Where has this year gone? We blinked and once again we are in wonderfully ugly Christmas sweaters that are sparkling with tacky flavor. We take the holidays very seriously here at ElevenSkys, and nothing screams seriousness and professionalism quite like Santa Claus riding a unicorn with a lightsaber. Honestly, is there any other way to be a professional in the outdoor industry? We think not. In this wonderfully weird industry we have found ourselves in, it is incredibly weird not to be incredibly weird. A holiday brain puzzle for all!
Does the dog love the sweater too???
What we are trying to say with our ramblings is Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, however you celebrate this holiday season we hope it is filled with joy and laughter. For most hiker's this represents the "heart" of the off-season. As the wheel of time begins to turn towards a new year, the festivities of the holiday season are filled with cheer around family and friends, but also a deep internal cheer that comes from the the knowledge a new year filled with adventures is but on the horizon!
Yet, this festive time that we all celebrate, this joy that we all feel, it does not have to be contained within a singular moment of time. It does not have to be contained singularly within the definition of "Christmas time" or "The Holidays." It is a joy that we are all capable of sharing together in the everyday moments of life. So, instead of bringing you a Christmas Carol so to say, we hope to bring you a story of happiness and joy, in the everyday, in life. What happens when you chose to harness the everyday joy and share it with others? What ripple effects are possible when you have the ability with your actions to share the "holiday cheer" all throughout the year?
This story actually comes to you from a motel in the middle of Ohio. A motel that at its best was seedy and at its worst was downright uncomfortably dangerous during the night. Yet, this is where my partner and I found ourselves on a rest day this past hiking season. It was cheap, it was accessible, it was perfect for a hiker, regardless of the outside appearances. Somewhat regardless of the inside appearances as well, such as leftover vomit in the ice-bucket in our room, holes in the wall, and sheets that had not been cleaned since.... well we like to not reflect to hard on that last item in the list, so lets just move on shall we. Suffice it to say, it was not a place that exactly spread cheer.
Somewhere in Ohio, you will find the beauty of internal cheer.
Yet, the feeling of "cheer" is not an external source we have found over time. Yes, it is easier to experience cheer when everything in life is going right. When there are presents underneath the tree, when there is food in the belly, when you are surrounded in an environment that is comfortable and joyful. Yes we agree in instances such as this cheer is more on the forefront of your feelings and can be more easily accessible. Yet, true "cheer" is found inside. When it comes from within it cannot be extinguished. It does not dissipate when the Christmas tree is taken down, it does not disappear when the holiday season is over, it does not vanish when the external joy and happiness once again become the mundane and the everyday. Instead, it grows, it motivates, it can be found each moment, because it comes from within.
The deepest and most true form of "cheer" we find is when life isn't going right. When you are in an uncomfortable situation, and you are uncertain in the daily. By far in our experiences in life, we recognize this form of "cheer" to be the most courageous, the most inspirational, and the most difficult to harness. When it is harnessed what can happen is truly amazing.
Back to our story with the seedy motel in Ohio. At a certain point we needed to do laundry, as our clothes were filthy from the dust and the miles to get there. As we went to pick up detergent, we began to honestly wonder if using these facilities would actually accomplish making our clothes cleaner, or dirtier. Nonetheless we took the plunge.
Throwing in the laundry through the broken door of the laundry room, the cycle began. We had bought a full size detergent as all the travel sizes had been sold out. Leaving it upon the top of the washing machine, we hoped others could find use for it. After an hour or so, we travelled back down to the "laundry room" to switch our clothing over to the dryer. It was at this point that we had an interaction, that honestly still melts my heart to this day. Far more than any Christmas candle or feelings of holiday cheer, as those are but temporary, instead a feeling that has created ripples that will be felt for a lifetime.
As we traveled back towards the laundry room, we saw a woman struggling with an unholy large load of clothing. Kids pajamas, dresses, work pants, her laundry basket could be used as a metaphor for her life, they both were overflowing. As we were nearing the door at the same time, we made eye contact. Inside of those eyes an entire story unfolded. Within our singular locking of eyes, I could feel her extreme tiredness, could feel her pain, could feel she had not even a fraction of energy to give. If you have ever seen these types of eyes, you know exactly what I am trying and failing to describe. The eyes spoke of a life that was a daily struggle, an amount of stress that was crippling, an internal will that would never break even though it had every reason to. The eyes spoke of anger, of distrust, of a throbbing ache.
Look truly look into the eyes of those around you, feel, see, hear, their journey inside.
As we reached the door together instinctually my hand reached for the handle to hold it open. This act is pre-programmed into who I am. It is autopilot. Holding a door, takes no thought, takes no effort. As my hand clasped around the door to hold it open for this woman, the life that sparkled into her eyes, was truly transformational. People speak of miracles and some even speak to the doubt of their authenticity, but in these moments is where the miracle of humanity truly lies. Eyes that once held so much weight, and a heart that would continue to hold the burden, now became a window into light and happiness. A singular act, not even necessarily an act of kindness, changed the very essence of this woman's existence in this moment. Transformed pain into cheer. If that is not a miracle, I truly do not know what is.
You could literally feel a shift in her entire demeanor. It was as if the air rippled and the crushing weight was lifted for but a moment. A place in time that had no room for burden, no room for pain, no room for grief. The kindness and joy that sparkled outward from those sleep-deprived eyes is an image that has been seared upon my memory. She still had her burdens, still had her existence, still had her life to live, but in that moment she felt the true essence of cheer. Not the cheer externally that is singularly lived, but the cheer that comes from the very soul of who she was. The cheer that she chose to create, and chose to hold onto, when by all appearances the world had tried its best to strip away.
Our lives had but cross for a singular moment, a fractional blip upon our time here in this world, yet, I still think of that moment close to everyday. This is the type of "cheer" that we hope that we can bring with us into the world each moment, not just the holidays. A cheer that stems from the spirit of each and everyone of us. A cheer that is amplified by external sources such as the holidays, but does not leave us when the holidays are over. A cheer that remains an ember inside of us, that takes a single spark from another to light into a fire. A cheer that is joyful in the singular but when combined together with others is where true happiness can be found. A cheer that has no beginning, no end, only moments to feel and grow.
Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Let us all spread cheer during the holidays. Let us all spread cheer this year, each and every day.