• Mary Anderson

Sharing Joy Is a Human Need

Editor's note: Mary Anderson, aka Mary Badass, is almost at the end of her journey. By the time she reaches South Pass, Wyoming, she will have hiked the entire 3,100-mile Continental Divide Trail. Mary has written in detail about the first half of the trail, which she hiked in 2020, and has posted once a day for almost four months about the second half. She is now in the spectacular but treacherous Wind River Range, on her way to Pinedale, where she will do her final resupply. To wish her success as she nears her goal, post a comment below or send an email message to sara@korongobooks.com. —Sara Tucker, Korongo Books

By Mary Anderson

Sometimes I have to bite my tongue and not speak. The other day I was sitting near the trail having a late-day snack. A big guy a bit younger than I am came down the trail and excitedly told me he had just seen a moose. I could have replied, “Yeah, I saw it too,” or “I’ve seen at least ten since I started this hike.” Even more dramatically, I could have told him about the three times I was charged by moose. But what purpose would any of that had? I would have deflated his bubble of joy.

It’s the same when hikers tell me about the five-day trip they are on. I don’t have to make their trip seem like less by telling them I am out for four months. So I bite my tongue and say little.

I believe wanting to share joy is a human need. I also believe we often get our sense of selves caught up in what we do. I used to identify myself by my physical prowess. Then i had a number of injuries that left me unable to walk for a time and needing help to go to the bathroom. I learned to reimagine myself, realizing that I am not my body. Thinking of all my friends who have lived their entire lives in wheelchairs helped. I learned that who I was, was not really connected with what I was able to do. This helped in a lot of ways. I became less judgmental of both myself and others.

Now, when I first meet someone, instead of asking what they do, I ask them to tell me about their passions. I feel this tells me more about a person and avoids the embarrassment of having to say “I’m unemployed” or “I’m on disability.” I want to learn about the core of a person, which is seldom the same as what they do.

Thinking this way has helped me cultivate a sense of inner acceptance. I can be happy with my day if I was able to find something to enjoy, even if I did not accomplish much by society’s standards. And if I managed to bite my tongue to help someone stay in their bubble of happiness a bit longer, then I would say my day was well spent.

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