Different circumstances/reasons wilderness seasons exist in our lives…
- Death (friend or loved one or pet)
- Loss (job, relationship, home, possessions)
- Life transitions (starting school, leaving home, marriage, first child, end of childrearing, widowhood)
- Chronic pain
- Attachment wounds
- Head injury
- Car accident
- Trauma to a loved one
- Extended illness
Lands set aside as wilderness may consist of shoe-shredding lava fields, vast grassland prairies, howling desert wastelands, blistering sand dunes, or barren treeless tundra. Wilderness draws people, promising a respite from daily routines and fresh perspective on life. I seek wilderness to escape from people as much as to defy fear of the unknown by braving the unfamiliar. What I seek depends on who I am. What I find depends on the nature of the wilderness.
I have been caught unawares by wilderness of a different kind. Life transitions may drive blizzard-like through my life, or I may enter on my own, stomping in full rebellion or bitterness and tripping over my own limitations. Like physical wilderness, hidden personal wilderness can feel cold, lonely, boring, uncomfortable, exhausting, infuriating, confusing, lifeless, disorienting, barren, dark, numbing, exposed, thirsty, empty, monotonous, suffocating, deafening, withering, burdening, dangerous, or windblown. But most of all, this private wilderness season feels long. Unlike a publicly owned wilderness, personal wilderness has no map.
The purpose of any wilderness is not to get through it as efficiently as possible, however. The impact of wilderness on my life is the purpose. How I experience each place, why I sense or think what I do, what emotions bloom there, where in myself I remember, and when hopes or dreams are activated — this is where change begins. I may learn how very little control I have over my world, how much it matters that I do what I am made for, how the boundaries of my identity are changing, what I can offer and what I can’t, or the ways I need others’ companionship. Is it possible that peace has been waiting for me here in this season of hiddenness? Perhaps I will take my time here after all.
~ Karen Bridges MA, LPCC