Cheryl Strayed talks to Oprah about walking her path to peace

Photo credit: ANTHONY WALLACE - Getty Images

Photo credit: ANTHONY WALLACE – Getty Images

At the age of 22, in 1991, Cheryl Strayed fell into an abyss. Her beloved mother, who was only 45 years old, had died of cancer. Driven mad with grief, Cheryl began to doubt her marriage, sleep with other men, and eventually even use heroin with one of them.

But then something happened. On a snowy night three and a half years later, Cheryl lent her truck to a friend of hers, which she quickly broke down. So she went into a camping supply store to buy a shovel and literally dig her way out of trouble. As she waited in line to pay, she saw a guide to the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail. Cheryl had never heard of PCT, neither had I until I read Wild—but something compelled her to go back and buy the book.

Six months later, he had begun his trek from the Mojave Desert to Oregon.

This would be a great decision even for a seasoned backpacker, which Cheryl definitely wasn’t. Although she was no stranger to nature (she had grown up on 40 acres in Minnesota with no electricity or running water), she had never walked more than a day at a time, and usually with other people. Facing the PCT alone was brave madness or maybe just… well, wild.

But Cheryl was desperate to stop her downward spiral and was looking for perspective. I suppose she could have gone backpacking to Europe, or taken up cooking, or started writing a novel. (She did that later; Torch was published in 2006.) But the PCT was like a little voice in his head, and as I’ve come to know, when a little voice speaks, you really should listen.

Cheryl speaks in Wild about the difference between deciding to do something and actually having to do it; For some of us, that can be quite a leap. He started out hesitant and made many missteps, but once he got that far, he refused to back down. She eventually discovered, somehow, in the depths of her miserable and afflicted soul, that she was in fact saving herself. “Keep walking, sister,” she wrote herself on the copy of Wild she brought to my house the day we did this interview. (How could I talk to this intrepid woman indoors? No, I invited her over to my house so we could sit under the redwoods in Santa Barbara. It was a freakishly cold day, but Cheryl, God knows, had experienced worse weather.) .

This is what I got from reading and meeting Cheryl Strayed: No matter where you are on your way up in life, no matter what you’re doing, you have to keep getting up every day. No matter what obstacle is in front of you, you just have to keep getting up and doing what you have to do. Sometimes that means dealing with demons, and let me tell you, the logistics of this hike, the weather, the animals, the fact that for most of the trip Cheryl’s boots were the wrong size (she lost six toenails per rubbing), have scared me 10 different times. But more often than not it means dealing with the demons within us.

See also  Keanu Reeves' Batman Revealed in DC League Of Super-Pets Trailer

I was lucky enough to spend three hours with the intrepid Cheryl Strayed, talking about her life, her book, and the quest we’re all on, whether we realize it or not.

Oprah: What does it mean to be wild?

Cheryl: The death of my mother led me to what I consider my wildest self. She stripped me of the only thing she needed. My mother was the main root of my life. And suddenly, she didn’t have that anymore. I had a wild love for my mother. I had a wild sorrow. and then i he went wild. I went wild in my life.

Oprah: You describe yourself as a seeker, and yet you say that when your mother died, religion and God failed you. You write: “I prayed fervently, furiously, to God, to any god, to a god I could not identify or find. I cursed my mother, who had given me no religious education. Resentful of her own repressive Catholic upbringing, she had He had avoided church altogether in his adult life, and now he was dying and I didn’t even have God. I prayed to the whole universe and hoped God was in it, listening to me. I prayed and prayed, and then wavered. Not because I couldn’t to find God, but because I suddenly did: God was there, I realized, and God had no intention—I love it so much, it makes me cry—to do things, whether it happened or not, to save my mother’s life. He wasn’t a wish granter.”

Cheryl: I realized that I was not going to get my wish, and my mother was not going to get hers. She had always known it, rationally; bad things happen to people all the time. But when they pass us by, we think, Well, wait a minute. Why would God do that to me? So, at that moment, I realized, Yes, I’m going to have to find a new definition of God. That was also a wild experience.

Oprah: It took him over three years of misery to get to the point where he made the life-saving decision to take a hike. But once you decided, you never wavered. And I have to tell you, when you started in that motel room trying to put on your backpack (Monster, you call it) and you couldn’t pick it up, I know what I would have thought: That is all! It’s a sign. I must not go on this trip! I would have gone home, but you tied that thing on and went for a walk.

Cheryl: I was failing in so many ways in my life, and my biggest fear was failing again on this journey. I just couldn’t fail. I was too proud to call my friends and say, “You know how I was going to walk that trail? I didn’t.” So no matter what, It does not matter that, I had to get that bundle strapped to me and go. She was not feeling good. She felt terrible. It was really painful. But I had to, and now I see why: I needed to carry such a heavy weight. He needed to carry the weight he couldn’t bear. that is what Wild it’s about. It’s about how we bear what we cannot bear.

See also  Moose attacks woman while walking her dog in Cannon Beach

Oprah: It’s also about conquering fear, don’t you think? The idea of ​​being in unknown territory, in the desert, completely dark, alone, female. Weren’t you terrified? I know you created this “I’m not afraid” mantra. But every time you said it, I was like, “I’m not afraid, but I believe in ghosts. I believe, I believe, I believe in ghosts.” [Laughs.]

Cheryl: The most important thing I hope readers take away from Wild it is the realization that I am no different from them. I am not braver or braver than anyone. I have many fears. I could walk down this road and be startled by, you know, a sound.

Oprah: Being brave is feeling the fear and doing the scary thing anyway.

Cheryl: Yes. So every time I heard that branch crack at night, or whatever it was, I thought: That’s just an animal. He doesn’t want anything with me. And I was right. I could have said My God, the bear will come and eat me, and I’ll have to run screaming out of the desert. But I kept going. And I think that “I’m not afraid” spilled over into other areas of my life. We all have those negative voices inside of us, the ones that say, “I’m too fat” or “I’m not good enough,” and you just have to counter them and say: I’m not going to listen to that. I’m going to listen to this other thing. When I was suffering, I used to say to myself, Right now I feel uncomfortable, but I can do this. And I could do it. I did it

Oprah: Whenever you encountered humans, he was more afraid for you than when you encountered the rattlesnake or the bear. I think I could have survived everything except for one thing. What would have really sent me into psychological trauma, what would have turned me into a babbling madman, was the night you slept out of your sleeping bag.

Cheryl: Right. Well, it had been a very hot day and I stopped at a pond. I was too tired to pitch my tent, so I went to bed thinking: I will sleep under the stars. And I woke up with the feeling that someone was touching me. Little hands, everywhere. Cool, wet hands. And I noticed that it was absolutely covered in hundreds of little black frogs.

Oprah: Eeeeeeeew! Okay, well, I think it’s clear we’re on the same page about frogs. But when it comes to the book as a whole, I think everyone gets something different from it. People who have lost a parent connect on that level. Hikers connect because it’s hiking, and so on. For me, the book is a spiritual journey. You were looking for meaning, the deepest part of what is.

Cheryl: I went out on a spiritual quest. But what I got was physical proof. I didn’t understand how connected the two are. So when Monster was the physical weight that he couldn’t bear, he also had that feeling inside. The physical realm continued to deliver the spiritual.

See also  Mick Jagger talks 'shallow' comparisons to Harry Styles

Oprah: Tell me how this walk helped you deal with your pain.

Cheryl: I thought about my mother every day, I still think about her every day, even when I didn’t realize I was thinking about her. Along the way, you don’t have epiphanies, exactly; you’re too busy putting one foot in front of the other. But one day, while walking in the snow, I came to this fallen tree, with no snow. So I sat down to rest a bit. And before I knew it, I saw a red flash to my right. It was a fox, maybe 10 feet away. At first he didn’t seem to see me, but then he stopped right in front of me and turned to study me. I was surprised you know: There’s a wild animal looking at me! But I also felt What an amazing moment. So I stood still and said, “Fox,” very gently. And he turned and went on his way into the woods. So, I can’t explain why, but as soon as the fox started to walk away, I started yelling, “Mom, mom, mom.” I felt that my mother was there. This sounds completely strange, but it’s true.

Oprah: That doesn’t sound so strange to me. I felt that, of course, that was your mother. Not only that, I think your mother was there the whole time. She was at every step. She was leader, head, spirit in charge.

Cheryl: She was. She still is.

Oprah: Do you feel that?

Cheryl: I make. I make. My mother always said, and she says it on her tombstone, “I’m always with you.” Her greatest pain, when she found out that she was going to die, was that she was going to leave me, my brother and my sister. Now that I’m a mother, I understand.

Oprah: What did this walk teach you?

Cheryl: Acceptance. I had to accept the fact of the hour. The fact of the mile. The fact of summer. The facts of my life. Over and over again, I found that if I could accept those hard things, everything else gave way. Each step led to the next step, the next truth to be revealed. We all suffer. We all have anguish. We all have difficult things. They are part of life. Realizing that was very deep for me. The PCT gave me a great sense of humility, which is what you need to be able to continue walking in both literal and metaphorical ways.

Oprah: Who would you be if you hadn’t done this walk? Who are you because you did it?

Cheryl: I think it would still be me; I would have found what I needed to find, but in a different way. Still, all that I am is born from my experience on the road. I feel like I literally walked into the life I have now. Nine days after my walk, I met Brian, my husband; several years later we got married and had our children. I walked all those miles and learned all those lessons. It’s like my new life is the gift I got at the end of a long struggle.

you might also like