Going Wild Into Life is Worth the Pain

By KM Huber

Going wild just may be the journey that awaits each one of us. The wilderness is the unknown, rarely appreciated for it is flush with fear. Yet “where the wild things are” is where the infinite possibilities lie. In the wilderness we bear what we believe we cannot.

When Cheryl Strayed hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 1995, she was “on a spiritual quest but what [she] got was a physical test.”* Before her 1100 mile trek, Strayed was not even a novice backpacker–she had never even carried a pack—thus, she seriously compromised herself in her selection of equipment and gear, especially her boots.

She was not physically prepared or emotionally fit, and beyond her food supplies, she had almost no money.
What she did have was unfailing support from her fear of failing. In other words, the wilderness provided: “the physical realm kept delivering the spirit to [her].” She called her story and her book, Wild, a raw and revealing account of her trek into her unknown self at the age of twenty-two.

Through Strayed we see what masters we are at masking our fears, and how the wilderness will break us open if we are willing to replay the stories that we have lived. Cheryl Strayed revisits her life, comforted only by the constant pain of surviving each day, sometimes only step by step. She says, she “went wild into [her] life.”

If we go “wild” into our lives, we discover the rawness in our past not to relive but to observe the stories that are no more. What was then is not now, and it is a crucial distinction for once we discover it, we have found our own Pacific Crest Trail, a walk that will not be painless.

In the wilderness, we are not what we have been but what we are moment by moment. Our very existence depends on being completely present. Each wilderness has its own miles, its own beasts, and no two journeys are the same, no matter how many times paths cross.

We come to recognize that we do want to know what is around the bend and over the mountain. Climbing rocks, stomping through snow, and trying to find water–literally or figuratively– may bring us to the edge of our existence but if we lean into each experience, we see through the fear and accept the pain.

We may find places within the wilderness to stay forever but until we’ve walked our wilderness, we can only stop for a while. We nudge ourselves along until we hit our stride, the meeting of our physical being and our spirit. We face fear by clearing a path through our wilderness for “being fearless is not being unafraid.”

The nature of the wild is ever changing–we are not tomorrow what we are today–such are the fields of possibilities. If we take to those fields fully, we will travel less in what used to be and live more in what is.

*All Cheryl Strayed quotes are from the Super Soul Sunday Interview with Oprah Winfrey, July 22, 2012.


KM Huber is a writer who learned Zen from a beagle. She believes the moment is all we ever have, and it is enough. In her early life as a hippie, she practiced poetry, and although her middle years were a bit of a muddle, she remains an overtly optimistic sexagenerian, writing prose. She blogs at kmhubersblog.com, may be followed on Twitter @KM_Huber or contacted by email at writetotheranch[at]gmail[dot]com.

© 2013 KM Huber. All content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact me at the above links to request permission.

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