How Dissociation Is Like the Wind

Mary Anderson wrote this post while crossing the Wyoming desert between South Pass and Encampment on the CDT, a 250-mile trek that she hopes to complete in 15 days. —Ed.

It's amazing how something you can't see can have such an impact. The wind howls almost nonstop in the Great Basin of Wyoming. The few minutes it is not there each day I feel my body relax and I relish the silence. Sometimes I feel it will make me crazy.


I think about the unseen wind here all the time. There is nowhere I can get away from it. I can't take anything out of my pack and let it go unless it weighs enough to not get blown away. Sometimes the wind can lift my entire pack. I wonder each night if I can set up my tent so it doesn't get torn to shreds or if I will have to take my tent down and sleep in it like being wrapped in a plastic bag. I have to figure out what direction to stand to pee if I want to stay dry and what distance I need to be in what direction to get my poop into the hole I dug. I have to remember that even as I am shivering with cold in the wind, the sun is hot enough to burn any exposed flesh.


I've thought about how dissociation is like the wind. You don't see it coming. Something happens and you get blown off course and have to struggle to find your center again. But until you have the inner bridges built, you must rely on the kindness of your friends to pull you back from the old places of pain that swamp you and threaten to kill you.


It also has me thinking about all the unseen things people do that make a difference. Those people are some of my heroes. An example is the person who has left water in a box in the desert for CDT hikers. I'll never see the one who left it, and they'll never meet me, but what a difference it has made for me. Trail angels such as these go unseen but their kindness affects many people. It may even save lives.


I want to remember to be kind to everyone I meet, even the people who drive me as nuts as the relentless wind. I may never know if my kindness will make a difference in their lives or not. I want to believe it will ripple out like the currents of the wind. I do know it will make a difference in my own life. The more I embrace the wind and marvel at the miraculous power it has, the less frustrated I am while hiking. Sometimes I am even grateful for it, as it nudges me to keep walking when I might otherwise want to stop. The more I am kind even to those who are unkind to me, the less angry and more happy I will be in life. Now I want to learn to be grateful for those people as well.

Since writing this I have learned the wind has been at 60 miles per hour!


PS: My posts are arriving via pony express. I write them while I am walking and when I hit a town with wifi I mail them out. That means what you are reading is usually about one week behind when it happened.

Mary Anderson is writing a book about her trek along the 3,100-mile Continental Divide Trail, a journey of healing that she began in her sixties. Mary hiked the southern half of the trail in 2020 and is undertaking the northern half this year.


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