On Backpacking

It’s always fascinating to me how carrying a pack changes the way in which I hike. Physically, as well as emotionally. I find that the weight changes the way that I step, creating a methodical, purposeful walk that carries with it the feel of a pilgrimage — something of spiritual journey; a mission of self-discovery. I put effort into the balance of the weight, minimizing the inevitable discomfort, learning through every step how to be with this experience that is so far outside of my everyday existence.

By the end of the first day, typically with the last few miles, the final switchbacks, the crest of the summit in sight, I find myself wondering why on earth I would do such a thing. I ask myself time and time again why I would venture this far from creature comforts, from the reclusive hideaway of a warm, soft home. I tell myself I shouldn’t try so hard to do this; I should find another hobby to spend my time off doing. I re-hydrate my dinner, I have a bit of chocolate, I methodically arrange my sleeping space. I fall asleep with fresh air on my face, the trees and sky visible through the tent mesh, the sound of the breeze through the branches. I turn in the night, the rustling of the wind in the tent fabric audible through the thin veil of wilderness sleep.

Before I know it, I’ve slept through sunrise. The morning air is cool and crisp and I become refreshed at the thought of another mountain day. I methodically go through my morning routine, savoring every purposeful step. I note the tenderness in my hips where my pack’s belt sits. My shoulders and back feel used, my leg muscles a little tight, my body feeling strong. I nurse my knee with some Ibuprofen and I am happy to feel it gaining strength as time goes on. I pack up my things and realize that by the morning of day two, I never want to go home.

In the wilderness, nothing matters aside from the here and now. The moment you are in is the most important moment, and the people you are with become the most important people. Everyone you see is brethren; you all share a connection that can only be gained by venturing off the grid. All of a sudden your cell phone doesn’t matter; you couldn’t care less about your inbox, or your mailbox, or your anything else. Your house could burn down and you would cease to care until you were back on the grid. In fact, it’s quite possible that you would care far less, regardless — after all, the mountains want you back.

The Simple Life – Part 2

Downsizing is hard.

Packing is hard.

Moving is a hassle.

This is pretty much how I’ve been feeling every single time I walk through my front door. As such, I have been avoiding walking through my front door. It’s not helping. I have these moments where I plow through a ton of things, tossing and donating and selling and giving away like a mad woman. And then following these moments are long lulls in activity where I’m at such a complete loss of what to do that I end up just walking away … or zombie staring at an open closet for what feels like decades, eventually closing it with nothing accomplished.

I’m dedicating my entire day tomorrow to Getting Things Done. I have a simple (yet fairly long), easy-to-follow, step-by-step to-do list that outlines the things I am confident I can (and must) accomplish beginning tomorrow and ending on Sunday. I plan to break for exercise and nourishment, and end the day with a much shorter to-to list.

Game on.

In other news, I packed my parents the other night. I found slight humor in adding their urns to a box of things; this is the first time they’ve been out of the cupboard in my bedroom since they’ve been put there. I’m also snickering a little inside thinking about which friend will load this box into the moving truck and if they will notice the label that reads, “Mom and Dad.” Maybe they’ll think that it is full of things pertaining to Mom and Dad? I suppose, in a way, it is. Maybe I should reconsider my label … “human remains?” Maybe, “actual parents?” … “ashes?” This could go in so many directions.

And of course on a more serious note, I have shed that feeling of panic toward getting rid of things and am very happily looking forward to living a more minimalist life. I’ve come to terms with easing into things and really thinking through my purchases, sales and donations before moving forward.

And lastly, I wanted to share this podcast I listened to this morning:

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/584/for-your-reconsideration

Act three was hilarious and heartwarming. Act one was interesting. What really struck me was Act two. I won’t give too much away, but this found me at the right time. I have been struggling with just doing things, setting aside my (often irrational) fears and just doing, and this really hit home.

Sometimes you need something to remind you to get out and really live. 

The Simple Life – Part 1

April 2016 marks the beginning of a new era.

All in one week, I made the decision to rid myself of the majority of my possessions, participated in my first running race, celebrated one year of dating my amazing boyfriend, and received word that my divorce was final. So much, all in one week. My head is spinning, and at the same time, I feel like the world is my oyster. After successfully recovering from the Ragnar Relay (and after temporarily swearing off running forever), I regained my motivation to grab the bull by the horns, if you will.

Piece by piece I am severing the sentimental ties to things that are just things, and I am disposing of, giving away, selling and donating the majority of what I own. In four weeks’ time, I will leave the place I’ve called home for five years with a few bits and pieces — some heirlooms, some books, some clothes, my laptop and my gear, and I will be a free-er woman!

“The things you own, end up owning you” – Tyler Durden

So what might I have in store for the coming year? Simplicity. Very few belongings. I want to know I can live out of my backpack when I want to. More running, more cycling, more hiking, more going. I have plans travel more, find the world, nature and myself as much as possible.

But let’s start with step one: untie these ties!

Downsizing is a quite epic task when you’ve fully furnished and occupied 1000 square feet of living space for a few years. I feel like I have so little, yet there are so many things here. I’ve broken it down into what I hope are easy steps. I’ve been making progress with friends and neighbors, pawning off things that people can use for the sheer joy of seeing something go to a new home where it will be appreciated. So far, I’ve collected $40 by selling my old backpack on OfferUp, and sold my Craigslist dining set to a neighbor. I’ve given away my patio chairs, tripod, most of my plants, computer desk, and a handful of other items — books, DVDs, art, etc.

I  don’t even feel one bit jaded by not taking money for all of these things. I acquired much of them long ago, for minimal cost, and this is my way to give back to the people who have provided so much support and encouragement, pure friendship and love.

Over the course of this last week, amidst all of the shuffling, the bartering, the giving, I felt two very distinct and extreme emotions:

Separation Anxiety. I woke up in a complete panic over the thought of not having a washer and dryer anymore. What if I need them again one day?!?! I’m going to be using someone else’s! I’m going be dependent! OMG I’M LOSING MY INDEPENDENCE!

Elation. As I handed off two large framed prints that have been with me for many, many years, I felt a twinge of regret that they were just ripped from my life so quickly. And then they were gone. And suddenly, I no longer felt attachment to them. Suddenly, the thought of having them again became so unappealing. My thoughts gravitated to the appreciation expressed to me by the recipients of my belongings, and it felt great. I felt like a successful matchmaker.

The panic is subsiding over the big changes that I am making this month. I have been planning this change for so long, and it is finally unfolding. My calculated plan for happiness and freedom is well underway, and I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I have spent the better part of the last two years searching for what I needed to do to find my own personal happiness, and the determination is paying off. I’ve never been happier. I have so little, yet I have so much. My chosen family is growing stronger every day. My support system is overwhelmingly amazing. I am doing things I never imagined I could do. My fears are diminishing and my confidence grows. Life is good!