Colorado. I was suffering from a broken heart, jumped into the arms of the first bad boy I saw, and ran the fuck away. (Thats' a whole other LONG story, stay tuned! LOL.) That adventure has a slew of trauma in and of itself but the gratitude in that, is that it brought me to the mountains and eventually the trail. I got my first taste of how hiking heals. I wanted to live it, taste it, breathe it. So, I started to study it. I took backpacking courses, expedition classes, rock climbing, biking, camping, white water rafting, snow boarding, surfing, kayaking, canoeing, orienteering, you name it! Anything to stay connected to the outdoors. After I moved back to that suburb, a year after I left, I took a series of classes at a large community college before transferring to ASU. It led me to 10 days in the Pecos Mountains of New Mexico and on a white water rafting trip trough the Royal Gorge, connected me to this big beautiful Earth, and to some very like minded people. A few with stories of their own. Some of us really needing to heal.
I was physically abused my entire childhood, had an abortion at the age of 16, rapped at the age of 18, sexually assaulted at the age of 21, a single mother by the age of 23, and have had several miscarriages. Believe me I know suffering. I have sat with darkness my whole life. I know heartache, sorrow, and pain. I know self loathing and shame all too well. I've starved myself, attempted suicide twice, and have numbed myself with enough booze to last a lifetime. I used sex as a drug and maybe even a few people too. I'm sorry. I know what it's like to be at the bottom. I know what it's like to have to claw my way to the top with so much blood, sweat, and tears, and yet hear I stand. One foot in front of the other. I started to find each piece that would eventually make me whole enough again. I started to discover tools that would help relieve that anger and would help release the pain. Meditation, Yoga, and the trails have helped me release a lot of that inner fire that burns inside of me. However, it is still there. It always will be. I will forever have to take responsibility for that. I may have the tools I need but I still sometimes fail. I still claw my way to the top. I still get emotional and have to pull myself out of the shadows. I am still human. I am not perfect. I'm always learning and growing.
To this very day I still use the trails to heal. My wounds and scars run very deep but it has become so much more than that now. Whether I'm hitting the trails to saunter, a strenuous climb, or for trail running, I now find myself on the trails to connect and ground with nature. To connect to what is real. The trees, the stars, the sky, rivers, mountains, oceans...that's what is REAL. The nature of this world and all of her beings. That is what is real. Everything else we have made up. Everything else we have created. We have brought into existence. I now find myself on the trails to get in touch with that reality and disconnect from the conditioning of the world. A social detoxing of sorts.
Now, as I am about to reach the age of 40 later this year, I can see life a bit differently. I have lived a large chunk of time now. A life filled with experiences, heartache, joy, sorrow, love, and pain. I now can look upon my own life like a witness. I can sit atop the mountain and watch down like a movie. All of that suffering, all of that pain was given to me so that I could be right here. In this moment. Right here where I am. A Mother, Wife, Teacher, and Guide. I was given the suffering so that I could show others that you too can make it to the top. One foot in front of the other.
THIS IS HOW I GOT MY NAME
Michelle Mountain, my first trail name and Warrior, the trail name most recently given to me. I've decided to create my own story now and I've chosen to combine the two. The first one, "Mountain", to honor that little girl who took her first step out on that trail and the most recent, "Warrior", the name that rings truest to me now.
I am a Warrior. For the mountains, the trails, and for you and me. I choose to be a Warrior over and over again. I choose to be in the arena of life and to fight! (for my Brené Brown fans out there).
So, this is how I got my name.
I honor the girl that I once was and the woman that I have become.
Michelle, Mountain Warrior.
She who will continue to climb and who will stand beside you in the arena and fight.
We will keep marching on!
One foot in front of the other.