You don’t know what you’ll miss until it’s gone.

I’ve posted my most recent adventure/hike and the demise of my hobby here. So “savor” is appropriate for my “afterward”.

It’s hard as we grow old to realize there are things that we can no longer do. I have identified myself as a hiker for almost two decades – sometimes regular and other times sporadic but it’s been a mainstay of my identity. Having attempted a ‘thru-hike’ of the Appalachian Trail this spring – and ‘failed’ due to my physical ailments – I rested and then hiked a small NH mountain only to find that I no long “have what it takes” to hike. I finally came to the conclusion that conquering a peak was not worth the subsequent pain that I had to endure, not only with the descent, but the day or two afterward.

I had not really thought much about not being able to hike – I just did it. There’s always discomfort and pain when exerting ourselves with a strenuous activity such as climbing mountains. And as I’ve gotten older the “pain” evolved from the muscle pain we all feel when we work out to the joint pain some of us feel when our cartilage and bones have been worn through life’s usage. I had thought I’d have stress fractures of my leg bones due to, not only the pounding that the legs take when hiking up and down multiple mountains in a day and then day after day, but also the extra weight we carry in our back packs. Maybe I have had stress fractures, I’m not sure since I did not have xrays taken. But, having found out that another hiker suffered chondromalacia and we have the same symptoms, I’m thinking that this is the most likely reason my knees have been so painful. There’s a difference between muscle pain and working through it and joint pain – there is NOTHING that will make joint pain lessen, not pushing through, or resting or herbal remedies. Joint pain comes from the wear and tear of cartilage breakdown through a lifetime of use (and/or abuse) and, perhaps, a knee replacement will ‘fix’ it but that is an expensive solution that many cannot afford. Usually we just refrain from doing what causes the pain – until the everyday usage is more than we can tolerate.

I’ve decided to move on with my life, find another hobby or form of excerise that works for me. My advice to those of you who have physical hobbies that you enjoy – SAVOR everyday that you get to do what you want and enjoy.

 

Daily Prompt: Savor

 

 

The Last Hike

The Last Hike

It’s been about five weeks since I left the AT – I’ve rested my feet and legs so they have been ‘back to normal’ barring some early morning stiffness. I thought it about time to get back to the NH White Mts. to see how my rehabilitation fared with some mountain climbing.

I signed up to go with a group on a short 5.2 mile ‘hard’ hike up Mt. Tremont with a 2,532 elevation gain – the last 1000 feet almost vertical. The day’s temps topped out in the mid 80’s although that’s not specific to the area and elevation I was at – it sure felt warmer. It was also quite humid especially under the canopy of leaves and the first third of the trail followed a stream which gave the impression of ‘cooler’ air but it most likely contributed to the humidity factor. There were no pesky insects hovering and whether that’s to do with season, heat/humidity or my deet-free spray I’m not certain but it was a relief that I didn’t have to tolerate the pests. It was significant to note that the trail was thin, over-growth  of greenery and rocks, roots and trees were all very damp and slimy. I use trees as leverage or stabilizers so the fact that they were slippery was noticeable.

The ascent was mostly easy footing with some roots or rocks but not much. As I mentioned, the last thousand feet were extremely vertical so the group was bottle-necked most of the time. The pace was fine with me as I found myself very tired and welcomed the sporadic and short ‘rests’ while waiting for my turn to climb sections. I’m not a breakfast eater so I used the opportunity to grab a protein bar from my pack and take bites for the last third climb – I’d assumed my fatigue was due to both inactivity the last several weeks and that I’d not eaten that morning. We all rejoiced when we reached the summit and enjoyed a view and, for me, it was tolerable as most of the time as long as the sun was hidden behind layers of skittering low and high clouds. When it did ‘come out’, I found the sudden heat intolerable – almost nausea inducing. When I sought some limited shade on the peak the black flies found me. I decided I needed to head back down both because I started to not feel well and because I was a little anxious to see how my knees would do with the steep descent. I was only a little ahead of the group, knowing they’d eventually catch up as I descend at a snail’s pace.

It wasn’t long before I started to feel the effects of descending – I don’t know where I notice it first, my feet or my knees – perhaps both. Long before the half-way point I am feeling both despair and anger; my joints in my feet, ankles and knees all start complaining and subsequently my feet start to become numb making the manipulation of rocks and roots difficult – like maneuvering blocks of wood attached to my ankles among the obstacles. I am reminded of my AT hikes and how servere the pain became after long days hiking UP & DOWN multiple peaks and I become anxious and a little nauseated. My neck and shoulders become stiff with the tension.

Being alone – a little ahead of the group, I can sometimes see and usually hear the talking and laughter – I can concentrate on my own thoughts and feelings. I finally realize that hiking for me is no longer ‘fun’ nor is it really physically beneficial. I tell myself that, although I’ve used hiking in the mountains the last decade or more as a retreat; being alone in nature, getting a ‘workout’ and physically fit and the fulfillment of the exercise of ‘bagging another peak’, I am no longer fit for the task. I have come to an age and deteriorated condition that I can no longer do what I have been doing. I realize I have now become what I’ve witnessed in many aging and older people; unable to do what I used to do. It’s a depressing and humbling feeling to know that I’ve passed a point that cannot be regained, not with determination of will or by physical force.

I can certainly keep hiking and just ‘endure’ the pain but at what cost physically? And why? The fact is I’ve been living in the after-glow of the good hiking days – thinking I just need to get back out there and make it a habit again, get that good feeling back, get back in shape and be a regular hiker, finish the NH 48, etc. etc. But – I finally gave-up-the-ghost of the idea that hiking is my religion, that it’s ‘my thing’. I finally, finally realized on that slow and agonizing descent that it’s a thing of my past and I need to put it away and just be glad of what I have done and what I’ve enjoyed. I need to stop romanticizing “the hike” and just let it die a dignified death; find a new hobby, something that is good for me and good for my body and isn’t painful nor cause me sadness.

I decided on this last hike that I will set aside my hiking gear until snow flies. There is a chance, albeit a small one, that winter hiking – with the packed snow surface minus roots and rocks (and bugs) – with less technical footing – will be okay. I am hoping. But, if the winter descents are as heinous to my legs then I will give up entirely. It will be the end of a chapter and I will gracefully move on to other things. It sounds overly dramatic but I’ve identified with being a ‘hiker’ and I’ve envisioned my future as a hiker so it’s a little like giving up a part of my identity and it leaves a void. Who am I now?

 

 

Trying to fill a void – locally

Yesterday was a tough day for me and i haven’t had one of those in over two weeks – since I got off the AT. I had charge of my 5 year old grandson who I love spending one designated day a week with – but yesterday I was in a funk and playing Legos or reading just became hard and frustrating. Fortunately he does amuse himself while he believes he’s the center of my attention – he was not, my mind was far away on the trail.

I don’t know what it was – probably a combination of things, that put me in the mood to, again, run away. I know logically that my knees can’t handle supporting a backpack and hiking up and down mountains but I was desperately trying to figure a way back anyway. It doesn’t help that a new friend, a relationship established on the trail, has been feeling lonely, isolated and a little miserable with her own physical issues – I wanted to be out there with her. We texted each other and commiserated and hoped for the best for each other while, not so secretly, being selfish because we both want to hike and we both want an agreeable companion.

I’m in a place similar to when I left; I am home and lonely but not working and, for the time being, without a vehicle. I had hoped that after a ‘rest’ period at home, I’d go out and tackle the Whites because they are local – see how my knees take it, stay in shape (after all that work on the trail) and use my ‘free’ time to still hike but ‘slackpack’ it. That hasn’t been possible yet and that’s some of my problem right now – not having a car is restricting. I don’t know if it would lessen the nostalgia for the trail – I imagine it would, I’d hope it would.

This morning I feel a little better, more realistic. I know I need to DO something with my time that makes me feel productive, constructive and not an AT drop-off. I’m not ready for work – I think I’d break. Having to give up on my 2017 goal is bad enough – having to go back to a job I just hate before I am stronger would be devistating.

 

Daily Prompt: Local

Illusions are best maintained when they are closer to home.

Hiking a portion of the AT for 5 weeks taught/reminded me of a few things and I try to continue to reflect on these even as I am back in ‘society’ and attempting to minimize the negative and accentuate the positive: it’s a fine line between open to what’s out there and trying to be optimistic about ‘reality’.

I really don’t like going political but that is hard to evade in our world where almost everything uttered – in person or via media – isn’t somehow twisted into “politically correct”,  “fake news” or “alternate facts” – or just blatent HATE. The cliche “you make your own reality” stings when what we see and what we (like) to believe or experience resides in polar opposition.

Reality is paying hundreds of dollars a month for ‘health insurance’ and then, when you need it, you have to then pay another few thousand BEFORE the insurance will pay any money toward a bill – and then it’s a matter of fine print and legal lingo as to whether or not the insurance companies even pay then. There is a difference in what we want to believe about our healthcare system (aka federal government) and what stares us in the face in black & white on a medical statement.

The belief that our federal and state government (otherwise known as elected ‘people’, for lack of better options) has our best interests in mind/heart when creating laws and policies is an illusion and it’s one in which most of us must surrender common sense and intelligence to keep from slipping into hopelessness and despair. Thankfully there are those with conviction, strength, resources, money, time and that special character that makes them not only persevere to make the world a better place but they spearhead the movement to do so.

I have been abstaining from ‘news’ since before I started my hike and some may say that’s irresponsible but I don’t care; I feel better not “consuming” the daily poison. Some might claim that if you don’t pay attention then you don’t know what’s going on – and, what will you do if ‘SOMETHING HAPPENS’ and you need to react? Well, most people are more than happy to pass along information: “Hey, did you hear about___?” so there’s no chance of not knowing what’s going on. And, there’s not much anyone can do about what IS going on anyway. I’m on the same ship as the rest of the 99% and will do what I have to do at the time. There’s no reason for me to be burdened EVERYDAY by the chaos of government: it’s confusing, it’s disheartening, it’s concerning and no amount of attention from me is going to change that. What does help me is going about my life with the belief that ‘things will work out’ & hope for the best. I am not delusional: I’ve never believed that elected officials strive for anymore than keeping or moving up in their positions of power – we’re not even on their radar except in time for elections.

My re-appreciation of my family and the small pleasures I have in my life is what I try to keep in mind and that’s easier to do if I stay away from the toxic environment of the world as much as I can. I can only try to be positive about the future and it’s much easier to maintain that illusion if I focus on my own small world.

Daily Prompt: illusion

Dirty Laundry

I was briefly listening to the radio this evening, what station or who – I have no idea but the duo/trio of “hosts” it seemed were discussing the situation of a inter-religious couple (just like inter-racial, a couple who share a different ‘belief system’ from each other) and they were deciding, in other words – judging, how one or the other should handle the differences and why one is right or wrong, etc.

I thought to myself: since when did what transpires between a couple become everyone else’s business? It seems there is no end to the meddling (almost) everyone does into other people’s personal affairs…and then it’s “aired” – literally, in the media. What’s that adage; don’t air your dirty laundry?

If one friend ‘confides’ in another about a personal issue: 1. It should stay there; 2. even if said friend is made aware, that doesn’t mean that now an ‘intervention’ by said friend is wanted or needed.

Shouldn’t we all pay more attention to our own dirty laundry and let others sort out theirs.

I turned the dial.

Daily Prompt: Meddle

30 Day Blogging Challenge: Day 1

I came across some blogs that had a title similar to mine except differing days and I hunted for the source of the challenge, I even elicited the ‘experts’ on WP (I won’t even discuss how dismally that went but I will say that I finally told ‘the expert’ that I thought (they) were deliberately being obtuse after giving me instructions on how to click on somene’s blog posts – really?!). I never did find ‘the source’ but I’m just going to mimic what I saw.

The name of my Blog is Karyn’s Domain. I’ve had other blogs with various names and none of them had any theme, mostly just online journaling – which is what I’m still doing. I have some anxiety about posting my thoughts or experiences online for reasons I think are obvious to everyone. Despite those concerns, many of us cannot resist the temptation to blog because we like to ‘write’, we like to share, we like making connections with other people, blogging has become a fringe form of expression or ‘art’ and because writing/journaling helps us figure ourselves out; sifting through thoughts and emotions to get to a core belief or value.

I’ve been more creative with my blog name prior but many times ‘it’s already taken’ and I finally just settled with my name and the ‘domain’ was because when setting up a blog site you need a ‘domain’ and because I’m tech-illiterate I just used “domain” in my name. It does make a good fit in the truest sense of the word: Karyn’s Domain is my area, my site, my place where my blog with thoughts and expressions live.

Creating a “name” is something that we do want to spend time thinking about – like parents do when expecting a baby. A name means something. A name is life-long. The name of a blog is what might attract readers or it conveys what the blog is about/theme.

I like writing so I got impatient with the name and just wanted to dive into my post. I’ve deleted prior blog sites because I wanted to go in a different direction or I had multiple blogs going and it was becoming a juggling act. I don’t know that sometime in the future when I finally decide on a theme instead of SoC writing, I might change it up again.

So, there it is: my blog’s ‘name’ and why.

BTW: now that I’ve noticed, I have no way to ‘tag’ or ‘catagorize’ my posts. I only have the “visual” and “HTML” tabs up under my title. Wierd.

What trekking the AT and the South Pole have in common:

Perseverance is directly related to the

intensity with which we seek the (particular) reward.

I’ve been reading the blog of a fellow AT hiker: I stopped and she kept going. I read her entries with the same attention that I’d give to trying a new food: minding the details of the food and the reaction of my senses. I try to determine what she is really feeling between the relaying of other sensory information; her persistent but not heavily dosed complaints of foot or leg pain aren’t enough for me. I’m seeking a comparison, one in which I can feel completely in one emotion or the other: envious or relieved (yeah, sometimes it’s all about me).

Of course that is not even logical but we all do it. My experiences are as unique to me as yours are to you. Period. The comparison comes because we all have the bad (perhaps, human) habit of justifying our feelings or actions in comparison to another’s – as if we are the same: one falls short of reaching the goal due to, say, pain while someone else continues despite the pain. But here we can’t compare pain as if how and what one person feels is the same as the other. And if we feel better believing that we are tougher, better or in any other way ‘supieror’ to someone else, well – that is simply because we need to feel that way; that need is a flaw in our character; feelings of inadequacy and fear.  If we are stable and emotionally healthy, it is irrelevant what another person does or doesn’t do.

I am both happy for her in her journey and I feel her pain. I am both satisfied that I stopped and I feel some regret…but mostly I am content. My journey – as I’ve written about almost exhaustively but I will continue to do so as long as I am deriving some growth and lessons from it – was unique to me based on my uniqueness as a human being with all my history and my hopes for the future. I do, however, miss – and very intensely – the experience of the trail and the tramily that I became a part of and, because I know it’s true, the tramily that I contributed to as an individual. So when I read my friend’s blog, I have the intense feeling that I am missing out on something that only being there will give me.

My perseverence held fast until I knew – in my heart – that the reward was not ‘completing the trail’ but what I needed to learn about myself: my perceptions, my misunderstandings, my priorities, etc. Once the intensity to ‘finish’ the trail, the alledged ‘goal’, faded and was no longer in my long-range vision, my perseverance in tolerating the adversities (I’m just going to call it that, without being too specific about ‘et al’) caved.   If the goal is no longer the get to Maine, then flip-flop to Georgia, then why continue? Just to be able to say; “Yeah, I thru-hiked the entire Appalachian Trail”? Who gives a fuck? If I don’t, then neither should anyone.

I suppose one could argue with mild success that my lingering thoughts of the AT, my attention and emotional attachment to the stories of those still marching along that eastern coast-line path through the woods is indicative of some regret. Well, yeah, I loved the simplicity of hiking/backpacking, the woods, the tenting, the people, the solitude & seclusion, and being a part of a unique and small sub-community of people. I mean, who wouldn’t? Okay, many wouldn’t but if you love THAT then you’ll miss it. Eventually, all who successfully finish, goal completed, feel the same thing (except they finished) – they miss it, they want to get back ‘out there’. So, my feelings are not altogether unique or different than those of a ‘successful’ thru-hiker in that regard.

Succintly put: I miss the experience. I don’t miss the idea/goal of completing the trail. I don’t have the drive to do it – at least not now – and that’s what’s needed to persevere, to continue, to push through all the challenges of backpacking the Appalachian Trail –

the GOAL has to be the completion of the entire trail.

Period. That was never my goal, whether I realized it or not in the beginning. And if it wasn’t my ‘goal’ then I didn’t ‘quit’. As much as that sounds like ‘justification’ for my actions/inactions, it is what it is: my goal was to get away and DO something I enjoyed for an undertermined length of time and hopefully find something I knew I needed. I did that and I am so glad and proud that I did and I learned and grew and suffered and persevered until I didn’t have to, until I needed to move on and, simultaneously continued, to grow and learn.

Here is a partial quote from a TED talk by a man who trekked 1,800 mile round trip to the south pole, successfully. He learned what I learned, the italics are mine, but I didn’t need to go to the extreme to do so.

“…I still stand by all the things I’ve been saying for years about the importance of goals and determination and self-belief, but I’ll also admit that I hadn’t given much thought to what happens when you reach the all-consuming goal that you’ve dedicated most of your adult life to, and the reality is that I’m still figuring that bit out.

   …that cliche about the journey being more important than the destination? There’s something in that. The closer I got to my finish line, that rubbly, rocky coast of Ross Island, the more I started to realize that the biggest lesson that this very long, very hard walk might be teaching me is that happiness is not a finish line, that for us humans, the perfection that so many of us seem to dream of might not ever be truly attainable, and that if we can’t feel content here, today, now, on our journeys amidst the mess and the striving that we all inhabit, the open loops, the half-finished to-do lists, the could-do-better-next-times, then we might never feel it.” 

~Ben Saunders; To the South Pole and Back, March 2014 TEDtalk

“…that bit…” I got that figured out and it allowed me to move on in my own personal journey, albeit off-trail. The trail will be there and there are other trails. I’m glad I have had the oportunity to experience a portion of the AT and I’m glad I learned the lessons that I needed.

Be the judge of your own journey; let not others determine your self-worth and successes.  ~BuzzCut