A Sign of Things to Come

Today I broke my plastic camp spoon that I’ve had for a decade. I ate my lunch with it at work for years. I carried it around in my purse to avoid using single-use utensils. I felt very personally connected to this small, grey, plastic item that cost me roughly one dollar, plus tax. I stirred coffee, ate soup, shoveled rice, scooped almond butter. This morning it was almond butter — a new-to-me, no-stir, crunchy version in a glass jar, spread thickly on a toasted cinnamon raisin bagel. I was attempting side two of my bagel.

*SNAP*

The handle remained in my hand, but the head of the spoon was planted firmly within the jar. This is only breakfast … today is going to be a bad day, I thought. It’s an omen. I should skip my long run — I’ll probably get hurt. It’s a sign.

*pause*

Maybe it is a sign. A sign of change to come. A sign of a needed shift in my reality. A representation of “out with the old, in with the new.” Today I’ll turn a corner, welcoming a new thought, a new space, a new place, a new perspective, a new feeling, a new life.

A new beginning.

Perhaps today, if I pay attention, the world will be new.

I will take what is old, take what has served me (well or unwell), open my mind, break the old habits in half, and take one step forward. Today is a new day.

And maybe, also, I will be more careful when scooping the almond butter.

My Public Commitment to DO THINGS

To say I have been down in the dumps lately would be an understatement.

I had grand intentions for my week off, but I knew if I wasn’t careful, I was going to overwhelm myself. In turn, I set loose expectations, and told myself I would keep my spirits high, go with the flow, enjoy my time off without stress.

But how could I not know that things don’t always work out as expected? The holiday began fine, and slowly deteriorated. I met friends for drinks and dinner, I accomplished a major chore, and my partner and I got an ambitious start on our current van project.

However, before I knew it I was spiraling downhill: my leg started hurting on Saturday night, and on Sunday evening I had a long, painful spasm in my vastus medialus (quad muscle on the inside of the leg). The muscle was so knotted and tight afterwards that I could barely bend my knee or put any weight on it. I spent three more miserable days, short-tempered and drinking heavily, heating and massaging the muscle through tears, trying to make some headway on my projects, until I was able to get in to see my doctor — a miracle worker who somehow manages to take pain from the body and squeeze it out of one’s face in the form of tears and screams. When the knot finally released, my body was somewhere between cursing, crying, attempting to ball up in the fetal position, and throwing an uncontrollably clenched fist (which thankfully did not actually occur).

That said, my leg was now on the upswing, and I was feeling like a real human again, but my mind was still stuck somewhere in a deep, dark crevasse. This is when I found the journal of Kenneth Payton’s Solo tour of the US Southwest. At 82 years of age, Ken rode his bike from California to Florida, blogging about it on the way. I was hooked, fascinated, inspired. I want to be like that when I’m 82 (Ken passed in 2014 at 87 years). I knew I needed to get out; I knew I needed to start actually believing in myself — believing that I could do things I wanted to do, and knowing that I didn’t have to be the ABSOLUTE BEST and AN UNDENIABLE EXPERT at something just to make it a part of my life. I don’t know about you, but I’ve let myself stop things before I even start just because someone else is already doing it (Why even bother? There’s already someone doing it better … ).

I learned recently that I am not the only one who falls for this trap. Kathlyn Hart talks about this on episode 029 of the Big Leap Show before she introduces Emilie Aries from Bossed Up and the podcast, Stuff Mom Never Told You.

I have a lot of worries — and they are all over the place — but in 2018 I’m committing to ignoring those unreasonable fears, being true to myself and doing what brings me joy.

Do the things.

The Grand Chamonix Vacation — chapitre deux

Chamonix, Day … I have no idea what day we’re on. It’s Tuesday. I know this only because we are keeping track of when we need to check out of the apartment and catch a train to Zermatt. And because we are counting how many good climbing days we have left in the French Alps. I expect that I personally will get in one more day of alpine climbing, one possible day of multi-pitch rock and one trail run. The weather has been less than ideal, but I am happy with everything I’ve done and seen in the time we’ve been abroad. Three weeks is a long time to be away from home when you are not accustomed to it, but I’ve impressed myself — this atmosphere has been easy, my anxiety has been dulled, my stress limited; my knee is feeling quite good, my sinus turmoil seems to have righted itself, and though I’m beginning to feel a bit tired and in need of some additional rest, I’m actually feeling quite well, physically and emotionally.

I wanted to get out of my comfort zone, to push myself to do something new, and I have been successful.

Here are a few quick photos! More to follow.

A Poem For My Readers

As I wander in and out of the blog-o-sphere
I often wonder … does anyone know I’m here?
My posts are sparse, though my ideas are many
Drafts are long stuck in writing purgatory

Countless hours spent thinking through each idea
Less hours even drafting on computer media
My notebook is full, my scribbles are many
But my curser blinks endless on pages empty

In my head I’m a writer! with content a-plenty
I have readers and fans, surely more than twenty
I work hours and hours to perfect my craft
Honing my skills, working hard on each draft

But reality is, I work all day at a desk
I work for “the man” — it can be quite a test
I dream of outdoors, adventures galore
And writing about them all day and more

Have faith in me, readers — I’ll one day live my dream
Exploring the world, as I travel, plot and scheme
With my pack on my back, van keys in my hand
I’ll venture on to mountains, rivers and sand

I’ll be lost among the trees, deep in a canyon
Dips in alpine lakes — always, always planning
Petroglyphs, ancient ruins and history
Nature, fresh air, tomorrow a mystery

Find me back here one day, filling in the blanks
For the future opportunity, I’ll give thanks
I’ll pay it forward, I’ll spread all the love
From a snowy mountain, way high above

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Shorts, Mountains and Goals

I’ve been binge listening to the She Explores podcast and you should, too. I surprisingly discovered it recently through the Luna Grey Fiber Arts Instagram account. Episode one hit me like a ton of bricks. I completely related. If something scares you, you should probably do it.

I kept listening and more and more I found myself moving from intimidation to understanding to connection. I continue to find myself comparing my life to the lives of others, always placing myself at a deficit: not good enough, not skilled enough, not experienced enough, not brave enough. But that’s not reality. What is real is that I am adventuring in my own way, in my own time, and my life is not comparable to others, just as others’ are not comparable to mine, or to each other. We are all individuals, mapping our own journeys through life, discovering our inner-most selves and figuring out what makes us tick. I find that I oft surround myself with people who I think push harder than I do — but I realized that maybe I am pushing just as hard. They motivate me to keep going, to make it to the next level. They have more experience and more fitness than I do right now, but that doesn’t make my effort worth less.

Two weekends ago I attempted a climb that I wasn’t sure I was ready for, but I had a distance goal and an emotional goal. Five of us set out to climb the Mt. Whitney Mountaineers Route as part of our training for a trip to the French Alps this summer. I was out of my element and I was nervous; the others had their own goals, which I found more admirable than my own (and part of my goal was to be emotionally comfortable with this variance). To my surprise however, we met someone else with an entirely different goal; someone who upended my entire emotional outlook for this trip.

We met Harrison only meters from Iceberg Lake. He rounded the bend in shorts and tennis shoes with microspikes. We were head-to-toe windproof, waterproof and insulated; just a handful of gear junkies obsessed with every winter gear sale on the internet. Harrison bought his REI shorts second-hand. How was he not cold?

I looked at my friends and said, “he’s going to Canada.”

And Harrison was indeed going to Canada. By foot. In shorts.

We camped together next to the frozen, snow covered lake and I learned a little about Alaskan salmon fishing, and a lot about myself. I don’t know if I’d call the snow hike to Iceberg Lake the hardest physical thing I’ve ever done — maybe yes, maybe no, and maybe it is all relative — but it was hard emotionally and mentally. Very hard. My knee is healing and I’m stronger than I have been in a very long time, but training in the gym or in the comfort of familiar places did not prepare me for the alpine environment. Breathing at 12,000 ft, with no appetite, everything tasting like cardboard, forcing myself to eat and drink and take deep breathes; fighting anxiety, a bout of depression and claustrophobia … it was the same roller coaster I went through on Baldy two weeks ago, minus the extra knee pain and multiplied by a hundred.

I didn’t summit on Sunday morning. I didn’t even make the attempt. My goal was to make it camp, to get comfortable with the environment, and to be comfortable on my own. I almost didn’t make it that far. After our first big ascent on Saturday, I collapsed in the snow next to Lower Boy Scout Lake and lost it. I cried tears of delusion, crashing hard from a lack of calories, gasping to breathe after overexerting myself in the thin air, blubbering on about my wonderful, awful life until the energy chews that were force fed to me took effect. What a nightmare. Now I know what this is all about.

Later that day, as the group was setting up camp, building a snow wall, flattening ground and racing the sun, I sat exhausted, trying to muster up what energy I could to pitch in. It felt like forever before I could move my body, doing my meager share of the work. I managed some duties, warming up as I moved around, very slowly eating dinner, then laying in the tent, chatting, trying to relax. I managed a full twelve hours in the tent without a claustrophobia induced panic attack.

But I was okay. I didn’t summit, and I was okay. Half of our group came back from the notch around noon, the other half returned from the summit about an hour later.

And Harrison. He had attempted the traverse over the ridge and returned late in the morning, shut down by weather and making a smart choice to descend for a reassessment of gear. In our time lounging at camp, while the others made their summit bids, Harrison made a comment to me about reevaluating life … the choices we make; what we do and how and when. I could tell he was less than happy with himself for turning back, but no one can judge him for that choice. We know the right choices for ourselves, and only we can honestly evaluate our goals, and our perceptions of our goals are our own, for us to determine how they fit best into our lives.

I later heard in an episode of She Explores: The only thing that can ruin a hike is your attitude. I needed to reevaluate my own life, my own goals; my attitude. I came home happy with myself for pushing for my own goals. Our goals are our own, independent of others and we are each mapping our own journeys.

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