About a month and a half ago, I found myself completely burnt out. Between the pandemic, work, the mold in my house, 2020 as a whole, and my exhausted body and mind, I needed a break. I found myself craving nature in a way that sitting outside or walking through a park couldn’t cure.
I wanted to be alone. No one else. No dog. Just me and nature. Like my own little yoga and writing retreat in the woods. I found a cute little Airbnb camper less than an hour and a half drive away, booked my stay, and let my work team know I’d be taking a long weekend away and would not be reachable.
I was beyond excited about my trip. I immediately started counting down the days, planning my meals, and making sure I had everything I needed to make s’mores over the campfire. I worked a half day that morning, dropped Poncho at his boarding facility, and made my way up north. As advised, I called the owner when I was about 20 minutes away so I could get the gate code and further instructions.
Since I was alone, I couldn’t drive, listen, and take notes, and with my current state of health, taking notes has been a critical thing to help my foggy brain, but I did my best to pay attention and hope I would remember what he was saying. One of the things the owner mentioned was the setup of the outhouse. It sounded strange, so I made a mental note to check out that setup as soon as I got there and before nature called and I was in a scramble.
I arrived at the camper, unloaded my belongings, took a few photos of it, and leaving my phone in the camper, went to check out the outhouse. I unlatched the door and made my way inside. Immediately it was strange but there were also instructions hanging above the seat that echoed what the owner said. I read them over and over but realized the bags meant for the #2 bucket were nowhere to be found. I decided to see if there were extras in the camper and if I couldn’t find any, reach out to the owner immediately. (Again, before nature could call and I’d feel panicked.) I turned around to leave the outhouse and the door wouldn’t open.
Immediately I knew what happened. The wooden latch on the outside that keeps the door shut when no one is inside the outhouse fell on its own when the door closed behind me locking me inside.
In the middle of nowhere in the woods.
With no one around.
With no phone to call for help.
When I tell this story to friends and family, it’s often met with, “I would have freaked out.” And I did. The panic set in almost immediately. The worst-case scenario set in immediately. The anxiety spiral of this being a trap to this is where I’ll be stuck until I die to what if no one realizes I’m missing and everything in between.
I tried kicking the door down, looking for things to take the door down, seeing if I thought I could fit out of the (very) small windows at the top of the outhouse, screaming and crying for help despite knowing no one was within earshot. I tried to reason with myself that maybe someone would drive by heading to the other campers in the general vicinity and maybe they would hear me, even though I knew it would be a long shot.
I wasn’t sure what to do. I wasn’t sure what I even could do. But I knew it was on me.
A few days earlier I had a call with a friend and mentor. I filled her in on what was going on in my life, in my yoga business, and about the trip ahead. She paused for a moment and said, “I’m not really sure if this will help you, but I’m being called to tell you. I think you should ask Alma for help.” I opened a note on my phone and just started writing out what she was saying. I didn’t want to forget. I didn’t know what it meant, but I was willing to try anything.
Being stuck in this outhouse felt like a metaphor for my life in this season. Just like being on an island, I was in an outhouse, with no one around, and no way to get out except to save myself.
There was a small step stool in the outhouse, so I climbed to the top and got my nose to be about level with the windows. I wanted the fresh air to calm my nervous system, to help me meditate and find a little moment of peace, and to yes, ask Alma for help. I closed my eyes and aloud I said, “Alma, I don’t know if this is anything you can help me with, but I need to get the fuck out of here.” I took another deep breath and stepped back down.
I’d been kicking and pushing and running into the door over and over and it wasn’t budging. I really didn’t want to break the door, but I also knew I had no choice. After asking for help, I kicked the door two more times and it went flying open. I broke the latch on the door.
Of course, I called the owner and texted some friends, but unfortunately, my trip was more or less over. I tried to stay and find some peace, but the peace was gone. After not sleeping at all that night, I packed up and drove home at 5 am, less than 12 hours after arriving.
But the desire for clarity from my trip to the woods came while I was in that outhouse and I think these lessons may help you too:
- I need more community in my life. I enjoy being alone but I also want to share life with people and a (someday) partner. I don’t want to do everything alone.
- Only YOU can save yourself. You can’t wait for someone else to come along and rescue you, you have to take that power into your own hands, even when it’s hard.
- Lean in and trust that everything is happening for you and your higher good.