Perhaps one of the most valuable and debilitating traits I inherited was a healthy of fear of everything. Literally everything. Mis padres siempra han sido miedosos despite the many bold decisions they’ve made (including their willingness to trade in the familiar calles of Ciudad Neza for the concrete grids of Southeast LA). Us Piñons are full of contradictions. In my case, I’d rather scale a granite mountain than deal with my irrational fear of El Cucuy. In fact, my paralyzing terror once compelled me to quit a job because I was /am convinced that there were/are ghosts in the basement of my would-be office.
Needless to say, this semi-paralyzing fear of any unexplained noise and all unlit corners followed me outside. I titled this blog after the many nights I’ve spent wide awake rattled by every little rustle outside my tent. My thoughts devolve quickly in this frazzled state. Just to give you a sampling of my constant terror, here’s how my thoughts tend to unfold….
“I’m so tired. Bedtime….and what was that?”
“Oh right…water because we’re next to a creek. All good”
“Shit – what if it’s a cougar? That’s a terrible way to go.”
“There aren’t any cougars in North Cascades, right? But they are reintroducing grizzlies…so maybe….or ghosts!”
“I need to pee.”
“If I go pee, I’ll get eaten. Best to hold it. ”
“But if don’t go, I’ll wet the sleeping bag. That would be the worst. Plus my camping mate is super cute…that’s like half as bad as getting eaten.”
“I’m going outside.”
“This is how I die.”
As you can imagine, I don’t often sleep well outside. Fear, compounded by that musk you get after 48 hours without deodorant, usually keeps me wide awake. I end up groggy, sleep-deprived and frustrated by the end of the night. So, as you might rightfully wonder, why subject myself to this? Why bother camping?
Well, it’s the mornings. It’s the first whiff of crisp mountain air that comes rushing in as you unzip your tent. It’s the excitement you feel when you discover that a glacial mountain was hidden behind yesterday’s clouds. It’s that first sip of pippin’ hot coffee from a campfire stove. If I don’t get through the night, I don’t get the mornings.
That’s the thing about our fears, anxieties, and irrational worries – they seem utterly useless yet they often lead us to moments of clarity. Fear is irrational and unwarranted but still deeply rooted in who we are as individuals. My miedo is part of who I am – my overactive, often imaginative mind, has led me to both moments of intense terror and unexpected courage. Morning coffees are made all the sweeter by knowing that 101 things outside my tent have not yet killed me. I worked through my fears and earned my alpine sunrise.
Even as I’ve logged in more hours outside, I’ve never stopped being terrified. And that’s okay. I’ve come to start appreciating fear as a necessary part of the human experience. Es parte de mi vida. Besides there isn’t anything really worth fearing in the woods – except running out of trails snacks.