An emotional upgrade

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Lake of the Pines at dusk.

Adam and I visited Oshkosh and saw a lot of good friends this past weekend. On the way back home to Phillips, I drove. As the sun started to slowly drop behind the trees and hills it lit up the world in golden hues coming in from the west. To the north, where we were heading, the sky was still a pale blue. It was the calm, quiet kind of blue that doesn’t even really seem like a color yet. I let my glance turn upward through the windshield of the car, following the clear blue until it turned into a deeper, solid color. Whispy strips of clouds streaked across the sky horizontally in their silent, still wonder, all the while glowing in bright coral and pink. A smile crept onto my face, I shifted in the car seat with my gaze forward, and a calm feeling spread throughout my body like a much-needed sigh. I was settling back into place – and not just in my car seat, but my world.

I don’t really know what brought this on, because it seems like it just hit at a really random time. I started thinking about the last couple of months as I watched the world go by at 65 mph, and I was really close to seeing really clearly… seeing just how much of a cloud I was in. It felt like I was suddenly getting feeling back after being numb all over. I don’t think I had any idea how to feel what I wanted to feel after the hike was over, so I just allowed myself to exist as simply as I could for a while. I was wanting to hold on to my PCT mindset as long as I could, and it was frustrating to realize how difficult that was to do. This is why I always want to go back… right now. I want that feeling of being a part of that trail again – not just physically walking the trail, but being one with the experience mentally. Over the last month and a half I’ve been unknowingly letting it fade. That makes me feel really sad. However, with the thought of my future plans coming into mind as I thought of all this, there was a sort of convergence and it felt… good. I was surprised. I will strive to always carry that trail mentality, though… at least a little bit. I learned a lot on that hike, and it’s become a part of me that I don’t ever want to let go – things like patience, observation, relaxation, prayer, a quiet mind and mental comfort. I will hopefully carry that into every new day. And I hope to one day get back out there and do it again. In fact, I live for that dream. I always will. But as I’ve said before, one adventure at a time!

The good news here is that I seem to have had an emotional upgrade since the last time I wrote. I feel good. I don’t feel like I’m completely together yet, as I know there are still a few things I need to work through, but this was a huge step in a good direction. I’m thinking more and more about truck driving school, and I’m getting excited to invite an intense, structured schedule into my life for a little while. In early April of 2014 Adam and I should be pretty much free to roll. I am looking forward… and not just to January 20 when I start classes, or April of 2014 when we can start making some big miles in a semi truck, but even further. It’s good. Just really, really good.

While I was going through that “numb” stage, trying to figure out where I was emotionally, it wasn’t hard all the time – I was still having some fun. It really was a bit of a roller coaster, so when I was feeling good, I tried to hang on to it, and when I was feeling blue, I tried to walk it off. I never really knew if I was doing the best thing I could for how I was feeling, but I figured the best thing I could do was to just keep… doing. I’ve taken long road walks from 8 to 12 miles, trail hikes from 6 to 12 miles, runs anywhere from 2 to 6 miles, walks with my mom, had dinners with family, a fun Halloween, a quick visit to a nearby casino, and most recently, I’ve been getting ready for hunting season. I was able to sight in my rifle with my dad and uncles Jerry and Kenny, and yesterday we found the trees we’re going to sit in for opening weekend. And tonight it’s snowing! Perfect! On Saturday I begin a week of sitting and wandering in the woods for hours on end. That just sounds… great.

So I suppose each day, for now… I will remember back and move forward and see if I’m able to hang on to this new clarity.

Here’s a few photos from my, uh, mini adventures… from the last month or so.

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An early morning walk through my hometown, quiet and peaceful.

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Coffee break with my mom on one of our hikes near home.

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Enjoying my parent's back yard during a beautiful sunset.

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After a great jog with Marley, my aunt Beth and uncle Kenny's dog.

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One of our first snowfalls... and a nice 8-mile walk.

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Halloween!

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An incredible frosted world. Everything had these long, icy spikes all over.

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More frost.

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A happy dance for being outside!

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Brrr!

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Hike.

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The setting sun during a walk.

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Emotions, ugh!

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My scene during a long road walk that matches my mood lately.

I’m not really sure how to explain it, but it seems as though I’m suffering from the late onset of post-hike roller-coaster emotions. I suppose I’ve been on a crazy high since getting home, and I also suppose I knew that it would eventually fade a little. I wish it didn’t have to. It was so exciting to see everyone when I first got back, and I was so determined to keep hiking in my life as much as I could since I’m not working for a few months. I could stay in shape, stay in touch, keep the memories fresh and stay strong mentally. However, over the past few days I’ve felt a slight depressive knot kind of grow inside of me, and it’s clouding my motivation and bringing me down from that awesome high I’ve been on since last March. It is fading, dangit, and that’s kind of a bummer.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I’ve got a lot of cool stuff to look forward to and I haven’t forgotten that, but it’s still tough to push though with these bugs that eat away at me on a day-to-day basis. One of the biggest things that is certainly not helping is my being so hard on myself. I need to stop. What happens is I start telling myself that I should be stronger after enduring a 6-month thru-hike. I should be so mentally strong that I can take on anything thrown at me and bat it away with a flick of my finger and a smirk on my face. I was angry at myself for a couple of days because I struggled to get my buns outside for a run or a hike. Since I’m not working yet, I’ve got several days of no plans strung in a row. Shouldn’t I want to just be outside, doing as much as I can as often as I can? Shouldn’t I be hanging on to my hiker’s high as long as I can? How could this have faded so quickly? Wait a second… don’t I really LOVE to hike? To be outside? What the heck is wrong with me? Something has got to be wrong… but what is it?

Well, maybe nothing. Maybe I just need to stop being so hard on myself, or maybe I can try to harness some of this anger and use it to my advantage. Maybe I can get stubborn. I’m not exactly sure what I might do with it yet, but for today I will try to deal with these crazy emotions by throwing it all out here, in words, while trying to sort it out instead of letting it stew.

To my family and friends at home, please don’t take offense to this, because I would be a total mess if it weren’t for you and your company, but I’m lonely. I miss my trail family. I miss having people around me that understand the trail me. All of us as thru-hikers have been asked why we wanted to thru-hike, and most of us can’t really put our finger on it, or have a hard time coming up with an explanation that feels satisfactory. It’s like there just aren’t words to answer it, but when we’re out on that trail together, we just know. It’s an unspoken understanding, and I think that’s a big part of what turned us into such a special family. We were all brought together on this particular trail at a particular time in our lives, all with a common goal, and together for six straight months we shared smiles, struggles, laughter, pain, and genuine happiness throughout it all.

I’m trying so hard to sort through these feelings, and explain through words how I’m feeling and what it’s like to miss the great adventure I’m still coming down from, but it can’t really be described. But I can guarantee you that if I were sitting down with any of the people I hiked with this year, all it would take is a certain look, and they would respond with a confident, “I get it.” It’s just hard to explain. Pretty soon my emotions will level out and I will feel like I blend back in with regular society. The highlights from my PCT hike will be placed in a special place in my heart and mind to recall whenever I need a smile, and I can continue forward into my next adventure… all the while secretly wondering when I might be able to hike another long hike. It’s going to be a constant thought, forever, even though I might not talk about it. It’ll always be there.

I’m sure a lucky girl. I have all of these confusing feelings because of something really special. It’s because of a very unique experience filled with many amazing people, and I am so incredibly lucky to have all of that in my life. Maybe this loneliness isn’t a bad thing, but instead, maybe it’s something to feel happy about. Maybe it’s just a way to always remember and work towards staying in touch with those that I am so lonely for.

It does help to write about it and try to organize some of my feelings, so if you’re still reading, thanks for hanging in there with me! Now I’m going to work on not forgetting or ignoring any of it, but kind of riding it along until things level out. Next time I’ll be able to talk a little more about the fun stuff I’ve been doing and focus on some of the things I’m looking so forward to! Yup, I’m gonna take these emotional struggles, bat them away with that flick of my finger and a quirky smile on my face. I can still do that, right?

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Post-run... battling the blues the best way I know how.


Tonight I love blue sky. It’s been hiding out most of the time since I’ve been home, but when it shows itself, I’m sure to look up and feel thankful that it’s there. In fact, it’s there right now. I think I’ll go for a run.

I want to wake up outside

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I’ve been having some random daydreams and thoughts when I think back on all I’ve experienced this year. Some are a little dramatic, and may seem a little cheesy, even, but they make me feel relaxed, so I try to just let them take over my mind for a while.

It can feel as if there is a gentle song playing in my ears, and I can let these daydreams run away with my attention. Those dreams land me in a mystical place where I always belong. It’s so comfortable.

This one started with the word “want.” Oh, want, want, want…

I don’t want money. I want shelter, food and water.

I don’t want diamonds. I want winking stars and moonlight.

I don’t want a bouquet of cut long-stem roses. I want wildflowers growing along the edge of a path, leading me somewhere. Anywhere.

I don’t want the biggest, latest plasma tv. I want a series of vistas that I work hard to see and stories of what I encountered to get there.

I don’t want a big, cushy recliner. I want the perfect rock to lean against, a divet in the dirt that fits my butt just right and maybe an old decaying log to prop my feet up on.

I don’t want make-up and perfume. I want dirt under my fingernails and the scent of pine, sage and an occasional patch of wild blueberries swirling around me.

I don’t want expensive, aged wine. I want to dip an overly-used bottle into a crisply cold mountain stream or trickling spring.

I don’t want cars and the hum of city life. I want crickets, birds, frogs, wind in the leaves, footsteps on the earth and the silence of the forest.

I don’t want schedules. I want simple. I want what’s there. What’s always been there. It’s simple and it’s all natural. It’s reliable. It’s peaceful, private, and personal. It’s a place to melt every sense I have into one giant organic orb of being. To just be.

I want to be outside. I miss it… I miss being outside. Every day. All day. Moving, seeing, experiencing, struggling, loving, feeling, being as alive as I can feel in the most naturally comfortable way possible.

I don’t want to sleep indoors ever again. I want to feel a bite from the cold air on my face after I peek outside from the warmth of my sleeping bag. Every single day. I want to wake in the darkness of early morning, stars still twinkling above. I want to walk, silently and carefully as the natural light slowly brings my path into view. I want to watch the sky wake up with me in pastel colors and diminishing shadows. I want light breezes to carry me along when I feel tired. I want the flowers to smile at me and the mountains to invite me in. I want to climb into their mysteriousness – to immerse myself in their beautiful secrets. I want to surround myself with the air of desolate nature.

Every single day, I want to wake up outside.


Tonight I love knowing what that daydream feels like. I feel incredibly thankful for that.

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Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!

With love,
Toots Magoots
(Robin Grapa)