Endurance and Pleasure

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Things go easy, things go hard.

 

When I worked on a fishing tender (The Ermine), I wrote this:

 

“Life is endurance, or pleasure.

That is all.

Only endurance,

Or pleasure.”

 

That was strangely comforting to me.

 

My sensei long ago told us,

 

“Every problem is a gift.”

 

And somewhere along the way, I remember learning, and learning to believe, that each challenge we face is meant to teach us something. Obstacles allow us to become better. Somehow.

 

Maybe that rings hollow for some, for folks dealing with true– or at least more exterior– hardship. I don’t know. What I know is that when my brain is not going well, remembering that gives me some comfort and fortitude.

 

Some of the problem-gifts I’m receiving these days challenge me to take deeper breaths. To find coping mechanisms that are moderately healthy.

 

The comforting thing about endurance/pleasure is the sense that “this too shall pass.” I honestly believe that things will be okay. But I also honestly believe that things will not be okay. It’s the way of the world. Back in the day, there was a belief that fortune was a wheel, always spinning. It was actualy considered bad luck to be at the top of your game, top of the wheel, everything going well– It meant the bottom of the wheel was coming soon. Fortune was also a lady I think. Or maybe the lady spun the wheel. I forget.

 

But accepting that that’s all there is– just endurance and pleasure– let me let go of wishing things were better. I’ve heard that too. That wishing is the thing that causes trouble. Be content where you are! Right? …Right? So they say.

 

Anyway, to look bad brain in the face and go elsewhere, this evening, I ran. It was all I could do. Honestly has been a bit since that’s felt like my last resort. In some ways that’s good. It gets me out. Gets my shoes on.

 

My personfriend has pointed out to me that a lot of what I struggle with is anxiety. I forget that sometimes. I’m too busy panicking that nothing will turn out, that I’m failing in every way, that there’s no way out. That feels a lot like depression, but it’s faster. More immediate and claustrophobic. Depression settles in next. Good friends those guys are, depression and anxiety. They always seem to call the other one to the party.

 

Anyway, I’m remembering, being back here in Alaska, where I longed to be, and where anxiety comes full-throated back to the fore, that it’s something I have to face down. That accomplishing dreams won’t feel simple and easy. I think they might feel profoundly horrible.

 

I climbed a hill the other day with another friend. It was a good hill-climb, a great reconnection. Good for my brain. Like always, anxiety, depression climbed too, but they were willing to be kind of quiet while the rest of me lived a little.

 

This friend relayed to me what another friend had told them– that there are three types of fun. (And maybe, climbing friend, you can tag your friend for some credit, as I don’t want to plagerise their wisdom!) Type 1 fun is the kind of fun you enjoy while you’re having it. That’s city fun, to be sure. Type 2 fun is the kind of fun you enjoy after you’re having it. Climbing the Butte (especially the climbing part) was a prime example. The reward was great, the memory was strong. I’m enjoying that fun as we speak. Definitely good Alaska fun, type 2 is. Type 3 fun is fun you don’t really ever enjoy. I’m not sure what an example of this is, but somehow I relate. Maybe you know some examples. I kind of think of hard chores, like moving dog houses in mud season, or something. I don’t really ENJOY the memory later, but there’s pride in having done something…? Maybe. Maybe it’s something else.*

 

Accomplishing this dream will be type 2 fun all the way. Partially because of my good ole friends anxiety and depression.

 

My personfriend asked me if I’ll be happier while mushing. I’m afraid that the answer may not be encouraging. I can’t say for sure, but I think I’ll be pretty anxious mostly. Especially as I get my feet under me. Worrying about every dog, making sure I’m doing right by every dog. Making sure I have the means, making sure I’m living up to my own moral compass. Making sure I’m having fun. Have fun damnit!!! I’m pretty sure for me it’s all just type 2 fun.

 

But that’s a gift, too. That’s that problem-gift. It’s a gift to practice accepting that anxiety within me, to accept that my body feels the need to tell me something, and then to move on. To cope with it. To move through it.

 

Tonight, the only thing I could do for that was to run, on my own two feet. Longer than I expected.

 

One more thing I have been trying. In my moments of panic I’ve practiced going over three things I’m grateful for. They can’t be repeats, ever. It’s pretty incredible the endorphin effect of this. (Or maybe it’s not endorphins, I don’t know. Just feels the same as exercise, but faster.)

 

So this is a disjointed post, I guess. An attempt at honesty. Facing down the same old demons over and over. We’re all tied together, me and the demons, so the task is to live with them.

 

Here are some logistical updates about what the heck I’m doing:

 

Ophelia is getting a summer job on a glacier (here in Alaska) showing tourists mushing with my great friend Riley, who I trust implicitly in his dog care. I’m really, really sad to see her go, but I know for fact he’ll take super care of her and show her the ropes.

 

Hooch is with Judy, her original owner, for a couple of months, being a professional couch dog. She gets to hang out with her mom, Wilma! It’s pretty cute.

 

I wanted to get my four legged friends out of the city. Living by a freeway was giving them both pretty constant allergic symptoms (runny eyes and noses all the time), and Ophelia had gotten way too good at eating all the street food (read: condoms, squirrels, pizza, plastic ridiculous things) she could. Finally, I felt like it was probably a good idea to get them north of ticks and heartworm.

 

I’ll be back in Minneapolis for two more months getting ready for the drive up with my brave personfriend, Shawn, who instigated this whole plot to move to Fairbanks. In July, that’s our plan. We’ll drive 3200 miles to Two Rivers, Alaska, where we are gonna settle in and– if things go well– acquire a couple more additions to the “kennel.” Our plan is to start small and take an easy year getting to know the area, building up some stability, and enjoying Alaska. Ideally this will transmorgify into a couple more dogs and maybe start leading to the ultimate goal: running Iditarod.

 

I’ve been up in Alaska this week trying to get some logistics sorted out, and settling the girls into summer work (and couch duty!) until Shawn and I get up there. I fly back to Minnesota on Monday to spend two months enjoying those skyline sunsets, good friends, and packing for adventure.

 

Back to the whole mental shenanigans– I need to pass along big, big thanks to a few people who have been hearing about that unfun end of things and providing a lot of support. Alycia, Eleanor, and Carter have been good listeners and good sharers, and their support means a lot. Riley, Ryne, and Judy, thank you guys so much for hosting me, my dogs, or both. No ammount of thanks will suffice. And most of all, to my personfriend Shawn– Thank you, thank you, thank you. You are an incredible support, and I can’t wait to show you all the lichen up here.

 

There you go! I felt better even just writing some gratitude.

 

Well, now you know too much, but I guess that’s just how it goes with the truth, and you know what there is left to say?

 

Onward.

 

Here we go.

 

 

*Later I learned this is not at all a new concept (just new to me!) and it’s especially Alaskan, I gather! Figures!

Training Log… Date Unknown!!!

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Okay, okay, I haven’t done the best at keeping up with my training log. Truth be told, I fell off the wagon considerably. But I kept following the wagon as it trundled down the road, and eventually I sort of hauled myself back onto it in a less than dignified manner, and am at least there if not in the form and function I hoped.

Lots of change in the air. Running around my neighborhood in Minneapolis as the snow melted, I realized that this is not a great place for me and the dogs. Ophelia now is strong and bigger than Hooch, and she also loves street food. Like street pizza. Or street squirrels. Or street poop. She eats it all. No discrimination. We play a constant game of “can I consume this before my human makes me drop it or scoops it out of my mouth?” Also, the girls have some allergies, and I think it’s about the city air. We live right next to a freeway, which just can’t do them any favors.

So, back to Alaska we go! Ophelia has landed a job as a tour dog on the Denver glacier this summer with Riley Dyche, a good friend and great musher. Hooch will be on couch assignment with another friend in Fairbanks. I think she’ll be relieved to have a break from her offspring. Their relationship has looped back to one where Hooch just endures Ophelia, and Ophelia just wants to hang off Hooch’s ears. Don’t get me wrong. They still love each other. But. Hooch will appreciate an extended spa day.

I fly them up on Alaska Airlines next Friday. I’ll drive up to Fairbanks, see some friends, drop off the dogs, and then spend a week with my parents. It will be great to be back in the 49th state. I’m hoping to climb some mountains, do a little hiking, and generally enjoy nature and friends. And Turkey Red. (Best restaurant ever, in case you don’t know.)

Then I’ll be back to Minneapolis to be with my personfriend, enjoy some summer sun, and prepare for the next big step– moving to Fairbanks! I’m ironing out details, but the move is on the move. Or at least it’s pretty imminent. I’m excited. I’m finally aiming for what I have dreamed of my whole life, building my small kennel. I don’t have huge aspirations, but I want to run Iditarod, and I’m excited to do it in my own style. Nervous too, let’s not kid ourselves, but mostly pretty stoked. This coming year or two I’ll have and raise pups, get to know the Fairbanks area a little better, and start building ATAO Kennel. When the pups are yearlings or two year olds, we’ll do some mid distance races, and when they are three, the goal is Iditarod. So– big plans. We’ll see.

But oops, this is supposed to be a training log…

So… for now, I have been running the girls every morning. Last weekend I got myself out on a solo run, because it was too hot for the dogs, and it felt great. I intended to go 3 miles but ended up doing 5. I kept a decent pace (right in what I used to train for), and felt good. I’m getting back into the habit of running. Running with the dogs is still hard on my legs but we have been doing short runs (we also have to keep it short cuz it’s HOT for these guys!), and just a lot of them. Today is the first day I haven’t run with them in the last week maybe. We’ll take a rest day and then hit the pavement early tomorrow morning.

Okay, not the most comprehensive log… Just what’s up. I am still running. Still adventuring. And back here to tell you about it, I guess. Thanks to some accountability buddies for keeping me going. Eleanor keeps me boxing. We box twice a week even if we don’t want to. Alycia inspires me to keep running. We have talked about all kinds of things and can relate to wanting to run and not wanting to run. And running anyway. Shawn Goggins gently encourages me to get my shoes on and go out the door even if I don’t feel like it. And the dogs require me to get my butt in gear.

I’ll update more about Alaska visits and impending plans…

Onward!

Training Log 2/26 – 3/3

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Okay, real talk today.

 

So I’m famous now! My debut as a podcast guest has aired here. It’s about… Periods! I never thought I’d be interviewed about that. Ha. It’s quite timely, though, because this week has been a hell of PMS.

 

My friend Whitney, who recorded the podcast, added in a section after our interview about PMDD. I didn’t even really know what that was until she mentioned it, but once I looked it up, I was like– Whoa that’s me. As I mention in the the episode, my PMS strikes hard. This is when depression and hopelessness and general lack of perspective really rule my brain. It’s also when it’s the very hardest to put my running shoes on.

 

I didn’t stick as arduously to my routine this week. I’m gonna give myself something of a pass (because my other MO is to beat myself up about it, and none of us need that). But I am going to look at where and why I skipped some stuff, how my workouts went, and what I want to do better. Accountability!

 

On Saturday the 25th (technically last week, but I did my training log early last week), I did a 4 mile run. It was slow and stedy but I kicked its butt. That was at a cabin in Wisconsin some friends and I visited. I ran among the fields. It was awesome to be out of the city, even if farms feel pretty city-ish to this Alaskan.

 

I will admit on this 4 miler I was a bit hungover. The friends and I enjoyed a lovely friday night involving a lot of wine and board games, and, probably unwisely, a big bonfire. This was the first time I managed to get a hangover for about a decade. Good times. However, I’ve always found that exercise really does help me sweat things out. Headache and nausea aside, I tied up my shoes and took em out for a stroll. It was slow but good for me. I felt better after. Make note!

 

I also threw in a quick boxing workout when I got back, doing some jumprope and the weight routine I learned at Mark’s Boxing Gym.

 

I did a 3 mile run with the dogs the next day, just cuz, and that felt great. We also went for a little hike at Taylor’s Falls on the way back home, which was more excercise in the form of resisting Ophelia (who has become giant and very strong) yanking me around everywhere.

 

The Monday after I got back ended up being much busier than expected. I did my scheduled 3 mile run at a good pace, but didn’t get in my 30 min of boxing. I hoped to push that to Tuesday but then the avalanche of waiting til tomorrow began.

 

Tuesday I did go for another run with with dogs. Ophelia especially is getting more and more ansty as she grows into her dog body and wants to do the one thing thousands of years of evolution and breeding have selected for her to do: RUN!!! However, she is also really really strong now. Up to this point it has been okay for me to run with the two dogs. I used to run with Hooch alone frequently, back in the day. With her and Ophelia it was obviously a little tougher, but it was working pretty well. I use a skijour belt to distribute the pulling against my body. My running style is drastically different from regular running. It’s like running down a very very steep hill. You have to throw all of your weight backwards.

 

The dogs are at a point now where I cannot keep excellent control of them when I have them both on leash! When I am walking them, there are times where if they both decide to throw their weight against me, they will drag me where they want to go. This bodes well for my future sled dog team! But it is difficult for walks, and now, it is really really hard on my legs during runs.

 

On Wednesday, I didn’t run, partially because I felt crummy mentally, partially because I’d done an “extra” run Tuesday (even though it was with the dogs!), partially because my legs were starting to hurt. I played basketball but wasn’t at my peak. I could really feel my legs. It felt like I was getting shin splints again, which I haven’t had since high school. I am sure this is due to the situation with the dogs.

 

Thursday, I had a real battle with myself. I did NOT want to run. I knew I had to to make up for missing a run Wednesday, but I was fighting it. Ophelia was also extra extra pesky. She needed a workout bad. Finally, I compromised with myself and took just Ophelia on a run. This was easier to manage, but she still pulls harder than Hooch. Hooch has learned over many years to keep up a steady trot. Ophelia just wants to GO. So even though it was just her, it was still pretty high impact. Another note– I live right in the city, so I’m running completely on pavement. There are some places I could drive to to get to more trail based running, but my option here is pretty much sidewalk or pavement.

 

I did do a good boxing workout Thursday night. I have been doing a lot better at pushing myself in boxing. I hold myself to the same standard as I hold my friends who are working out with me. I feel good about what I’ve been doing with that.

 

Friday I did a short (2.5) mile run with my person-friend, Shawn. They run at a slower pace than I normally do, which was excellent for me. My legs were still really bothering me. Doing a short and slow run warmed them up and actually made them feel a lot better.

 

Saturday I was supposed to do a run. Did I? No. I had a lot of social things, but the truth is, I just put it off. Sunday, same story. In my defense, I did start getting really sick on Sunday– I caught a plague that’s going around. But is that a real excuse? No way. I have done things way effing tougher than go on a run when I’ve been sick. So that’s a pretty lame cop out.

 

Here’s advice: don’t put things off!!! Once you do, it starts a cascade. I know, because I do this all the time. This week was a perfect example. At first, I kept pushing workouts to the next day, and then I gave myself a pass on one workout and it gave me permission to not do any workouts. This, coupled with my impending PMS, was really tough to fight.

 

As I mark this stuff down, I see the run I really missed was my big weekend run. I have definitely been feeling a lot of guilt about that. It’s a really tricky balance between accountability and shame. I need to work on being accountable but not flogging myself with guilt. It’s not really useful.

 

The weekend was also stressful because Hooch got an infected anal gland. This had to be lanced by the vet ($$$). I felt like I should have caught this earlier (I should have), and it also made me worry a lot about money. Moving down here and being in the city has been really hard financially. Those who know me know I am not the most sensible about money. I got into a pretty good guilt spiral about that yesterday… And I also realized that I am PMSing really hard, and tend to beat myself up for things and lose hope about things. Yesterday when I was going through that, I made the choice to NOT make any big choices. That took some of the pressure off. When I get in that zone, I tend to think I need to make all the big life choices RIGHT THEN to solve the pain. But without perspective I tend to make unreasonable choices which can come back to bite me in the butt.

 

So that was my week in training. It’s good to see I did keep hitting the pavement. Today I am slated to go for a run. I have already put it off– but I made an agreement with myself that I will do it this afternoon. It’s sunny and clear out, and even fairly warm, so I should take my lunch break soon and hit the road.

 

Resetting the clock for this week!

 

Onward.

 

(PS if you dig this… eg if you were one of the intrepid few who made it this far in this novel… click here and like my Facebook page. I’ll be posting pics and– I promise– shorter updates about my training!)

Training Log: Intro and Log 1

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So in amongst angsty posts, I plan to intersperse some training logs.

 

I talked about routine and habits in my last post, and how essential those are to my mental health. Knowing this, and being aware of my own precariously unhappy brain, I set about a week ago to get myself back in training.

 

I’ve been running throughout the winter, but almost exclusively with the dogs. This is a totally different style of running. Because the dogs are so strong, I work a lot to resist their pull, which means instead of my calves and quads working hard, my hamstrings and shins bear the brunt of the work (or at least this is my assessment based on what’s sore after I run!), and I also absolutely do not have to work as hard when the dogs are pulling– They take on a lot of my weight, they give me inertia. It’s awesome and I can go FAST, but if I want to accomplish some of my own race goals and keep myself in true top form, solely running with the dogs isnt’ going to cut it. I need to pull my own weight!

 

So I need to figure out a way to accomplish both giving the dogs the appropriate amount of exercise (whether that’s running “bonus runs” with me or free running, or both!), and to give myself what I need.

 

This isn’t just running. Running is huge for me, but I also really love and need the hardcore workout that is boxing. The combo of these two activities seems to be my sweet spot, for now. It’s my favorite method of being in training.

 

“You’re in training” is a phrase that works for me. I have a lot of goals in my life but my depression can severely truncate any motivation. So I have to find things that do push me, that make me take that next step forward. (I actually think some of my motivators are problematic in nature, but that’s a post for another time.)

 

This is what’s working for me. My alarm clock says “you’re in training” when I wake up. When I’m running or working the heavy bag, this is what I think and it gives me extra oomph.

 

What am I in training for? Hmm, that’s a good question. I have some ideas but they aren’t yet fully formed. Because I knew I needed first and foremost to adjust my routine, I created a training plan for myself just for one month. This plan will get me back up to relatively longer miles, and get me in the habit of boxing four times a week.

 

I’ll make a weekly post about how things are going. This is not just to torture you with boredom, but to hold myself accountable, reflect on things and worked and those that didn’t, and process what I can do better.

 

Here’s my training log so far for this week:

 

The Plan

 

My plan started on Saturday, but after this week, I’ll consider my week to start on Sunday. I set myself up with 5 runs from Saturday – Saturday to get myself back in the saddle. (That’s an 8 day week– So 5 days of running and 3 days off.) I set myself up with two intense boxing workouts (90 min each), which I do with a couple friends in the boxing gym I set up in my basement, and a couple “quick boxes” to do along side running days– Where I can do a shorter boxing routine that still helps me stay conditioned and builds muscle. My eventual goal with this is that I’ll do 4 full boxing workouts a week.

 

Quick shout out to two folks who have been hugely instrumental in my training in general, and have taught me what works best for my body. For boxing, I use the training routine I learned in Mark’s Boxing Gym. It’s an awesome workout, keeps me conditioned, and pushes me. I owe Mark a big debt for teaching me this circuit and helping me learn I could accomplish it. I’m excited to get back up to Alaska soon and back into MBG when I can. For running, Kate Arnold from Active Soles Performance Footwear got me to the point of running 26 miles on my own two feet this past summer. These folks are my mentors and I’m so grateful to what I’ve learned from them. I’ll also probably be pestering them for advice and insight.

 

The Execution

 

Here’s how my plan has gone so far this week.

 

My first day, Saturday, I had a 3 mile run planned. I didn’t give myself any big expectations as far as speed, because it has been so long since I last ran on my own. It was a gorgeous day– 60 degrees in February! I got up at 8:00 (“You’re in training!” said my clock) and got ready to hit the pavement. I always have anxiety and resistance to running before every single run. I used to have so much anxiety I would get physically sick. I’ve really come a long way in overcoming that, but some of it is still there. The thing that gets me out the door is putting on my shoes. If I can trick myself into getting dressed (I don’t think about WHY I’m getting dressed in these athletic clothes), then when I’m ready, my brain says… “Oh… I guess we’re dressed for this. Might as well.” I also have a delay start on my running app, MapMyRun. I start the timer with a 5 minute delay as I’m putting on my shoes. That sets things up so that when I walk out the door, I can move around a bit, stretch, or just walk, until the app voice coach says, “Start your workout.”

 

This three mile run was tough. I could really tell it had been a good while since I had gotten out on my own feet. I definitely have gained some weight over the winter (pretty normal for me, unless I’m mushing), and I could feel it. I tried to think light, easy thoughts and take light, easy steps. Learning to run with a quick, short-stepped cadance was huge when I started training for my first half marathon three years ago. I had always run with long, heavy strides. Short, light steps are the key to long distance– at least for me.

 

I sweat and suffered through that three miles, but I made it. My time was even half decent, if I recall. I felt great.

 

I have a routine after running now where I take a bath right away. I’m horrible at stretching, though I’ve gotten better in my old age because I have to. Stretching and then taking a hot bath helps keep my muscles limber and happy, and so far injury free. I’m awesome at pushing myself way too hard and ending up hurt and off my feet. Moderation does not come easy to me, but I’m trying!

 

Sunday I originally planned to do a short boxing routine and rest from running, but life transpired and I had to push the boxing to Monday.

 

Monday it was rainy, but I got out for another 3-miler. This one was easier! The rain was nice. I went down to my basement boxing set up and did a quick short routine right away, while I was still warmed up from running. Good quick workout! I didn’t do as much as I had wanted but let that be okay.

 

Tuesday night I had my longer boxing workout with my buddies. This went really well. I had been slacking off on these workouts, but I determined to push hard and my friend Whitney and I had a really good workout. Buddies are good to get a little competition going and push each other to do our best. I think we both ended that workout feeling it!

 

Wednesday I jumped up to a 5 mile run. I was a little nervous about if I could do this, since the two 3-milers were a lot harder than I expected! But I went for it and had an awesome run in the sunset. I don’t always run exclusively in the morning or afternoon. I do have to coorinate my eating around running or my workout, or else I’ll have a terrible stomach experience. I have to have at least 2 hours of not eating before a workout– more is better. Morning workouts are good but sometimes it doesn’t work out for me. Wednesday morning I met with a friend, so my workout was slated for the afternoon. I procrastinated right until the sunset, but it was a beautiful run. Then I went home, stretched, and hopped in a really hot bath. My legs were sore but I felt great. Wednesday nights I go to basketball. This was right after my bath– so about an hour break between running and basketball. I a
te a banana and granola bar, because I was definitely hungry durning my run, but I didn’t want to eat anything heavy before playing ball. I played basketball with friends for a good 30 – 45 min. I love basketball and although I may not have a lot of skill, I hustle. Thanks to the bath I didn’t feel too stiff.

 

I think moving again a couple hours after my run was really good for me. I’m surprisingly un-sore today. I think I’m doing a good job easing myself back into training. Typically when I amp my exercise back up I do some suffering the first week, during the workouts and after too, being sore. I’m pretty happy with where I’m at with this. It’s not to say I don’t feel it. I have some soreness. Having a bath available to me is pretty huge. Trying to be deliberate about what I’m eating, and working really hard about drinking a LOT of water (for me) has probably helped too.

 

Tonight I have another intense boxing workout, and tomorrow I have a 4 mile run planned. My eight-day week will end on Saturday with one more 4 miler. I have the urge to jump right up to 7 miles, because mentally I know I can do it, but I also know that’s probably not smart with my body. Next week I’ll operate on a similar pattern, and do a longer run of 6 miles next Saturday.

 

I’ll be doing my boxing routine on my own tonight, without my buddy to help push me, but I have to be accountable and push just as hard as if someone was watching. I’m in training!

 

I know there are some other folks out there who have shared their own training programs or goals with me! I appreciate the accountability. It inspires me to hear what you’re up to! Feel free to comment below with your own plans for this month!

 

 

Routine

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When I am honest about my battle with depression, I am always shocked to see some folks come out of the woodwork, contact me directly, and let me know that they share the same struggle. There are words of encouragement… But from the folks who really “get it”, mostly there are only words of… Getting it.

 

I heard on a great podcast yesterday, recommended to me by a good friend, this idea: “The fact that you are alive right now is irrefutable proof that there is nothing the world has thrown at you that you haven’t been able to survive.” (The podcast is “Another Round”, well worth listening to. Check it out.) (Also I probably slightly misquoted that, forgive me.)

 

It’s hard to be open. Hard to be vulnerable. Something I’ve been working on and struggling with this year. Writing is actually sometimes an easier way to do that… There’s a good wall of paper (or LCD screen) between you and me.

 

To the ones who reached out… I get it too. And maybe just the solid truth of getting it is something that we can each do, to help each other get through.

 

My last post, I’m sorry… It was a downer. There’s no doubt. I was in a dark place. And some of the folks who reached out were concerned. Thanks for that concern. We should be concerned for each other. We’re all so good at hiding our own struggles.

 

But we can celebrate each other too. Celebrate the little successes.

 

I’m here right now to celebrate some small successes. Writing out where I was at was a big help, so thanks for enduring that. Now to the “onward” part.

 

A day after I wrote that post, I woke up with some sense of motivation. Since this doesn’t happen often, I seized on it. I have known I need to implement a plan for myself to somehow mitigate those depths. I decided to take some concrete steps towards health and self care. Let me tell you… These things are stupid and lame and difficult. And I also know for sure they are things that help me.

 

A big element for me in self care is routine. Having “blown up my life”, to steal the phrase of one person who reached out, I am now in the land of no routine. Or in a land where no routine is very easy. And, I know know know I need routine.

 

When I get into the mode of being even slightly excited about life / feeling motivation, I tend to try to ACCOMPLISH ALL THE GOALS at once. This blows up. (You know where the “all the things” phrase originated from? An awesome comic about “adulting” which is very salient to what I’m saying. Read it. It’s great.) It blows up because I can’t actually accomplish all of those things. SO. In making some goals I decided, despite all of my raging impulses, to bite off only a couple important ones:

 

Exercise

Get up in the morning

Drink water (ha)

Go to therapy

Be accountable to these goals!

 

So, I can’t run on the ice. That doesn’t have to stop me from running, or working out. This winter, after evaluating the cost of a boxing gym membership, I decided to get my own punching bag and continue the boxing routine that Mark’s Boxing Gym imparted on me in Alaska. It’s a straight forward circuit: you can check it out here. This workout works for me. It’s broken up into small, accomplishable goals which I can do better at and then elevate.

 

I also CAN run on the ice, just not with the dogs. This is tough for me, because I feel a lot of guilt when I’m not able to run the dogs. We still go to some areas where the dogs can free run, but with this crazy weekly freezing rain Minneapolis offers, even that is kind of dangerous for them. What I have to realize is that even if I can’t exercise the dogs as thoroughly as desired, I must exercise myself. It’s so very counter to all of my training– dogs first! But this is the airplane-going-down-put-your-mask-on-first method. If I don’t exercise myself the dogs still don’t get that exercise either. So they go with me when the walkways are safe, and when they aren’t I can run myself.

 

I set a daily alarm for myself. Because I’m still working for an Alaskan company, I start work very late in the day in Minneapolis time. This is a great excuse to sleep and sleep in the morning. A few years ago sleeping in started becoming less desireable to my old-person self, but it’s made a big come back. I don’t like missing those early hours in the day, so I’m adjusting! Not crazy early wake ups, just something reasonable.

 

To drink more water (and to accomplish some other small daily and weekly goals), I downloaded an app called Strides, which helps me track small goals. This is an AWESOME app. I can’t recommend it enough. It’s easy to use, and has made accomplishing small but important tasks like a game. I have drunk more water in the last three days than I probably did the month before. Try it. It’s way cool. (I mean try the app, but try drinking water too!)

 

I haven’t yet made it back to Family Tree Therapy, but I will. They offer free therapy during specific hours. They are queer friendly and volunteer based. I was really impressed with them the first time I went, and majorly appreciative. I’m grateful Minneapolis and St. Paul have this resource– I need to use it.

 

To be accountable, I shared these goals with my super supportive partner-in-crime / personfriend, as well as a good buddy. And now I’m sharing them with you.

 

Having some small daily goals has made a noticable difference even over the last few days. I know– It could be an up in the constant up and down. But I’m using this up to try to establish some self care habits I know make a big difference to me. And by “I know” I mean, I have sensed a pattern over the last 31 years that when I exercise I suddenly feel slightly better about life…! Who’da thunk?

 

Another part of my accountability is going to include setting some bigger goals. My goalposts changed pretty drastically after this year, and it’s been tough to get back up. But the time is now, and I’m ready to set out again. I am nailing down exactly what all of those goals will entail. First things first… A race (for my feet). I’ve been bandying about a couple race ideas but hadn’t landed on one yet. Yesterday I talked with a fellow runner (who is more hard core than me!) who suggested we try to meet up for a race sometime this summer. This is an excellent idea– I need something to be in training FOR. (I mean, it’s all eventually for Iditarod, but for now I need something a little closer at hand.)

 

Once I have that larger goal post set up (and in the meantime too), my plan is to be annoyingly accountable to you. E.g., more posting, and hopefully about less depressing material. There have been a couple good friends who have posted about their workout routines and their own goals on a daily basis. Their forwardness has been inspiring to me… I mean, even if no one reads this, I will still write it, and that will be a good start for me. So if you have a masochistic desire to follow along on this journey, take two, take 94, whatever take it is… you can check in on this blog, you can like and follow my page on Facebook, you can follow me on Instagram (or Twitter though I warn you that right now I’m just angrily reposting political things there, so… visit with a grain of salt).

 

And if nothing else, if you read through this whole thing, I hope it gives a little reassurance that although things do get dark, sometimes we find flint and steal and start working our way to a spark.

 

Depression doesn’t just disappear. It’s here. We’re gonna be gooooood buddies. But I’m not giving up either.

 

“The fact that you are alive right now is irrefutable proof that there is nothing the world has thrown at you that you haven’t been able to survive.”

Respite

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Recalculate. Again.

 

I wonder if my choice to be city-side is wise, this winter. But I wonder, too, how well I’d fare in real dark and without friends up north.

 

I am still disquieted. I am disillusioned. Like many, with the state of the world, although not as shocked as some. My constant nightmare is that I’m on a plane and it breaks, stops, loses air. The scariest thing is knowing you’re fucked as you go down. This feels like that, sometimes.

 

And sometimes I’m just here, in this metaphorical white room, with depression. With several truths I never wanted to know.

 

I’m never not going to be side by side with this illness.

Humanity is inherently cruel and greedy and self-destructive.

Nothing matters.

 

The plane is going down.

 

So why go on?

 

I make my plans. Maybe I asked for it when I said I’d run Iditarod in order to raise awareness for those with depression. To show what someone who struggles that way can do. So I get to really struggle. I get to be faced with it squarely. Perhaps it’s an opportunity to do my best, against the rising tide. One story of success against all odds. But the odds cannot be ever in your favor if you are to overcome them. It’s a gift. Right?

 

Right?

 

Minneapolis, part 2. No, I’m not writing that here. I mostly forget what that even was: and the honeymoon of it is over. I was unmoored, disconnected, free for a while. Now I settle back down to reality and there still waits for me: depression. Reality. And the work. This hard work. To just… keep going. To get out of bed. To eat. Or even to just eat something healthy. To go to things I say I will.

 

Stuff slides. So easy to let it go. The dogs keep me honest, but then with too much ice to run we all slide too. I am still unmoored but weirdly tethered. I’m stuck between two things, I’m neither here and carefree nor there (Alaska!), working, focusing, training.

 

I can’t remember what my point is. Why I’m here exactly. I’m biding time. Until I can be in training again. But– why? Why do I wait? I AM in training now! Right?

 

Right?

 

Except it’s so easy, here, to let it slide. So easy to avoid the sidewalks caked in ice and strewn with trash. The trash troubles me so badly. I should go pick it up, right? But it’s too much, it’s literally everywhere, I could never even make a dent. And somehow this is equivalent to all the activism I ought to do, but it’s also too much, I just… can’t.

 

So instead I crawl… somewhere. Not even my to bed. Just. Into sweet anonymity. Consumerism. I spend money to make it feel better. Even a quarter! Even a dime. I try to be around people to anesthetize my ever running thoughts. I sink into meaningless shows. I read the news like it’s an intriguing book. I share posts and I know it’s profoundly ineffective. I march though I hate, hate to be so crowded and so overwhelmed.

 

That’s all… dour. So am I, I guess.

 

This is intended to be respite.

 

I think it was, before, and I think I’ve lost the intentionality of it. My intention before was easy: let go of intentions. But now is the time to put those back, in some kind of order of health. I haven’t. I’m struggling to just get up.

 

A small break to let some of that harshness go.

 

This is where I’ll land:

 

Sometimes the only thing you can do is move forward. Keep going. And without an adversary, what kind of fight would it be, anyway? So I will go forward. When all I have left is a little gristle and two goofy dogs, I can get up. I can go through the motions. And somehow this does seem to work, sometimes. This morning I ran, for the first time in a couple weeks. Maybe I will again, tomorrow, too.

 

So with not much left, I have this. The mantra. The ode. One step in front of another. Bird by bird.

 

Onward.

 

Intermission: Resolve

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This year has not been easy for me. There have been unexpected plot twists, bad and good. I have been quiet, generally, as I try to sort through changes in my life and what they mean. (Maybe they don’t mean anything— but that’s an existential rabbit hole we need not go down.)

Perhaps one of the biggest blows is that I am not running Iditarod in 2017.

At this point, this may be obvious (or not). I am back in Minneapolis— where I never expected to be, certainly not so soon— and when I was recently asked what I am doing, exactly, I wasn’t sure. Because I am not necessarily doing… Anything. I am working. I have small goals within that, and I have many social and day-to-day activities. That kind of a lifestyle, living so much in the now, is both healthy for me, and very different from my normal MO. I am a person who needs an overarching goal. Something to work towards. And for many, many years, that goal has been, in some form or another, Iditarod. This past year and a half, that goal was much more serious and manifest.

Unfortunately it didn’t work out.

I feel very guilty about this. I feel I failed my sponsors and the people who supported me emotionally. I feel I failed myself and the enormous amount of work I put into getting the dogs of RDR kennel to 10th place in Iditarod last year. I feel as thought I tripped before the start line, and lost something that meant the world to me.

The truth, though, is that depression is still a bastard, and it is wise to gather your strength when you don’t have much left. The truth is that I was dealt a major and completely unexpected blow when my relationship fell apart. The truth is that maybe I still wasn’t ready yet for 2017. And that’s okay. (I keep telling myself. It’s hard to believe.)

And the other truth is that I haven’t given up.

I have not failed, because I am not done.

People overcome many things to accomplish their own goals. I did not know that what I’d have to overcome was my own mental chemistry.

This year has felt like getting punched in the face. And where I am now is down on the mat, still reeling from the shock and wondering how I got here. But the ten count goes longer in real life, and I just realized that I’m going to get back up, and I’m not giving up this fight.

This is a hitch, but not a failure. Not a scratch. Never that.

Now I am gathering a new plan of action. Some things I can accomplish, for myself, that move me towards the start line.

  1. Hooch and I have been running together. We will work towards running a 50 mile run around the Twin Cities sometime in the spring. I can’t run Iditarod this year, but Hooch and I will have our own race. We can accomplish this goal together. (I have searched for canicross races of any notable distance in North America, with little success. So Hooch and I will have this race on our own… A competition against self. That’s the best kind anyway.)
  2. I am looking now at options to run Iditarod in the next three years. The money I raised towards Iditarod will still go towards Iditarod— just not this March. The support has not gone wasted— only delayed.
  3. I am in training. This is a phrase, for some reason, that gets me through each day. Maybe it’s deeper than just… The physical aspect. Maybe it means, I’m not finished, I am still percolating, I have room to grow. Either way, it makes me slog the shoes on for the next run, the next session on the boxing bag, the next step towards Nome.
  4. The time for quiet is done now. Writing keeps me accountable— so I’m going to write about this. Even the parts that kind of suck. This will be my training log, for all the weird training I’m in. Boxing again, running now, prepping to do this thing that is Iditarod, that seems like it is bigger and more difficult each time I approach it. But which I also grow more determined to do, every day.

I’m not done.

Sorry for the delay. Life happened, a little. But it’s go time, again. Come with— it’ll be an adventure, I’m sure.

Onward.

Minneapolis: Part 1

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I haven’t been able to write, because this summer has been too unexpectedly raw. Too much for words.

 

When I fled Alaska and the reality of shattered things, I expected, I fantasized about travel, independence, an image. Me with my bag on my shoulders, stoic and silent and much like a stone. I fantasized about jumping off bridges, too, or in front of cars. Not stone so much as dust. I turned to ash in my own mouth. I was over.

 

I sought the solace of friendship, although I couldn’t bear it at all. I couldn’t bear touch or kinship. Talk or acceptance. For years before this, I had never been able to cry *except* in the company of others. Before this, when I cried by myself, part of my brain– the cruel part– laughed at me and mocked me, and made me stop. Now, though, with this unexpected pain, I couldn’t cry in front of others at all. After giving so much vulnerability to one person for so long, and so thoroughly, only to have that broken, I didn’t want to– couldn’t– give vulnerability to anyone. Why would I ever try that again? How many times does it take to understand the definition of insanity?

 

Then, having fled Alaska, when I was in Seattle, with my best friends, who I couldn’t talk to, I cried by myself. I broke down and sobbed. Over and over. It was almost always in the shower. I, never the cleanest person, took more showers then. Because it was the only place I could cry at all. Ablution. Self hatred. The deep seated certainty that I had fucked this up, that this was so much me and all of the baggage I include, and couldn’t fix.

 

My time in Seattle felt– itchy. I wanted to get going. I wanted to journey on. To move. To get out of my own uncomfortable skin. I wanted to start achieving that image of myself as a traveler, as independant, as free.

 

I couldn’t sleep at night without NyQuil or being a little drunk. If I didn’t have either of those things, my brain turned over and over the last three years, the choices I’d made for a relationship that was gone so fast. Choices about my entire life. My identity. I longed for silence. Mostly silence from my own brain. Seattle was too quiet to drown me out.

 

I got on a train. Any other moment, this would have been ideal. Time to write, read, think. Right?

 

Off-shooting from the blow of things was the strange side effect that I actaully couldn’t read, couldn’t listen to music, couldn’t watch shows or movies. If I tried, my brain would slide away to everything wrong. I’d fall down the vortex of my own unhappiness. And- those things felt like normal parts of my past life. Now they seemed inaccessible to me. Not available. Not mine.

 

So I sat on the train, trapped in my own head for 37 uncomfortable hours. I didn’t cry. I didn’t do anything.

 

Near the end of that unbearably long stretch, I found two things that I latched onto. One was Hamilton. The musical. This was new and utterly unrelated to my relationship, to my past three years in any way. It was glorious, genius. I needed it. And I found Fun Home, the graphic novel by Allison Bechdel. These two things got me to the end of that torturous train ride, where I arrived, miraculously, in Minneapolis.

 

Minneapolis had been haunting my dreams for the last three years that I was away. Most of all, the color of sun on bricks. Random coffee shops. All of the food. The green. The ins and outs of roads and ways. The skyline, which I follow with my eyes like it is the curve of a woman’s waist. The people.

 

The train came in from the west. We passed the skyline a way that was only slightly known to me, and it was gorgeous. Things familiar came to be. We landed in St. Paul, at Union station, which was so comfortable, so known.

 

I intended to stay in Minneapolis first a week, then a month– and I have been here for three months now. My iconic backpack was accidentally destroyed. My plans, as ever, foiled. But all in the best and most unexpected of ways.

 

Here is what happened. I’ll try to tell it in its order. I think this all happened in three parts… Or maybe they are acts.

 

 

The first act is an act of God, or some benevolent spirit. It was a difficult act, the worst one in some ways. It involved the strength of my legs and the resolution of my heart against the battering of reality. It involved being saved by an eight year old.

 

Here is what happened.

 

 

When I was in college and going through a difficult time, one of my English professors became an instrumental force for good in my life. She was an advocate and advisor for me, and helped me deal. At the very end of my four years, she and her partner had a baby boy. It was right around Christmas time. I remember how scared and how excited my professor seemed- full of hope.

 

The baby- we’ll call him V- made his first appearance to me at my friends’ wedding that summer. I’m told I was asked to hold him maybe? I’m sure I didn’t know what to do.

 

For a few years I continued to hear about the baby through my same friends who had been married, because one of them nannied for V.

 

When V was five, my friend had to leave. She and her husband were moving to Seattle- they are the same friends I visited there just now. My friend recommended to my former professor that I take over nannying duties for Mr. V. He was five then. I became his nanny for a year, and so began life lessons in story-telling, repetitive play, and being really sad to say goodbye to someone. After that year, I moved back to Alaska. V and I had become buddies. I loved his crazy smart five-year-old brain, and his curly hair, and his good heart. Children are not really an element in my life. He was a good one.

 

I stayed in touch with V and his family. Two years after I’d moved to Alaska, they came to visit. They met my partner and my dogs and saw my house. They got to see what was home to me, what I had chosen and trusted as home. We ate at my favorite restaurant and hiked my favorite trails. Even though we only got to see each other for a few hours, really, it was a good visit. V was seven, and could joke around in a whole new way. He and my dad bonded about birds and history. We chatted and were mischievous and went on an after-hours Where’s Waldo hunt.

 

When my breakup happened, V’s family reached out and extended an offer of a place to stay.

 

I wanted to see V and my professor and her partner. Going against all instincts not to impose, I said yes. After all, I was only going to be in Minneapolis for a week.

 

We– my professor, her partner and I– coordinated a little to surprise V with my arrival. He knew I was coming but didn’t know when. We went to pick him up as he finished a nature day-camp. I looked pretty different since he last saw me- I had lost about 40 pounds since the summer before, and I’d shaved my head. When he saw me standing with his mom, he looked at me, dismissed me, and then suddenly looked again, and a huge smile came over his face.

 

“Hey,” I said. Something I realized when I nannied for V is that I’m “good” with kids in the sense that I can relate to them, play with them– be a kid with them. I’m not a great disciplinarian. And I don’t like the theory of talking down to them. So I just hang out with them, and hopefully there are Legos. I’m not sure this makes me a good nanny. But I think it makes me a pretty decent friend for kids.

 

“Hey,” said V back. I mean, that’s what friends are like. When you don’t see them for a few years, you just say “hey,” and everything is cool.

 

We went back to the car and V told me a little about the raptors at the nature center. He likes birds, and because he’s a smart cookie with a naturalist’s mind, he collects data about them. He shared a bit about the five birds being cared for here. Then we all got ice cream.

 

I don’t know if V knew what was going on with my breakup. He frequently asked about the dogs– particularly about my ex’s dog as though it were my dog. He also asked about my ex sometimes, and about my house in Alaska. I wasn’t sure what to tell him about all of this. I didn’t want to drag him into my sadness.

 

His mothers were a force. I’d never experienced such maternal energy in surround sound. There were many suggestions about what I should do, where I should go, how to proceed. I told these mothers I had no plan, much to the agitation especially of my professor, who folded her lips and tried to refrain from too much advice.

 

I desperately wanted to talk to them about what was happening with me. I still couldn’t open up to anyone. I still found myself choked off from my own words. I took showers and cried and shaved my head anew each week. I liked the ritual of cleaning myself this way. Re-smoothing the lines of fuzz. Controlling this part of things.

 

I was incredibly depressed. I was seeing a therapist on a weekly basis, but it sometimes wasn’t enough to battle the tide of sadness I felt. It was especially terrible at night. Still I couldn’t read, watch, listen, to anything other than Hamilton. Hamilton is long, involved, and complicated. It got me through in a lot of ways.

 

I ran a lot. I found trails that worked for me. I ran 26 miles on my own– just a training run, but I was proud of it. I biked a lot as well. Although the family offered me one of their bikes, I needed to not be so dependent on things that belonged to others. I needed some level of autonomy in the midst of so much change and since I had to ask for help with so much already. I bought a bike off Craigslist for $50. I rode that bike until it literally broke beneathe my feet.

 

The family fed me. I grated against the imposition, I felt I was already taking so much from them. But my professor was direct and fed up with my hesitation, and her partner gently offered what they had. They let me sit with them too. Just to be in company. I played my guitar sometimes, which may not have been a blessing upon them. I did dishes. I took out trash. Very small chores that I hoped helped a little. I watched over V. He and I went swimming and played Birdopoly and chess and Magic. We read and talked and at the pool we dove for quarters.

 

I kept staying. They were generous, too much. They said, stay! Stay until this time, a total of two months, so much.

 

Because I couldn’t sleep, I arranged many late night adventures. It was better to exhaust myself than try to talk myself into sleeping any other way. They gave me a key to the side door, and I came and went at odd hours, and they forgave me for that. The dogs got used to the sound of me coming in at night.

 

There were times when things got very bad. At those times, I looked at the Lake Street Bridge, which was very close to where they lived, and I thought a lot about what it would be like to jump. Sometimes I’d let small objects fall and feel all the seconds till it hit.

 

One night, late in, while I was still clinging to some hope for my broken relationship, I found out some news that made the breakup finally real. It was long past the witching hour. I was alone, walking the quiet streets where the family lived. I knew there was no way I could sleep, so I walked fifteen blocks to a Walgreens to try for NyQuil, but it was closed. I walked back and I walked to the bridge and I looked. I was crying. And what I thought, and what I’d thought the other times, is that there was no earthly way I could do this to V.

 

So I walked to what I called home now- because it was- and in the morning, I finally cried in front of them. I knew when I saw them I’d cry, and I was terrified. But I chose to do that, to be vulnerable, to be honest with them. I knew the other option was… Either shutting myself down completely, or finally taking the bridge.

 

So I told them my news, and they hugged me, and it was okay. I didn’t implode or explode. The world was okay. My professor gave me perspective, which she was always good at, and her partner gave me support. V sat quiet and a little uncomfortable in the face of so much emotion, and then we played Birdopoly. It was all I wanted to do.

 

Strawberry dumplings and my professor’s dad’s spaghetti, and my grandma’s lasagna that I made them, and the new Star Trek Movie, and countless days sitting on the back patio, and card games and board games and talking important points about online strategy games.

 

The time came that I was going to visit Milwaukee– though it wasn’t yet time for me to leave the Cities for good– and this also marked the time that V and my professor were going overseas to see family for a week, and after that madness for all. I had to take up other offers of places to stay- it was time.

 

That day came and I was exhausted and so sad and I felt like throwing up, saying goodbye to V. This was my ersatz family. This group of people welcomed me in without question, with open arms. They saved me. No question.

 

I tried to thank them, I tried to say it was too much. My professor told me that when she had gone through a bad breakup, a professor of hers had taken her in for the summer, where she’d gardened and healed, and I think this meant she was paying this forward to me.

 

V was just V. Just an eight year old kid figuring out the world. Being– him and alive and real. And some days that was all I wanted, was to sit down with this kid and also be myself and alive and real, and play a game, or talk deep talks about… well usually about games. Diving for quarters in the public pool. Asking occasional deep questions. Talking about the world. That kid kept me going. That kid kept me alive.

 

I don’t know if I deserved what this family gave me. They sheltered me. I had to learn, also, to accept what they gave me. I did. And, I’m so grateful for it that I can’t speak about it well. They enfolded me and held me in their group, their world, their family. There aren’t really words for that.

 

That is how the beginning of the summer was. It wasn’t what I expected. It saved my life.

 

Every night now I lay down and I pray, I don’t know to whom, but I pray a prayer of gratitude. This is my prayer, and it might even be to them, this family, and the people in the next acts who saved me too. To you. The people who enfolded me not just in Minneapolis, but all over. People, who I couldn’t offer my vulnerability but wrapped me up in love anyway.

 

Thank you.

 

Here’s the prayer I say to you.

 

I am blessed

For the ground beneath my feet

Blessed,

Blessed

For a couch this night to sleep

Thanks

And thank you

Family, friends

I am blessed, and grateful

Here again

 

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Lost

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I’ve been asking myself what it means to be lost. I’ve asked myself every day, and most days my answer is: does it matter? I keep writing the beginning of something- some inquiry. And it feels like the point of it is wondering about being lost.

 

I get nowhere.

 

Maybe that’s what it means to be lost.

 

Here are the things I’ve lost this summer (it turns out some of these things may never have actually been there):

 

My best friend, partner, and teammate.

 

The mountains.

 

Home.

 

My little friend (a puppy version).

 

A cat, who I had come to love.

 

My family– the one I chose and planned to stick with.

 

Speaking of plans: the plans. All of the plans.

 

Iditarod in 2017.

 

My mind/my marbles/my sanity.

 

Walks in the woods.

 

Honesty.

 

A second family.

 

A space that felt like I belonged.

 

Hope.

 

Stability.

 

Here are some of the things I gained this summer:

 

A community of people like myself (that is to say: queer)

 

A second family.

 

Warmth.

 

Trails (biking, running, walking).

 

An appreciation for public transportation.

 

Honesty.

 

Reality.

 

A little (very little) bit of hope.

 

Re-connection.

 

Callouses.

 

Vulnerability (a smidge. A real smidge).

 

I still don’t know what it means to be lost.

 

I still am very lost. But in this strange ether that is beyond the unthinkable, I don’t seem to care. It’s very weird. Maybe I can’t care. Maybe I don’t have the capacity to care. That certainly seems possible.

 

I’m not saying that I’m fine. I’m not really fine. I’m often pretty un-fine. Fine and okay are not words I would currently use to describe myself. Neither am I apathetic. In fact, the amount to which I feel seems to have multiplied as it is centered around pain.

 

If I put it in terms of mushing, I guess this makes some sense to me.

 

I have been horribly wounded out on the trail. To the point where it is not possible for me to continue exactly on the path I originally planned. Instead, I’m laying on the side of the trail, trying to stop the bleeding. But, in the course of being horribly wounded– perhaps in the moment of it– I altered trails and now I have no idea where I am. Or even where I should go. It probably isn’t a huge aid that, in the metaphor that is me on the trail, as I often think about things, I didn’t have a super clear idea of which way to go in the first place. I thought I had figured out a destination, but the new factor of the wounding, and some other things, has rendered that destination impossible for the time being.

 

So that leaves me with a myriad of options. I guess, metaphorically, I’ve basically gone back to the last checkpoint, which is this city that I love much more than I let myself remember while I was away. And here I am, putting a finger in the dam, as it were. But. I can’t stay here. It’s a checkpoint. I mean, I could maybe stay here a bit longer. There have been some important and healthy things for me here. Let’s call them– a suture doctor in the form of a ridiculously generous family. And salve in the form of good friends. And a bandage in the form of community I never knew I hadn’t had before. These are all well and good.

 

But, but. The trail calls, or my brain is crazy and insists we go on. We ARE going on. We are not scratching. This hitch in the plan may have made some major alterations to our schedule. But I am not bowing out yet.

 

But this isn’t a straightfoward race. This isn’t a well-marked trail. I have to decide which way to go. The way I thought, the way I was told was the way, is not the way any more. So I have to figure out another way.

 

And more or less, I’m lost.

 

And I feel like I should probably care a lot more that I’m lost.

 

But I do not.

 

What I know is that soon I’m going to exit the cabin that is this checkpoint, tend to my dogs once more, and head out into the night and the snow.

 

I don’t know what that will be or where that will lead me. I don’t even know which direction I’ll go. Maybe I’ll let the lead dogs choose: hopefully that is the siblings intuition and gut, up front. Otherwise I’m in trouble (I always seem to want to put logic and sense up front, and so far that has served me miserably. I think they were both misnamed).

 

What it means to be lost is that that is where I am at. That is the only name for the location I am in, relative to the other locations. And this is because I do not know or understand the other locations yet. Once I get there, I will. And I may still there be lost, because I may not know the other locations by that time, either.

 

It’s not clear. It’s scary. I’m not a fan of this. It was so comforting to be on the trail that was well marked, clear. One I understood and could follow. (But didn’t I say before that I didn’t know where I was headed, exactly? True, true. But the trail was marked, you see. I may have never gone that way yet, but I trusted the markers on the way.)

 

Now that is gone to me. It exists no more. Maybe– probably– I’ll recognize one day that it should not have existed, or that it was for the best my course was altered. Right now that’s hard to believe.

 

Anyway, I have to go. I have been healing here for a while. The dogs get restless. They know we haven’t made it yet. I can put them in straw and shower them in snacks, but we have things to do.

 

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

 

Explanations, Change

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My life changed when I looked up into the rear view mirror and saw Jimmy Medford hurtling towards me at 60 miles per hour in his two-month-old shiny Ford.

 

I didn’t know it was Jimmy Medford, and I didn’t know it was a two-month-old car, and I didn’t know my world was about to shift dramatically over, and not even because of the wreck.

 

The wreck happened. Jimmy swerved, right at the last second, which probably saved our lives, and maybe this was the linch pin, the hinge, the change. Maybe this moment was supposed to change everything. Maybe in an alternate universe, I really am dead, or mourning the death of the person I love, and that’s why right now, in this parallel world where Jimmy Medford swerved, my heart is hurting so bad.

 

That’s not the fundamental, graspable reason that things changed, in this reality. The down-to-earth, the “real”, reason. That reason is in my head, or my heart, and at the base of hatcher pass, the place I called home for not enough time. That reason involves circumstances changing, and hand in hand with that– the fucking demon that is deep sadness creeping back over me.

 

My relationship has ended.

 

I don’t think the impact of that Ford against the right rear bumper of my Subaru had anything to do with the last few scales of love falling off her eyes. Or the last pieces of what I guess what not a truth, falling apart. It just happened at the same time.

 

Jimmy Medford jumped out of his car and came running towards me, after the impact. Car wrecks bring out the monster in me: it is the only time I feel liberated enough to be angry. I flew out of the driver’s seat and swore at him. That’s an inhibition I reserve breaking only for vehicle collisions. (That’s a joke– I never mean to be so mean.) The first thing Jimmy Medford told me was that he was so sorry– That he felt terrible, because his car was only two months old.

 

This did not gentle my opinion of him.

 

He was squat and pot bellied, greasy black hair to his shoulders, washed out jeans so tight they outlined both butt cheeks and even more in the font. He wore a red polo shirt, the uniform for some job which I now forget. He kept his hands awkwardly in his pockets (I don’t think there was much room for them there), and he kept telling us all how young his car was.

 

Trajectory, altered.


I thought we had dodged a bullet, however inconvenient things suddenly were. But I did not know, or understand, that at that moment everything in my life was changing direction, and that three weeks later I’d have a one-way ticket to Seattle followed by a one-way train ticket to Minneapolis, and after that, just a question.

 

Where to go next? (What am I going to do?) [How could this have happened?]

 

Who (the fuck) am I?

 

So many people tell me this is a great adventure. There is jealousy in their voices when they say this. They tell me how excited they are. I look at them and all I can feel is the caving pain that radiates, chest-out, through my whole torso. I wouldn’t trade this for adventure. I’d never choose what is happening now.

 

But what is happening now, IS happening now.

 

My whole world has shifted over, and I don’t feel great about it. And truth be told, I didn’t feel great before.

 

It’s ironic, most of all, because about five weeks ago, I told my high school counselor, upon a reuinion, that my depression had passed. That I hadn’t felt it for almost ten years. That there was anxiety and fear, but not depression. Not the same way.

 

Maybe I shouldn’t have said that. (I’m superstitious.) Or maybe saying it did something in my brain, made some part of me say: that’s not true, and here I am.

 

It came back. Even before Jimmy Medford, even before the collapse of my reality and my relationship, it came back.

 

(I never left.)

 

Depression is a mean son-of-a-bitch.

 

And here it is, rejoining me.

 

Maybe because what I’m identifying as depression is really– me. Part of me. Just. Me.

 

Circumstances, stress, fear. Things fall apart. The centre cannot hold.

 

Maybe it never left. Maybe I never left. Maybe I didn’t do what I thought I did: escape myself.

 

My whole life I’ve been after adventure. See above, the name of this stupid fucking blog. It’s been selfish and self-agrandizing. And now in this impressive pain, I put two options in front of me. For the first time, in a long, long time, I considered dying. I really looked at the benefits of it. The bigget benefit being that the pain would stop.

 

But while I was running, one day, in the three slow weeks where the truth came painfully to bear, I made a deal with myself. It is not a deal that is out of some kind or generous spirit. It is just– practical, I guess.

 

I promised myself that instead of jumping in front of a car, which is what I kept wanting to do (and it concerned me most of all that I couldn’t give a damn about how fucked up that would be for the driver)… Instead of that, if I really wanted to be obliterated, I’d go. I’d go away, go off, as I had always imagined going. Galadrial says– in a totally different vein– “I shall diminish, and go into the West.” I’ve hung onto that phrase for years and years. (Nevermind that she says she will “remain Galadrial,” which has a totally different connotation that what I’m pulling out of it.) But always I imagined going, disappearing from myself, escaping myself, and adventuring to boot. Getting a job as a ranch hand or deckhand, or fighting fire. Something where I was physical and far, far from me.

 

Foolish. Futile. Idiotic, of course. Except for the merciless solution (and maybe not even then), I guess I can’t escape myself.

 

So, new iteration. The only choice. Myself and I, we are going together. As much as you can bear going with a person you hate… Or have hated for so long.

 

Never mind the title up above. We are not going adventuring.

 

We are going to work. To work on us, on this discord between us, between me and myself and the depression, the sadness, the pain.

 

My promise was this. Instead of killing myself, I’d go be useful, somewhere, in some way. Maybe that’s practical, in a way to help folks. If I want to do work that was physical, it could at least be in the service of some kind of good. If I want to not think, it could be at least in creating some measure of help. Or maybe the usefulness is just in working on my head, being, you know, mindful, concientious, practicing the things, taking myself to task– and not in the destructive way. In the constructive way.

 

It’s probably just as selfish and privileged as imagining I’m going adventuring.

 

People have so many questions. It’s interesting to watch them process my plan, or partial plan. At first they tell me (especially the people in Alaska): you have to stay. You have to work through this. But inevitably, every one of them, no more than a day or two later, says: you have to go. You have to go do this thing.

 

But where will you go?

 

They really want a plan.

 

The plane ticket to Seattle and the train ticket to Minneapolis were great reassurances to my parents, despite their one-way direction, despite the many questions after that. I see their concern in every inquiry.

 

And even strangers are discomfited by my admittance. I don’t know. I don’t know what happens next. I don’t have an answer or even, really, a plan. The plans are what got me here. I’m letting go of plans.

 

ATAO is supposed to mean, “All the Doors are Open.” Well, “All The doors Are Open”… I mangled the acronym.

 

I really hate the fucking phrase right now. Too many doors are open. People applauding my freedom. I don’t want freedom. I want home. My heart is broken.

 

I’ve been writing this over a long few weeks. I’ve lost track of how much time any of it has been. When did Jimmy Medford hit my car? I don’t even know if the car is repaired by now: I left it. I didn’t look back. I have left Alaska. I have left.

 

In the time that I started, that my footsteps headed south, Orlando happened. The news blaring over and over, and the eyes of other queer people around me haunted and betrayed. The sense of progress altered, I read over and over again that we know we have to watch, to be careful. We know. This just one facet of the diamond of fear and horror perpetuated against so many, anyone different, anyone different. There is a sea of fear and hate, and meanwhile my small privileged sadness. When I heard the words of what happened, the fucking body count, the only thing I wanted to do was reach out to the person, the person who has mattered most to me for three years and who still matters most to me but who is an absense on the other end of the line. The person who would look at me and understand, but perhaps not, not anymore, I guess, I guess.

 

The funny thing is the depression has numbed, it is not a whispering demon, maybe it is satiated on so much sadness. It feels like a fat and smiling toad, sitting in the back of my chest and my head, the corners of its green mouth almost touching the corners of its eyes. It watches me and only smiles, only waits. Its front feet turn in and its great body oozes the marshy slime of patience.

 

And I have my backpack and the indulgence of a guitar which I don’t really know how to play, and I am going… I am going somewhere. Or nowhere.

 

So this is the long-winded explanation, which explains almost nothing, and I’m glad to bring you here to this place with me where nothing makes any sense anyway. Where yes, all the doors are open, and I have no idea where to go. How I even got here.

 

People ask if I am running Iditarod. That’s the dream, right?

 

The fact of that matter is that other circumstances have changed, too. The fact of that matter is that I was running up against a wall before this all fell apart in my hands, anyway. The wall of money, the wall of other things.

 

Here is my answer about that.

 

I will run Iditarod.

 

This came clear to me the first few days. The how, or when, I will run it is undergoing some examination. It will either be this year, as I hoped most of all, or next. The thing is money, of course. There have been generous folks: between my race and individual donations I’ve accrued a little less than a thousand dollars. (Deepest gratitude for that.) It is saved and set aside. But I need ten or more, and if I’ve discovered anything in the last year, it’s that I suck, so bad, at fundraising. At asking.

 

In fact, if I’ve learned (or been reminded) about anything over the past few weeks, it’s that I am worse at asking for help than I ever imagined. Than I even ever thought possible.

 

So I made a new plan. For both of those things– asking for money and asking for help with my hurting heart. To conquer my personal hurtle of asking. Not jump it. To– walk around it. Instead of asking, because I just can’t in good conscience do it any more… Instead of asking, I’m going to just work.

 

(Remember what I said about plans? About how they get me into trouble? Don’t worry universe, don’t worry ye toad of depression who waits: it’s just an idea.)

 

I can work. I can lift and carry and build. If I can’t raise the funds this year for Iditarod, I can work next summer for it. It costs time and the labor of my back. I can do that. I have plenty of both right now.

 

There. There’s a plan, for the ones who are uncomfortable without.

 

I don’t suppose this sounds very reassuring. And truth be told, I’m the most uncomfortable of all. I want a plan. I want to lash down to something, anything in the storm. I am exhausted, I have been swimming in thrashing waters for a while now.

 

I am sorry this is not comforting. I am sorry that there is not something solid I can say. I am sorry that I have lauded Iditarod for almost a year, and now it may not make its way to being for one more year at that. I am sorry I cannot tell you where I will go or how long I will be gone.

 

The only thing I know at this point is that Hooch and I will run Iditarod. Whether it is this year or next, I’m not sure yet. Whether it’s by fundraising or by physical labor, I don’t know that either.

 

Today, I cannot raise money. Today, I can wake up, and I can write these words, and I can take a step. That is all I can do today, so I am sorry.

 

That is the long-winded explanation.

 

I made this website because Hooch (who, for those who wonder, is gestating a litter of puppies at Red Dog Racing; she’s in good hands, and will have her pups at the end of July) and I are… The team I have left. Well I made the site before any of this went down, before Jimmy Medford, and it was intended to be about Hooch & I and our adventures. And I think it still will be, but right now, since all those doors truly are fucking open, this is what it is, and here you go.

 

I don’t know if I’ll write more here. Maybe. I don’t know. I can’t promise it will be pretty, or entertaining, or anything. Between me and the toad of depression, I imagine it’ll be pretty morose.

 

There is one strange hope I have. I don’t know if hope is the right word. Belief? Suspision.

 

I’m not supposed to know.

 

Maybe I’m not supposed to anything. At all. Maybe there is no supposed to. Maybe that’s it, the secret. If so, I am there. I don’t know. I don’t have a plan. I’m just here. I’m here. I’m ready to do whatever I’m supposed to do. Or not supposed to. Or whatever.

 

This sucks.
In the world of better writing, this would have a button, a final thought, a concise conclusion. But guess what? It doesn’t. I don’t. This is just it.