Over eleven and a half years ago, on January 10th, 2009, an emotionally broken fat man sat down to try and write out some of his grief. He had lost his wife and companion of over 25 years to cancer just five weeks earlier, and was having trouble dealing with his pain, his job, and the mundanity of life in general.
He began to write about what he had lost, and what it had been like to go through those last few weeks. He wrote about how difficult it was to go through his current day-to-day life, and his feelings of Survivor’s Guilt that he was still alive while a good woman was gone.
He was staring at a future of running out the clock alone, and wondering after eight years of care-taking what he would do to fill his days. When he wrote those first few paragraphs, he could not have known and would not have believed that his life would change drastically and for the better in just a few months.
Seven years later in August of 2016, a little less fat but still morbidly obese man and his lovely wife made the wild decision to train for the Inca Trail Hike to Machu Picchu. Since he would need to lose a lot of weight to achieve this goal, he decided to keep a journal of the effort.
As he wrote, he remembered that earlier journal, and began to understand that he still harbored those feelings of Survivor’s Guilt. He could still hardly believe he was blessed in his life with a second beautiful and intelligent woman. He began to come to grips with the lingering guilt that his life was too good, that everything he had now was all because someone good had died.
So in his mind, he began to combine the two journals, and began to see the journey of the Inca Trail as a kind of act of redemption; if he could achieve this goal, conquer the weight and emotional issues, maybe he had some worth as a human being after all? Maybe it was actually okay for him to be happy?
Over the course of combining and re-living those moments of loss from his first marriage, he also began to see that his Guilt did not begin with the death of his first wife. It began in his youth, when he survived childhood trauma in a dysfunctional family, and the Guilt was merely held at bay during his 20’s – 50’s as he enjoyed a more normal life with a family of his own.
He began to write about those earlier traumatic events as well.
After almost four more years of struggling – how open and honest did he want to be, how much of the story did he want to tell, and so on – he decided to complete the story. It may be hard to put it all out there, but if just one other person dealing with similar issues sees it and takes heart, it will be worth it. By making it public and admitting the problems, maybe old wounds would finally heal?
We will see. This week, I published the eBook version of “An Uphill Climb – Survivor’s Guilt on the Inca Trail” . A preview link is available on the sidebar, and it is a free read for Kindle Unlimited members. Later this week a print version (with black and white photos to reduce costs) will also be on Amazon.
This is not your typical Inca Trail book.
Although you will find practical advice for preparing for the Inca Trail, and follow along with colorful pictures (on the eBook) as Rita and I make our attempt, you will find much more. There is the story of pain and loss leading up to a new life that should be a happy ending, but instead is tainted by guilt and feelings of unworthiness. You will get a glimpse of expat life in Ecuador, as we take advantage of our home in South America to train in the Andes. In the entries on my first few months as a widower, you will even get a peak behind the curtains of working in the US Senate. There are even some laughs along the way.
My hope is that from the ups and downs of the loss of childhood innocence, finding happiness in a new family, dealing with cancer and death, finding love again, and fighting depression, you will experience an emotional journey every bit as difficult as the Inca Trail itself just to get us to that first checkpoint at Kilometer 82 in Piskacucho, Perú.
Life’s a Journey. Here’s a little guidebook to part of mine.