Part One: The Ten Thousand Things
I set my toothbrush down, then leaned into the mirror and stared into my own eyes. I could feel myself disintegrating inside myself like a past-bloom flower in the wind. Every time I moved a muscle, another petal of me blew away. Please, I thought. Please.
First of all, I love the notion of a person as a flower with the petals disintegrating. I don't ever recall having that feeling, but that image—so specific, so gorgeous—caused me to have great empathy for people who see themselves that way.
Part Two: Tracks
Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told.
I just love that line for all the obvious reasons. So much of who we are is born of the story we tell ourselves. Cheryl's courage is born of a different story. That's what was so exciting to me. Most people are stuck in the same story they've been telling themselves since they were ten years old.
What a mountain was and what a desert was were not the only things I had not expected. I hadn't expected the flesh on my tailbone and hips and the fronts of my shoulders to bleed.
As I continued to read this book, I realized what a wuss-puss I am. For me, this kind of pain is all the more reason to turn back. But for Cheryl, the trip was about reclaiming herself. If she gives up on the trip, she gives up on herself.
The one for whom behind every hot pair of boots or sexy little skirt or flourish of the hair there was a trapdoor that led to the least true version of me. Now there was only one version. On the PCT I had no choice but to inhabit it entirely, to show my grubby face to the whole wide world.
This passage represents a shift in identity for Cheryl. Until this point, she was an idea of who she should be. The PCT stripped her raw—down to who she really was. I loved it because it shows her getting to the core of who she really is.
Part Three: Range of Light
I was soothed by their company. Being near Tom and Doug at night kept me from having to say to myself I am not afraid whenever I heard a branch snap in the dark or the wind shook so fiercely it seemed like something bad was bound to happen. But I wasn't out here to keep myself from having to say I am not afraid. I'd come, I realized, to stare that fear down, to stare everything down, really—all that I'd done to myself and all that had been done to me. I couldn't do that while tagging along with someone else.
This is the definition of real courage to me: to stand in the face of fear and stare it down.
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