The hardest part is getting out the door

My initial resistance to hiking the Appalachian Trail was a physical one. Some people seem wired for physical challenge. I am not one of them.

That's a lie. Human beings are wired, designed, created, for physically challenging and demanding situations.

That doesn't mean I always like it.

Without knowing me in person, and hearing me kvetch and complain, and sometimes cry on the trail you wouldn't necessarily know that being comfortable with hiking and backpacking have been hard won battles for me.

I'm slightly bewildered, unsure of how to respond, when people tell me, "I could never do that", like somehow I'm specially qualified for the physicality of thru-hiking when they're not.

You may never want to hike, backpack or long distance hike, but that's another issue entirely. Never is a state of mind more than being.

People might assume it's the children who have held us back on the trail, the children's needs that have challenged us the most, the children who have given the most push back. Not so.

Without a trace of unkindness to myself I stand up and acknowledge that for a couple years I was the limiting factor in our hiking adventures. My attitude mostly.

(This isn't to say the children don't push back. But the resistance is almost always limited to the hours prior to getting out the door. The hardest part is getting out the door. Once we're on the trail, running, hiking, skinning up, skiing down, whatever, everyone's on board. Funny how that is.)

My resistance, my push back, it wasn't glaringly obvious to anyone except my family but it was there. Damien and I worked through it. I've written about it. And my trail breakdowns are memories we now laugh together about.

We got through that bump in the road. We can get through this one. And the next. And the next.

I may have thought the most difficult part of hiking the Appalachian Trail was going to be physical but I'm thinking now it might be something else entirely.

The most difficult part is what has always been the most difficult part - getting out the door.

Of course, I'll get to the trail (83 days away) and re-realize, once all the work of getting there is done that, oh yes, hiking will be the most difficult part. The most difficult part in that moment yes, but in the whole scheme of things, I don't think so.

The physicality of backpacking takes one type of commitment. Getting a family out the door to start that adventure takes another.

I'm not going to list all the challenges that face us before we hit the trail. The challenges themselves, which will stretch me to my mental and emotional limits, are not the point here.

We all have challenges to overcome.

The question is do we sit on our butts and let the enormity of the task wash over us like a tidal wave, or do we do the work and get those butts out the door?

In the coming weeks, I'd like to un-package what this looks like. "Get up off your butt and get out the door" is a great message and all but how do we actually do that? You and me. In our homes, in our marriages, in our parenting, in our homeschooling, in our health and personal wellbeing?

How do we push against, and through, the resistance? How do we push back against our "push back" in healthy ways? After all, our bodies have feedback loops that we must listen to.

I don't have special access to the answers to these questions. I don't have it figured out. I am entering this New Year stripped bare and mentally trembling with the task at hand. I am living one day, one morning, one afternoon, one evening at a time. I will find answers to these questions only through living this.

And like I told Damien last night, I don't want to "just get through" these intense three months. This is just as much a part of the adventure as starting the trail. I want to appreciate all of it.

The hardest part is getting out the door. And maybe also not wishing yourself out the door too soon.

« A Kickstarter launch to the New Year
At the end of Christmas even the boxes tell a story »
  • Adrienne

    Adrienne on Jan. 11, 2014, 1:41 a.m.

    I read this as an unexpectedly valuable insight and I want to thank you. For you right now, your preparations for thru-hiking are real, concrete, and factual. I'm finding this post incredibly useful in framing my own struggles that have nothing to do with hiking.

    It's so interesting to follow along with your plans and preparations. My partner and I have each had vague thoughts of hiking the AT at one time or another, and right now the idea is buried deep in the back of our minds. I don't know if it will ever germinate and grow like this adventure is growing for you, but we are rooting for you and are grateful for your candor and willingness to share. 

    Here's to getting out the door in 2014, literally and figuratively!


    • renee

      renee on Jan. 11, 2014, 2:58 p.m.

      Adrienne, Thank you for your comment. I've missed having the interaction here!

      I'm so thankful that you find this post and these ideas to transcend situation, because they really do. Preparing to thru-hike the AT is my life right now and I'm sure to write a whole whack about that but it doesn't really matter what struggle or dream or plans people are trying to make a reality in their lives the process is still the same. I'm hoping I can write on this level  and that it will apply to people regardless of what they are facing in their own lives.

      Here's to supporting each other in 2014 as we all "get out the door" with our plans and purposes!


  • Alaina

    Alaina on Jan. 11, 2014, 8:02 p.m.

    I don't know where my comment went...I will try again.  I look forward to reading about your thoughts on this.  I struggle with the same sorts of things.  Sometimes lately its also a "is this worth it?" type of feeling.  Today was an example.  All that work to get out the door and the kids just had bad attitudes about the day.  Normally we don't struggle with that while outside as much as we did today, so I hope its just a passing thing.  I also find this type of feeling with all sorts of other life tasks not just getting outdoors, as you said.  So, it will be interesting to read what you come up with.


  • Jen

    Jen on Jan. 14, 2014, 6 p.m.

    Reading this after tweaking and establishing new ground rules and routines for our homeschooling efforts.  Truly, the hardest part has been getting out of bed (your 'getting out the door'.)  Not that we don't get up and get our day going, but we (I, mostly) struggle with getting out of bed with intention and purpose and focus.  So this post was an encouragement.  Thank you...bless you.


You can subscribe to comments on this article using this form.

If you have already commented on this article, you do not need to do this, as you were automatically subscribed.