Archives for category: solo hiking

It’s a lovely drizzly Saturday in the Pacific Northwest. I ventured out for a walk along the bank of the Columbia, this morning. Lovely. First decently long walk at 57 years of age.

I’ve walked this path before, but may never walk it again. Somehow that makes the journey feel significant. πŸ™‚

My birthday was yesterday. 57. Not a “fancy” sort of birthday, and it didn’t need to be at all. It was quite special without a lot of frills or elaborate plans. It was warm and intimate and joyful. I hung out at home with my Traveling Partner, who made his schedule work out specifically to be home with me to share the day. We talked about the upcoming move… Different community. Different views from new windows. Different view from a different deck. Different walks to be taken, down unexplored paths and unfamiliar streets. In 14 days we get the keys to a different house, we move to a different address. πŸ™‚ I’m more excited than anxious, more eager than fretful. This is a change I’m delighted to embrace. A new home. Our home. At long last, a place that is truly ours (mortgage and all). It’s very exciting, and very busy. πŸ™‚

…So much paperwork…

I look over my “to do list” for the weekend. I’ve committed to packing up the studio this weekend, and preparing the container garden on the deck for one more move. I’ve moved, now, 3 times in 5 years. 5 times in 9 years. Too much moving. lol. This move, coming up, though, amounts to “a promise kept” – to myself. I won’t need to move again for a long while, maybe not ever (although, change is, and one never knows where life’s path may lead). I hear my Traveling Partner’s voice in the other room, playing a video game online with his son. I smile. I enjoy the sound of his voice. I feel wrapped in love, and the promise of a shared future, together, feels safe and warm and full of fond conversation, affectionate teasing, and shared moments.

I think of the cynical 14-year-old young woman I once was and shake my head with a sad, tender, forgiving smile; she knew nothing of love, and could not have fathomed this feeling – or this moment. Her life was mostly about pain, and survival, and her bitter resentment was only exceeded by her impotent rage. There was little room for love to find a foothold in her wounded heart. I find myself wishing I could have “been there for her” then, as the woman I have become, now… She could have used some compassion, and empathy, some real concern, some reliable emotional support… from the woman staring back at her from her mirror. I’m still smiling; we enjoy this moment together. I’ve come a long fucking way from 14…

…57 feels very different indeed.

The shoreline has been lost to recent rains. Change is.

I walked along what was left of the riverbank. Most of the soft sandy beaches are lost to high water, after weeks of rain. I’m okay with that. Water levels rise and fall. Seasons change. Flowers bloom, then fade away. I walk, with my camera and my thoughts, enjoying a view I may never see quite this way again. I ponder how often that’s true, and I think about change.

I see blackberries blooming and think about the summer fruit that will result.

I smell the wild roses blooming on the bank, and wonder for a moment specifically which species they are, and whether they are native flora, or later arrivals, brought by travelers.

I sit for a few minutes on a damp log at the top of the bank, watching a passing barge.

I took time for me, to breathe, to reflect, to consider changes to come, and the relative value of preparedness (in moving, and in life). Nothing complicated, although there were verbs involved (and choices). Safely home once more, showered, and dressed in soft comfy clothes, I sit smiling with my thoughts and pictures. It’s enough. πŸ™‚

 

The sun is up. I slept in a bit. Sipping coffee, barefooted, on a weekend morning, late in the spring. It’s a lovely moment. I’ve got nothing to bitch about. Nothing nagging at my consciousness. No drama. No baggage (in this moment). No chaos. The morning is quiet. My mood is calm. My outlook on life is merry. I’m okay, right, in every sense of the word that matters. πŸ™‚ My coffee tastes good. My roses have begun to bloom. My aquariums are thriving. The computer my Traveling Partner built for me while we share Life in the Time of Pandemic, together, is working beautifully – and by that, I mean it is both a wonderful upgrade in performance, and also a beautiful technological piece, aesthetically. I smile every time I sit down at my desk, feeling very loved. I feel content.

“Baby Love” blooming in a pot on the deck. πŸ™‚

Let’s be super real on this notion of contentment and ease; I’ve worked years to get here, and there have been many verbs involved, and many tears shed, over time. My outlook matters more than material details. I could live this life, identical in all practical details, and be mired in misery. PTSD has that power. Healthy emotional wellness practices really matter that much.

No click bait here, no “secret practice your therapist doesn’t want you to know about” in an eye-catching thumbnail. I’m not about that. I’m just saying, perspective matters. How I treat myself matters. How I treat others, and how reciprocal those interactions are, matters. It’s been a long journey, and I’ve often felt I was stumbling haphazardly through the darkness, quite alone. I’ve known despair, and futility and frustration and sorrow and, yes, madness. I’m not alone in that – and that’s why I write. Reminders for me, and maybe, just maybe, a light in the seemingly endless darkness for someone else. Someone that I’ll likely never meet. There have been so many such souls on my journey… human beings on their own journey, helpful co-travelers, sometimes unrecognized until much later, because I simply wasn’t ready to hear what they were saying to me, then. We all walk our own hard mile. (You too.)

Life is pretty good these days, even in spite of the pandemic. It’s not about material success (I’m not wealthy), or finding one true love (I’m fortunate to enjoy a great relationship with someone I love very much, but in dark times love does not “cure” our sorrows, or ease the weight of our baggage). Life is pretty good these days because more of my choices take me in that direction, than choices which don’t. Verbs. Choices. Beginnings. Perspective. Sufficiency. These are only words, but the words represent concepts I’ve found key to making my way, a bit at a time, to a life that feels, generally, characterized by contentment, and joy.

I’ve put in many hours of therapy and study. Reading books isn’t enough; the ideas have to become changes in behavior and thinking. The epiphanies and “ah-ha moments” have to become new practices. Practices that work have to be sustained over time. There is a commitment to treating oneself well involved – this may be the biggest challenge (it has been for me).

Where this really started, back in 2010, and a moment of gratitude for the love of the man who shared it with me, then, and remains with me, still.

I think I’m just saying… “you’ve got this!”. Unhappy with life? Choose change. Rethink your most basic assumptions. Re-examine your expectations of life, of people, of yourself. Try a new combination of real kindness and firm boundary-setting. Ask the hard questions. Consider all the options. Take care of yourself – because you matter to you. No reason to expect it to be easy, or that you’ll never cry again, or that “the world” will ever be “fair”. Be your own best friend – and your own best self, because you can make that choice from moment to moment, and when you fail (and you will, I promise you that), begin again. Just begin again. Don’t beat yourself up over your fundamental humanity – examine your errors with some emotional distance, gain understanding of yourself (and others) from your mistakes, learn, grow, and move on with increased perspective. Accept that you are human – then also accept that everyone else is, too. Make room in your thinking for what you can’t know, or don’t understand; there’s nearly always something new to learn. Check your assumptions.

There’s a lot of baggage to put down. There’s a lot of bullshit to let go of. It’s easier to give yourself closure than to seek it elsewhere. Don’t drink the poison. Tame your own barking dog. Consider your outlook on life, generally. Yes, it’s a lot of work, I know. It probably seems so much easier to get a prescription for some boldly advertised new drug. I’ve tried that, myself. It didn’t work reliably well for me, which is how I found myself at 50, filled with despair, trying one more therapist, one more time, unconvinced that life was worth living. A huge stack of books and a few years later, life looks (and feels) very different to me. I’ve made a lot of changes – to practices, jobs, relationships; I rebuilt basically my entire life (and lifestyle) to better support becoming the woman I most wanted to be, living a life of contentment and joy. Worth it. So worth it. (Not infallibly perfect – that’s not on life’s menu, right?)

So… what do you say? Are you ready to begin again?

Lots of stuff in the news recently about “getting back to normal” and “opening the country back up”. Are you eager to see that happen, or dreading it as potentially premature? Personally, I’m sort of just watching things unfold with a measure of interested curiosity.

I’m pretty sure there will be a “new normal”, and that we would not be wise to simply hit a reset button and go back to irresponsibly not washing our hands and carelessly coughing into open air, or shopping while we’re sick and contagious. One fairly notable thing about “going back to normal” – we can each choose to live a more healthful, safe, life. We can individually continue to commit to exceptional consideration with regard to contagion and personal space. We can continue to wash our hands regularly. We can continue to properly cover coughs and sneezes. We can continue to not go out into the world when we are sick. These all seem like good practices. Why would anyone choose to give them up? Seriously.

This seems a good time to really look into the mirror and acknowledge where my individual practices and habits do (or don’t) support good community health, generally, and make the corrections needed to see that I do practice behaviors that support good community health – and that I am actively promoting those within my relationships, and my community, generally. We’ve had the nudge we all needed, in the form of a pandemic for fuck’s sake, so now it’s time to build reliably healthy habitual long-term behavior for the good of our communities. It’s not that hard, it just needs practice. πŸ™‚

I sip my coffee and let my thoughts move on.

I sit and wonder about our fantasy notions about “normal”, and what we think that means. Isn’t “normal” simply a matter of what we’re most used to, most of the time, rather than any reliably true perception or statement of what may actually be a healthy state of things? I mean, if I live somewhere where there is trash in the streets everywhere I go, that would probably seem to be pretty “normal”. It would not, however, be a healthy situation, or in any way perceivably good. I’m just saying; there’s an obvious difference in meaning between “normal” and “something worth seeking”. “Normal” is often used to limit and control people’s behavior – through shaming them using comparisons to that stated “normal”. I sip my coffee and think about how often I am, myself, out of step with some individual’s concept of “normal”. I think about how individual our perceptions of “normal” actually are. I wonder about where those perceptions actually come from, and how or why we may reinforce them – even when we disagree with them. It’s a weird system. 0_o

It’s a weird morning.

I sigh quietly and update my “to do list” with a couple additional tasks my Traveling Partner asked me to take care of. I think about the long weekend ahead, and the camping trip that I’m not taking because all the state parks are closed. I find myself missing the anticipated solitude more, simply because it is now the week that I would have been camping. In fact, I’d be headed for the forest right now, car packed, ready to hike in, set up camp, and while away some hours just listening to the wind in the trees. The plan was 5 days… come back, spend a day with my Traveling Partner before returning to the work routine. Hell, when I made my camping plans, it wasn’t even a given that my Traveling Partner would actually be in town to spend that 1 weekend day with me, after my camping trip. lol We’ve been together basically 24/7 for something like 60 days now – I was at home sick with a cold for several days leading up to my employer’s decision to have the company working from home “until the pandemic is over”. I’ve enjoyed a lot of the things to do with spending this time together. I miss solitude. The challenge is finding the balance between cherished solitude and joyful intimacy. It’s there, but there are some verbs involved.

My view shifts to include the computer at my desk. The keyboard under my fingers. The monitor in front of my face. My glance sweeps the room surrounding me, and all the things within it that comfort and nurture me, support my hobbies, my art work, my writing, my job. I pause for gratitude. This good quality of life is a team effort; my Traveling Partner and I add more to each other’s experiences than we subtract, by far. For now, solitude is an out of reach luxury, and it’s in very short supply. That serves to make it quite precious, worth savoring the experience when I get to enjoy it. I admit to myself that if I had a surplus of solitude right now, and no time with my Traveling Partner (an experience I have endured in the past), it would be just as hard, just as frustrating, just as unsatisfying as any moment right now ever is – and on top of all that, it would also be quite lonely. I shrug off my bitching with this bit of practical perspective, and move on with my morning, aware that he is having his own challenges with these circumstances. (It can not be easy to be with me 24/7… I’m a bit much, sometimes.)

I become aware of the clock. Aware of the time. I guess I’ll begin again. πŸ˜‰

 

 

I sit awhile, coffee untasted, headphones on without music, listening to the sound of the computer fan, staring into the blank white abyss of an empty page. My fingers are frozen, poised ever-so-lightly on the keyboard. Mind temporarily paralyzed by the remnants of a powerful fight-or-flight reaction to unexpected harsh words first thing upon waking. Humans being human. Things, generally, are so improved over years past (distant past, at this point, really), that I forget about the PTSD, until I stumble over it. In a flash of circumstance or temper, I’m mired in it, again. Reeling from a flood of powerful emotions, followed by a flood of tears, I’m still shaken, more than an hour later. Vulnerable, and a bit fragile, I retreat to the solitude of my studio, until I can get myself past this moment, and sort out the chaos and damage from what is steadfast and true, reliably real, and less about some damaged moment that is not now.

…This is hard. I’m “out of practice”, I guess, and for that, I am grateful.

The tears erupt again, and spill over, making the text on the page distorted and surreal. Am I okay? Sure. For most values of “okay”, I’m okay. Certainly, I am okay right now, and I am safe, and there is nothing to fear here in this place – or in this relationship. I remind myself, and look around, here, now. Leftover baggage that I may carry for a lifetime weighs me down a bit, that’s all. I deal with it privately, as often as I can. Very few people are actually qualified to “help with this”. I already have the tools, and the practices, and the experience (of an entire lifetime of chaos and damage), to handle the self-care and emotional recovery on my own. With those things in mind, it’s beyond unreasonable to attempt to get help from my Traveling Partner right now.

Reaction? Over-reaction. I recognize that, and begin the tender work of caring for this fragile vessel. Taking care of the physical details will build the strongest foundation for the emotional needs yet to be met. I make myself sip my coffee. It tastes quite fucking awful this morning. It’s a matter of perspective. There is no comfort in it; I’m just making sure I don’t set myself up for failure, later, with a caffeine headache. That’d just be dumb. I take an Rx pain reliever for my physical pain. It’s a rainy spring day and my arthritis is what woke me early this morning, before I was really ready, or fully rested. No point letting that become a thing of greater significance later on. I blow my nose and dry my eyes. I take an antihistamine to combat seasonal allergy symptoms. I correct my posture. I do some yoga. I meditate. All of these individual self-care details help re-stabilize me. Give me distance from that one difficult moment. Build reserves for the moments to come; no way to know what those hold. My subconscious is still shrieking alarms bells at me, as if there is a legitimate concern, where none actually exists.

Fuck PTSD.

I breathe, exhale, relax. I let all of that go. Again.Β More slow tears. Another breath.

More practice.

I know I’ll take that next step of seeking a positive distraction to occupy my waking consciousness, and move on from this, fairly soon. I’m far more well-equipped for these experiences than I was 7 years ago. Yeah. 7 Years. More. It’s a long journey, not gonna lie. There are verbs involved. I’ve had to begin again ever so many times. In the past, I’ve been hard on myself sometimes to the point of inflicting additional damage. I think I’m past that, now. There are still hard moments. Being human doesn’t come with any sort of manual, life doesn’t have a clear map to follow. Sometimes shit is hard. Ridiculously difficult, and over what seem the most trifling of details. It is what it is. We are what we are. It’s a journey, and in most practical regards, it’s a solo journey; we’re each having our own experience.

I breathe, exhale, relax. I let all of that go. Again. No tears this time. Another breath. I feel calm. Practical. Resolved. Understanding. Compassionate. Still a little fragile, but I’m ready to begin again.

Again.

This too shall pass. I sip my coffee and sigh, this morning. I’m groggy. I could go back to sleep, so easily. It’s a work day, though, and I will log on to my work laptop in a few minutes, and get started. The work day felt pretty short, yesterday (it wasn’t). Will today?

Yesterday’s moment of tension, between my Traveling Partner and I, is still on my mind. It wasn’t a big deal, and it wasn’t about him, or us. I had a moment of feeling “overwhelmed”…by circumstances, by demands on my time, by lack of cognitive bandwidth, by a sense that I somehow wasn’t doing enough to actually take care of myself, and I started weeping over the need to do one more thing in what had already felt like a very busy day. It didn’t last long, and once the moment passed I was more easily able to reflect on it (and take time to meditate, properly, for a few minutes). What was up with all that? I’m not sure, and I’m not sure it matters. If I were a younger woman, I likely would have called it “hormones”, just based on the way it swept in and swamped me, and then simply dissipated. I have a sip of coffee, and let it go. That moment has passed.

This coffee is good. My shoulders ache, an extension of the pain in my neck, and back. I breathe, exhale, relax… I go through all the physical therapy stuff, looking for relief. I go through my history, on YouTube, and remove all the COVID-19 stuff, all the Democratic campaign stuff, all the stuff clicked on absent-mindedly that I don’t need clogging my feed… maybe the content will improve? Small steps to improve the quality of my experience, generally. I glance at the time, reluctant to yield my consciousness or my soul to the work world, again, so soon. There is more to do, and to enjoy, with life’s precious few mortal years, and this morning I find myself more than usually resentful of having to maintain “gainful employment”. I’m yearning for “a proper rest”…

…Then it hits me; once source of background stress is simply the right-now reality of having to let, now, two little vacations go, over COVID-19. Restrictions on gatherings, closures of state parks, closures of many retailers not determined to be “essential”… I was really looking forward to a spring camping outing (and entire week out in the trees), but the reservation has already been canceled by the state park system, as a recent measure to limit the spread of the pandemic. I am “dealing with” the prolonged stay-at-home social distancing mandate pretty well, generally, but this morning? I also find myself seriously peeved about a vacation planned for May becoming… not a thing, after all. I could certainly still take the time off… but… how will it be any different than any day at home, right now? I sigh, and stare moodily into my now-cold coffee.

I breathe, exhale, relax… and let all that go (again). Another breath, another opportunity to let it go. Again.

And another breath. Another opportunity to let go. I make the effort to feel it effortlessly.

And another breath. Another letting go. Another effort. It amounts to practice.

We become what we practice; so I practice calm, and contentment. I practice non-attachment. I practice breathing. I practice letting go.

…I practice beginning again. πŸ™‚