Paul, the kids, and I checked off another thing on my 40 before 40 bucket list this weekend. To say I’m excited about having completed this one is an understatement. And to have accomplished it as a family makes this one even sweeter.
It was a lesson in how to stop scary thoughts…or rather how to help myself not be so scared of my scary thoughts.
We live in a neighborhood with lots of trails and hiking paths. There are tons of places to take your family on little hikes. We even took Charley, my 3-year-old, up to meet Santa at the top of one Christmas Eve.
Most of them are basically big hills with easily walkable and accessible trails. However, there is a particular mountain on the bigger side with a giant cross at the top. It is so beautiful and big and I just love how it calls to me.
It’s on the way into/out of our neighborhood and it’s like the last big mountain before you get back into regular civilization. It feels like a protection of sorts.
I’ve never been a super avid hiker. My sister and I used to walk a trail all the time in Alabama. Paul and I have done one or two hikes since we’ve lived here but nothing crazy or notable. I also have the very convenient excuse that I have little kids and who wants to take them hiking?
But as I was putting together my 40 before 40 bucket list, I added the big mountain to it. I mean, I think about hiking it every time I drive by…which has been lots of times in the past 3 years.
Being scared af…
So this weekend, we packed the kids up (Charley, 3, and Deklan 1.5), and away we went.
As we pulled off the road to get out, I was almost nervous. Do you know that feeling you get right before you accomplish something that you’ve been wanting for so long? It was that.
Thinking about changing a thought that I’d had about a million times from “I want to hike that” to “Holy shit, I’ve hiked that” scared me!
Not to mention we had the kids and my brain was already coming up with reasons why this wasn’t a good idea. Both of them were wearing Crocs being the first one…
But, Paul is supportive and trusting. So he put Deklan on his shoulders and off we went. The first part of the hike wasn’t so bad. The trail was wide enough that it looked like 4-wheelers had driven it lots of times.
Charley was very insistent that Dad wait for her and that mom hurry up.
As the trail narrowed, my thoughts started going wild. It was super rocky but like the fist-sized rocks where it feels like you could slip and cause a landslide.
I had Charley with me and Paul was doing his thing way up ahead. I honestly started to get a little scared. And with fear come thoughts.
“What were we thinking?”
“Where tf is Paul?”
“We have to turn around.”
“How to stop scary thoughts?”
There came a point when I realized how much harder these out-of-control thoughts were making it to not only get myself up the hill but also to support Charley in doing so. I remember trying to push her in front of me and then stopping to think “she doesn’t know where she’s going, she needs you to show her.”
I got in front of her as best I could and we were able to climb and bear crawl our way up to a little clearing with a beautiful view. It was at this point that I was ready to turn back. We were about ⅔ of the way up.
The path ahead didn’t look like a path but more like a rock climb. I had no idea how Paul was going to make it with Deklan on his shoulders. Or how I’d get Charley up there too.
Luckily, Paul didn’t really give me a choice.
Just keep going
As we started to leave our little clearing, Charley told me she needed to sit there and “have a think.” Three-year-olds…they’re so wise. I took that opportunity to try to STOP thinking.
I grounded into my feet, found gratitude for the mountain, and remembered that I was safe. At that point, it was easier to remind me that I was doing something that I’d been wanting to do. Even though it was scary. Even though it was harder than I thought. And I suddenly didn’t need to know how to stop the scary thoughts, I just needed to allow them to happen.
Once Charley was done thinking, up we went. It was a slow climb to the top. A scary climb to the top. But we just kept putting one foot or hand in front of the other and we made it. All four of us made it to the tippy top…of a mountain!
As I got to the top, a white butterfly was swarming around and it felt like a really good sign. Paul and Deklan had been up there for what felt like 20 minutes already and they made a very cool rock pile which Charley was only too excited to sit on.
I felt elated, excited, and happy, and I wanted to cry. Doing things that you’ve been wanting to do for so long feels so fucking liberating. It changes a daily thought from “I have to/want to do xyz” into “I have done xyz.”
That’s a powerful change to make for yourself.
Going back down
As with all hikes up, there is the calamity of going back down. We’d risen to the top and now it was time to descend back to real life….and what is scarier than going up? Going back down!
This time, Paul took Charley on his shoulders and I had Deklan. Deklan, who is 1.5 and wants to be carried. Deklan, who has an attitude the size of the mountain when he doesn’t get what he wants. Yup, I had my beautiful baby boy to try to get safely down.
And on the way down, it was the scariest part first to tackle instead of last. I carried him as best I could but there were parts where I could literally not hold him and climb down.
I tried to sit him down and he screamed. So we sat for a bit and he threw some rocks and played in the dirt until I got so annoyed that we were making no progress that I basically had to drag him down partway…he was in jeans… he was fine.
We clamored our way down as best we could until we got to the fist-size rocks and then we had to sit again…because I freaking fell! It felt like a total disaster but that’s the point my hero came to save me.
I turn around and see Paul coming back up to help. He’s the absolute best, you guys. He grabbed the baby and put him up on his shoulders and we hiked the rest of the way down with zero incidents.
As I said in my newsletter, I have a sneaky feeling that each of the things I check off my list is going to have a lesson attached to it. I’m also low-key obsessed with learning new things as often as I can, especially about myself.
Just to be honest, I know I’ll be finding lessons in each of these for a long time to come. This is something I think is so cool about life and the universe…you can always look back on things and find another piece of the puzzle that so perfectly fits together.
One of the lessons in the hike was that there will always be scary feelings and thoughts. There will always be parts of me that don’t want to change and grow. That doesn’t mean that I have to buy into what they’re saying. It doesn’t mean I have to believe what they tell me.
It also doesn’t mean I need a manual on how to stop scary thoughts…because they will always be there and that’s OK!
Yes, things can be freaking scary. Yes, we definitely weren’t the most prepared. And yes, I was fully supported by my family the entire way.
When I remembered that thoughts are just thoughts, I could access parts of me that knew how to ground me. Parts of me that knew how safe this hike was. The clearest, most aligned parts of me.
And I always have access to those parts of me, I just have to breathe and remember them.
Changing a thought is life-changing. I was able to change a thought I have more than once a day from “I want to hike that mountain” to “I have hiked that mountain.”
When I think about thoughts and feelings that come along with wanting to do something, I think of having an endless to-do list. Feeling like someday I’ll accomplish that thing. It’s something that could possibly at some point become a reality.
When I think about the thoughts and feelings that come along with having accomplished something, I feel good. Empowered. Like a motha freaking badass, if you will.
And now I will have a different thought that sparks other thoughts and feelings a couple of times a day…forever.
Is that not the wildest thing to think about?
For you: How to stop scary thoughts
Here is your invitation to take a look at your own life and audit your thoughts. What thoughts do you have on repeat? Taking an honest and non-judgemental look at the things swirling around inside your brain is important. It helps you to see what stories and feelings you are feeding yourself.
Are the thoughts you are having ones that you want to keep having? If not, what are some intentional thoughts you can create? Intentional thoughts are thoughts you makeup and then repeat to yourself over and over and over and over and…you get the idea. They are thoughts that fuel you, they help you get closer to your dreams and goals.
The cool thing about intentional thoughts is that when you use them, they start to create new neural pathways in your brain. You are literally training your brain to think more how you want to think instead of letting it hand you whatever stuff it has on repeat.
Think about your dreams, goals, and aspirations and create 1-3 new intentional thoughts to use. Be like a dog with a bone with them and whenever you feel yourself going down a black hole of thought despair, throw it a bone with a new thought.
Then you won’t even need to know how to stop scary thoughts because they won’t be handed to you by your brain on default.