Since my wife and I began dating, she has had some sort of health issue at one time or another. She suffers from chronic back and foot pain, in addition to experiencing reoccurring allergic reactions for (as of now) unknown reasons. I have a huge immediate and extended family whom I adore. We get together as often as we can. If you can put yourself in my shoes, imagine being at a family reunion with over 30 people you really want to talk to. Because they care about me they always ask what would seem like the right questions - "How are you doing? What have you been up to?" And then the uneasy, "So, how is Lauren?" When they ask about Lauren, I know it's out of concern because it is almost always paired with a facial expression of "how do you do it?"
Being a caregiver of someone with chronic pain hasn't been easy, but it has been one of the most intensive personal growth experiences of my life. It's been rewarding, testing and certainly led me on this path to creating Hike & Heal. I wouldn't be the woman I am today without a better understanding of compassion, the importance of asking questions (and asking the right ones!!), self-sacrifice, communication of needs, unconditional support and love.
Even though my relatives don't ask, "how do you do it," I know they want to. Given my new venture, I was researching competitors and found http://www.healingoutdoors.org. They are not a competitor at all, but the idea in their creation made me want to write about my experience. When people actually do ask me how do I do it, I didn't know how to respond until I read their website two days ago. I would just make something up. But as I was reading their page, I thought, no wonder I have this calling to create Hike & Heal. I'm healing myself!
My tactic to cope is to go outside. As much as possible. I reconnect with nature and balance my psyche. I've been blessed with the opportunity to work in the field of outdoor pursuits and experiential education. My work is my play and play is my work. Moving down to Madison in February of 2014 made it even easier on me given the extraordinary spring we have down here (as opposed to Green Bay and the lake effect in Door County, WI). It's warmer earlier, which means I get outside more often and Lauren's pain subsides as the temperatures increase. I realized that I physically need to be close to nature to be grounded and sane when I found myself unhappy last summer. It was the first summer I was away from Door County in six years. I went there on occasion, but mostly I worked from home and did sales and marketing. I didn't get outside a lot, and my weekends were spent at weddings. Though I love weddings, going with someone who has chronic pain usually meant leaving early, not indulging too much and finding my own dancing partners. It was a constant reminder of the struggles of our reality, versus what I was used to - being outside for work. I used to work pretty much every weekend pretty spring - fall so getting time off for weddings was not an option because that was our "season." I never realized how much I actually needed to be outside until I wasn't.
Getting Saeku, our beautiful 9-month old dog, (rescue labrador-retriever-border collie) this past October has made a world of difference. I struggled for a while not having anyone to share my love for the outdoors with since our move to Madison. Even though I am able to kayak, zip line, hike and camp for my job, moving put a limit on these "paid" experiences. So, this year I made adjustments in work and in my personal life. Saeku and I adventure together and have a blast! We hike around the Nakoma neighborhood, in the state and county parks, and I'm hoping she becomes my paddling partner soon enough. After Hike & Heal launches, I plan to focus on training her to be a healing dog (she's SO soft!) so she can join us on some retreats. After all, it was on a hike with Sae when the words "Hike & Heal" were spoken loud and clear in my head.
If you are a caregiver to a spouse, relative or close-friend and find yourself in hospitals often or stuck inside, the only advice I can give you is to figure out how to be outdoors. The fresh air, the grounding energy of trees, songbirds, scenery, and the moving meditation of hiking has healed me more times than I can count.
Hike & Heal retreats are meant to do just that, heal, but with a purpose. If you end up registering for a retreat, do yourself a favor, come with a goal - something in your personal life that you'd like to work on - and we will explore it, rediscover your potential and grow with one another to overcome. I am overjoyed this is all coming to fruition. I am working on the retreat calendar this week so STAY TUNED FOR HIKE & HEAL'S FIRST SET OF SUMMER RETREATS COMING THIS JULY/AUGUST!
Hi, Moira here. When I'm not playing with my dogs, listening to music, enjoying nature or being with my friends/family, I'm probably writing. Read these blogs for wellness opportunities we offer at Hike & Heal, ones I know that are awesome or just some tidbits about living a healthier life.