Last night I watched a fascinating documentary on the National Geographic Channel called, “Alone in the Wild.”
It was difficult to watch. Here was this outdoorsmen named Ed Wardle. He wanted to test himself to see… can I live completely independent of others and survive in the Yukon wilderness? He intended to make it 90 days. He made it 50. And the last few weeks weren’t pretty. As time wore on, as hunger set in, as the reality that he could contact people but was choosing not to set in, the pain set in. It was agonizing TV. He cried a lot. He dealt with a lot of emotional pain. And of course he documented his unraveling. With the pressure of shooting a film on his mind all the time and the reality that he was lonely– he was paralyzed. He was in the wild, all by himself trying to prove that he could do it on his own, and he realized he needed people. He could technically do it but he chose to give up.
Deep exhale on that. He needed people. He had the skills to do it on his own. But we just aren’t wired that way. We’re hardwired to need one another.
And so he quit. He couldn’t do it. Check out what he said:
The isolation was the most difficult element of this adventure. With no contact I immediately began to lose direction and reason. Without food I lost concentration and the ability to think straight. I worked hard from week one to keep myself motivated and keep going and by the end I was spending hours every day just convincing myself to carry on one day at a time. When I was travelling or doing something physically hard I had a military voice superimposed on my thoughts keeping me going and getting me organised, other times I had a female voice that would tell me to be sensible, breathe and take it easy on myself. They helped and I could feel them getting stronger and more necessary as time went on. link
I doubt Kristen would remember saying this to me but when we were dating in college she wrote in a letter, “I love you because you don’t need anyone but you chose to let me into your world.“ True– I was raised to be independent. One of my parents goals in raising my brother and I was that we’d be able to take care of ourselves. (I don’t think they ever meant this emotionally, but physically we knew how to take care of ourselves with food, laundry, cleaning up, and stuff like that pretty young!) When things got rough in high school and college I took that desire to be independent to an extreme. In my dysfunction I translated “you can do it on your own” to “I will do life with no ones help, I will muscle through anything, I don’t need to depend on anyone.”
Kristen was right. Back then, I didn’t need or want anyone in my life. It was amazingly fulfilling to find my own way, take care of myself, and go from absolutely nothing to paying my way through college. But it was also dysfunctional. And it took someone I loved calling that spade a spade to motivate me to change.
This is where Kristen has completed me in a powerful way, though. She reminds me, in words and deeds, that we need others in our lives. We need good friends. We need the wisdom of our peers. We need to be open in these relationships. She has taught me that while we don’t “need” others to survive… life is infinitely better with people than without.
Doggone it if she wasn’t right, too. Life is way better surviving in the wild with friends.