Looking Without Seeing

Children are absolutely amazing. From the time that they are just born, until they begin to take on the shape and values of their society, they seem to have a unique ability to be fully present and in awe of the things around them. I can remember feeling this way as a child… the wonder that I experienced looking at the sunlight streaming through the leaves of a tree, or the way I could pretend so fiercely that it felt real… But then at some point in my life, that kind of stopped. I’m working tirelessly on figuring out when and why it happened… could be trauma, could be enough voices telling me who I was and what I had to offer… but the flowers lost their awesomeness, and the world began to flatten a bit to a more dulled out, reasonable thing to be a part of. I know this sounds sad, and to be honest, it kind of is! But I really didn’t notice the gradual losing of this ability to look at something and truly see it for the wonderful thing it is… it just sort of happened throughout the course of my late teenaged years and early twenties and before I knew it, I was uniquely incapable of being fully present to a person, thing, or experience. I’m not sure if this is a common human experience, but my hunch is that it super the heck is.

There was a moment when I realized this lostness, and my frustration over it. I had made the decision to hike the Colorado Trail with my partner, Mike in the summer of 2020 (chaotic time to do a chaotic thing). In the planning and dreaming process of the trip, I imagined countless scenes where I was looking out over incredible mountaintop views having incredible mountaintop experiences; crying into the wind with gratitude, weeping with joy over how beautiful and amazing the world is, feeling my feelings fully and having the space to be myself, etc. That might sound silly to you, but I really put a lot of detail into these daydreams and consequently, a lot of expectation into the fulfillment of those daydreams. I’ve always heard the advice “go in with no expectations, and then you won’t be disappointed”, and I really tried to internalize and integrate that advice, but in the back of my mind, the expectations prevailed.

Now, the Colorado Trail is 500 trail miles long from the city of Denver to the city of Durango. It meanders through peaceful meadows with crystal clear, ice cold streams to drink from, climbs (relentlessly, at times) countless mountain passes and rocky talus fields that make you feel like you’re on another planet, passes by thousands of brightly colored, fragrant wild flowers, and overlooks pristine alpine lakes with colors so pure, they’re almost incomprehensible. By all intents and purposes, it’s a perfect place to reconnect with the awe of nature and rediscover the parts of yourself that may have become lost throughout the years. In these 500 miles, I certainly had several stand out moments where I thought, “Holy shit… I’M HERE! THIS IS AMAZING! WOWOWOWOWOWOWOWWWWWW!” But those moments were few and far between, and certainly not as numerous as I anticipated. More often than not, I found myself cursing every step, agonizing over the weight on my back, and standing at the peak of a climb only to look out over the scenery and feel nothing (maybe tired, maybe hungry… but no emotion or gratitude). At first, I didn’t notice… it seemed normal to be hungry and tired and pissed off when walking 15-20 miles a day in the full Colorado sun. But after about 28 days, a generalized sense of panic set in. I felt like this incredible life-experience was passing me by and just slipping through my fingers… like trying to grab water. You can see it, you can understand that it’s real, but you can’t quite grab it and hold it as your own. I spent the following days trying so. damn. hard. to be present. Every time I felt my mind wandering, I would say, “SHIT MORGAN. NO. Look at that flower, it’s beautiful!” And inevitably, the harder I tried to chase the feeling of presence and gratitude, the harder it became to find.

When we finished the trail, I was elated, but disoriented… like I had just clambered through a dream whose contents were slightly out of focus and hard to remember. The post-trail depression settled in and I was able to reflect on the paradox I experienced of looking, but not seeing. It occurred to me that I had been experiencing that for all of my adult life, but the Colorado Trail was a dramatic enough experience that it became impossible to ignore any longer. So I set out to figure out how to solve it. Now that was September of 2020. It’s now June of 2022 and I feel like I’m still struggling with this issue almost as deeply as I was then, but I’m at least aware. Aware of the tendency to dissociate. Aware of the tendency towards escapism and believing that I’ll be happier or a better version of myself when I’m “in this place” or “doing this thing.” Aware of the constant web-spinning of endless thoughts that keep me from looking at a beautiful scene and just being grateful for what is.

Now that I live in my car, I find myself back in this loop. Like I’m watching a TV show about a woman who looks like me living this impossibly adventurous nomadic lifestyle, but it’s not me. And I again find myself perplexed, annoyed, and determined to fight the dissociation in favor of awareness and the type of gratitude that brings deep peace. I still have a lot of learning to do and a long way to go… maybe one day I’ll post the blog post titled, “Looking Without Seeing: SOLVED!” But more than likely, it’ll be a lifelong journey and a constant reminder to come back to myself and my surroundings and connect deeply with what matters. One big thing that HAS changed since September of 2020: I’m officially OKAY with that.

Thanks for being here, and take a moment with me to look up from your screen. Take a deep breath. Close your eyes. Breathe it out, and smile. You’re where you need to be and you have all that you need in each moment.

Love always,

-M-

Published by the_happy_hiker :)

I am a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, turned elementary music teacher, turned full-time Hotel Prius nomad. I live in my 2013 Prius with my partner, Mike, and our spunky pup, Poppy. I revel in backpacking, yoga, spiritual connection, and music and seek out opportunities to learn new things and expand. Really just another granola hippie fulfilling the stereotype.

2 thoughts on “Looking Without Seeing

  1. Hi M!
    This may sound weird. But, I know you are open to this. Try NOT seeing…Faith. Faith is the thing hoped for but not yet seen. Close your eyes to what you “see” and open your “heart”. You’re on his journey for many reasons…but mostly your looking to be “filled” but not by the world. I’m truly not trying to be “preachy” at you. But, take it from an ol soul…I’ve seen things (spiritual) from a dark and a light….fear, sorrow and suffering to Grace & Glory…ask Jesus to show you…He truly is FULL-fillment! (I hope this isn’t too much for you…I love you already Kid!) ❤️

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  2. Morgan, this is so beautiful written and expressed. I can relate to this feeling and I practice be mindful of the moment(s) too; not just going through the events.
    Love you sweetie and I look forward to your post through your journey! 💕

    Like

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