Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wild about Reading

When I first started my blog I really wanted it to be a place to share books I enjoyed reading.  However, my reading time was cut pretty short-

obviously I had more fun things to do.  :)  
With Carlee upon her THIRD birthday (yes 3) and Connor in intermediate school, they have become so much more independent. While I am most certainly needed, I have a few more snippets of time now and have been reconnecting with one of my hobbies.  
I’ve noticed over the past year that when I pick up a book, my mind doesn’t let me sit down with it very long.  Being busy, I’ve trained myself to not focus on anything for too long but rather focus on a little bit of everything at one time.  That doesn’t work well for an afternoon of reading, or prayer, or thoughtfulness (or editing). 

While Christmas Shopping, I was interested in finding the book WILD:  From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail a memoir by Cheryl Strayed for my Aunt J.  Since the movie is out and it was an Oprah Book Club read, I thought it would make a good gift. I never could find it (because I waited until the last minute to buy it), but I did decide to purchase it for myself on the kindle afterwards.

I was a little hesitant to get it because I really didn’t enjoy Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  No offense to anyone who did love it, but I just could not connect to the story in anyway.  It was very self serving and unrealistic.  The main character described her husband as a wonderful and loving man, she was just tired of being married to him and embarked on an unrealistic journey through three countries without having a job. 
The difference is that Cheryl Strayed's journey was brought on at age 22 following some pretty devastating events.  Her style of writing flowed for me.  
“It didn’t go that way. I was who I was: the same woman who pulsed beneath the bruise of her old life, only now I was somewhere else.” -Strayed, Cheryl 

All throughout the book I hung onto Cheryl Strayed’s words. She did not come across as narcissistic, but I recognized her as an Empath like myself and Carlee.  Carlee actually cries when she hears touching music and will say 'that song makes me sad'.  At Cheryl's age, if I had encountered loss, rejection, and abandonment to her level, I don’t think I would have been able to filter all of the emotion from it.

Cheryl Strayed with a tattoo of her mother's horse.

The story begins with Cheryl getting ready to begin her hike on the Pacific Crest Trail.  I had never heard of it, but I found myself googling pictures and maps as I read the book.  I was so fascinated by someone who had never hiked or backpacked deciding to take such an extreme journey.  At age 22 I could see myself impulsively doing something similar.  If I didn’t have anyone to rely on me, I could understand needing to do something drastic.
Cheryl was very, very close to her mother and siblings.  They grew up with many challenges.  It was an enormous blow when Cheryl’s very healthy,vegan mother was diagnosed with lung cancer.
She died 7 weeks after diagnosis.

To make matters worse, Cheryl’s family dealt with the grief by turning their backs on her, including her stepfather who was remarried a year after.  She states in the book that she was “an orphan”.  I cried like a baby during this part in the book, because I have brothers and I got it.  I wanted to scream at her siblings, YOU BUNCH OF SELFISH JERKS. I also understood, they were dealing with grief by pretending it wasn’t happening.  The scene where Cheryl and her brother had to care for her mom’s horse broke my heart.  I wanted to scream at her family all over again.

Why, had my good mother died and how is it I could live and flourish without her? How could my family, once so close and strong, have fallen apart so swiftly and soundly in the wake of her death? -Strayed, Cheryl 

Cheryl  married young.  While she loved her husband and he was a very good man, she couldn’t be married to him after her mother died.  She really didn’t know how to be happy or to work on a marriage while her world was falling apart.  
(sidenote:  I found her real ex-husband online.  He is remarried and won a ton of money on Price is Right.  They own a coffee shop.  I feel better knowing he is ok.  *google queen)

Cheryl’s mom shielded the kids from any type of religion or teaching about God.  I felt the whole time this contributed to Cheryl’s pain.  She didn’t believe in a loving God, though at times she tried to pray.  How could she believe that her mother was taken care of in a better place? How could she deal with her pain without knowledge of something greater than herself?
After her divorce, Cheryl spiraled down the toilet.  She abused drugs, sex, and stomped her feelings down deep.  Trying to numb the feelings always resulted in another painful event for her.  I wanted to jump in the book and be her adopted little sister and comfort her.   

This was why no one had swooped in when she died, I supposed, why her friends had left me in peace in my inevitable exile. Because she had not held any of them very close, none of them held me.  -Strayed, Cheryl 

I think the turning point is when she made a series of bad choices that resulted in further mental anguish.

That’s what fathers do if they don’t heal their wounds. They wound their children in the same place.”  -Strayed, Cheryl 

On her way home, Cheryl stops at a little store and picks up a book that calls to her:  The Pacific Crest Trail Vol 1: California by by Ben Schifrin (Author), Thomas Winnett (Author), Ruby Johnson Jenkins (Author).  This guide stays with her as she sells her belongings, purchases the latest and greatest in backpacking, and begins her journey all alone!  She is one of the few women who attempt this journey alone.

Cheryl Strayed

...yet again doing the wrong thing, for being the same idiot I’d been the very day I set foot on the trail. The same one who had purchased the wrong size boots and profoundly underestimated the amount of money I’d need for the summer, and even maybe the same idiot who believed I could hike this trail.  -Strayed, Cheryl 

There were so many parts that made me laugh.  First, the girl’s pack is so heavy she can barely place it on her shoulders.  She later states that sometimes you just have to carry your heavy burdens.

What I loved about her journey is the community of hikers that become like family, the scenery around her, and the way that she just moves forward one step at a time.  She becomes fearless.

The one I’d fostered all through my young adult years while trying on different costumes—earth girl , punk girl, cowgirl, riot girl, ballsy girl. The one for whom behind every hot pair of boots or sexy little skirt or flourish of the hair there was a trapdoor that led to the least true version of me.  -Strayed, Cheryl 

There are times I cheered this girl on and was proud.  She carries that darn pack all the way through that trail, even as her shoulders, hips, and feet bleed!  She remembered to buy a mini saw but didn’t buy a hiking pole (so me).  Low and behold in the hiker’s trade box she found:

It was a ski pole fit for a princess: white, with a bubble-gum-pink nylon wrist strap.  -Strayed, Cheryl 

My vision of Cheryl in my head went between her real picture, Reece Witherspoon, and myself.

Reece Witherspoon (One of my favorites.)

Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told.
-Strayed, Cheryl 

There are other times, my vision of her was my Carlee at age 20.  I wanted to shout, ARE YOU NUTS!!!  WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!?!  YOU COULD HAVE BEEN KILLED!!!

When I scanned the trees with my headlamp, they caught on something, and I froze as the reflection of two bright pairs of eyes gazed back at me.  -Strayed, Cheryl

Her challenges include wild animals and once she encounters a possible sexual predator.  That scene bothered me and I wanted to go into the book and choke her.

I enjoyed the ending of the book.  It gives us closure but not in a way that she is healed and perfect at the end.  It ends in a way that she allowed herself time, friendships, comfort leading to a place where healing can begin.

I had nothing but generosity to report. The world and its people had opened their arms to me at every turn.  -Strayed, Cheryl

I can say with certainty, when one has experienced true rejection, God will place other people in your life.  It may not seem real in the moment but for me 'the world and its people have opened their arms to me at every turn in my life' too.

Cheryl Stayed Camping

I don’t know if I will get to watch the movie.  Its not local, so it will be hard to find a sitter.  I hope I can before it comes out on DVD.

After this book, I am sooooo ready to go hiking.  I’ve never actually hiked before, but I definitely would love to try it!
(side note: Cheryl still loves to hike.  *google queen)

How wild it was, to let it be.  -Strayed, Cheryl

Cheryl Strayed with one of The Young Bucks, she has stated she is so very happy at this point in her life.

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