Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton
About six months into my relationship with my husband we went with his family to California to camp in Yosemite National Park. One afternoon he took me on what he described as a “pretty easy hike”. Prior to California, my definition of hiking was limited to the rolling hills in northern Minnesota, so a “pretty easy hike” in my book looked more like a leisurely stroll down Nicolette Mall in Minneapolis on a sunny June afternoon.
At the beginning of the hike there was a sign that stated the hike would be about three miles there and another three miles back. What I was not made aware of was the dramatic incline at the very end of the hike and it was ALL STEPS. About halfway up the staircase my legs started to buckle. My first major hike at a completely different altitude than I was used to and I was struggling. Hard. There were many times I looked at Kyle and said, “Nope. No further. I’m done.” He would smile, encourage me to take a seat, and wait with me until I seemed a little less exhausted. Then he would calmly ask me: “Do you want to keep going?” With his patience and encouragement, I made it significantly further than I thought I would at the beginning of the incline.
Truthfully, I don’t think I would have made it half as far on that hike by myself. I’m pretty sure I would have walked back down to the base the minute I felt the first side cramp: nope, not today muscles, not today. Can you picture it?
Throughout my life, I have observed in myself and others, that when the road gets rough, choosing to lean into trustworthy and meaningful relationships can be incredibly powerful. Hearing, “Yea, I’ve been there, too” or “I had no idea you were carrying so much. Thank you for telling me”, can bring some light back into a dark and hopeless place. We simply cannot do it alone.
I’m not going to say it isn’t scary though. What if Kyle wasn’t a patient person? Or was having an off day? What if he would have left me behind out of boredom and I’d gotten hurt? The “what ifs” can be staggering, filling us with fear that doing something challenging, risky, or hard with someone else might cause us more pain than if we’d done it alone. Yet, walking through life with those that love us well has the power to deepen those relationships beyond our wildest dreams and help us grow.
As a therapist, I have the honor to sit with clients at various places in their life. We talk, listen, laugh, and cry, knowing that being together on the journey gives significance to the pain and challenge. We wrestle with inner-dialogue and question lifelong beliefs about self and others together. We create new experiences and we write new narratives together. We work together because in relationship healing happens.
Who in your life would walk slowly with you up the side of a mountain only to turn around and head back down with the end in sight but not reached? Who would you want to join you on your journey, whatever the journey may look like? For me, those people look like a ragamuffin mix of friends, family and a therapist…or two. I often lean into each of those relationships for support, encouragement, and real, straightforward, honesty.
If you find yourself thinking, “Who in the world could be that for me?” I hope you know that is a really great question. For me, my journey of finding and developing these relationships began in a therapist’s office. He helped me see, with compassion, that I had the ability to influence the relationships I was in; my life is forever changed. If you’re asking yourself who could be that for you, think about the relationships in your life:
- Can they sit with me without trying to fix my problems, change me, or exert their influence over me?
- Are they someone who shows compassion and empathy in a variety of relationships and situations?
- Do I trust them to protect my story and keep me safe?
If you feel like you want to develop that kind of support but aren’t sure how, therapy may be a helpful relationship for you. One way to locate a therapist in your area is through websites like Psychology Today and Good Therapy. You’re able to access numerous therapists based on your needs within a certain distance from your home. Thousands of therapist uses these site to provide easy access to their contact information. Another resource I refer clients to as they navigate and develop relationships is the book Safe People.
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