My time here in the mountains has been nothing short of epic. Six weeks, twelve hikes, live music, dancing, friends new and old, and lessons that continued to come my way. I wish I could say I have mixed feelings about leaving. I don’t. As in – I don’t want to leave. While Austin has been wonderful for the past three years, I feel like its time has come. That I’ve gotten from it what I needed.

What I’ve found in the mountains is balance. Here, amongst friends, family, and the wisdom that Mother Nature has shared, I got a glimpse of what it’s like to not live under the spell of an eating disorder or neurotic body consciousness. Let me be clear, I’m not ‘managing’ my issues or learning how to tolerate them. For the first time, I actually believe I can overcome a mental struggle that has plagued me my entire adult life. Up until recently, I’ve honestly believed positive body image and true health – both inside and out – would be a life long karma I’d have to tolerate. But here, I have a glimmer of hope that it’s a seed I can burn for good. At least get it nice and charred.

Since being here, I’m not attached to going to a gym or working out. I hike my ass off (literally) on a weekly basis yet can’t help but feel like walking amidst the trees, hearing the sounds of nature, and breathing fresh air every day does my soul more good than my body. I’m active without having to think about it and days I’m not, while sometimes my agitation or neurosis doesn’t hesitate to make itself known, for the most part, I feel like I just need the rest. Here in CO I eat fruit and drink beer with abandon. Because savoring a juicy, local CO peach in the middle of August after a 3,000 foot climb to a lake a color blue like you’ve never seen before surrounded by 14,000 feet of pure earth and sometimes snow is just right. And a beer once you descend well – there’s nothing more right than that. Especially if it’s a local draft. Yet as alluring as the mountains are, the thought of starting over in a new place, yet again, is not appealing in the least.

Not an unfamiliar feeling, what’s surfacing more than anything as I approach my final days here in CO is fear. I have no idea what’s next. I would love for this book to become a New York Times bestseller and put me on a new trajectory for the career and life I desire. But there is the reality of that not happening. And there’s also the reality of unemployment and travel for the past six months. It’s been an absolute blessing but now I’m faced with a question that, whether we are aware of it or not, we answer in every moment of our lives, with every decision we make – NOW WHAT?

Big picture, I know the answer to this question. I have dreams and goals and ideas I want to realize. Big ones, at that. I want to shape my new reality instead of being at the mercy of what my bank account or someone else in my life demands. However, what to do in the meantime? The ‘little picture’ demands things get taken care of. Things like rent, car insurance, and grocery shopping. There’s a lot of praying going on right now. For guidance, for the right opportunities, and yes, for a fat check. I want to continue moving forward and not backward and in between there is space. Space to create, space to play, and space to worry. In this space, faith gets challenged. So I do the things I can to bolster that faith as much as possible. I am forced to let go of control and continue to listen. Hard.

For now, there is a big question mark at the end of my personal sentence. I have no clue what the next months will bring. I feel like I am living an Ani DeFranco song – I’m thirty-two flavors and then some. A mixed bag of happy, sad, fearful, anxious, excited, nervous, clear, confused. I’ve stopped placing judgment on or identifying with my moods and instead, committed to simply witnessing them. And not just witnessing them – but using discernment about what they communicate to me. Often times, I’ll take a look at my P Diary app (this is an app that tells a woman where she is on her cycle) to see if my mood could simply be a function of hormones. Or I ask myself, what did I eat – or drink? Often times, if I’ve had one too many cocktails (which, for me can be one cocktail), I may feel depressed the next day. To understand that there are several factors that affect my mood means I am not at the mercy of emotion as I used to be. Once I get a sense of what’s really going on with my roller coaster ride, I can then assess what action to take to best alleviate or manage what I’m feeling. If anything. Truth be told, sometimes I’ll just turn on some weepy music, allow myself to stew in my own sadness and throw myself the proverbial pity party. Because maybe I just need a good cry gosh darnit.

In all my uncertainty, here is what I do know. I am vulnerable. I am resilient. I am empowered. Three words I never would have used to describe myself even a year ago.

Vulnerable no longer means weak or insecure or powerless to me. It means open and soft and willing to listen. Resilient no longer means powering through life, trying to make things happen the way I want them to. It means staying steady in the face of change – an unmovable force for good and an unshakeable example of faith. And empowered simply means that I, and I alone, am responsible for my thoughts, my actions, and ultimately, my life. I feel confident I will weather the storms ahead with more grace, strength, and, purpose than ever before. Sitting here, on my last day in the mountains, I am certain, I will never end this journey of self-discovery and growth

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