The heat and humidity of the previous day forgotten after the dark and very cold night. Now morning, wearing a fleece jacket and goose-bumps on my legs, I witness the sun’s determination to burst through the morning’s thick fog and cast it’s shimmer on the lake. After so many days of unbearable heat, I’d forgotten that the nights, especially on the lake, are still cold. I wish I had thought to take a photo earlier when the fog was thicker and the sun a faint glow over the horizon but I captured an essence of it here.
Black & White, Up & Down, Good & Bad, High & Low, Positive & Negative — etc. etc.
This “high/low” is appropriate for me on this Saturday. I’m trying to be grateful for my time away from work – any work, and the opportunity it affords me to do things and spend time with people that I don’t always have when working. The problem is – if what I am feeling can be even legitimately termed a “problem” – is that I vasilate between feeling low energy if not depressed and feeling much more high with more feelings of hope and optimism. More to the point; the problem is I tend toward the feeling of ‘low’ most of the time and only feel ‘high’ when I’m with (positive) people – no grumbling about ‘the world today’ or chronic personal issues – or when I am listening to audios such as TED Talks or interesting interviews/features (usually public radio). The ‘high’ feeling is temporary and usually pretty brief. I try to maintain it – go out for a walk or focus on energizing things to do – but it fizzles like a fire-cracker.
Writing may or may not be an answer to ‘getting it out’ and reframing/refocusing and I do try other things; I’m always looking for something of interest (to me) to do, try to find a friend available for a little social time or – and this is the usual routine – lose myself in a book. I try not to focus on my reality – which is that I am (yawn) lonely and I don’t feel I (boo-hoo) have a purpose – which then leads down the rabbit hole of – why exist?
This is my Saturday’s Stream of Consciousness – I thought I’d take a stab at it, try it out and now I’m moving on to do – DO – something (no friends available). I’m going to listen to an audio book while doing some sewing on a drizzly day. I’ll probably end up reading a book or watching a Netflix program later. But no matter what, I will try to think deep and happy thoughts.
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.
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?
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.
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
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.