IM Going Outward Bound Once Again- Well, Sort of.

IM Going Outward Bound Once Again- Well, Sort of.

Friday 28 August 2015

Welcome Home...

Well, I am home, and I not only survived my last Outward Bound trip, I thrived. I was going to say the thriving was not noticeable until I got home and recovered, but that’s not true.

Outward Bound is about discoveries, adventure, challenges and digging down deep. It’s about finding out who you really are and being delighted in what you find. 

To say it was an “interesting adventure” would be an understatement. I met some amazing women, had some amazing growth and spent an entire week Ghost Busting and laying old beliefs to rest. Like the surroundings, The North Coast Trail, on the northern tip of Vancouver Island, it was wild, it was hard, at times brutal, and it was beautiful beyond words.

As usual, with every Outward Bound trip, I was nervous, and had not really slept well for the few nights before the trip. I kept waking up at 3:00 am wondering what the Hell I had gotten myself into. There were moments I actually thought of pulling out. Telling myself I would be more comfortable staying at home- true fact- I would get more sleep at home,-another true fact- but somewhere inside my intuition told me, this was going to be a moment of amazing growth, and I needed to do this trip to move forward. As it turned out- this, also, was a true fact!

The groups start and departure point was the Scout Camp, Camp Gilwell, right here in the Comox valley,  and I’m thinking “oh boy!” This was an area a friend, who also had Dissociative Identity Disorder, and I, would go to sit on the river’s edge and chat, look for fossils, cry and just try to find something to hang on to keep us going for another day. Sadly, she is no longer with us. So I knew right off that bat that the universe was going to challenge me, I just had no idea how much.

The group of us get together, chat for a bit, and find out we are going on The North Coast Trail. I’m thinking “Yes!” Then “Wholly Shit!” I have heard about this trail!!!”We then make our last phone calls, e-mails, texts etc. to let family and friends know we have safely arrived, put the phones and electronic devices away for a week and our adventure begins.  We sort out what gear is needed, instructions on how to dress in layers, receive lovely little journals to write in, then have a circle and chat for a bit, then have a few moments of quiet time down by the river, the very same path and spot on the river my friend and I had taken countless times many years ago.

After we get together we once again, chat about the course, why we are here, what we want to get out of it and just start to get to know each other. We make plans for an early departure, and hit the sack. After a night of only a few hours’ sleep, we are up, pack our packs and load the truck up, hop into the van and on our way, we have a luxury coffee stop in Courtenay to grab coffees to go, and we are on our way up to Pt. Hardy, a 3-4 hour drive, where we will get a 1 and ½ hour water taxi ride to our start destination Cape Sutil. 

The water taxi ride was amazing, the sea was calm, we saw Sea otters, deer on a beach and the scenery was rugged and spectacular. I, and as I found out later others, naively thought we would just have to jump off the front of the boat into a couple of feet of water and walk to the beach. NOT!!! 

We had to get to the drop off point at high tide, and the boat nosed its way up against a steep rock, about 10 feet or so high, - it felt like 20 to me- we had to get off the front of the boat and scale up the rock. Ok, panic moment #3 so far. I won’t write down what I was thinking, but I could not watch the others get off the boat, with packs and make their way up, my panic was so bad I had to focus on breathing and I kept looking out to the ocean. I must have had this look of terror on my face as even the boat captain said “you will be alright.” One of the instructors came over and checked in with me and told me I was doing the right thing and that she would carry my pack up for me. I felt my old coping system kicking in, the old, numbing/dissociating  myself from the moment, or the submit and collapse-“we can’t do that” 

My time came and I didn’t climb up the rock, I crawled on all fours, thinking, “shit”- (used a different word) it’s just started and I’m screwed” –(once again used a different word!) It was very emotional for me, but with the help and support I made it.

We all (including the 2 dozen fresh eggs) – safely got up the rock, along the edge and down to the beach. Once my legs and arms stopped trembling I looked around and the scenery was stunning, hard packed sandy beach, thick forest, amazing rock outcroppings, deep sea foam green water, and mosquitoes.

We move ourselves and gear down the beach, unpack the food packs and have lunch. I’m thinking “I could spend the whole week at this spot” but I knew that’s not what I was there for. It was a lovely day, a slight breeze was coming off the water that made it cool, but not cold. It was amazingly beautiful, I could look out the ocean for miles, and somewhere there was a fog horn sending its low drone across the waters. I felt better once I had something to eat, and after we learned how to set up the tents, and broke off into groups to set them up.

 We then went and got water from a stream further down the beach, treated that, learned how to pack our backpacks correctly, how to work the stoves, and then had some time to ourselves.  Later that afternoon I noticed myself wishing I was somewhere else. I found this interesting as it was beautiful, and I would have gladly stayed there all week. I didn’t push the feelings away, or discredit what I was feeling, instead I was curious and wondered where this was coming from. I walked along the hard packed sand, amazed at the patterns that the water and tide left behind. Chatted with some of the ladies on the course and then it was dinner time.

After dinner and clean up, we had a circle. We had many circles throughout the week, to check in and find out what was going to be happening etc.  One of the instructors asked us to check in with ourselves and our thoughts for the next day on the trail in one or two words. Mine was FEAR. It was then that I realized why I had been feeling like I had earlier. I was on a beach, all be it beautiful, on the very northern tip of Vancouver Island. My fight/flight old coping style kicked in and I had nowhere to go. I didn’t want to become numb and “check out” so I was sitting with the uncomfortable. And it was uncomfortable and scary, freighting and very emotional and then I came to realize what this was all about. I told the group that I grew up on the Island, so I was “taking back my back yard” and I was terrified because I knew that I would be confronting lots of old ghosts, memories, challenging old belief systems and I knew I would have lots of flashbacks.  With teary eyes,  I know I needed to do it to move forward. I also know once I get to the other side, it won’t be as scary as I think it will be. I told them the next day would be frightening and challenging, it was then that one of the instructors reminded me that “you don’t need to do it on your own, you can ask for help and support.” That was good to hear, and I also knew that would be a challenge on its own.

That night in the never ending twilight, I did some journaling. I had copied a message my best friend sent me before I left.  “Have a wonderful time, I know you are going to exorcise some horrible memories, hope you have fun and remember to find beauty in each day. I admire your sense of adventure.”  I then laid down, thought about the day and what was coming, and listened to the Fog horn and the ocean as the tide rose. I had a million dollar ocean view through my tent door, and after many hours I finally got a few hours’ sleep.

I woke early the next morning with a headache, got dressed and walked down to the water. I was the 1st one up and love that time in the morning before the world wakes up.  The water was calm, sky a little overcast with small patches of blue breaking through, and that amazing view. The bugs were out- as they are early morning so I covered my head, as I sat on a rock and did some journaling. It was going to be an interesting day, starting with myself and one of the ladies making breakfast.

In time we get breakfast, pack up, get ready and once again we have a circle before we head off to the trail. I pull out my abalone shell and sage from home, do a smudge and invite anyone to do it if they want. They do, and this becomes our ritual each day before heading on to the trail.  As we put the packs on, I wonder what lies ahead.  I could not imagine in my wildest dream what was ahead of us.

We walk along the beach and I silently say good bye and thank it for taking care of us, we climb over a few logs, some more graceful then others,-I'm the Not so graceful one-  and we start up the trail. I’m thinking, this is good, I can do this and we are on our way. The trail was great for about the 1st hour and then it becomes a grind, and then it becomes an even more grind….it was a beautiful grind, but a grind all the same.

That day was a challenge in more ways than one. I confronted old ghosts, flashbacks and old beliefs every step of the way. The way the afternoon light came through the trees, smell of the forest, sponginess of the ground, the moss on the trees, and me being the turtle of the group.  I also saw a forest full of more shades of green then I had ever seen, trees that were so old I thought “ If only you could talk, the stories you could tell us.” As we make our way up through he gruelling trail I ask myself – as I do on every Outward Bound course I have taken, “why the Hell did  you sign up for this? “

 We came out of the forest and onto the beach, not a nice sandy beach, a beach full off boulders the size of dinner plates, thousands of them, and at some parts they must have been 30 feet deep. I was thinking of the force of Mother Nature and her strength and the tons these things must weigh. And the view was amazing, no matter where you looked on this whole trip, the views were amazing. One of the ladies found a “mermaid sack”- which is egg cases of Skates, I had never seen one, and then they found another one even bigger.

As the day went on we were in and out of the forest, along the beach, back up into the forest. On one of the beaches, on the boulders I rolled out on my ankle, twisted it and my knee- just to put a bit more challenge in it.  I was ok, I felt like a fool, and we carried on. There were area where we had to climb up a dirt cliff side by using tree roots and pulling ourselves up by a thick rope that was there, and then having to scale down the other side the same way. It was during these times that I took up the offer of having someone “Sherpa” my pack up and down for me. Being the turtle of the pack really sucked, but the group- every one of them were amazing, offering help and support along the way. I must admit it did take me some time to actually accept it graciously, and in time ask for help.

As we made our way along the trail and eventually came to a beach where we were going to set up camp. It had been a hard and gruelling day but in no time, with everyone working together the camp was set up. We had dinner, cleaned up and some of us went for a walk. The sun slowly made its way down and the orange and reds in the sky was beyond beautiful, I think breath taking is the better word. It had been a hard day, and I was more than happy to hit the hay- mind you hay would have been softer- Once again as I laid in my sleeping bag, as tired as I was I could not sleep. I was thinking about the past day, the ups and downs, literally as well as figuratively, and I thought about all the times people in the group had offered their help and hand to help me up and over physical as well as psychological barriers. It was then, with sadness, that I realized this is what should have happened to me when I was a kid.

 It was once again a long time before I fell asleep, but it was amazing to listen to fog horn and the waves as they crept up along the shore to high tide.

The next morning I am once again the 1st one up. The tide was out, exposing giant rocks, with strands of green and brown kelp hanging down the sides. Some of these rocks were at least 8 feet higher than me. One spot there was water half way up the rock, and the contrast with the  blue water and  green and brown kelp was amazing. I took a picture of it and would not have been surprised if some mermaids had surfaced. 

That morning we start off, with taped ankle so I don’t roll out on it again- and the 1st thing we encounter as we come off the beach onto the trail, is another rope assisted climb up a steep embankment. I swore to myself. .”You have got to be f…ing kidding”- I said this many times to myself and out loud throughout the week. As my pulsed raced, I could feel it in my ears I thought- “nope- we have to try this.” And with deep breaths and shaking legs I made it up, and down the other side on my own with my pack on. This was huge for me, and the hoots and hollers of congratulations from the group was something else. As the day and hike went there were more challenges, more offer and asking for help, more flashbacks and more amazing scenery. We saw Sea Otters, Porpoises and   an Orca and her calf- well the rest of the group saw it, as I had just turned my back to the ocean- I did see the Dorsal fin as it went down-we climbed up/over and under logs, Up and around huge rocks on the beach, walked on rocky gravely beaches and pretty much everything in between.

We came to another amazing enchanted beach, with magical rock formations an amazingly clear water. This was where we were going to camp for the night. Once camp was set up I sat on a log and promptly, momentarily fell asleep. I was sore and exhausted, but could not believe the beauty that surrounded me. Once again everyone worked together as a team, dinner was made, water was collected, we explored the magical rock formations and a fire was made. It was lovely to sit around that fire as a group, talk about the day and look around at the vast wild beauty. I told the group that I knew growth would happen to me on this trip, I just did not realize so much would happen in such a short time.  Above us, on a cliff was an eagle’s nest and the pair welcomed us with the song. It was the wild North Coast of the island and it was beautiful.

I went to bed that night and soon after I got some much needed sleep. I did hear the tide come up once again in the wee hours of the morning, but did manage to get back to sleep. The next morning as I was waking up I had this huge realization of the enormity of the abuse, neglect and terror I experienced in the first 20 years of my life. This may sound like a bad thing, but it was not. Not, until that moment, could I see it as a whole, it had always been fragments of this, flashbacks of that etc. There was so much of it for so many years, never just one or two things, it was a constant. But that morning, I could, for the 1st time, see it as a whole, instead of those fractured bits of me. It’s hard to explain, but this was a huge psychological shift, like an integration of my psyche. I knew an enormous step in my healing to be the best that I could be, just happened.

  Once again, I am up early, and even though I am tired and sore, I feel a lightness about me that I had never experienced before. I get dressed, crawl out of my tent and notice that the tide is out, and the scenery was even more spectacular. With the low tide, rocks, sand, barnacles, sea urchins and other varied sea life was exposed. The rocks were once again higher than me, and it was a surreal feeling when I realized these rocks are under water most of the time, and I was walking on the bottom of the ocean.

Everyone slowly wakes up, breakfast is made, camp is packed up and it is another day of adventures, more rope assisted climbs and descents, more walking through and on top of amazing rock formations, and more surprises as we see beauty all around us. This was going to be a long day as we need to get to Shuttleworth Bay, as that was going to be our pick up point with the water taxi the next day. . On this day I was able to ask for help when I need it, be it holding my hand and helping me up a big step, or a shoulder to lean on as I crossed over the logs with my pack on, or asking someone to carry my pack across a single log bridge, I also noticed I was more comfortable walking on and over things, a bit better balance and somehow I felt stronger.

 This was also the day I hit “The Wall” “My Wall”

 We were walking along rocky beach, rocks moving out from under our feet all the time and it seemed to go forever. This is when I hit the point where I wanted to tell everyone where to go- not that they were doing anything wrong, but it’s just how I was feeling- I wanted to throw my pack and walking poles into the ocean and sit down and not move anymore, and have a huge hissy fit. One of instructors saw this, she came up along beside me and talked to me while we walked. I then start to have tears streaming down my face, but this does not phase her one bit. With her support she talks to me and allows me to feel what I am feeling, and with that, I am able to process my emotions, and like a wave, they dissipate.

 We come around a bend and are pleasantly surprised to see Shuttleworth Bay. We were there sooner then we thought it would be, it was not going to be a long and grueling day.  The tide was going out and the last hour of hiking was on hard packed, level sand, and once again the scenery was amazing. It was pure bliss.

This was where we were are going to do our solo component of the course.  The solo is a time of quiet reflection, Instructions are given, tarps and tents are set up,( you could choose if you wanted to solo in a tent or under a tarp),  and we are sent on our way, not that we went far. Being on the bay, we could see each other, but we were not to talk to each other. It was like a silent retreat, to reflect on the past few days on the trail and whatever else came up.

 We were allowed to have small fires, so I went and, with great difficulty, I got a small fire going. I burned some sage and dried cedar that I brought, looked into the fire and thought about not only the past days with this group, but my life, where I had been, where I was then, and what I wanted to do in the future. It was a calm night and once again twilight lingered around until about 11:30.  A gentle breeze was coming off the ocean and when I was ready I pulled out a handful of stones I had brought with me.

 I had picked these stones  up off the side of the road that I lived when I was younger, from when I  was 13 to 20 years old. I thought I would leave these rocks somewhere on the trail, as a symbolic gesture of leaving the past behind. I was so busy I had not thought about them much, but now seemed the perfect time. With contemplation and tears I threw them, one at a time into the hot coals of the burning fire. I was thinking of that little kid that was me, that had horrific things happen to her, and how it never seemed to stop. The violence, abuse, poverty and neglect that went on until I left home. I thought about the fact that even when I did leave home, what happened to me would haunt me and affected me for decades to come, and I thought about  how it had affected the ones I loved. 

 I thought about the healing journey I had been on and the amazing people, including Outward Bound Women Of Courage, who have helped me on my healing path. I thought about the times I felt I could not go on, the struggles and the pain. I felt profound gratitude to be where I was at that very moment.
I thought about this amazing, courageous, smart, funny, caring group of women I had traveled with on the trail. The laughs, the cries, the amazing gift of support, love and friendship they had given me, all while being on their own internal journey and challenges on the trail. I thought about the many discoveries each and every one of us found, be it internally or externally, and I knew this growth would continue once we got home. 

I thought about the multiple eco systems we hiked through, the beauty in unexpected places, pale wild roses growing like an arbour at one of our trail entrances from the beach, rolling waves of the wild West Coast, multiple shells and sea creatures, the eagles that gifted us with one of their feathers, breath taking views and the ever-changing forest we walked through.

 I thought about the amazing instructors, the support and wisdom each one of them had, and how they knew just when to step in, and when to back away, and allow each and every one of us to discover that there was more in us then we realized. It had been an amazing time on the trail, it had been hard. I remembered on 2 of the days I forlornly watched two coast guard ships go past on the horizon and fantasised about them coming to pick us up at that moment- they didn’t the shit heads! I’m glad they didn’t. I had changed, and grown so much on that trail, with these wonderful women, on this Wild Coast and I would be forever grateful. There was a part of me that sad that it was going to be leaving the trail the next day, but my knees were pretty happy.  

With one last smudge, I sent thanks out to the universe, asked it to protect everyone that night. I poured water on the fire and crawled into my tent. I left the tent door open, with screen in place, Once again it was a million dollar view. The tide was coming in, inching its way up the long sandy beach, and intermittent clouds would allow the crescent moon to look down upon us.

I did not sleep well, I had nightmares like ones I had in the past, but this time round when I woke from them, there was no fear attached to them, it was like they had lost their power over me. I found that fascinating. It had rained during the night, the first rain of the trip. As I child I had been cold, wet and hungry, so having it rain while I was camping was also a trigger. But this time I was able to roll over and go back to sleep. I also thought this was fascinating, yep, something had definitely shifted.

Once again I am up early the next morning, I get dressed and walk down to the water’s edge bring my sage and abalone shell with me.  It is beautiful, I look out to the ocean and all I see is never ending ocean. I Place the sage in the shell, light it and hold the shell with both hands. While looking down I then smudge myself and silently stand there with closed eyes, breathing deep, full of gratitude for this wonderful gift and feeling the slight breeze on my face and hands. When I am ready I look up across the ocean and I the distant I see the water spout of a Grey Whale and the top of his/her back as they go back under. It was amazing, and even more so when more whales do the same thing. I stood there and watched for what seems like forever, what an amazing experience and gift.  On my way back up to my tent I notice that in the night the tide had come up and washed away the debris from the fire the previous evening, stones and all.

The instructors brought us breakfast and coffee, and a few hours later we once more come get back together after our solos. I was exhausted and elated at the same time. We talked as a group how the solo was for each of us, there were varied emotions and thoughts. Fear, anxiety, anger, excitement, trepidation, longing for it last longer. But one thing we all felt, was the felling that we had accomplished something extraordinary, on the trail and the solo. This was not a cake walk, or an easy stroll down the street. This was hard work that we did as a group, and could only be accomplished by working as a group. We had gained bragging rights!!!

Soon it was time to pack up, and get ready to be picked up by water taxi. We put our packs on and walked a short along the beach distance to the rendezvous point. We once again sat in a circle and the instructors laid out a deck of cards with various pictures on them. They asked us to pick a card or two that spoke to us. I picked 2 cards. One with a drawing of lightning and storm clouds, the other of a sunrise. I explained there were many dark times and storms for me on this trail, as there was in my life. But I now felt that many shifts had happened, and I could feel a new world opening up for me. I had no idea what it would be, but I knew it was coming. Once again, I told them I knew growth would happen for me, I just didn’t realize so much would happen in such a short time, and their support, encouragement and this safe environment had allowed that to happen. This was an incredible gift and would be with me always.

We start to gather up our things and as the water taxi is seen on the horizon, we have one last group smudge. This time the 2 instructors hold the sage and feather and smudge each one of individually. Emotions ran through and over me, I tried to hold them back but I knew I was safe and let them go. It had been an amazing time, it was beyond hard emotionally and physically. I had flashbacks and horrid memories come flying at me with pretty much every step I took. Old beliefs tried to make their way to my conscious when I struggled, and, some of them did make it. It took enormous focus and energy to not only watch every step I took on the trail, but also to stay in the moment and not dissociate. It was time to let all this go, and like the stones washed away in the night, let these emotions I was feeling to wash over me and leave them here on the Wild North Coast Trail.

As the water Taxi came to the pickup point, we all pick our packs up and I notice the smiles, and I swear everyone is standing a little straighter and a little taller.

It’s a lovely 2 hour boat ride back to Pt. Hardy, and as we get closer to the home port, we come into rain. The support team was there to greet us with smiles and drive us to a campsite that we are staying at that night. Soon after arrival the rain just starts coming down in buckets. We set up the tents and start dinner, I will never forget the picture of Arden, standing by the stoves cooking, as the rain is pouring off the hood of her coat, and she is still smiling. The owners of the campsite have a very large, 3 sided wood shed, with a wood stove in the middle. It has a sink with running hot and cold water, counters, lights, and chairs to sit on. He invites us in we sit in comfort as we get to know him and his wife and other people who are camping there. We have hot drinks and I am initiated into the “Tim Tam Slam” club.

You get a cookie called a Tim Tam- they are from new Zealand- these rectangle cookies are rich, covered with chocolate, and have a soft chocolaty center. You have your hot drink-mine was hot chocolate- you take a small bite off of one corner, take another small bite off the opposing corner, put the cookie part way in your hot drink and suck on it like a straw. In a very short time the hot liquid is drawn up through the cookie and just as you get the hot liquid to your mouth -you will fell the cookie start to get soft- you throw the whole thing in your mouth and it melts all at once. It is an experience!!!

I am the first one to turn in that night, it is still light out as I crawl into my sleeping bag as the rain is pouring down. I sleep like a log, I slept so sound I did not even hear my tent mate come in.
The next morning the owner of the campground gets up and makes us all the most amazing, fluffy pancakes I have ever had. We tidy up, pack up camp and are on our way back to Camp Gilwell.

 Upon arrival we are met by more smiling support staff and congratulated on our accomplishment. We unload and start sorting and cleaning all the gear and have a much needed, and sought after shower. The support staff make us an amazing dinner, and we are served at the decorated picnic tables. We felt like royalty. The dinner was amazing, plentiful  and I looked around the table at all the smiling women. We had started out as strangers, but we became more than a community, we became a family. We supported and helped each other, when someone was having a bad day, we each stepped it up and helped a little more. We learned to trust one another and learned that it was safe to be ourselves. These women, who were strangers, I am proud to say are now my friends. They are all beautiful, inside and out, intelligent, creative, and powerful. They have an amazing sense of humor and are courageous beyond words.

Later that evening we have our “Pin ceremony” Each one of us receives an Outward Bound Canada pin. The only way you can receive this pin is by completing one of their courses. 

Amongst the tall pines and cedars, we sat in a circle by the river and had our Pin ceremony. Before you get your pin, each person holds it and “chargers” it, sending good thoughts and vibes, and if they wish too, say a few words about the person it is going too. It is just one more magical moment of the trip. It was amazing to hear what people said about each other, and there was a recurring theme, strength, wisdom, resilience, inspiration, compassion, and thoughtfulness. There was laughter, there was tears and there was deep felt gratitude for everyone on that trip and all we had been through. We had connected as  many of us had never connected before. We all grew in ways that surprised and delighted us, and I think we all realized we are all beautiful just the way we were.

Soon it was time for bed, and I lay awake for many hours. Thinking about the past week, the wolf and bear scat we found, owl pellets, and wolf prints in the sand. The amazing green colors of the forest, and the surreal feeling of walking on the sand while Muscles and Gooseneck Barnacles hang from the rock formations 10 feet above you. The amazing array of logs 20 feet thick that Mother Nature had thrown up on th beach that we had to walk across to get to and from the beaches, the sunsets and sun rises, various types of moss hanging from tress and the amphibian egg sacks we found in a pond on our 1st day on the trail. The views that looked like something from a National Geographic special. I thought about the tears frustration, exhaustion, laughter and deep down belly laughs we all experienced. I thought about my life, where I had been and wondered where I was going. I thought about this amazing sisterhood I had become part of, and I knew I would miss them dearly.

I also thought about our next little jaunt before breakfast the next morning and hoped it was not going to be at Nymph Falls. It was.

The next morning we are up and gather in the van for our next mini adventure and as the driver is going along the road, I ask them if they are going to Nymph Falls, they are,-you know what I silently said to myself- I told them it was further up the road and on the left hand side. We pull into the parking lot I am trying to calm myself, and we get out of the van. The instructions are to go along the trail, run or mindfully walk, and meet up at the falls. If you’re always running here and there try walking, if you walk all the time, try running. The idea is to push our comfort zone a little bit. As soon as they said that, my eyes well up and I say..”Just being here is pushing my comfort zone.” One of the instructors says, “Is this a trigger place for you?” I replied “Yep, sure is, this feels like it has been a week long heavy duty therapy session.”  It was hard, but I mindfully,but mostly not so mindfully, - walked to the falls. Once again flashbacks, old beliefs etc came flying at me everywhere I looked. But with the support of the group and instructors I did some more ghost busting and I was not going to let them win.

We get back to camp and were once more treated to a feast. It was a great breakfast and there was lots of chatter and laughing. All too soon it is time to pack up, gather our things and head our separate ways. There was hugs, laughter, pictures taken and plenty of tears, and yes, I do miss my sisterhood.

I think often think about those beautiful women on my course. Suzanne, Jillian, Sherry, Arden, Gabrielle, Jenny, Asia and Jody. I can see their smiles, hear their laughter, and fell their strength. I can feel them with me and I will be forever grateful for their amazing gifts they have given me, this has allowed me to discover who I am. That is priceless!

It took me some time to recover when I got back home, and there have been amazing changes with me. Some large, some small. I am now able to stand up for myself and take an item back to the store and request a refund or exchange, or to get them to somehow rectify the situation. I had tea with my retired psychiatrist- and his wife, he was the one I was seeing when I went on my very 1st Women of Courage course back in 2005- he said to  "if there was word to describe what I saw it would be Differenter. Of all the courses you have been on, you seem to be the most changed from this one.” I asked him “How?" You seem to stand taller and straighter, more sure and secure with who you are.” Was his reply.

It was a bit rough as I knew I had a lot more work to do once I got home and off the trail. I have worked with my therapist and we have worked through the emotions and the processing of the discoveries I found on the trail, working through the grief of what happened to me,and celebrating  my new found discoveries  has allowed space to open up and let all the new and wonderful things in my life in.

I have gone on day hikes in Srathcona Park with one of the girls from my ringette team and it has been amazing.  It has been amazing and enlightening, because of the last W.O.C. course, I am now able to go on these hikes without having the "boogie man" around the next corner or following me, this is an amazing feeling of freedom, something I have never be able to experience before. I am now able to be fully in the present and take in my surroundings and soak up all that amazing beauty around me.  
There was one trail we were on, we were along a ridgeline and it opened up to a place that was covered in fallen logs and the trail seemed to peter out. There was little ground vegetation as it was in the shade. We stood and started to look around for the trail, if we followed one section that looked like a trail, we would go over the steep incline- fine for a deer, but not us, - I then told my hiking partner to look for a place where the fallen logs had been cut with a chainsaw, and that's where the trail would be, we did, and found it and carried on. Now this may not seem like a big deal, but in the past, I would have been filled with panic and not be able to pull that information, thought out of my brain. I would have had to go back, and now that I think of it, I would not have even gotten that far as the "boogie man" would have stopped me from even trying a trail I had never been on, let alone something 4 hours in the mountains. Because of the last W.O.C. course I was able to carry on and enjoy the rest of the day.  

Before going on the course I was scheduled to do 2 presentations during the teacher’s professional development days. One in Campbell River, and one here in the Comox Valley. This is a huge breakthrough for me, and I believe the school boards, and I will be talking about children and youth mental health and what they can do to help support their students. Before I went on the course I wondered if I could pull it off, now I have no worries whatsoever, and know I can go in there 100 % who I am, I don’t need to do it any other way.  

It has been a busy summer, and now it gets even better. A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from Outward Bound Canada ….. You may have heard that we are running an alumni trip in the Bugaboos this September 4 - 10th. CMH has lent us their facilities & staff (including their chef!) and we are running a modified lodge based course for WOC alumni. Still a WOC course with all the good stuff but also an added element.
We still have a few spaces to fill and are looking for former students who would make good ambassadors for the WOC program. Women who would feel comfortable speaking out - perhaps on camera - and representing what we do to potential donors and sponsors. We are hoping to put together a PR package for WOC to use to attract potential Donors &/or Sponsors :)
We are striving to have representation from across the country - various ages and stages - and you will be sleeping in beds and this time have access to flush toilettes! 
If this is something that would be of interest to you please let me know. The course begins and ends in Calgary so you would have to be able to make your own way there and back.
Have a super rest of your day!

I will give you 3 guesses what my answer was!!! This time next week I will be getting to know the other ladies in the group and another adventure will begin. Who would have thought that 45 years ago, when I was in grade 8, when a few people from Outward Bound Canada came and spoke to the school, I would be doing this all these years later? And yes, I am taking two packages of Tim Tam cookies to introduce others to the Tim Tam Slam!

Who would have thought, that back in February, when I was having a very hard time, when everything seemed too much, that I would be doing this 6 months later. This once again goes to show, you never know what is around the corner and that is why you need to hang on, even when you can’t see the corner, let alone the light.

Those of us who have experienced childhood trauma, especially severe trauma and abuse, never felt safe, or learned who we were or what we could do, because we spent all our energy for so many years trying to survive. We never had the luxury of relaxing, or being in a place of safety where we could discover and explore who we are. We had to always be on alert to watch, to read others, to try to stay one step ahead of the chaos.

I have spent many years and enormous energy working on my past issues, learning why I felt and did the things I did, and then to learn new coping skills. It has been hard, painful, scary and grueling work and many times I did not think I was going to make it. But, so far I have.
Today my son and I went down to one of the Puntledge River and watched the Spring Salmon swimming around, waiting to go back home, back up the river.

I guess all my therapy, growth and hard work is about coming home, not to a specific place, but to oneself, to who I really am, the ME that was hidden away and afraid to come out.

There is no big party, fancy ball or press announcements for this homecoming. I am fine with that. Because, this Homecoming is sweet, just the way it is.

I will leave you with a poem someone sent me during a very difficult time.

The Unbroken

There is a brokenness
out of which comes the unbroken,
a shatteredness
out of which blooms the unshatterable.
There is sorrow
beyond grief which leads to joy
and a fragility
out of whose depths emerges strength.

there is a hollow space
too vast for words
through which we pass with each loss,
out of whose darkness
we are snatched into being

There is a cry deeper than all sound
whose serrated edges cut the heart
as we break open to the place inside
which is unbreakable and whole,
while learning to sing.

Those are my thoughts for today. Be safe and well in your journey, and one day you will be welcoming your true self home.

Cheers and be well