Decision Points in the Wilderness – Erin Lammott

I went out hiking by myself yesterday. You know what that means… yup, metaphors and a blog post. Green Mountain hosted me for about six hours yesterday and shared her views on life. Not going to lie, I was nervous to do a new and longer hike by myself than I’ve ever done alone. So nervous, in fact, that I made a last minute trip to REI to give them more of my money and complete my list of The 10 Essentials. I sent a five page text to my roommates with a description of my route and detailed description of my clothes. That’s all smart. I’ll keep doing it. Just saying… I was anxious. Anyway, I survived! The hike was about 7 miles, pretty vertical, and had about 20 decision points. While I was super thankful for all the trail markings, there were many times I wanted a more detailed confirmation that I was choosing the right path. “Here’s your sign” wasn’t enough. That’s how I’m feeling in life right now. My family, friends, and ESC community have talked through life decisions with me- specifically about choosing a job and location. At the end of the day, I’m making the decisions alone & a bit fearful of choosing the wrong path. I noticed yesterday, I would be pretty sure of my direction, but hesitant. Then trail runners would pass me & I repeatedly would think “Oh good, I’m going the right way.” Granted, I don’t know where they were going, but the company meant I at least I wasn’t all alone & would end up SOMEWHERE. Or the mountain lion would eat them first… either way hahah… *nervous laughter fades*.

In all seriousness, the trail was supposed to be a loop and I almost turned back three times due to fear of predatory animals, light rain, and lack of confidence in my ability to follow the map. After all, known risk is better than unknown risk, right? The first time I almost turned back, was I legitimately spooked that a mountain lion might be hunting me. Two trail runners passed me. I got the confidence to keep trekking. Then, not even .1 miles later, there was the first peak! I should mention that a great motivator for this hiking day, was needing to get away from people for a while. On that summit though, there were tons of people. I honestly don’t know where they came from or how they got there, but wow were they a beautiful sight. Normally, I’m like “Y’all be quiet and go home.” But today, when I was actually scared of being alone in the wilderness, I was so glad to find there were actually herds of people here. It felt nice to be happy to have people sharing the experience. That’s how I’ve been feeling about this service year. It felt pretty wild to leave my corporate job and come out here for this year of “intentional community and service.” What does that even mean?? UNKNOWN RISK. Now that I’m here though, it feels like belonging. I’ve met people who share my interest in spirituality, appreciation for the environment, emotion, and belief in people. I don’t need everyone to have all that, but being in community where it’s respected and understood, is a breath of fresh air. And, like the strangers on the summit, they give me enough confidence to keep going.

Then it was time to move on. Back in the wilderness alone. The most significant decision point was about two miles later. I could either go back the way I came or take a detour through the canyon to cut the actual 12 mile hike short. I had been reassuring myself with a more detailed account of the hike from James Dziezynski’s book. His book covered the 12 mile hike though so the shortcut canyon trail didn’t have much information. If I made the decision to continue through the canyon, then that would take me to the next decision point – Mesa Trail split – which meant my ability to read directions would either lead me home or so far into the wilderness that I would be out there at least deep into the night. For someone with limited food and water and scared of the dark, THAT IS THE WRONG OPTION. I decided to turn back and go the way I came. Before returning, I rested. As I stood up to return, the sun came out, a trail runner went onto the Canyon path, and I lightly thought “you can do this.” So even though I thought I would go back the way I came, a couple small indicators and confidence led me to the canyon detour. UNKNOWN RISK. I started to regret it when I felt exposed and vulnerable to danger in the low lands. (I see why the high ground is coveted in battle now.) I had committed though, so I continued down the path. And, lo and behold, the most beautiful part of the hike! Honestly, it was probably the prettiest scenery I’ve seen so far in Colorado – and that’s saying something. If I had retuned the way I came, I would have missed the most beautiful and rewarding part. Great risk, great reward I guess.

I wish I could say the hike gave me clarity about my upcoming life decisions. It didn’t give me more than a lot of signs. A few reminders to self though. 1) As much as I want to be independent and fine, it’s nice to have company and not always be alone in the wilderness. 2) Unknown risk is scary and can yield great returns. 3) Pay attention to the details because the devil (or angel) is in the details. 4) You are responsible and cover your bases, so have confidence dude. You got it. (Idk, nature just whispered that to me). 5) Yo, nature is pretty rad.

CO Trail

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Wait, I’ve Been Here Before – Erin Lammott

Today I set out to conquer a new hike that I had never before attempted. When I got to the trail head, I recognized it instantly. I was on this trail three years ago. Previously, I only ran up the base. I turned back and didn’t do the full trail because I feared hiking it alone, I didn’t have the equipment, and mostly because I was anxious about starting a new job in a couple months so I decided to use the time to prepare for the job instead of being outside. Today was very ironic. I’m actually in the same position again. I almost decided to forego hiking today so that I could prepare for my next job. Instead I did, I guess what they call it, Carpe Diem / C’est la vie? Lived in the day. I was very struck by being on this same trail three years later. Sometimes I think nature/ God / the universe leads us back in a loop to somewhere we’ve been before to reveal more and to offer a lesson that we may have missed the last time. Today I’m back here, further down the trail. Still by myself. Learning what’s relevant for me. Receiving the healing powers that nature and the body will restore. Being reminded the end isn’t as treacherous as it may seem.

Three years ago I was sitting in this same place, but it looked so different. I was very focused in on my relationship and my upcoming job. I wouldn’t have used these words before, but I was anxious and fearful of changes I felt coming. And change sure did happen. Much has happened in the past three years. A fear then is still a fear of mine now – being lonely. And there has been loneliness. AND the past three years though have introduced me to so many new friends and also proved some relationships can last through time and distance. There’s been so much unpredicted love and many unforeseen lessons.

Today was a God moment. It was healing and restorative. I really needed that reminder to remember that one day I will be looking back at this point in my life thinking “Wow, it seemed so hard, stressful, and scary back then. And look how things have changed and where I am now.” Sometimes I wish my path was straighter, more direct, point A to point B. I guess it’s worth it though. To be led down this more winding path – maybe even back to the same trail – if it means going further down said trail and ending in way that feels how I feel today. More like myself. More confident. More assured that things will work out.  Keep trekking, E. Keep trekking, friends. It be good.

Flat Irons Trail base - 03.2018
Thanks God. Thanks nature. Thanks body. Thanks loved ones. Thanks timing.  

Taking My Time – Anthony Suggs

Time is a funny thing. Like many things we put lots of weight into as human beings, it is a construct. It can be experienced differently depending on what is going on in your life, who you are with, what you are doing, what is in your control, and what is out of it. Time means many things to many people and, despite the exact measurements of your clock, it is relative.

January felt very fresh and exciting. The legislative session of the Colorado General Assembly convened for its 120 day period which made my job as an advocacy and social justice coordinator a little more exciting! Life was very very busy, but I felt as though I had a grasp on my time and was able to take everything in as it came and keep in the context of the bigger picture. And then February happened.

As the already hectic schedule of January continued on into February, time began to be less distinct. It began to flow together in one continuous stream; the days and weeks sort of blending together. The shortest month of the year somehow felt like it was the longest, yet I felt as though much of it was passing me by.

I don’t think I’m alone in this experience of exceptionally busy or challenging parts of life. It can be so easy to get stuck in a cycle with our lives to the point that we stop paying attention. We stop looking for the Divine in the midst of us and even within our own lives. The Holy is everywhere and when we don’t stop to check in with it, we run the risk of missing out on the bigger picture. The bigger picture that is, at the same time, beyond our individual lives and deeply rooted in the everyday of our individual lives.

So, I’ve been making a strong effort to check in with myself in March to make sure that I’m not just coasting along. I want to seek. I want to notice. I want to be present.

There’s no better time than now.

A Little Bit of Bragging – Emily Eldridge

I tend not to talk about my accomplishments very much, even when I’m proud of myself. Other people usually brag for me, to my total embarrassment. But I feel I’ve done some pretty cool things at the museum this month so I want to share.

On Thursday I posted the link to an article I wrote for the local paper on the ESC Facebook page. I wrote about the 1918 flu epidemic and its impact on Colorado, particularly on Steamboat Springs and other nearby towns. This is my first public piece of writing.

The big one: in case you missed it, the Olympics took place this month. I’ve never really paid attention to them, but I have the privilege of living and working in Ski Town U.S.A. Steamboat Springs has ties to more Olympic athletes than anywhere else in the country. 15 2018 Winter Olympians lived or trained here, and that meant I couldn’t ignore the Olympics this year. Quite the opposite – I created my very first solo museum exhibit about Steamboat’s 2018 athletes! I researched the games and athletes, designed and mounted (with help!) the information panels and a couple of artifacts belonging to previous Olympians.

Meanwhile, this past week my boss arranged an amazing loan for the museum – a 2010 Olympic silver medal won by Steamboat Springs native Johnny Spillane. And the coolest part: in the absence of the museum curator, she turned the medal over to me to create a display! It was small and simple, but I don’t think I’ve ever handled something as cool (or as valuable!) before. I got started on the display before the medal arrived so it could go up quickly, so I was relieved when it turned out looking great with no adjustments needed.

These are things I worked hard on this month and am proud to have done. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to have done these things and for the support and help I had in doing them.

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Let {Real} Freedom Ring – Erin Lammott

Every week we sit in a circle and share a moment when we felt we (as individuals) experienced God. This week I didn’t have one God moment really, but more of a series of thoughts. For the last few years, I have been practicing Christianity and for the last few years I have also felt a bit of a wandering heart. I’m just not all in on this hipster, Jesus-only, #blessed, rock band, passionate, hands up in praise, no questions Christianity.

This week though, I realized, I am a Christian and I’m able to speak that over myself. When it boils down to the me and God of it- I am a believer. I need and want this faith in my life. I’m in it and not walking away. I noticed that Denver has been the only place where I have not felt a desire to resist Christianity and look for another religion. This is something I’m committed to for #lyfe. I wonder why though – what’s gotten me to this point?

I believe the biggest piece is that here, I have the true freedom to choose. Supposedly, I’ve always had that freedom. But not really. Before there was always the pervasive assumption of Christianity. It is the religion of all the biggest & most visible churches, the opportunities for community are in church small groups and church-facilitated sports, in the “Godly man” awaiting me to be his “Godly wife” one day. Most of the groups doing good charity-type work were affiliated with Christian churches in Indiana, Kansas, and Illinois. The culture felt it was set up to flow the little Erin fish in to the big sea ( C ) of Christianity (lol seeee what I did there).

Choosing not to be a Christian meant: remove the majority of dating prospects from your radar, probably join the crazy hippies or non-spiritual at all because that is all there is. Good luck finding a small group type community because that’s really a staple for quality socialization in the Midwest. And watch as your old small groups and church leaders pray for your soul. Also, remove that connection point from your list of ways to network with other generations in the workplace because you won’t have that shared understanding or see each other around at church anymore. And say goodbye to a lot of your music too. So yes, I could technically give up Christianity, but not without losing many other pieces of my life.

Here, in the metro, I actually do have the freedom to choose. Sure, Christianity seems to still be the dominant religion, but there are plenty of other viable options. Plenty of non-Christian spiritual people to date, pods of community who unite around common values, people who are open to fluid conversations. The C-suite staff isn’t predictably Christian.

And you know what that leads to? Talking about our values, our common humanity, our experiences, what we truly believe in – beyond the labels.

Christianity is so much more complex than I was taught through watching on the outside for 20 years and the inside of different non-denominational churches for the last five years. It’s helped me to name what I am not, in trying to find what I am. I am not willing to form judgements of LGBTQIA, not going to be anti-abortion, I don’t have to want kids, I don’t have to agree with the belief that women shouldn’t be preachers, I don’t have to believe [they] are a lost soul because [they’re] not baptized, I don’t have to be docile, and the list continues.

Just because I believe in the Christian God does not mean that I have to prescribe to all these other beliefs or else be lonely for life. I am not going to be blind or easily go-with-the-flow. It’s just not who I am (those of you who know me, probably know that haha). It is quite likely that I am going to be critically-questioning for my whole life – and I am glad. So when I do have moments like this week, I can fully claim it for myself. And when I talk with others of different denominations, faith systems, or those who don’t claim a religion, and we can connect on the soul of it, not the basic culture. I guess I’m just glad that it isn’t a black and white, all or nothing thing. There is so much gray space and I’m thankful for the diversity of Denver and multiple generations investing in our learning. It gives me peace to not have to pick a side, just more of a human, ya know? I hope we let people be free, let people be what they are.

Hindsight
Left more than I would have thought in Indiana when I moved three years ago…

Gimme Some Warm Weather

chikenbonenowison

Right now it is the middle of winter. At my placement site, Saint Francis Center. we see hundreds of people a day. which means we also come in contact with hundreds of germs a day. In your first year at SFC it is expected you’ll get sick all through the winter pretty much. It’s science. But it still sucks. So right now my head isn’t too much into the heavy stuff. I’m doing what I can to keep learning and growing but the fact of the matter is that sometimes your head just ain’t in the game. Right now i’m constantly dreaming of warmer weather and skateboarding, and sitting out on the porch after work. I’ve pretty much entirely stopped wearing deodorant, which is actually pretty sick. I get some pretty obnoxious BO but i’m the only one who smells it so who cares really? I’m gonna post a link to a skateboard video, I really hope you take a couple minutes and check it out, skateboarding brings me a lot of comfort and helps me get out of my head. So from me to you, here is a video called “Chicken Bone Nowison”.

Later.

Link is right below 🙂

Chicken Bone Nowison

Embracing the Discomfort – Emily Eldridge

One of the first things we talked about way back at the start of this program (a whole 5 months ago, which sometimes feels like a lot longer) was embracing vulnerability, and the discomfort that comes with it. In case you couldn’t tell by now I’m the type of person who haaaates vulnerability and feeling uncomfortable. Back in August, we were talking about Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly, which I read admittedly in kind of a rush, but which I filled with highlights because I identified so strongly with her words about the discomfort of vulnerability.

In one of Kirsten’s and my early sessions with our group therapist we practiced sitting in silence and focusing on the awkwardness we felt. I don’t know about you, but I’m the kind of person who tries to avoid and ignore awkwardness as much as possible, and sitting in silence with other people almost always feels uncomfortable. But the point of the exercise was to notice how it felt, keep going, and see how the discomfort lessened.

A couple of weeks ago when I was thinking about what to write for this blog, I expected to write a little about this being about the halfway point of the program. I had a vague idea of summarizing some of my favorite moments and talking about how I finally felt settled in and comfortable. However, things have gotten pretty uncomfortable again since then. A lot of the routines I’ve built up are changing, and the future is a little hazier than I would like.

I had to push through the discomfort just to go on last weekend’s retreat, which in all honesty, I was wishing I could skip. I knew there would be expectations of vulnerability and I was not feeling like opening up to a dozen new strangers on top of the anxiety I was already feeling. But as it turned out, braving that discomfort was a good thing for me. Remember I wrote about hating talking to new people? I talked to a bunch (by my definition anyway) of new people over the weekend and it wasn’t as difficult as I expected. I ended up being glad that I went on the retreat.

So my life does not feel as stable as I would like right now, and there’s a fair amount of anxiety and awkwardness to deal with. I just have to remember that there’s something better on the other side of the discomfort.

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