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Navigation & listening

Last updated on October 16, 2019

Ever since I’ve been hiking, and spending more time outdoors, getting lost has always been one of my biggest fears. Which is odd, because some of the best times can be found 5 miles up some trail where you realize you went the wrong way in the first place. I suppose that’s why I have a GPS enabled watch, a handheld GPS device now in addition to the apps on my phone and the paper maps I use (mainly) for feature reference. Or the reason I am going to my first navigation class in a couple of weeks. Yeah, you could say I may have an issue with knowing where I am at any given time.

There are other places where a person can get lost though. I belong to an online support community for heart health. In any other online sphere, I would be less tolerant of people who are acting out in ways that belittle or mock others. But there is this guy named John, not his real name, who popped off on Friday. He was berating other survivors for their religious beliefs. I held back for a few days. Well, I was actually headed out the door to go hiking, and camping overnight, for the first really chilly weekend of the fall season down at Tar Hollow. I thought about John while I sat by my campfire trying to stay warm under the light of the Hunters Moon that shone brightly that night. He’s angry. Causing a stir for the sake of the agitation from the looks of it.

I walked with John in my head the next day on the trail. What is it about a person who says they are thankful that “God saved them” after a near life-ending health event? I mean, I’m an atheist but I have no qualm with folks who believe in this that or the other. I wear a piece of turquoise around my neck after all. Not because I think it has magic properties and healing powers but because it reminds me of my own ability to heal.

I shared a response with John in the same forum when I got back. One where I talked about “taking him with me” on my hike. It’s a technique I learned from a very young man who would dedicate a day hike to someone he’d met and then share that story with said person. The way he explained it made it sound like a great vehicle to make someone feel included, closer to another person, and, well, simply heard. While John was still bickering with others in the same thread, someone had just called him a “troll,” he responded to my post and admitted that he is going through some heavy emotional issues right now but that he was grateful for my the time I took with him.

I’ll be honest, I was put off by John as well, at first anyway. But I find, as with those moments on the trail where you realize that you took a wrong turn and now had to figure out where the hell you are, we all get lost now and then. Sometimes we are angry, hurt, jealous, self-deprecating or whatever. One thing that seems to help, I’m learning, is to just be there for someone as they go through his or her process and provide nothing more than understanding and support. Actually listen and hold ourselves back from judgment.

There are many ways to get lost I suppose. Being someone’s sounding board is one great way to help. By simply being present, you may be helping another person navigate back onto his own path when he needs a point of reference to start back from.

Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash

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