Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Amazing, inspiring, or just crazy?

This was certainly an interesting choice for our book club last month.  I am only a few weeks behind in our reads, and well, last month we saw a movie, so I am in the clear :)  When I was a few chapters in, I asked one of my mates how they felt about it - she made the comment that she was amazed by the accomplishment, but certainly not inspired by her to do the same thing.  Over all the reads we have tackled over the years, some of the authors have created quite the response in all of us (not always the same response).  Some of the authors we all wanted to reach out and connect even remotely on FB, and others, you realize you don't even really want to meet them in person.  I think I went through a range of emotions as I read this book, and considered whether or not this is an inspiring tale, or an amazing one.  I would err on the side of amazing.  Yes, it is truly inspiring to read about any individual challenging themselves physically or intellectually, however, how she goes about it is truly ass-backwards.  There are moments of clarity in this book, and there are profound moments that could have been revealed that are dropped like bombs and then moved away from as quickly as possible in a slightly disconcerting way.
It is hard to reconcile parts of her life - the woman who could shoot heroin the day before she takes off on such a momentus hike and the humbled person whose hand reaches out to touch the Bridge of the Gods.  The person who struggled with being alone, and the one who sought out to undermine her first marriage.  It is also hard to grapple with how the family horse was so ungraciously 'put down', and then the quiet serenity in the woods when she sees a fox or a deer. 
It is a good book.  I thought of myself when my friend Kelz and I did a 120 km backwoods canoe circuit in northern BC.  We planned the whole thing out, had our supplies, and took a fair amount of care heading out.  Definitely a personal accomplishment, and you meet some amazing people along the way.  Ken and I hope to take the boys and do it in a few years.  I digress. 
Was I truly inspired by this book? Well, I was impressed at what she accomplished but I am not planning to trail blaze in her path, in her manner.  Then again, who would?  We are all on a personal journey of discovery and I look forward to talking about this book in our next meeting.  Cheryl completed most of the PCT as a woman on her own, with limited financial means, with very little training. She most certainly accomplished something to be proud of. I suspect it will be a lively discussion and I look forward to hearing everyone's opinions about this book.
I have come back to edit a few paragraphs of this post, since the end felt a bit rushed.
I reflected a bit more, and I do admire her honesty in this book.  To know your kids are going to read about some of your mistakes, and events in your life that you are not proud of is raw and leaving your self vulnerable.  She does leave herself open to criticsm (such as the points mentioned above), but there is also a kind of courage in writing a book like this and not omitting these kinds of details from the book itself. 
I know that writing this blog, there are parts that I do censor, even if it is from strangers. I choose the details that I want to reveal.  Laying everything on the table isn't easy, and in this book, there are parts that I wish she talked about more, but perhaps the starkness of some her revelations are also telling.  So, to go back to an earlier point, it will be an interesting book club.  At some point  in the future, I think that I will pick up Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods"... which is another backpacking novel.  I also think about what will be my next personal, physical challenge.  Will it be participating in a few 5km jogs (I really don't move fast enough for them to be called runs yet) this year or if it will be something else that I don't know is coming... I look forward to figuring it out.  I would like to get in some local hikes and just challenge myself.  I would also like to start canoeing again, and spend more times doing these kinds of things outdoors.

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