Author of the best-selling 2012 memoir Wild, Cheryl Strayed, recently shared thoughts after participating in the Women’s March. She noted the significant impact of moving forward, one step at a time, when it feels impossible. She tells Entertainment Weekly, “I wept in the days after the election. I just cried and cried and cried, and I’ve never had that experience before. I’ve been pissed off, but this was different. I was like, What are we going to do? Keep going. It sounds trite, but it's absolutely true. That’s why walking is so healing. You’re doing with your body what you need to do with your spirit.”
Regardless of political affiliation, I think there is something valuable in her words and insight. True to the human experience are moments of disappointment, fear, anger, disempowerment, and being minimized and dismissed. We cry and cry and cry some more. We wonder what we are going to do in response. Sometimes we might sit in denial or self-pity. We may try and reason away with logic as a way of distancing from our "unruly" emotions. Maybe we resign to a new reality that compromises our personal values and ethics.
There is another option that Strayed knows well. Having hiked the arduous 1,100-mile Pacific Crest Trail, she exhorts: We keep going. But not by ignoring our experience or pitying or betraying ourselves. We keep going, accompanied with an honest acknowledgment of what has happened and an agency that we have a responsibility to our own personal health and growth, no matter how messy it might be and feel.
Because we are not just physical beings and we are not just emotional beings, it is necessary that in seeking wholeness, we must pursue the whole of us. Therefore, we walk, physically. We walk, emotionally. We walk, spiritually. We walk with others who know what it’s like to be gut-punched and come out on the other side. We walk with others who will carry us when we are too weak to move forward and challenges us when we want to stay put.
Strayed concludes her interview, “Yesterday was so sad and it’s still going to be sad tomorrow, but right now, here, we are walking together. I always say, at any moment of your life, if you go stop and walk for 15 minutes, you always feel better...Just go walk and your head gets cleared or something.” (That whole mind-body connection thing.) As she plans for her next book she explains, “Often your best writing does come out of suffering or passion or struggle.” Is that not true to life as well? We walk through our suffering, passion, or struggle and emerge, Wild and free.