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.
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?
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!