That’s it. I’ll never say “I don’t need no stinking man” ever again. (Thanks, PCT!)
I’ve spent the bulk of my life in defense of a fierce sense of individualism, of self-reliance and independence. It’s been an emotionally infantile position. And I say that because, when I observe others in an intense defense of anything, I am completely sure that that is where their deepest insecurities lie, what is most not true about them. And shockingly I am not exempt when I observe myself. My stance of I-don’t-need-no-stinking-man is really just wrong. I do need a stinking man. And I’ve proven it to myself over and over again. My beloved ex-husband has rescued me full damsel-in-distress style more times than I even feel capable of properly thanking him for. He still rescues me today, when I need coffee or for someone to tell me I have my head up my ass. A different gorgeous man, Ryan Choi, had to LITERALLY save my life last year. I quite actually factually would have died without him. Where was my staunch independence in that moment? But even with my explosive gratitude for them still residing in my heart, they are not who I am attempting to write about right now.
I set off to get on the Pacific Crest Trail this year in full “Weeds” warrioress style. I had everything I needed on my back and in my soul and I was ALONE, just as I desired. I would kill those miles in style and Grace and I would have all kinds of important things to say about it when I was done. It would be special, and a significant part of the specialness would be because I did it alone. Well I didn’t do the PCT alone. I couldn’t have. I needed my hand held at times, and a man, yes a MAN, showed up to do that for me. At first I resisted, but as Life loves to do to me, circumstance and desire eventually overpowered my “independence”, and before I knew it I was frequently part of a team. I’m not an easy team member on the trail, for myself or for the other participant. I walk the way I walk and I stop the way I stop. I’m incredibly inflexible that way. My favorite way to confront challenges is to vocalize absolutely every fear I have associated with them, which diffuses it nicely for me but likely irritates the hell out of someone else confronting those same challenges. I get strangely emotional about, well, nothing, and I tend to go off on abstract intellectual tangents that even I don’t understand, saying in about a thousand complex words what I could of said in, say, five. Tomi, the man who would become the second half of the “team”, had the sensitive, allowing, and enduring patience of a man in conscientious attendance of the birth of his own child. He said, “Yeah” when he was supposed to say, “Yeah”, nothing when it was best to say nothing, and encouraging non-emotional words when I was gripped in fear or anxiety about something. He walked at my pace, because he knew I didn’t have a choice about my pace, and consistently made efforts to keep me from feeling self-conscious about it. He took on the chores I deemed hideous and lay logs across turbulent streams for me. He pulled me out of a washout that I probably wasn’t even really stuck in, but I felt stuck in it, and that was enough for him to climb down the feet of snow to reach down his hand to me. He built “homes”, cooked food in foodless trail towns, worked out schedules, loaned me the snow worthy trekking poles, kept me engaged in conversation and laughter. In short, he was there the way I needed him to be, when I needed him to be, without pomp, and without demand. And I know I couldn’t have done it without him.
I’ve thanked Tomi with vigor, both here and in person, and have received the acknowledgement from him that he needed me just as much as I needed him. And I believe him. But I’m guessing he didn’t have an I-don’t-need-no-stinking-woman theory to grapple with. He seemed to know and be okay with needing me right from the very beginning. How much headache I would’ve saved myself if I could have stepped down from wanting to prove my “specialness” and just accepted the beauty of interdependence on the trail, of people working together, being together, helping each other, needing each other. It’s a wonderful thing. And it’s not weakness, it’s true effectiveness and the strength to grasp it. No longer will I claim to not need, from anybody, not just men. Nor will I withhold offering myself. We’re here for each other and it’s something to celebrate.