An Unspoken Understanding: Elli and Melissa Chase Sunlight Through The Olympic Peninsula
When Melissa (@mellypeacox) came to Washington a few weeks back for her Lyme treatment, I already had a plan in mind to adventure together. We'd stock some good snacks, fill the car with blankets, string twinkly lights in the back for dreamy vibes, have a solid playlist, and just go. Find all the things and do all the things, because those days are always good days. They can make you feel alive when you need it most, especially when it's hard to remember life outside of just being sick.
The untouched wild of the Olympics and Cascades are what drew me to Seattle, and are what keep me here (despite an entire family 3,000 miles away). Despite sometimes having really hard days (and missing my mom). The pull of adventure, specifically amongst these mountains, fuel and fill my soul in the deepest way.
That feeling has stuck with me, even after all this time and I wanted that for Melissa.
Because of a later start (and daylight savings) we were quite literally chasing sunlight (we were headed to Hurricane Ridge on the Olympic Peninsula). Soon, the mountains would be hidden under the cover of nightfall. Immense, powerful, intimidating and completely out of sight. Although that's a mind-trip in itself, it's only dreamy if you have a mental image of where they should be, looming over you. Needless to say, half the adventure was the hustle.
We made it up the ridge just as the last light was fading, and because others were simultaneously beginning their descent, it was mostly deserted. And so damn cold. Our frozen phones shut themselves off (couldn't hang) and we had to retreat back to the car every 5 minutes to regain feeling in our fingers. But despite the impending darkness and bone-chilling temperatures, we stayed for awhile. We frolicked, had an iPhone photoshoot, befriended curious deer and drank up views so vast they leave you speechless. When the last light had gone, we finally gave in. We were the last to leave.
It was freezing, but exhilarating. Nearly unbearable, but completely necessary.
The world up there aggressively demanded our full attention and we were given no choice but to embrace it. It was enough to distract us from the unrest in our hearts, minds, and bodies and just focus on being in the now. And that meant everything.
This was actually the first we'd ever met, but because of this online community, it felt very much like reuniting with an old friend.
There was a lot of laughing, but also a lot of allowing the other to see and feel our darkest parts, listen as we recounted the most painful parts of our stories, and trust that we could both handle the weight of it. She bore her whole heart - her deepest pains and greatest hopes. And she allowed me to do the same. It shook me, and catapulted me into a further self-awareness of my own pain, and the emotional healing I have yet to do.
It was raw, honest, and powerful.
Melissa's story, my story, and all of our stories - have given us all the grounds to be angry, frustrated and heartbroken. We've all had hard roads and it's easy to feel inadequate and undeserving. It has made us question everything we are, and everything we were ever meant to be. Dreams have been lost, plans have been unwillingly abandoned and it can feel like without a path, or the path we imagined, we have nothing. But we're going to end up where we're meant to, and we're going to come out of this. I know it's hard to remember that when you're in the thick of it, and when you've been in the thick of it for so long.
There is an unrivaled power in this community, a community of people who have been forced to passionately advocate for themselves in a world that struggles and refuses to recognize them. And amongst us, there is an unbridled resolve and unspoken understanding in our fight for life.
We feel each other's pain, and each other's triumphs as immensely as if they were our own. And it is our empathy that will change the face of this disease.
There's a lot of healing to be had when we create a safe space for telling our stories. There's power in emotionally showing up for one another, and allowing someone to share their pain in it's entirety. And there's power in letting a community have your back by sharing your own. It's how we can overcome insurmountable loss, and make each other feel validated and understood. It can turn tragedy into something good. A silver lining.
Next time you're given the chance, not only listen, but allow yourself to be vulnerable, open and fearlessly bold in your pursuit to be heard. Connecting in this way can shift your thinking, and remind us of how much we've overcome. We're warriors, not victims, and there is so much strength in our words.