Your Body is Your Vehicle (take it on an epic adventure)

I am interrupting the previously scheduled European vacation programming to have a brief discussion about an essay I read today.

This essay made me so angry, and so happy at the same time.

Angry because of this:

I did some quick Googling on the topic, and there are a handful of “will cycling make my legs bigger?” articles out there. I even found a video titled “How to ride your bicycle without bulking up your quads, thighs, & legs.”

And exceptionally happy because of this:

I want a body that takes me places. I want to see things. I want thighs that help me to pedal hard up a hill. I want to feel things. I want a heart that’s happy and healthy, physically and emotionally.

I want to feel alive.

Most importantly, I know that I want a lifestyle that’s more full of “fuck yeahs” than feeling bad about what I should or shouldn’t look like.

I surprised myself by becoming completely enraged that there exist women who desire to ride a bike, but are stopped by fear of gaining muscle. I want to weep for everyone who let society squash their dreams, ideas and even their most seemingly insignificant desires. I want to punch every person who ever propagated the idea that a human body should appear a certain way.

I am also thinking about the three weeks I just spent exploring mountains, hiking, climbing, running and walking every possible inch of the Alps that I could get my hands and feet on. I didn’t think about my body as an object that was right or wrong. I didn’t think about what body parts I liked or disliked or wanted to change or what I feared to be judged. I thought only about where it could take me, how strong I could make it; I thought about what amazing shape I’d be in and how good it would feel if I spent the rest of my life trekking around Alpine towns, eating bread and butter, drinking wine and espresso and huffing and puffing on mountain ridges above the clouds; running, climbing, smiling.

I want to spend the rest of my days wearing clothes that are comfortable when I’m sweating, and cozy when I’m relaxing. I want to forever not care about what my body looks like, and start admiring it for what it can do and where it can take me. I want everyone around me, everyone reading this and everyone in existence to start to see their bodies as amazing vehicles for amazing, epic adventures.

Thank you Anna Brones for writing this essay. You are my hero today.

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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Aging is Awesome.

I love getting old.

Well, “old” is subjective.

But I don’t feel like a kid anymore, and I’m certainly not a young adult. In fact, most of my hair is white. Even though I keep it died black, the roots are getting brighter and brighter. After I die it, I have a subtle brown streak — which is actually a spot of very white hair underneath it all. My mother had something very similar. It was her skunk stripe, and it was next to impossible to permanently color it. We also both went grey very early on.

I appreciate every moment when I realize how naive I was when I was young, and a revel in the moments when I recognize that I am gaining the wisdom that only comes with age and life experience. I am finally able to calmly absorb criticism and get excited to learn something new. I only wish I had more time to do and learn more things. I no longer feel like there is so much life ahead of me — instead I feel as if I’m in the thick of it, and the time to really live is not only right now, but every day, always. I say yes more often. I face my fears more frequently.

I move slower, but I’m more honest with myself. I’m finally able to embarrass young people by mocking them. I wear “old lady” shoes because they are comfortable, rather than because they are fashionable. I don’t mind being silly or ridiculous in public, and laughing is more important that looking good.

That said, I find myself pulled in many directions as I fight to fit in all the things I want to do every day. Some things are obligatory responsibilities, others are an investment in my health, and the rest ignite an amazing passion within me … or maybe just because they are more fun that the alternatives. That leaves me taking breaks from blogging, even though I have always loved to write.

However ….

I have started filling my notebook with ideas again. I have been taking notes, starting drafts, talking about ideas and directions and I’ve very excited. This summer I want to talk about adventures, what I’ve been learning, how to be inspired, and how to stay safe. I will also have about a million photos and adventures to share from the French Alps in a few weeks!

More and more I have been learning and growing from the outdoor community around me, and I am increasingly and continually in awe, oozing with appreciation, and building my motivation. There is so much wonderful out there. I aim to experience as much of it as possible. Stay tuned.

The Cost of Mt. Baldy

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This week has been an emotional one. I’ve started this blog post three times now, and the words never seem to quite make sense. I wanted to write about my experience stomping up to the summit of Mt. Baldy this weekend, the grand cycle of emotions I went through to get there, and the tears that nearly froze to my face in the frigid mountain wind. I wanted to write about the pain and injury and healing and recovery I’ve been going through. Or maybe how wiped out my obsessive goal setting has made me; and my constant creation of checklists and to-do notes. These things become words and the words don’t mesh well and I can’t even stand to read my own writing, an act that has become oddly comforting, reminding me that I can take the thoughts from my busy mind and release them, freeing them from cycling over and over in my mind, giving my attention permission to let them go.

This weekend was big. I have recognized the profound effects of supporting friendships on motivation and self-esteem; on belief in myself and the inspiration of confidence. I have recognized the profound effects of the relationship with self on the healing of the body; taking time to care for oneself, prioritizing physical and emotional needs before wants.

And I have recognized the profound effects of my relationship with nature, how it toys with my mind, taunting me deeper, and cycling my emotions. My relationship with the mountains is complicated. They call me, yet I fear them. The lure me in, then abuse me. They occupy my mind, though I oft try to set them aside. I excitedly set out to climb them, yet question my every step, only realizing the mistake was not a mistake when I finally reach a goal I never knew I had.

Mountains and I, we have a strange relationship — particularly Mt. Baldy. I hobbled onto the summit this weekend, holding back tears. Reaching the top, I could not contain myself. I sobbed. I sat and I cried tears of pent-up frustration, of joy, of relief, of disbelief. Six months ago, if you asked me if I’d ever climb up Mt. Baldy with an axe and crampons, I’d have laughed. Not only was that god-awful hill a near impossibility with the condition of my right knee, but in the snow? Six months ago a doctor told me this type of hiking was no longer an option for me. Less than three months ago another doctor told me I’d finally be able to heal again and get strong. Last Monday that doctor told me I was ready to start pushing harder. I pushed hard. Maybe too hard. Every step down to the car was excruciating. Every step down that mountain was a price paid to sit on top of it. To sit on the summit of that hill was costly. And yet I continue to pay, again and again. I’ll get stronger. I’ll keep pushing. It will get easier. But there will always be bigger mountains to climb. And there will always be a price. And I will always be willing to pay. 

I Am Not Fearless

It is a misconception that some things require one to be fearless. Those who climb rocks, scale mountains, sleep under the stars … those who adventure beyond the norm are expected to be always strong, resilient, bold and brave.

I am not fearless.

I carry, always, a small seed of fear; the question “what if?” always lingering. I fear with an irrational bent. I am claustrophobic with great intensity. I have strange, random and unwarranted anxieties.

And yet, I climb on. I continue planning trips into the wilderness. Why? Because it’s brilliant to face your fears. It’s thrilling to look at what scares you right in the eye and say, “bring it.” Because I know I can do it, whatever it is, in spite of my fears. I take with me, seated right next to that seed of fear, a great ball of confidence. Confidence in knowing my capabilities and know what my challenges are. I know what I’m ready to face, and I know that I’ll always be afraid, and I know, most importantly, that I’m going to be glad I followed through; glad I took the chance. I will never regret trying that hard thing.

Yesterday I read about the missing hiker, Robert “Bob” Woodie. We were so close; maybe on the same trail, on the same day. He was okay when we were nearby. He sent an “ok” signal that day, just a few miles from where I had been. I reached out to the agency involved with as much information as I could pull out of my memories of last weekend. I want them to find him so badly. A week out in poor weather conditions is not promising for a 74 year old hiker, but I still hope. I hope for many things … for safety and health, for lack of suffering, for answers, for conclusions, for bonding the outdoor community together.

I think about these great people working in our National Parks, our wilderness areas, our SAR volunteers — people who are just average people, just like the rest of us — and I think, “what is making them so great?” Is it because they are fearless? Or are they are feeling that fear, just as I am, and going forth in spite of it?

I don’t know what, in simple terms, makes someone great. I’m sure there are pages and pages of discussion on the topic, but I don’t want to demystify it. I believe that we can all be great in our own capacity, when we believe we can, when we just do the thing our heart leads us to do.

We all have the capacity to be great.

Bob Woodie, in his way, is great. He is a human being, in his 70s, getting out into the world; being in the world. He is a human that has been really living. I don’t know him, nor do I know anything about him, but I know he went outside carrying his pack, and he was great. And I admire him for it.

If anyone was in the the area near Bishop Pass, Dusy Basin, Barrett Lakes, or Le Conte Canyon between October 13th and now, please reach out to the NPS:  

https://www.nps.gov/seki/learn/news/search-continues-for-missing-hiker-robert-bob-woodie.htm

My Existential Crisis

I have been on a steady stream of writings about death, but I’m going to make a slight detour today; mix it up a little. Death and depression go hand-in-hand for me, so this shouldn’t be too sudden of a transition. My grandmother’s recent death shook me up a lot more than I expected it to. On the heels of the five year anniversary of my mom’s passing, it brought to the surface a plethora old thoughts and feelings that I believed I had control over. Needless to say, it’s been a struggle for me to deal with all of those feelings surfacing again. I’ve found myself depressed and experiencing tremendous unfounded negativity and anxiety — my head running away with itself; conjuring up completely irrational fears. I’ve taken two sick days from work this week, just to try to get my head on straight again. I literally cried for three hours one day for no rational reason other than I felt like shit. Depression is a mental and emotional nightmare that if left unchecked, will manifest itself in physical symptoms ranging from merely annoying to completely debilitating … and they can potentially come and go as they please. I’ve been lazy and careless; I’ve been taking care of my body, but neglecting my mind.

In the midst of this internal whirlwind, I felt compelled to open up my unread copy of Maslow’s Toward a Psychology of Being. I am a firm believer that the things I need always find me when the time is right. This quote found me:

It seems quite clear that personality problems may sometimes be loud protests against the crushing of one’s psychological bones, of one’s true inner nature. What is sick then is not to protest while this crime is being committed. And I am sorry to report my impression that most people do not protest under such treatment. They take it and pay years later, in neurotic and psychosomatic symptoms of various kinds, or perhaps in some cases never become aware that they are sick, that they have missed true happiness, true fulfillment of promise, a rich emotional life, and a serene, fruitful old age, that they have never known how wonderful it is to be creative, to react aesthetically, to find life thrilling.

Good gawd. Have I been neglecting my inner nature far too long? It makes perfect sense. I’m stuck in the rat race. Stuck. I went for a long run today with no headphones, and as I pushed onward with my body, my mind moved forward also — I feel utterly, completely, ridiculously passionless. Purposeless. I have reached an existential stand still. 

No wonder I’ve been depressed. I had multiple experiences in a very short time period scream at me, “Life is short!! Get on with it!!!” I have been doing everything in my power to get outside, to the desert, to the mountains, to sleep in a tent, to climb a peak, to run a trail; but that doesn’t take care of the daily grind. And it certainly doesn’t give me purpose. Nature is my drug — I feel good when I’m there, but when I’m home, the high wears off and I find myself back in my suburban pit of despair, feeling like life really has no meaning. I often say that it’s a freeing — to have no purpose in life except to experience happiness absolves us of much responsibility, but not having passion for what we do with ourselves might just negate that freedom, squashing what good comes of it by offering a reminder that we as humans have a desire, a need, to be wanted, to serve a purpose, to have passion. I need a fire lit under my ass. I need to care deeply about something outside of myself, and I need to do it every day.

I have much to think about now. There is work to be done. I must find my passion.