Where I'm at

I don't staycate well. I'm sure there are ways to do it but coinciding a "break" with a desperate, frantic really, desire to get your life back in order doesn't work so well. Trying to ignore 6 months of paperwork, curriculum planning, and finances was a low simmer stress, that occasionally boiled over. Unfortunately scalding those in nearby vicinity.

I worked my way through last week like a spring under tension. Snapping frequently at my husband, or trying my hardest to stay silent so I wouldn't say one more awful thing. Staying silent has never been my strong suit.

The kids relaxed, as much as possible with a stressed out mom in the house, and thoroughly enjoyed unlimited hours on the xbox and large screen TV.

I barreled around the kitchen mostly - organizing, rooting through our kitchen boxes that were stored in the basement, pulling out my kitchen must-have's, doing the final purge I meant to do this spring, finally re-boxing it all to be stored for our next home. Our next move, the thought depresses me.

No doubt hike re-entry is a big part of my stress.

Our family thru-hike was amazing in so many ways. The experiences we had, wholly unique to the Appalachian Trail, which cannot be re-created or re-lived and are hard to even explain to the uninitiated, were life changing and life enriching. The growth we saw in our children was phenomenal. Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail is now a part of their personal story and a foundation stone for their adult lives. It is a permanent marker of guts and glory in our family story. And it was worth all the hard work it took to achieve it.

But making that dream happen took more out of me than I ever imagined it would. You could say all that "glory" left me gutted. It was a sacrifice. It challenged me in ways I had not expected and pushed me to the edge, and beyond, of my comfort zone again and again. I feel tender and vulnerable from that experience. Bruised actually.

I feel bruised from life in general right now. Moving so many times in recent years (six separate moving transitions in three and half years), finding my place in a new community and new culture, adventuring well beyond my comfort zone, two periods of depression, and the financial uncertainties of self-employment (and a large adventure) have all drained me emotionally, physically, and creatively.

People tell me how strong I am, and maybe looking back I'll see that, but right now I feel weak, broken, sad, and stressed. I feel a heartbreaking loss of essential "me" elements in spite of everything we've gained in our lives in the past few years, the past few months.

Is this death before re-birth? Is this just a really difficult period of transition? Is this re-entry? Is this a sign we need to change course? What is wrong here? How do I find my way back? What am I finding my way back to?

This is so hard. It's hard to write about. It's hard to publish. It's hard to live. It's hard to talk about with my husband.

When I was on the trail I would often have the overwhelming desire to crawl into a cave and curl up in the fetal position. Not a real cave, we didn't see too many of those, a metaphoric cave. A safe and solid place to lick my wounds.

I have struggled so much with my self-worth in the past few months. In my moments of deepest despair I thought that maybe I just wasn't cut out for living. That I inherently "don't have what it takes". These were dark thoughts no doubt precipitated by the mental, emotional and physical intensity of my thru-hiking experience. And I didn't have a grid for that kind of self-hurt and loathing. That was a new level of low.

After nine months of pushing in directions that were uncomfortable for me, growing because of that, but also reaching my breaking point, I don't need a staycation. What I need is to return to Renee affirming and Renee building routines, activities, and relationships, a way of living, that makes me feel strong, healthy and happy.

That is my work right now. And my rest.

« First things first
An unraveling of sorts »
  • Amanda

    Amanda on Oct. 2, 2014, 3:53 p.m.

    Oh, Renee.  Big hugs.  I am willing to bet that a large part of this is re-entry.  Give yourself some time and do what you are letting the kids do - whatever you want and whatever feels right.  I can only imagine how all of the moving makes that difficult.  It isn't like you could go back to the familiar routines of your last home.  Hang in there!  Wish I could say something more helpful but I have no idea what that is, having no experience with what you have just done.  


    • renee

      renee on Oct. 2, 2014, 4:39 p.m.

      Amanda, your comment and understanding is helpful enough. I don't want helpful advice, just love. I've gotten so much advice over the past few months, mostly from my husband about how I could be handling things better (not mean spirited advice, loving advice but not helpful, all the same) which has caused strain in our marriage - something we're working on right now. But I'm done with advice for now. I need to dial into what I need and focus on that for a time. Thank you for your hugs and encouragement.


  • Aimee

    Aimee on Oct. 2, 2014, 4 p.m.

    This made me so teary.  

    God hard-wired you to be EXACTLY the way you are.  The need for order and some rootedness, boundaries and relationships.  No shame and no guilt.  You are not cut out to live any other way than who YOU are...such freedom and grace.  I pray that this time post-hike would refresh you deeply...that you would heal from all the strain, the upheaval, the sacrifice. Listen to your body and your spirit and the Holy Spirit. {and it sounds a lot like burn-out...have you googled and read about the symptoms before?} 

    Much love and peace and grace to you.


    • renee

      renee on Oct. 2, 2014, 4:34 p.m.

      Oh dear Aimee, how refreshing your comment is to me. I feared publishing this post for all the advice I might receive but yours (and all the love recieved from other people) is what I need. That I am ok the way I am. I have struggled so much with this for the the past few months. Feeling the need to be like someone else, someone more free spirited and flexible but being me with the need for routines and structures, rules and boundaries, etc. 

      I've had conversations with my mom about this and I thought this comment was from her till I got to the burnout part because she already knows I'm burnt out. I don't need to google it. I am. And I need space, time and healthy me routines to recover from that. 

      Thank you again for your understanding. It means the world to me. 


  • Rachel Wolf

    Rachel Wolf on Oct. 2, 2014, 4:01 p.m.

    Your comment on my post this morning brought me here to see how you were. Thank you for sharing your darkness, for your honesty, for not dressing it up. Pain is real, whatever it's source. Like I said yesterday - all of this pain and grief and struggle is proof of a life deeply lived. Lighting a candle for you today. May it shine bright at the end of this dark tunnel.


  • Jeanne

    Jeanne on Oct. 2, 2014, 4:05 p.m.

    Breathe. Breathe deeply. Focus on creating your home, your nest, your routines. Seek counsel from others who have gone through the re-entry process. I'm sure they have words of wisdom beyond what I can offer. 

    thank you for having the courage to publish your post today. I appreciate your ability to share yourself in a raw and vulnerable position. 


  • Kathleen

    Kathleen on Oct. 2, 2014, 4:32 p.m.

    Thank you for such an honest and heart-felt post. You and your family continue to inspire me. I will be thinking of you.


  • San

    San on Oct. 2, 2014, 4:57 p.m.


    Wish I could give you a big hug!  Will light a candle for you this evening and will continue to keep you in prayer.

    San x 


  • Coleen

    Coleen on Oct. 2, 2014, 5:38 p.m.

    I second the burnout comment.  I hope you do actually google it.  This is an awesome synchronicity- last night I just came upon an article from an old Oprah magazine about the subtle differences between the treatment for depression vs. burnout.  I believe I am going through it myself, so I've been researching it today.  Even though it sounds like you know what you need, it might affirm you to read about it, or give you ideas, or help to give yourself permission to do what you need to do. 


    • renee

      renee on Oct. 2, 2014, 6:16 p.m.

      I did google it :) Couldn't help myself as I wanted to see if how much I intuited about what I'm experiencing right now and what I think I need to recover lines up with a burnout diagnosis. Turns out a lot lines up. You're right, it does affirm me to read about it and mostly gives me permission to do what I need to do right now to get better. Thanks so much for sharing. Amazing the helpful things that come from an old Oprah magazine! Thanks for the love. xo, Renee


  • Colleen

    Colleen on Oct. 2, 2014, 5:43 p.m.

    Big hug for you Renee.  Such a period of growth and culture shocks.  Enjoy finding what will bring you peace, nourish and affirm you, who you are now, through all this growth.  Best wishes to you.



  • Jenn B

    Jenn B on Oct. 2, 2014, 5:44 p.m.

    I love how brave you are to share this Renee. I have been keeping up with your family's journey online and talk about you all like I know you! Ha! I just want to pour you a cup of tea, sit down and listen. Bless you and this process of rediscovery. Sending you light and love. Peace.


  • Susan

    Susan on Oct. 2, 2014, 6:36 p.m.

    No advice to give but prayers to offer. May the Dear Lord guide you thru this time of uncertainty .




  • Brynn

    Brynn on Oct. 2, 2014, 7:33 p.m.

    It took two full years and a bit, but I am finally feeling better.  My marriage is still in recovery, but it did not dissolve completely.  My son is back to being a fun newly 10 year old.  It passes...slowly.  Don't try to go back to the old you.  If it is one thing I learned, that is it.  I cannot be the old me and that is the hardest part.  She felt much safer; she was known.  My husband sure liked her a lot more.  She is impossible to recreate because she existed before I knew as much as I know now.  I think if I had known that it would not have taken so long to settle back in.  Good Luck.


  • Penny

    Penny on Oct. 2, 2014, 7:33 p.m.

    Thank you for sharing your journey, may gentle blessings rain down on you as you figure out how to get back to center.  


  • Lisa

    Lisa on Oct. 2, 2014, 7:56 p.m.

    Dear Renee,

    I don't often comment, as most of the time my thoughts don't translate into the written word so easily.

    I pray that peace and harmony will fill your heart, mind and soul once more.  You are amazing!  You are inspiring!

    Remember that our Heavenly Father is always there loving you.  Your family are there loving you.  And even a homeschooling mumma from the Sunshine Coast, Australia is there loving you.




  • Kendra

    Kendra on Oct. 2, 2014, 8:08 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing, Renee. I always am grateful for your frankness and openess about life's challenges. It provides a helpful reminder to me to hold the hope long distance, rather than just get stuck in my own rut. Praying for you and glad to call you my cousin. 



  • Julie

    Julie on Oct. 2, 2014, 8:13 p.m.


    I was listening to your homeschooling seminar for 5-8 year olds again this morning and found so much I needed to hear again, especially the idea of nurturing your home life first and foremost.  I hopped over to your blog to see if there was a new post and read this.  What hit me was that who you are, someone rooted in home life and thriving in creating a vibrant, life-giving home life, is just what your family needed in order to accomplish this amazing goal of hiking the entire AT.  

    I just felt the need to say it seems they need you just as you are.  What you give them is so powerful.  



  • amber

    amber on Oct. 2, 2014, 10:17 p.m.

    I have those feelings and thoughts a lot, too.  I am not in your situation, but I often wonder if I am cut out for living or have what it takes.  Most of the time, I don't feel that I do.  It is when I recognize who is whispering these lies in my ear that I am able to see through taht fog a little bit and live life.  I feel for you, Renee, in this difficult time.  As I am in a clearing right now, and am feeling pretty good on a daily basis, I can see that I expect myself to be someone different than who I am.  It's a constant battle.  When i put my eyes on Him and truly trust that I am His and He will use my life for His purposes, I can feel some of that burden lift.  I will pray that your burdens and sorrows during this time will lead to a fresh and clear view of who you are to those around you and to God.  You are loved.  By me and your readers and friends, your family and by your God.    


  • Cat

    Cat on Oct. 2, 2014, 11:54 p.m.

    Sounds like what you are experiencing is entirely normal, just very, very uncomfortable and confronting.  You’ve pushed yourself to physical and psychological extremes and now it’s over, you are finding a new kind of challenge in the hiatus. I know that whenever I come out of a period of intense busyness or focus and have a break, I feel like I am falling to pieces for a bit – and I’ve never done anything as challenging as the AT.  I see it as a way for the mind and body to readjust; some kind of alignment is taking place.  Eventually those intense feelings dissipate if I just let myself ‘be’.  I hope you find the same.  Be kind to yourself.


  • Kelly

    Kelly on Oct. 3, 2014, 12:03 a.m.

    Thank you for sharing, Renee. I had what I imagine was a similar feeling after a large transition in my life last year. It was hard and horrible. I didn't expect for there to be as many challenges in what I planned for, wanted, and what was actually the best for me and my family. It took time- more than I expected and a lot of self love. Gradually the new life we made became less transition and more daily life. Ours is about to change again as well, but this time I'm going to try to allow for transition so it doesn't blindside me. Much light and love to you! I appreciate you naming truth and what is hard. xo


  • Catherine Forest

    Catherine Forest on Oct. 3, 2014, 1:49 a.m.

    Oh, Renee... I want to hug you so thight right now... I know in my bones what you are describing. I felt exactly the same last year when we returned from our travels... Re-entry is very hard, especially after such an intense experience like the one you just lived... And it is fall and the light is going down and yes, we are at that point in life where we wonder what is it that I truly am? What is my real pupose here? Is this whole thing really worth it? I know about being mean when in pain like that and how disconnecting it feels when what we need the most is to feel connected again. Connected to our loved ones, and utimately, to ourselves... What has helped me was to set a strong routine (and I know this is what will help you too), taking my supplements (and the phototherapy lamp!) and finding what was left of me after this whole adventure. What was still making my hear sing? It seemed like nothing was for a while, except photography and writing... and even then, I lacked inspiration... Another thought: moving a lot like we do drains the etheric body and a way to replenish it is through making art and spirituality... Feel free to reach out if you want to talk more. I FEEL you.


  • Ruth v

    Ruth v on Oct. 3, 2014, 4:55 a.m.

    Ouch Renee - I hear your pain and struggle to stay standing. Our gentle loving saviour says come, come if you are weary, come if you are burdened, come and hide in him to find rest for your soul. (Matt 11:28-30) with kindness and love


  • Jess

    Jess on Oct. 3, 2014, 10:43 a.m.

    Big hugs from here as well!  I admire you-- what you have created for your family and what you collectively have accomplished (even before the AT!).  A family of life learners.  Happy children.  Outdooor time.  Creating your own path.  What amazing role models!  I also admire and appreciate your honesty (while I seldom comment and have yet ot meet you, you seem like an old friend).  ThisTooShallPass.  My mantra in tough times.  Wish I could have you over for a cup of coffee (or tea or water), a good cry and a big hug.


  • Blythe

    Blythe on Oct. 3, 2014, 12:22 p.m.

    Hi Renee,

    I just came in from my walk in the woods and yoga, and you were on my mind the entire time.  Having you stay with my family was a wonderful experience.  The conversations that we had really touched me.  It was especially important for me to connect with another mom and woman.  Living out in the woods has been an isolating time for me. There are some huge changes out here. The chickens and ducks found a new home and the garden is put to sleep with winter rye.  I am packing up today for our new apartment outside of Charlotte, NC.  Rob is lonely and sick of spending his week at the EconoLodge.  He found a place near work on the lake for 6 months.  I will be commuting witht kids to spend the majority of the fall with him.  I mourned the loss of my animals and way of life for a bit.  I am now trying to embrace this change.  I don't do change that well.  I am not a flexible person, so this is a challenge for me.  I am looking at this time as a new adventure and broadening my horizons.  I am also looking forward to connecting our family more.  Thank you for your honesty while sharing your personal thoughts.  I have been avoiding social media since it has been leaving me with a sad.  I am trying to concentrate on my own inner voice instead of what others are doing.  I will be thinking of you!  Big hugs!  We were never able to see the videos.  The kids and I would love to watch them if they are still available.  I look forward to reading about your continuing journey.  

    Love and Peace.


  • Wanda

    Wanda on Oct. 3, 2014, 4:15 p.m.

    No advice.  Just plain ol' love.  Thanks Renee for your honesty.  Your voice in my email has been missed!  


  • Lee

    Lee on Oct. 3, 2014, 6:56 p.m.

    Hi Renee, Black Forest Lee here, only no longer of Germany.  I too have been uprooted (again), having just completed my fourth trans-Atlantic move in 11 years.  I recognize so much of what I am feeling in your post.  You have a way of communicating that resonates  with so many of us.  Thank you for your honest words.


    We broke loose from normal this last move and shipped our car to Virginia.  Then we drove for a month across the country camping in National parks with cold, soap less sinks, spidery toilets, and pay showers armed with grabby shower curtains ( shiver!).  And it about did me in, even though it was an adventure, and our kids will never forget it, ad nauseum.


    Now we are in another new home, looking for new friends, again, learning to find the bathroom with the lights off, opening three different drawers to find the cheese grater.  Unsettling doesn't really cover it, does it?  


    I get to look forward to your future posts, opening up my art supplies, and the amazing farmers market - Wasington state has much to offer.  I hope you find your groove soon also.




  • julie laroche

    julie laroche on Oct. 3, 2014, 7:08 p.m.

    Bonjour Renée.

    Ici à Collioure la température, la lumière et l'air sont extraordinaires. Je t'en envoie par la pensée!!

    I feel for you Renée, personnaly knowing about depression... 

    I'm far but present by heart.

    Take good care of yourself and, if I may add, let the ones you love take care of you also.

    Julie xxx



  • Tiffani

    Tiffani on Oct. 4, 2014, 2:33 a.m.

    Sending love!!  In His Presence, there is Peace!  Run to it, rest in it, let Him love all over you!!

    Thank you for sharing with us.  You are not alone :)


  • Krista

    Krista on Oct. 4, 2014, 3:27 a.m.

    You are a gift to many. I pray you will treat yourself with kindness and love as you find your way back, my friend. I have walked through seasons of darkness, and scary/ugly thoughts, and I now know that it takes courage to face them, to acknowledge them, as you have; I believe this is the first and most important step toward healing. You poured yourself out, it seems to me, to walk with your family through this adventure which was brave and rather selfless, I think, since I get that you absolutely feel most comfortable in a world of more predictable rhythms and order. I love who you are, Renee. Every inch. Please be gentle with yourself. xoxo


  • Melanie Bowman

    Melanie Bowman on Oct. 5, 2014, 9:34 p.m.

    A couple of weeks ago when I was struggling with an extra busy schedule I sat down at the computer the following phrase popped out at me on one of the first blog posts I read. "I hate to spoil the ending . . . .but everything is going to turn out okay."  It was taken from a card sent to by a friend. What a great God we have who knows the ending of our story and knows what is needed in our path to get there.  Too often I get buried in the now and forget to look up. I can remember standing at the airport as Leslie boarded the plane for Germany on a business trip. I had planned to be on that plane also but had a mixup with passport due to a switch of landing in The Netherlands instead of Germany. Just writing this can still make me tear up as I remember the disappointment at the time. This was a month before Sebastian was born so it was probably best that I didn't go.

    Lamentations 3:21-23 This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compasions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.                             Lifting you up in prayers.   


  • ariana

    ariana on Oct. 7, 2014, 10:02 a.m.

    To borrow a phrase that I first heard on Simple Mom several years back, "The grass is always greener where you water it." Water that grass, Renee, in whatever way you see fit! It WILL grow with a delicate balance of persistance and patience, dedication and trust.



  • Carol

    Carol on Oct. 21, 2014, 2:20 p.m.

    I never comment, but really enjoy reading your words. You are very inspiring and interesting. So just know a stranger far away is thinking of you.


  • Jess

    Jess on Nov. 1, 2015, 11:18 a.m.

    I read your most recent post and then skimmed (again) this referenced post.  My 3 year old came up asking "What's that?" and I responded "someone's life".  My 7 year old looked at the beautiful pictures and responded "Wow-- that's a great life!".  I know this post documents such a hard phase (and am glad that you have since found some peace, healing and personal fulfillment), but felt I should share a child's perspective.   I seldom comment, but always enjoy and appreciate you sharing your journey.


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