Archives for posts with tag: safety first

I am groggy this morning. Waking up feels more than ordinarily difficult. My thoughts wander, fractured, and disorganized. My coffee is… cold. For real? Am I drinking the dregs of yesterday’s cup, left carelessly on my desk? That’ll teach me. (No, seriously, I learn some of the best and most useful life lessons by way of carelessness, haplessness, and basic fucking up. lol) I take steps to correct my mistake.

I kill some helpless minutes by making a numbered list, simple steps, for learning from mistakes. lol

  1. Experience the error.
  2. Recognize the error.
  3. Correct the error.
  4. Move on from the error.
  5. Learn something from the experience.

I listen to the traffic outside the window. The morning is still quiet. The sky is still dark. Plenty of opportunities for new beginnings of all sorts. 🙂

I refill my vape; trying to do so while driving is poor decision-making, and just not a good choice, so I do it before I get in the car. Strawberry lemonade. I know, I know – all sorts of places are banning flavored vapes. Well, isn’t that fairly fucking stupid? Just saying, people have been vaping since the 90s, and this whole other new storm of fear and controversy doesn’t seem to correlate to the long-time process of vaping nicotine, itself. So… something else? Sure. Obviously, something. Banning flavors, though, (we’ve got to think of the children!) is just… yeah. It’s a little weird to ban a legal substance, being used in a legal form, with the sole outcome of forcing adult consumers to use a form that is known to be harmful to health, and to also require them to consume it at higher doses. No kidding. I don’t “Juul”, though, and I don’t use a “pod system”. (I use what is called a “regulated mod”.) The nicotine in my vape is very low concentration (3 mg per 100 ml of ejuice, resulting in my own daily use being about a half milligram per day, generally, at most). Most cigarette smokers use a lot more nicotine, according to the NIH. I don’t like the taste of tobacco, and I’ve never been a smoker (I tried a cigarette, and thought that was the nastiest thing, ever, many many years ago). I do, however, like the sweet taste of strawberry lemonade, or butterscotch, or pineapple – and the miniscule amount of nicotine I use, since I started (at 56 years of age, and most definitely an adult consumer), turns out to be a profoundly more helpful anxiety medication than anything the VA ever gave me. So… fuck the flavor bans? I mean… children are not legally allowed to purchase or use nicotine products anyway. Making the laws hard on legal adult consumers to attempt to restrict child access and use seems a tad… off the mark? Just saying. I dislike decision-making driven by panic, or media hype, or hysteria; it’s generally quite poorly done.

…At the same time, I also think it would be pretty splendid if all the flavors used in vape products were tested, regulated, and safe for vaping – that seems appropriate, and alleviates consumers of having to pursue chemistry degrees to ensure their individual safety in the marketplace. Have we not had this conversation before, as retail consumers and voters? I mean… I feel sure we have… and possibly, I mean, I think we did, even set up a regulatory agency responsible for, you know… the safety of the food we eat, and the substances we use… you know… something like a… Food and Drug Administration?? 😉 Just saying; the groundwork is laid. The regulatory body exists. Maybe do something wise and reasoned with the opportunity, eh?

Fucking humans. lol We can, each of us, do just a bit better today than we did yesterday. I’ll make it a point to do so, today. Will you? 😀

Well, okay then… let’s begin again. 🙂

Friday was efficient. Purposeful. Carefully planned. Strictly and professionally executed to plan. Wrapped up neatly with a clear-headed, safe, and calm drive down the highway, arriving at my destination “on time” (meaning to say I got there when I said I would).

Saturday was beyond complete. Spent in the company of close friends and loved ones, the sort of assortment commonly called family by a great many people, it was a day of sunshine, of laughter, of heartfelt worship, of sharing, of celebration, of healing, of wonder, of joy, and of music. It was a fantastic fucking day all around.

Sometime in the wee hours of Sunday morning, I grabbed a nap, knowing I would be heading back up the highway in just a few hours. I woke and enjoyed being surrounded by warmth, good humor, and merriment before packing up the car to make the journey back to this place that I live. I had a good cup of coffee. I shared the morning sunshine. I cuddled dogs, and hugged friends, and held my Traveling Partner so so so close, for an endless moment of such intense love that I feel it still, even now.

What a perfectly lovely weekend!! I sip my Monday morning coffee soaking in the memories, smiling.

I’d kind of like to erase my memory of the drive back…but that’s not really how having a shitty memory actually works. Not quite. Being able to simply choose to erase a memory isn’t so easily done with wisdom, anyway; there’s something to learn here. It’s the hard bits that teach us the most. So.

The drive home sucked. lol It’s that simple. What can I learn from that? What can I learn from the juxtaposition of the deliciously loving weekend with that shit drive? Could I point the finger to having made the trip on less than ideal sleep? (Not really; I was feeling well-rested when I woke, and I was very-well-caffeinated when I started down the road.) Was it the weather? (Clear weather, dry pavement, sunny morning, partly cloudy – so, no.) The traffic? (Traffic was light, and generally moving at or faster than the posted speed, so… it’s hard to say it was the traffic.) Was it… the people? (Here’s where it gets complicated…) I had some of the most hair-raising experiences on this particular commute. I maintained a comfortable (for me) speed without much difficulty, and was generally in good humor and patient about moments of congestion near cities and towns, and I want very much to say it wasn’t the people… because… if it was…? I was one of those, too. Was it… me?

By the end of the drive, it is enough to say, I wasn’t just glad to have parked the car, and finish the journey, I was sort of feeling regretful that there would soon (this morning) be yet another requirement to get behind the wheel at all. :-\ (It was that bad, yeah.) I feel nervous and reluctant. I feel anxious in advance. I feel hesitant and insecure.

Fuck, that was a shitty drive. lol

That drive was also just a blip on life’s radar. Just a moment. A single journey from point to point, and completed demonstrably safely inasmuch as I am safely here, and no collisions, no tickets, nothing “really happened” that had any lingering obvious consequence on the participants of the day. I’m okay right now. I take a deep breath and let it go (again). Making myself mindful that it is behind me, and aware of how spectacular the weekend was in other ways. I think about those things, and make a point of thinking more about them than about the aggravations of the drive back. That’s what works.

A few minutes into this practice, and it becomes easier to acknowledge my own role in the drive back; I was feeling annoyed to be leaving what now feels like home to head to a place that doesn’t at all. To live a life that has begun to feel more lonely than solitary. I was feeling more energetic than enthusiastic about the drive, and that energy was more artificial (caffeine) than natural (mood). I felt a strong visceral sense of real frustration anytime my speed or flow of movement down the highway was impaired or constrained by another driver’s “shitty decision-making” – nearly always defining that as “getting in my way”, without taking any time to consider the scenario from their perspective, what they hoped to achieve, and what the purpose of their decision really was. I was taking shit exceedingly personally – which, by the way, makes for an incredibly crappy drive. Few things feel as irritatingly unpleasant as the perception of a hostile universe undermining my experience in the moment. Few things that feel that unpleasant are also so entirely and completely made up and “all in my head”… right?

There was one guy, one moment, one time out of my weekend driving which clearly was indeed “personal”, intentional, and an attack on my perceived self by another human being (definitely having his own experience) who – rather randomly and at great personal and community risk – slammed on his brakes on the highway, in the fast lane, at high-speed, immediately in front of me, while flipping me off, after I flashed my high beams at him as a request to move to the right hand lane when it was clear (to me) that I was closing in on him pretty fast, and he was “just camping out” in the passing lane with no traffic alongside him, ahead of him, or anywhere near him at all. I did so from many car lengths back. He waited to execute his potentially deadly maneuver until I had closed the distance to about 2 car lengths. When I moved to go around him (figuring slamming into him made a lot less sense) he whipped into that lane immediately ahead of me, still flipping me off. He did this twice more, accelerating, then slamming on his brakes, and blocking my ability to safely get past him. It was clearly personal for him. He was definitely having his own experience. That also happened on the trip down, not the trip back. When I think back on the drive home, there’s really nothing of significance to consider. Turns out, as it happens, my crappy experience yesterday may have been 100% purely entirely my own. I feel the looks of puzzlement and awareness try to form on my face at the same time; that angry man was likely having a shit drive, or a bad day, himself. It wasn’t anything more to do with me than my drive yesterday was really anything to do with anyone but me. Huh.

I laugh and finish my coffee. We covered this in the very beginning, I tell myself, with a smile and a shake of my head. It’s in The Four Agreements. It’s at the top of my reading list. lol

A new day. A new commute. And also – not new, or different, at all. Routine. Practices. I have another chance to be a better human being behind the wheel of my car. So do you. It’s a good day to begin again. 🙂

Everyone needs some down time now and then, and I’ll take some this weekend. A vacation more than an escape, and as much because I have the short-term convenience of having a car for the weekend – and there’s a meteor shower to see! I will be away, offline, in the trees, for a couple days. Back again soon. 🙂

We each have an idea of what feels peaceful. :-)

We each have an idea of what feels peaceful. 🙂

I hope you enjoy your weekend, whatever you choose to do with it. 🙂

Yesterday, in the heat of late afternoon, I took a dip in the pool. Not a big deal; some people swim every day. I went to the pool to beat the heat and the smooth clear surface looked so refreshing… and still. The pool was entirely empty. I looked at the sign on the fence “Do Not Swim Alone”. That’s good practical advice… and on some other day I might have trudged back to my apartment and postponed my dip in the pool for another day. Yesterday, I disregarded the sign – after making eye contact with the landlady on her patio, who smiled and waved a ‘go ahead’ my way. Well… second best, I supposed, someone knows I’m here.

Some people jump into a swimming pool. Some people wade in slowly. Some people only wade. Some people swim quite well, with good attention to form. Some people are splashers. Some people just drift lazily by on rafts or tubes. I happen to be the sort who wades in slowly, and enjoys the water fairly gently. I am cautious about joining in water games, and don’t prefer to be dunked “playfully”. Chaos and damage, even in the pool. Yesterday, though, there was no one there but me. No one to tease, or nag, or splash me, just me – surrounded by cool clear water, and blue sky over head. I stepped into the water, and slowly walked deeper, feeling the water rise around me, cooling me. I continued to slowly step deeper, until I was poised on my toes, swaying with the current of the filtration, and my own movement, water lapping at my chin. I was refreshed, cooled, and buoyed, rocking and swaying, effortless, weightless… it was quite lovely and peaceful. I paddled several times from one end to the other – no one giving me crap over preferring to keep my face from actually being under water. (I can’t breathe it, so I’d prefer generally not to be immersed entirely in it, just saying.) I floated endlessly, on my back, watching the sky turn. Confident in my buoyancy, just floating. I watched the ripples shift and change in the pool as I moved through the water. I watched the lattice of light and shape on the bottom of the pool shift and rearrange itself. Eventually, completely cooled down and refreshed, I returned home.

I’ve not had the chance to just utterly relax and enjoy a swimming pool entirely to myself before. It was lovely. So relaxed and peaceful. I’m definitely going to do that again – and the result of doing so once is that I feel considerably less hesitant to use the pool, generally, and less reluctant to enjoy it ‘my way’.

Tonight is ‘date night’… perhaps my traveling partner would enjoy beating the heat of late afternoon in the pool with me? (No pool where he lives.) That could be fun. Ah, but if he doesn’t care to do so, it isn’t going to stop me going back some other day, another time, and whiling away more of the summer heat in the cool blue water under hot blue sky. 🙂

Beginning again.

Beginning again.

Sometimes, the things that seem most healing in the moment are not very fancy at all. 🙂 Today is a good day to enjoy summer. Today is a good day to “be like water“. Today is a good day to float.

I am at home now, slowly warming up enough for a hot bath to be comfortable, sipping tea, looking forward to clean dry clothes, and catching up on calories and medication.

The only picture all day isn't of anything much; the photos are not the experiences.

The only picture all day isn’t of anything much; the photos are not the experiences.

I hit the trail at mid-morning with my hydration pack and emergency gear carefully checked off, map in a side pocket within easy reach. I felt utterly prepared for the hike ahead of me – new trails to explore, and a good plan for 6 to 8 miles of beautiful forested winter countryside, and considerable solitude along the way. I hopped off the bus with a smile at the trailhead most convenient to both mass transit and miles I had not yet walked. I crossed the street and headed up the trail – which in this case was rather literal, as the trail headed steeply upward, renewing my appreciation for my anti-shock hiking staff. I spotted the first snowflake as I neared the hilltop, and the drizzle carrying it along to the ground was quickly becoming more tiny snow flakes than drizzle. I wasn’t discouraged in the least, and visibility was not particularly impaired, except at a distance. There would be no distant vistas to view today. I walked on.

As I walked I contemplated how very prepared I felt when I departed for my hike – and how little my preparation seemed relevant in the present moment, unplanned snowflakes falling all around me. I considered this other solo journey I am taking – the one we each take, every one of us, through this wilderness territory called life; I am my own cartographer. Another way of saying that is – I don’t actually have a map. Yep. I’m making it up as I go along, aren’t I? Aren’t we all?

I turn the ideas on their heads a few times and consider things I do each time I hike to depart as well prepared as possible for all those many things that may come up along a journey, unplanned. Even the snow – I didn’t expect it, and in that sense I didn’t plan, but I did take my day pack, and checked my emergency gear quite carefully before I left, removing the Deet that isn’t needed in December and adding things that seemed more likely to be necessary for a winter emergency, then checking off my basics: a compact emergency shelter, bivy sack, an emergency blanket, first aid gear, water, fire – and my map. I hadn’t planned for snow – but I had done my best to plan for ‘whatever’ might come up that could find me out in the cold over night, and maybe lost or injured.

I hike solo most of the time, and being prepared is one of those things that is about more than me; my traveling partner relies on me to depart prepared to come home safely. Getting home safely may very well be dependent on preparation handled before I ever leave the house at all – and there’s no way to know in advance if this is the hike on which it will matter that I had my _____. With my injury, my PTSD, and the implied potential limitations of each, and both together, I take my time preparing for new trails. I study maps. I read trip reports by other hikers, and articles from the Forestry or Park service overseeing the area. I outline the route, and study alternate routes and connecting loops that may offer scenic opportunities also worth exploring. I make a plan, and share it with my partner. I pack, inventory my gear, re-pack, try it on for size, and double-check my choices against recent experiences in similar areas – I’ll ask myself what I have overlooked, more than once. I’ll ask friends to share stories of recent camping or hiking outings to glean likely circumstances I may not have considered from my own experience. When I am finally ready to put boots on the ground, I generally feel very well-prepared, and by day’s end sometimes find myself wondering why I ever bother to take some of the things I do – like an emergency shelter. Really? Even hiking a nearby park, wrapped entirely in suburbia? More than once I’ve laughed at myself for being over-prepared.

Some time after noon, the snow flakes had plumped to the fat fluffy sort that splat on impact, my glasses were no longer helping my vision, and I had removed them. Visibility – with or without my glasses – is about the same forward, as it is looking down at my feet, and the muddy trail beneath my feet is slippery – another opportunity to be very happy to have my hiking staff; I really need it as the trail turns, twists, and heads down hill. This is no time for photographs – and I had already determined some time ago that the wet cold was not ideal for camera or camera phone – I stay focused on the trail, a dark line ahead too muddy for snow to stick to. I stop at a trail crossing, rest a moment, check my map and finish the last of the still-hot coffee in my hydro-flask (another piece of gear to appreciate today). My hands are not cold; my gloves keep them warm and dry. My feet are not cold or wet; I chose my hiking boots with great care and they serve me well. My rain gear keeps most of the rest of me dry, too, but the flakes of wet snow have begun to sting my cold face, and I think of gear I don’t yet have that would do nicely right then, and even consider whether I am prepared, at any point, to admit I can’t proceed and take shelter. I breathe the winter air deeply and smile; if I need to set up an emergency shelter, I’m ready for that, too. I walk on.

I stood some wet tedious minutes waiting for the bus that would take me out of the woods. I exchange messages with my traveling partner so he knows I am safe, and heading home. I keep thinking about life; it’s a hell of a journey to have to take without a map, without ‘all the right gear’, without feeling prepared…without even the certainty that our experience is a shared experience that will be understood in the telling of the tale; we are solo-hiking through life, and we do it without a map, making it up as we go along, and hoping for the best. Hell – sometimes we start the journey without having even a destination in mind at all! It’s no wonder life can be so confusing, so surprising, so difficult sometimes.

The tea has taken the chill off me as I write. I smile, and think about the ‘gear’ I now ‘pack’ on my solo journey through this wilderness, life: mindfulness practices, meditation, a healthy approach to fitness and to food, an understanding of my physical needs day-to-day, and some ideas about what it takes to be the woman I most want to be, like emotional self-sufficiency, critical thinking, perspective, and an understanding that contentment is an excellent stepping stone to happiness, and more sustainable. I still don’t have a map – but this journey isn’t going to take itself, and it’s time to get going; the journey is the destination. The map is not the world. One year ends, another stretches out in front of me, an unexplored trail – it’s time to plan the next hike! 🙂