Gatlinburg TN

Finding connection in all the right places

2019 is coming to a close, and for the final months of the year he asked me to live as if I only have one final week to live…

As the city lights began to glow down in the valley, Isaac, a journalist for Project Wise Words, and his new hiking companion Noah stood atop the Gatlinburg Overlook. The overlook is located on the Gatlinburg Bypass with views of the impressive Mt. LeConte off in the distance. Isaac met Noah while solo hiking to Mt. LeConte via the Twin Creeks and Rainbow Falls Trails just two days ago. Noah had traveled up to Gatlinburg from Greenville, SC for a long weekend getaway in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Isaac quickly learned that Noah, a burly Canadian-born forty-something, was quite the outdoorsman and philosopher.

After hiking up to the summit of Mt. LeConte and back, Isaac and Noah had spent about 23+ miles together and almost 40 hours of small talk and candid discussion on various topics. Up there on the overlook, Noah turned to Isaac and offered up an unexpected compliment.

I know you’re a millennial, but you’ve broken all millennial stereotypes over the past couple days. I know stereotyping is cheap and careless, but it’s just a human tendency and when I first met you, I thought I was going to be spending my hike with a disconnected and entitled wanderlust.

“Well isn’t that a mouthful! I’ll remember that one for sure,” chuckled Isaac.

Noah snickered and added, “But what I got was a self-aware, present, receptive and considerate old soul… I wish people would live more in the present like you. That’s why I come out to the mountains, to ground myself.”

Noah continued that he wished more people would wake up everyday and live as if they only had one week left to live.

You’d pay more attention to people you came into contact with throughout the day as if it was the last communication you would have with that person, or maybe even any person. You’d be caring and kind to others… and at the same time you’d hold nothing back. You’d be free from fear, inhibition, embarrassment, and procrastination. You wouldn’t waste any time contemplating judgment by others… you’d realize you’d wasted enough time trying to be enough for everyone else so instead you’d start spending your time being present, in the now. You would be enough.

You wouldn’t care what the weather forecast was and you wouldn’t let it rule your mood for the day, because it was one of seven days you had left remaining. If it was raining, you’d take a long walk in the rain without an umbrella, without a rain jacket. You’d delight in the sense of rain drops rolling down your face, that dewy refreshing smell, and the moisturizing humidity that a rainy day brings. You’d wake up early just to see the sunrise with all its glory and you’d make sure you were there to capture the last rays of the sunset before it dropped below the horizon. You’d hold all your friends and family close to your heart and cherish the time spent with each and every one. You would be connected on a deeper level, you’d feel connected to everyone and everything.

Noah, Gatlinburg Overlook

Before Noah and Isaac left the overlook to continue on the trail into Gatlinburg, Isaac turned around and saw Noah tying a tiny pink ribbon around a post of the old wooden overlook fence. Noah explained that every year him and his wife, Kathy, hike to Mt. LeConte. It was one of his wife’s favorite hikes. She passed away just a month ago, in August, from breast cancer. She was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer just a little over two months prior in mid-June…

Take these wise words and apply them to your year, if you dare.

Apply this mentality to every decision you need to make in this upcoming week and going forward. A whole new lifestyle will be presented to you that you never knew was there. You can apply it to any simple question, for example, “What will I do after work today?” Well, ask yourself, what kind of activities would you plan during your final week of life?

Here are a few of mine:
  1. Hike to the top of the closest mountain or trail for the sunset.
  2. Bike down to the local state park beach until there is no one around except for nature and my dog.
  3. Right before sunset, I’d bring my workout up to the rooftop deck of my condominium complex to take in the sights and sounds of the city.

You see once you apply this mentality, you will begin to build a life that is more connected to nature, connected to your loved ones, connected to strangers, connected to the universe, and perhaps connected to a higher power and purpose. A life in which you revel in everything that you have at your fingertips, everything standing right in front of you.

Instead of facing life as if you don’t have enough of this or that, you begin to realize that you had everything all along, you just weren’t looking in the right place…

I use this quote from Les Brown as the catalyst to influence my mindset out of the void of negativity on days when I need a bit of encouragement.

“Some of us choose our path out of fear and disguise as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it….

Lesson learned, you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love….

When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way that it is, and that you should live your life inside the world and try not to get into too much trouble, try to get an education, a job, a family… But life can be a lot broader than that when you realize one simple thing, and that is that everything around us, that which we call life, was made up by people that are NO smarter than you….

Find out what it is that you want and go after it as if your life depends on it…WHY? BECAUSE IT DOES…. There is no guarantee in life, well…there’s only one guarantee… if you don’t take action there will be no outcome at all, the only outcome will be that you didn’t achieve anything, you didn’t achieve what you want… a lot of people think that failure is a step backward. It’s not a step backward! Failure is a step forward in the right direction. EVERY time you fail, you learn something from it, you gain something from it, that’s PROGRESS in every sense of the word….”

The Greatness Within, Les Brown

Find that deeper connection, feel that connection to everyone and everything. Learn how to find your connection in all the right places.

As Noah tied that pink ribbon around the fence he whispered, “This is Kathy’s place, she found her connection with nature and with me here on this trail. And this is why I’ll come back here every year, to find my connection to her once more.”

What’s your connection?

One thought on “Finding connection in all the right places”

  1. JKTowson avatar Molly says:

    Amazing words of wisdom to live by!!

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