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.