This summer I took a hike with a guide in the Grand Canyon. I wanted to go on a guided hike because I thought I could learn about the Canyon. Much like having a guide in a museum, I thought having a Grand Canyon guide would help me understand things about the beauty and creation of the Canyon that I did not know. What I discovered was that having that guide provided much more.
We began our journey at 7am. I am an early riser so I didn’t mind, and the small frustration I felt about needing to rush on my vacation was squelched by understanding that the guides needed to get their tours done early so they could go on with their other duties for the rest of the day. I was wrong, about this and about so many other things. The trek was treacherous and exhausting. Fortunately, our guide helped us get to our destination.
At our destination, we stopped for a bathroom break and a snack and our guide gave us information for our trip back to the rim. He told us we needed to start the trek back right away. Although it was hot going down, there were many shady places and a bit of a breeze. Our guide told us those spots would not be shaded soon, the overall temperature was quickly rising and that since our upward climb back to the rim would take twice as long going up as it had going down, we needed to get started before the hike became unbearable. There was no water on the trail and our bottles were empty by the time we got to our destination. Also, the altitude was affecting us. Coming from sea level, our bodies did not yet adjust and we really felt it on that climb back up to the rim. Our guide had planned the 7am start for more reasons than I had expected.
I had a lot of feelings during this experience. I felt fear, frustration, amazement, and excitement. I was also reminded of how important it is to have a guide. Many successful people say they have stood on the shoulders of giants. People often use mentors to help them with their careers or personal trainers to help them get fit. The hike in the Grand Canyon echoed the idea that getting a guide in life is not only important in a crisis but can help us along our way and because these people are knowledgeable about the hills and valleys on our journey, they may also help us avert difficulties.
Creating a family and caring for our children are not uncommon events but if either of these rites of passage does not work out smoothly we find ourselves on a treacherous trail without a guide. With most losses, we go through the various stages of grieving the world we believed we would be living in. It is common to feel shock accompanied by denial, anger, and sometimes bargaining, depression and eventually acceptance. When the acceptance has set in, or even set in a little, its time to adjust to a new reality. The reality that building a family won’t be easy. It’s a hard reality to stomach. The time and effort and expense that lies ahead can feel overwhelming. Most try to go it alone. If you are anything like me, you try to figure out what you need to do and focus on the concrete.
We start our journeys by believing that it will all “just happen”. Then we feel the slap in the face of disappointment, and possibly a punch in the stomach with further disappointment. Sometimes we stop a moment to lick our wounds but more often than not, pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and try to figure out how to fix it all.
The best thing to do is not to try to fix it all ourselves. When things go wrong with our cars we don’t often try to fix them ourselves. The disappointment we feel about our new car needing new breaks doesn’t prevent us from getting to the mechanic. But when our ability to build or take care of our family is threatened it is so personal and intimate, we can be left feeling ashamed, disillusioned about life and, for many reasons be reluctant to get the help that can get us on the right road and save us angst and precious time.
When charting new territory, we cannot know what we don’t know. The internet is full of misinformation and friends and family often provide information that while well intended, can be unhelpful. Getting an experienced guide can provide us with useful information and shepherd us down the least injurious and most beneficial path.