Lost and found on the Bruce Trail

You know those serendipitous happenings in life when an innumerable amount of humdrum events improbably align to make something transpire flawlessly? I'm talking the kind of perfection that you reflect on afterwards and realize that any foresightedness and preparation would only have impeded the elegant unfolding. Like the circumstance was greater than yourself - some wonderful intervention by the universe that said "You sit tight and do nothing. I got this." Well, my recent backpacking trip on the Bruce Trail had a whole lot of that going on. In fact, it was as though someone gathered up half a life's worth of those stars-aligning special moments and crammed them into a short 15 day spread.

When all was said and done, Marie - my partner in crime for the adventure - and I even compiled a list, "Bruce Trail Magic," that documented all of the supernatural awesomeness we experienced. Lucky forest refuge during lightning storms, consistent hitchhiking luck along all-but-abandoned country roads, discovery of two trailside, unopened water bottles on a dehydrated afternoon, strangers' (friends') constant offers of food and hospitality for our hungry, bank-broke selves, and a never ending stream of ascended masters and inexpressible "perfect timing" only begins to summarize our list.

But my complete Bruce Trail storyline is not one of just sunshine, rainbows, and magical unfoldings. My original ambition had been to hike the entire trail - all 890 kilometres end to end - and most of it solo. But when I reluctantly decided to quit four days into it, I found my psyche fragmented. My return home to accept my defeat and failure was timed in parallel with some heavy family matters, and the double whammy sent my head spinning. I had never been so utterly debilitated by confusion, and it left me feeling fragile and numb. Somewhere along the trail I had lost my self-confidence; my certainty in my convictions which previously gave my life a sense of direction. I'd lost my bearings and I didn't know how to orient myself or in which direction to take the next step. I couldn't tell if this was a challenge to be overcome so to reestablish my stability, or if those earlier days of self-certitude had actually been lies I'd fed myself. Maybe this ordeal was the result of false hopes finally surfacing, and now was the time to get real and revise the trajectory of my life.

In a state of absolute disarray, all I managed to do (thank god) was occasionally muster the will to laugh at myself and my self-proclaimed, self-indulged, mid-20s crisis. It didn't make the crisis part feel any less significant, but it graced me with perspective and temporarily lightened my mood when nothing else seemed capable of the feat. I was more lost than ever but was finally sure that I needed to start somewhere - anywhere. To take a step, create some momentum and see where that got me. So I waited for Marie to arrive and then we schemed a new plan for adventure. And... cue 15 days of Bruce Trail Magic.

When I'd initially decided to tackle the Bruce Trail, I largely did so because I wanted to challenge myself - physically and mentally. I wanted to get uncomfortable and I wanted to risk biting off more than I could chew, just to see how I'd handle it and what I could learn. Well, note to self to be careful what I wish for. But whether I liked it or not, I seem to have gotten what I was seeking. The weeks spent hiking with Marie had their host of challenges and physical torment, but that all thankfully paled in comparison to the beauty that we discovered. We had this feeling that the two of us had fostered some ability to lure the positive potential of the universe. One waitress along the way told us, "that's how you know when you're living life like you're meant to be." And we knew she was right. The magic had been present because we were existing in that cosmic flow. Our sense of presence in that flow was so potent that it was almost palpable. Tangibilizing the intangible. 

We hadn't been worrying about all the details and the fine print, we were trusting that the small stuff would work itself out. And it did. With the stark contrast of my crisis against those two magical weeks, I was able to realize what had been at the root of my crisis: doubt. Doubt had flooded my consciousness and I had been drowning in it. I was sweating the small stuff. All the small stuff in fact. With my mind racing with all the how's and the what-if's, my chaotic state of confusion had been born. All of my self-confidence that usually guides my actions had been compromised by doubt, and that's why I'd felt so debilitated, so stuck. When I got back on the trail with Marie and stopped thinking and stopped fearing, it opened up space for me to find trust again. 

So why did this roller coaster of emotions play out for me in the first place? Perhaps it was latent fear, surfacing in a bad way. It's difficult to never doubt myself and my decisions, especially when it often feels like half the world is telling me that I'm dreaming; that my choices disregard realism. Sometimes doubt gets the best of us and we have a little five-minute freakout before we can come back to our senses. Other times doubt gets the best of us and manifests in a full blown crisis. But if it can be overcome, we can come out stronger and more steadfast on the other side. My little ordeal provided a valuable comparison of what it's like to live based out of fear and doubt, versus trust and confidence. It's been an exercise in overcoming uncertainty in order to rediscover and reaffirm my faith in myself. And myself includes my choices, my beliefs, my intuitions, and the course on which I direct my life. Round two of the Bruce Trail was a show of the magical perfection of the universe, though had I still been wrapped up in doubt, that magic would have evaded me. Those two weeks showed me all of the beauty that is to be gained when I choose to believe in myself. Hopefully every time I stare doubt in the eye and willfully step through it, the more subsequently resolute I will be in my actions. But anyways, it's not about never getting lost, it's about knowing that becoming lost is actually part of getting found.