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.
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.
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.