There’s a real strength that comes from knowing your own limits (or, in some cases, seeming lack of limits). I’m writing specifically from the veteran’s viewpoint, but the concept applies to anyone who has consistently overcome obstacles they didn’t think they’d be able to overcome.
It’s easy enough to accomplish the impossible when the choice is taken from you.
In the instance of service, there is rarely ever a choice. Service-members are faced with terrifying obstacles from the time they join – from entering a tear gas chamber for the first time to entering a battle for the first time – and presumably anyone reading this who relates has survived those challenging obstacles and gained the confidence that comes along with it.
Something else comes along with it, too.
“Overcoming the odds” is an addictive accomplishment that can leave us feeling like we’re failing when life finally settles down. The feeling of “I can handle more than this” can often be replaced with “I SHOULD be handling more than this,” and we can easily become addicted to living on the edge of burnout – or worse, on the edge of life and death. There’s a healthy way to process that feeling, and a plethora of unhealthy ones.
I once wrote that “Duty is when idealism must be suppressed in favor of rationality,” but the idealist must eventually come to terms with their emotions once more, and eventually you WILL be presented with choices (for some, this prospect seems far into the future). As someone who is trained to handle the impossible, choosing not to add too much to your plate is sometimes difficult. So make sure the things you add are PROductive and not DEstructive.
Go to school. Buy a house. Get a hobby. Play music. Work two jobs and pay off debt. Help others! (Seriously, no matter how much you’re doing, you’ll eventually feel like there’s no point to any of it if it only benefits you). Get into art. Study. Read. Workout.
The other option is to become addicted to TRAUMA rather than STRESS. I’ve been there and done it, but sometimes it’s like we’re tempted to build a checklist of things that are stacked against us in order to validate (to ourselves or others) what we’ve overcome. It’s important to realize that the world isn’t set out to hurt you. You aren’t cursed to a life of pain. There are a lot of tools and resources out there for you to use your resilience in a positive way, but don’t get set on being in pain just so you can overcome it.
As survivors, we need to be aware of this phenomenon. All this said, I’ll be closing on a house at the end of the month (as many of you know), and have decided to return to school full time in addition to working. I’m very excited to see what I can learn from history, and to delve once more into the humanities.
Let others celebrate your victories with you, not just the trauma you’ve overcome.
On June 11th, I posted a blog about managing abnormal stress levels. Several folks reached out to me and said that they found it helpful, so I’ve thought of a few new ways that I manage stress and wanted to share them as well. You can check out the first blog, here.
One of the key points in the first blog was recognizing how helpful reading and studying can be in managing stress and mental battles, and I decided to expound on that with my June 20th article titled, “Four Books to Pull You Back From The Brink.” I KNOW those books will help you if you invest the time in them.
Well, I’ve since implemented some new stress control methods in my life and I wanted to continue adding tools to peoples’ kits – so you can read them below:
Spend time in the outdoors. Amanda (My Wife) and I actually have an entirely separate blog on this (The Gypsy and The Bard), and I can’t believe I forgot to mention it during my first edition of this post. Spending time outside in whatever way you prefer is a great way to manage stress. Combine this with the reading suggestion and go read the work of the transcendentalists while relaxing by a private waterfall. It’s sure to restore some energy to your life. You can also incorporate my next tip into this one!
Get an animal. While I always caution against projecting toward humans (IE: Savior Searching), it’s perfectly acceptable to project toward a sweet pupper or other animal. They’re much less likely to disappoint, and you can search for one who has the temperament you need. I just got a little curr, who his gentle enough for my child, but also playful enough for me.
Play an RPG. Don’t knock it til you try it! Playing an RPG, particularly an MMO, is a great way to disconnect from the stresses of your day and unwind a bit. It’s even better if you have friends who will join you. It’s a great way to socialize while also staying away from people – just be sure not to get sucked too far into the cyber realms! As with all things, balance is key.
Blog! Obviously all of you are already doing this, but blogging has really been a great way for me to connect to new people and ideas, and find people who support my own. Thanks for what ya’ll do!
That’s all I have time for today, but I hope some of those tips help! Let me know if they do or if you have any others. Resilience and defiance are how we overcome adversity, but it doesn’t hurt to have a few tricks for managing stress along the way.
Today I reached 80 followers! I wanted to post briefly to thank you all for reading along, and summarize what I do for anyone else who might want to join the community.
I love to write, and pursue that in all its forms, but my heart is in revitalizing mental health culture and my destiny is to help the broken find healing. My favorite things to write about are philosophical concepts and self-betterment. Here are 9 of my blogs you may want to read if you have mental struggles, want to be a better person, or want to help someone else who may be struggling:
If those helped bring you some peace, there are many more you can explore on my page. I also write about the cultural lessons I’ve learned as a blogger, and an example of that is my monthly post entitled, “Everything I’ve Learned About Blogging.”
I have a lot more planned and appreciate anyone following along. Lastly, I want to give props to one of the blogs that I really enjoy following and who has been a great support to me: Go check out Lovelorn, a fellow idealist and philosophical thinker.
Please feel free to share this with anyone who needs some mental health tools, and stay tuned for more on overcoming adversity through an attitude of resilience and defiance!
I’m keeping it simple in today’s post: here are four books that can help pull you back from the brink.
“Many Lives, Many Masters” by Brian Weiss: If you can stomach Eastern Ideology (Which I personally love and connect to more than Western Ideology), this book can really help you find peace about the meaning of life. It’s about a therapist who uses hypnotic regression to help people overcome trauma. He begins to notice a pattern that some people regress to what appear to be previous lives. Over the course of the book, he learns that the more stubborn we are about learning particular lessons throughout our lives, the more difficult progress can become. He even gets some prophetic advice and tells us about why we connect to certain individuals more than others. Just read it, you won’t regret it. Most people I recommend it to read it in one sitting.
“Please Understand Me II” By David Keirsey: This book begins with a Myers Briggs personality test, and then deep dives into each personality type, why you process information and feel the way that you do, and how you interact with others because of SCIENCE. It’s very validating to read and helps with self-awareness. Highly recommended to anyone having relationship and communication stress.
“The Alchemist” By Paulo Coelho: The only fiction work on my list, this book is sometimes scoffed at by intellectuals (but only because they aren’t intellectual enough to understand it.) This book has won multiple awards, been translated into multiple languages, and helped thousands of people find peace. Follow the journey of a young Shepherd who travels across the world seeking wisdom and ultimately finds peace in an unexpected place. You can read this book time and again and it never gets old – it’s wisdom shared through allegory, and should sit on every poet’s shelf.
“Quiet – The Power of Introverts In a World That Can’t Stop Talking” By Susan Cain: If you feel disconnected from a complacent world, and are exhausted by nonsensical falsities and surface level conversation, read about how you can empower yourself to change the world using your natural strengths. Susan Cain literally started a cultural revolution dedicated to the empowerment of introverts; you only need to look at the name of my blog to see how influential her work was for me. A True Visionary who has my honest and utmost respect.
If you don’t feel better after reading those, check out my other blogs on mental and spiritual wholeness, like this one, which gives practical advice for managing stress.
As a prior enlisted Sailor, I have a way of stating things in a straight forward manner…This article was very nearly entitled, “Let’s Put the “I” Back in Suicide,” but I thought that might be a bit much for a lot of folks.
This is obviously a complicated topic to address, as made obvious by the fact that hundreds of people who are a lot more intelligent and qualified than I am have been attempting to address it for quite some time (and much to no avail). I’d ask that any influencers reading along try to bear with me and see the value-added despite any choppiness. I’m also not claiming to have a 100% solution, because, as we will discuss below…there IS no 100% solution. First, I want to make a couple of broader points that apply to both a person contemplating suicide, and to a person they might approach for help:
We (as leaders, family members, and friends) have ZERO control over the actions of other humans. Society is largely built on the illusion of control, and that illusion is primarily carried by “the fear of consequence”. Think about any establishment or order and there’s bound to be some consequence that holds it all together. (If you aren’t saved, you’re going to hell. If you break the law, you’ll serve time. Disobey an order, you’ll lose a rank. Cheat on your spouse, they’ll leave you.) When a person gets to the point of seriously considering suicide, it means they’ve become apathetic toward a world of consequence. There’s no questioning it: if a person makes that call, it’s their own, deeply personal decision to make. Take your own moral compass and emotions out of it. It doesn’t matter if you think they’re being selfish. It doesn’t matter if the shock wave effects everyone or if someone else has to fill their boots during the upcoming deployment cycle. Those are all valid points, but none counteract that only an individual can decide whether or not to end their own life. In fact, of the folks who contemplate or commit suicide, many do so because they feel they’ve lost control and are making the one decision that ONLY they have control over. This point is critical to all of my later points. What they really need is a reason (sometimes even the tiniest hint of a reason) to choose to live.
THE SAME EMOTIONS THAT CAUSE SUICIDE CAN PREVENT US FROM HELPING TO OVERCOME IT: Fear, Guilt, Shame, Loneliness, and (bet you didn’t think this one was gonna be on this list) Loyalty. I’ll further explore this idea below.
While the use of policy to address suicide prevention no doubt stems from the best of intentions, we have all seen the result of that effort. Military personnel all the way up and down the chain, veterans, medics, firemen, police officers, and even children are still choosing death at alarming rates. The more I develop my mission in the world, the more people reach out to me as someone who can help. I am deeply honored (seriously) to help however I can by offering actual solutions, but I also have to share the lessons and patterns I’ve observed with others who WANT to help, but are doing so the wrong way.
The first thing I generally hear from people who reach out to me from the brink is this: “Dude, seriously, please don’t call the cops.” Or, “Bro, seriously, don’t call my Senior Enlisted Leader.” They expect us to call someone else because they sense our fear of failing them.
Everyone is afraid to feel responsible for another person’s suicide.
There’s no easy answer to why life is so difficult, so it’s difficult to be confident that you can be the one to stop them from pulling the trigger. Going back to point number one though, that simply isn’t your decision to make – it’s not your decision, and therefore, it is not your responsibility. Preventing suicide is not about being anyone’s savior, it’s about helping them find the answer to their desperation within themselves. It’s not that you shouldn’t care, but you MUST accept the fact that they are going to make the call one way or another. You have to be tough (but very gentle) in your love. Allow them to be free and expressive, but don’t allow them to manipulate you. Offer unconditional love, and offer acceptance of who they are…offer support of their dreams for life, and tell them you hope they don’t choose to end their lives, but don’t beg or plead, and don’t feel like you need to pass the responsibility off to someone who is a virtual stranger to them.
People are still afraid to reach out because of professional consequences and because of their own reputation. They hold their careers and the outside perception of who they are in a higher regard than they do their own lives. This is a cultural problem. So many of the people who have reached out to me have told me how stupid they feel for reaching out because “You’re younger than me,” or because “I’m a damned CPO,” or because “I haven’t been through what you’ve been through.” Guilt, shame, and fear prevent communication and cause suicide. I don’t think that’s really news to most people. One relevant emotion I hadn’t acknowledged until recently though, either in my own journey or in my experience helping others, is LOYALTY. Loyalty has a HUGE part to play in military suicide – in all suicides, really. People on the brink don’t want to put “the weight of their demons” onto “someone who has enough to deal with already.” They don’t want to fail their units by not being deployable. And they don’t want to turn to someone who they haven’t already established loyalty with. (Enter “TQV” – it isn’t about saving, it’s about empowering through an attitude of resilience and defiance. It’s about cultural revolution.)
Your Commanding Officer doesn’t want to talk to the CMC about his mental health problems any more than your E-3 does. It doesn’t matter how “good” the CMC is, people want to talk to someone who genuinely cares about them and understands where they’re at (Granted a CMC could do both of those, and most CMC’s would genuinely want to help as evidenced by their decades of service…but think about it from the perspective of the E3 or the CO.) What it takes is a strong team dynamic which is reinforced by personal resilience. Combine that with actual solutions to dealing with high stress situations, and a kindred spirit to discuss spiritual and mental health matters with without having to tiptoe on ice for fear you’ll offend them, and we’ll be well on our way toward reducing those problem statistics.
In short, sending service members to mandatory and redundant annual training is not going to prevent them from committing suicide. What it WILL do is cause service members to feel responsible for the decision of a grown ass person who chooses to end their own life. They’ll think they missed signs that may not have existed, or that they should’ve done more. When approached, they won’t feel empowered to support their peers, they’ll feel obligated to pass them up the chain and further complicate their lives by publicizing what should be an inner-circle issue. Stop pretending that everyone doesn’t go through it. Stop trying to regulate the human experience. Most of all, trust yourself to be the pillar of support a person needs as THEY make a crucial decision about their own future.
I shall begin this post with a bit of alliteration for my own amusement:
“Hello, honorable humans.”
Now, down to the crux of it: This post will no doubt get long, but I think there’s a lot of value added for ANY blogger. I’ve been developing and testing blogging strategies since I began this blog in May. I’ve learned a lot, and decided to compile it monthly in hopes that it will help others who are aspiring to build their network. I won’t take information away each month, I’ll just highlight new gouge so that people who have already read previously published portions can skip to the good stuff. This time, nothing needs to be in bold because it’s the first iteration. Here are some simple blogging strategies to help develop and expand your readership:
Be predictable. What if I told you that this post about blogging strategiesisan example of a blogging strategy? (Pretty obvious, many of you are thinking.) Anyone who has been blogging for long can tell you that a lot of what we do is about “value added,” and someone might follow my blog exclusively because they want to see what lessons I learn in the future that they can then apply. Once they’ve followed, they can decide whether they’re interested in my core mission, which is contributing to the fight on mental health issues. I think it’s nice to have a couple of “repeat posts” scheduled (ones where the theme doesn’t change but additional value can be added with each iteration). To that end, I’ve decided to do this (blogging strategy) and one other on a monthly basis. The other is a free networking opportunity for people to summarize and link to their blog in the comments of my post.
Diversify within the confines of your brand. In addition to the scheduled posts mentioned above, I plan to VLOG once per week (the rules build upon each other, remember to be predictable) and post a song periodically (I don’t really have a schedule planned for that – this isn’t my full time job and I need to make the plan somewhat flexible to account for that. See rule number six.) Since my theme is essentially self-help, I can use different TYPES of posts to diversify within that brand. I write poetry to draw in the poets, music to draw in musicians, blogs to draw in old school bloggers, and VLOGs to attract people who prefer video to text. Figure out how you can impliment that idea for your brand. (As a self awareness point, I really need to get better about graphics/charts/etc.)
Don’t migrate your previous work over all at once. When I first started TQV, I’d already been writing weekly articles on LinkedIn for some time. I decided that, in order to professionalize my portfolio, I wanted them all to be available on the site before I shared the link. Realistically though, few people have 6 hours to go through all of your work. Many will keep up with you if you post consistently, but only a few are going to really delve deep into everything you’ve written all at once. Instead of vomiting your life’s work onto your site, follow rule number four.
Schedule posts! This one is SO SO hard for me because, when I write something I’m proud of, I want to share it to see what you guys and gals think. But if you’ve already posted, it’s much better to schedule it for the next day or so to make sure you have consistent content. If you want to maximize readers from this strategy, follow rule number five.
Time matters. I’m not talking about the time you invest into your blog, though that clearly matters as well. I’m referring to the time of day. Since your blog posts are most visible during the first few hours after you post them, you need to try and learn when people are most likely to be reading. It’s probably not going to be 3AM, depending what time zone you’re in. For me, it’s ended up being early morning or around lunchtime, but be mindful of where your audience is and when they might want to peruse other peoples’ work.
Be forgiving of yourself. As a recent writing friend of mine always says, “Writing is HARD.” It really is. This rule is honestly more important than any of the previous. You’ve got to cut yourself some slack. Remember that you’re doing this because you (presumably) love writing. Don’t push so much that you stop loving it.
Don’t use ad income until you’re ready! I was using it. Totally, I was using it. I’m thinking, “Hell, the amount of time I invest into this thing, I may as well make what I can…” FALSE. I realized that I was spending more on my domain and advertising than I was making from ads. (BY A LONG SHOT). Why would you spend 50-100 bucks on your blog, and then distract new readers for the opportunity to earn a penny or two? My new strategy is to build the network first, and then implement some ad income and affiliate links.
Don’t overthink your brand. People are so huge on branding that, often, bloggers will start multiple domains because they don’t want to break their brand. Your readers are dynamic, REAL human beings. They know you’re multifaceted. Don’t be scared to explore that with them. Or maybe I just get a pass on this one sense I essentially write about what it is to be human? Not sure.
Help your supporters! This can be as simple as liking or commenting on posts, sharing a blog, or, as I learned just today, displaying your recent commenters on your home page. (Go check those people out, man. They consistently support me and I’m so appreciative.)
Okay, thanks for sticking with me so far. In addition to writing what I’ve learned about blogging, I also want to use this space to ask questions that I need help with. If you CAN answer, kindly do. 🙂
Are hashtags still relevant?
Have any of you hit a “wall” with viewers? I haven’t had much new action since I got into the seventies and I’d really like to break the infamous “100” mark.
How important are graphics and photos?
I’ve slowly connected with a few bloggers that are really kindred spirits (Peter, Nida, Cristian, Em, Nadine) …How do you find blogs that REALLY are concerned with the same mission as you? Is it really just being patient and “collecting them” over a period of months?
If any of you would like to take a look at my site and offer any suggestions, I’d appreciate it and will return the favor (though I’m a total rookie, so I may not have much to suggest).
Lastly, I’m really starting to feel welcomed and accepted in this dysfunctional culture of awesomeness. I’m realizing that I can just be myself and support the healing of others, and that the world really is ready to accept that as a brand. Thanks for reading all this and following along, and I look forward to seeing ya’ll on the other side of the 100 follower mark.
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 King James Version (KJV)
The above scripture has always been one of my favorite pieces of literature, and sets well the tone for today’s post. Recently, I was asked by a dear friend, “Damn, man. How do you deal with so much stress?”
As usual, I think the only way to answer the question properly is to “cut the bullshit”. I’m not going to describe everything I’ve been through in my life in this post – I’m writing a full-length book which describes my life and the lessons I’ve learned from it. Instead, let’s use the following as a baseline: You’ve been through something beyond the ordinary, which has invoked the darkest of emotions. You’re so desperate for a break from all the world’s noise that, inwardly, you begin to contemplate whether it’s worth it to carry on. You want to leave the world, but obviously there’s a lot of conflict associated with that decision. You’ve made it past the fear of death and the moral conflict because you’re just too tired to care about that, but there’s still something holding you back from ending your life. Guilt? Honor? A thread of hope that there might be something more to life? Your spouse? Your children? Regardless of what it is – there’s something giving you pause.
How do you manage that level of stress?
Well, first of all, I will state plainly that I lived a very large portion of my life in that state, and ultimately people who are “on the edge” are the truest version of my intended audience as a writer. You can read more about my purpose concerning mental health, here. I spent well over a decade in the conflicted place described above, and if nothing else I did learn to manage it very well. Nobody knew that I was struggling. They all thought I was one of the nicest people they’d ever met, and lighthearted. My burdens were my own (mistake number one, by the way). Anyway, I thought it was high time to compile a list of strategies that might help people who are on the edge in the short-term until I can complete my larger work, which I hope will provide more long-term solutions. So – I hope the below tips will help.
Compartmentalize in a healthy way. We can’t just tuck everything away and not think about it until we explode. That is not healthy compartmentalization. But what you CAN do is to process trauma or pain in doses. You simply hold whatever is hurting you on the edge of your consciousness. You acknowledge that it is there and you acknowledge how you’re feeling, but you don’t let it overwhelm you. This is about focus, mental discipline, and self-control. When you’re in a place that dark you can actually practice this through meditation. Close your eyes, and let whatever feeling makes you panic ALMOST overwhelm you. And then push it back. Continue this process until you know how much you can allow yourself to process before it becomes white noise that you’re desperate to escape. Focus on processing the pain slowly without getting to that point. Don’t suppress, just digest slowly. (In my own mind, I have called this process “funneling.” You can’t just continue to absorb emotion indefinitely. You have to breath it in and breath it out. Let it go and accept it in a balanced way.)
Focus onsolutions. Most people who get to the point of contemplating death are doing so because they are dissatisfied with life. Meaning there’s an actual reason – it’s not just some chemical imbalance. So…Why are you dissatisfied with life? That might not always be an easy question to answer, and SOLVING the problem might be even tougher. But most consequences we perceive that come from solving our dissatisfaction are far less grave than death. If you need to get out of an unhealthy relationship, forgive yourself, or escape a life controlled by debt, there are ways to do all of those things. Come up with a strategy. Ask a friend. Focus on the solution.
READ. I’m dead-ass serious. For nearly a decade I struggled with overwhelming emotions without ever doing this, and one of the greatest breakthroughs I made was that studying can absolutely help process trauma. The fact that people from different cultures even within American use synonyms to describe similar ailments or ideas is a theme in my writing, and whether you refer to them as “demons,” or “mental illnesses,” or “struggles,” or any variation, I think most of us can agree that wanting to die is some sort of illness associated with the mind or spirit. Studying meditation, spirituality, or even reading fiction works (FANTASY!!!) can DEFINITELY help us to elevate and heal our minds and souls.
Live authentically and use your inner voice. For the longest time I was addicted to thinking I was alone in the world. “Nobody understood me.” Well, no shit, Sherlock! When you don’t tell anyone how you’re feeling, you can’t really expect them to know telepathically. Have at least one person in your life that you can tell ANYTHING to. Whether in person or in writing. Be honest with yourself and others and you’ll find the people who you were meant to live life with.
Sleep!!!! Seriously, if you feel like you should die but haven’t slept 8 hours straight for as long as you can remember, start here. Go to bed.
Be careful of projecting and of BAD habits. Real peace comes from within. It’s tempting to hope someone or something will solve all of your problems, and it’s good to find help, but this “on the edge” moment is not a good time for drinking, fighting, smoking, etc. Be careful of how much you “need” other people, but don’t be scared to lean on support networks. Contrarily to detrimental habits, it could be the PERFECT time to start a GOOD habit: working out, mechanics (get a project, like my 96′ Jeep XJ!), or (my personal favorite) writing.
I hope that a couple of those are helpful for anyone who needs them in the short-term. I’ll write more as time allows and I’m trying my best to finish my book for everyone.
Hey guys and gals – I know there are a lot of super talented folks in my network at this point, and many who aren’t in my network yet.
For those in my network – post a piece that you’d like some extra visibility on, and I’ll share a few that align with my “mission” as time allows. For folks both in my network or outside of it, write a brief description of what your blog offers readers. I’ll be sure to take a look at it and I hope many of my friends will as well. I’m hoping to give back a little and share some of the inspiration ya’ll give me. Simple as that! I think I’ll do this monthly.
Do you ever get envious of some of the adventure pictures and stories you see on the web? I know I do. “What a life!” I always think. “Must be nice to do that for a living instead of being a slave to the establishment.” I can admittedly be a bit melo-transcendental at times (and yes, I did just make that word up). Oh, to travel – to experience and inspire!
“What if that was me?”
If you aren’t careful, seeing folks that have somehow managed to live that lifestyle can force you into a rut.
Don’t you let it.
Amanda and I have been hiking Tennessee trails since before we ever met. We’ve also been lucky enough to hike in some incredible places across the Southwest, and even across the world (though we haven’t been out of the country together, yet). We may not live in a van or a modified school bus featuring a composting commode or solar shower, but we do escape on occasion to sleep in a tent for a few months, as long as there’s a nearby bathhouse so we can still look presentable at work.
And even with all the time we’ve spent in the woods locally, we still come across treasures we couldn’t have imagined in this part of the country. We came across one such treasure yesterday, which this blog’s title eludes to.
Pickett State Park and Pogue Creek Canyon. Within an hour and a half of Knoxville, Oak Ridge, and Harriman, and yet we (as avid outdoors enthusiasts) had never even heard of it. In one place, you get the largest canyon I’ve ever seen in this state, natural arches and bridges, caves, and even waterfalls. The difficulty of the trails ranges from super flat and relaxing to walk on, to challenging even for the most experienced. It was a place with so many options to explore that we’d have had to camp there for a week to even put a dent in them. We fully intend to.
Our first trail (below) led us to Hazard Cave.
The trail was pretty mild most of the way, with a few steps and stones to traverse during the final descent.
Of course we had to play with silhouettes and lighting once we’d arrived.
And I never miss an opportunity to kiss my perfect wife.
The cave is to the left of this photograph. I tried to run and climb to join Amanda for the picture, but couldn’t do it in the ten seconds my phone would allow before snapping the shot. …It would have taken me at least 14 seconds.
After the cave, we decided to head over to the park’s Natural Bridge. On the way, we saw the amazing root system below growing over a stone ledge.
And then we saw actual arches! In Tennessee! There are several throughout the park which we are intent on returning to find. Some of our favorite memories are at Arches National Park in Utah, where we cowboy camped and listened to a Native American man play a flute during a melancholic sunset. Arches are much more rare in our neck of the woods, and especially ones of this magnitude!
There was a staircase to the top of the bridge, which seemed to condone crossing it. In the Southwest, this is often a no-no.
Amanda wanted to blend in with all the trees, so she pulled this one out of her yoga-repertoire.
If you want to see us in our element, you’ll never get closer than the picture below. We walk our own individual trail in a lot of ways (I’m the idealist, she’s the rationalist; I’m emotional and empathetic and she’s a walking calculator who only shows her truest soul to yours truly).
Hiking together is a great metaphor. Sometimes the trail is easy, sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it’s literally impossible to do alone. But you still hike the damned thing, no matter what. And more often than not, you’ll find us with honest smiles like the ones beneath this text.
As we continued our hike, I was so happy to see (but mostly to smell) so much pine, which is very nostalgic for me as a South GA native in my childhood years. If you want, Amanda has managed to capture the fragrance astoundingly with her Pine or Cedar scented candles, which you can learn more about at The Gypsy’s Store.
Pickett State Park featured super nice bathhouses and campsites, some of which were right on the water.
There was a bouncy bridge that, while well constructed, made me feel a bit odd.
Both Pickett and Pogue are participants in the International Dark-Sky Association, which you can read more about in the photographs below.
To help support the many efforts of the State Park, we purchased a couple of t-shirts from the clearance rack in the visitor’s center. I’m especially fond of mine, which features John Muir. If you haven’t heard of him, you should definitely do some research on the guy. He’s right up there with John Wesley Powell as an inspiration and a hero, but to be honest I need to do a lot more research myself as well. Essentially, all I know is that he had an amazing journey, advocated for the outdoors, and had one hell of a beard.
It was funny how it happened; While we were at Hazard Cave with no cell signal, our mutual best friend and hiking pal messaged us about an amazing place he’d found that he needed to show us. He sent a picture of one of the rock faces he was looking at, and Amanda and I had only seen one place like it in TN. The one we were at! No prior discussion, no planning at all, and we both selected the same park to hike on the same day, coming from different directions that were over an hour from Pickett. Once we returned to cell service, we managed to link up (it took all of five minutes – we actually found his car before any of the texts went through).
He then took us to Pogue, where I got the shot below.
She’s so stunning.
Background isn’t bad either.
Our buddy (Steven) said that the view paled in comparison to the final overlook, but we were sadly losing light and had a long drive home.
The point, though, is this. If you can find places like that on short day trips (which you always can), it makes returning to work the next week a lot easier. I still get disillusioned, no doubt. All we want is a few acres to ourselves. A log home, some chickens, and a garden. Rain water and solar power and a German Shepherd. Space. Peace and quiet, to truly focus on the things I need to write and the messages I need to leave the world. To just focus on each other.
Those things will all happen in time though, and being inspired by places like Pickett and Pogue will ensure that it does.
You know what’s funny? Sometimes, when I point people toward the blog they didn’t know we had, they ask me if hiking is my job. When I tell them it isn’t, they ask “How do you do it, with work and all?”