Embrace the Suck!

Grapeyard Ridge/Baskin Creek Trail 8/5 and 8/6, 2017

This is a term that is well known on the Appalachian Trail for thru-hikers….Embrace the Suck!  That’s because so much of the trail is hard to do, uphill, strenuous, exhausting, etc.  Well, I was reminded of this on Saturday when I started the Grapeyard Ridge Trail. Several days before the hike, I asked our fearless leader (Mr. D.)  if he thought I was capable of such a “moderate” hike as it is labeled, and he said, “The question for you is whether 7 miles with a backpack is still too much at this point? Or are you willing to go for it and see what happens?”  To me that sounded like a challenge….well, challenge accepted!  I should have known better….but wait, there’s more….

So my friend, Eventually, (this is her trail name), gets to my house to ride with me.  I am pretty excited about it, but nervous as well.  I have meticulously planned, coordinated, researched the hike, my gear, printed my permit, packed, repacked and packed my backpack again trying to cut out any extras that might save some weight because you want as light a pack as you can have.  I think mine weighed about 30 pounds which is way too heavy.  I am feeling okay about my pack when I remember I hadn’t even added my food or water to the pack….there is a few more pounds.  We get all of our stuff together and head off.

On the way to the trailhead, I am looking at my phone trying to figure out where we are going to turn when I look in my rear-view mirror and see a police officer with his lights on in the far distance.  I said, “I think he might be after me.”  Sure enough, I was speeding, but there was nowhere to pull off.  He came right up behind me and turned on his sirens now, so I pulled right over on the road, got out my license and registration and prepared myself.  I had no idea what the speed limit was.  I hadn’t been to Gatlinburg in years, and honestly I was looking at my phone at Google maps.  I know it’s wrong, but I thought I was paying attention.  He said, “Do you have any idea how fast you were going?”  I said, “No, sir.” because I didn’t know.  Well, I was going 60 in a 35!  Yup, that’s right.  I had not been pulled over by anyone in so many years, I was completely flustered and bracing myself for the worst.  I deserved it.  I even held up my phone and explained that I was looking at Google maps, not the speed limit, which is even worse.  I wasn’t going to lie to him, so there you go.  He then went into helper mode and told us where the trailhead would be and told me to have a nice day.  HAVE A NICE DAY!  I couldn’t believe it.  I haven’t even gotten to the trail yet, and I have already had so much adrenaline pumping, it was ridiculous.  I learned my lesson and drove about 20 miles per hour the rest of the way…  SOOOOO GRATEFUL!!!

So that was how I started my hike….jump forward and we get to the trailhead and I have to pee.  Well, I better get used to going in the woods for the next 24 hours so why not start now.  It wasn’t that bad, and I had meticulously planned for all types of scenarios for that as well.  All set and here we go!  It quickly breaks up into the fast group and the slow group.  Mr. D. is our trail sweep and our teacher as well, and he hikes the whole way with us, one patient step at a time.  Seven miles pretty much straight up the first day and three or so miles the next day.  It was roughly 500 feet per mile incline which is really steep (at least for me and my unconditioned legs, lungs and body), and we were hauling ourselves up there at about one mile per hour…yes, you heard correctly one mile per hour….SEVEN-ish VERY LONG HOURS LATER….we reached our destination at Campsite 32!!!  Literally thought I was going to die…seriously!!!

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Before the pain…

Now, let me paint you a little picture of those seven miles….First of all, we see a bear first thing walking off in the distance.  Then not one mile in I step in a very large pile of bear poo.  Nice.  Got so nauseated from the ascent that I nearly puked several times, got multiple charlie horses so bad that my hiking buddy had to rub my knee from spasming so badly.  Every few feet having to stop to breathe and quit sucking wind, with constant (and I mean), constant encouragement from our teacher not to quit, keep going, you can do this, I was there where you are, etc. etc.!  I was so exhausted and sore I almost cried several times.  I really ruminated about how nice it might be if I could just lay down and have a bear come drag me off and eat me.  Seriously!!!  It would be cheaper than a helicopter picking my ass off the side of a mountain, and I just didn’t care!

So seven and a half hours later, we had climbed seven miles….yes, 7 miles!!!!  OMG!!!!  I was beyond exhausted.  I was having charlie horses in my knees, legs, and ankles – yes, I said ankles.  Have you ever had a charlie horse in your ankle?  Well, it ain’t pretty!  I was dehydrated, had a headache, and I couldn’t even eat.  I laid in my tent and fantasized about being home wondering what the heck I was doing.  I couldn’t wait to get home.  I laid there for about an hour and finally started doing some stretches in my tent and got up, ate a little bit of food and drank a little water, and I started to feel a little better.  Everyone else seemed to be doing just fine and having a great time.  I just sat there and tried to think positive even though I was wondering what kind of craziness my life had spiraled into.

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My wonderful tent!

As the night progressed I started to feel even better and I finally did some yoga, took some Vitamin I (ibuprofen), and sat around an awesome campfire.  We listened to stories and adventures and it was beautiful.  We had wonderful weather, a full bright moon, and cicadas singing really loudly.  As we wound down the night, Mr. D. told us to gather round the fire for the traditional “thorns, roses, and buds”.  This is a tradition where you tell your experience of the day: thorns = what was bad, roses = what was good, buds = what you are looking forward to.  Okay, so I know what you are thinking.  But by this time, I had a little bit better attitude and some time to think and gather myself.  Thorns for me, of course, was the fact that my pack was too heavy.  I was too heavy, and I was hurting…duh…no-brainer, but the rose was the fact that I had a great teacher and an encouraging friend to help me up the mountain; to never give up, to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  And the bud was that I now knew my limits and what I needed to work on, how I need to train, and that I need to find the Middle Path.  Another thing that was really awesome was that Mr. D. said that I was his rose for the day because I didn’t give up, and I was an example of what it means to keep going even when you think you can’t.  That meant so much to me!  He said that I would be a future story to someone else who was struggling with whether or not they could do this.

So off to bed…well, literally I pretty much passed out.  I only woke up once, but I slept really well.  I woke up very, very sore.  I could hardly move.  I didn’t want to get up.  I didn’t want to eat but I did, and I tried to drink as much water as I could.  We had about 3.5 miles out of the backcountry and we were informed that the first mile out was straight up and then it would be all downhill.  All I could think about was getting home.  Oh, yeah, and I didn’t mention we had about 8-10 small river crossings…yeah! That was fun, but it just slowed me down.  I was on a mission.  I wanted to get home.  I was tired, sore and now I was hungry.

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Whooped!

We had been told that a good steady hiking pace was about three miles per hour, so I asked Mr. D. to show me what that looked like because I wanted to hit that speed at least for a few seconds on the descent.  When I finally reached that pace, I thought to myself how cool it would be if one day I could catch the fast group who I knew was probably at least 30 minutes ahead of us, but it was a fleeting thought.  The next thing I know we come to a river, and I look up and there is the fast group.  We had actually caught them based on my pace.  I was pretty excited because every time we hit a flat spot on the way down, he would encourage me to pick up my pace.  It only lasted for a few seconds, but then the fast group was gone again.  I didn’t care.  That was the highlight of my trip, and I was on cloud nine.  The rest of the way down the mountain went pretty fast, and I was never so excited to get in a vehicle and be headed home in my life.

I know it doesn’t sound like I had that much fun, and I wouldn’t say it was fun.  It was truly one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life, but the sense of accomplishment that I have is pretty great!  I know what I need to work on.  I have new goals, and I also picked up a lot of new skills for the backcountry.  Even though it was extremely difficult for me, I still want to go back.  I want to work up to that, be smarter about my hikes, reduce the pack weight, reduce my weight, and work even harder on it.  Once I make my mind up, I don’t give up easily.  I still love nature.  I still love the quietness of the forest, and I always will.  It’s my temple.

A very dear friend of mine asked me when I got back and she saw how sore I was and how hard it was for me to move, “What got you into hiking?”  I told her it was the solitude, the quiet, being in nature, and just really getting away from it all, and that still holds true.  I love it back there.  And the more I do it, the better I will get.  To me, the mountain is a metaphor for so much of my life…life is hard.  It is a lot of uphill with bumps, twists, turns, roots, rocks, snakes, bears, and so much more.  It hurts and sometimes you want to quit and give up, but I don’t.  And when you reach your destination, what you have accomplished feels so good, makes you feel stronger, and lets me know that I am way more capable of things than I think I am.  This is the mountain.  This is life!  This is hiking, and that’s why I Embrace the Suck!

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NEVER GIVE UP!!!

New Chapter….Less Fear

I know that a lot of people make resolutions, come up with goals and think about how the new year is going to be different, and I am no exception.  I am not big on the word “resolution”, but I have always been one to set goals for myself, and when I really put my mind to something, much of the time I will accomplish it.  I have been this way my whole life.  2017 is no different for me in that regard except for a few little things….I am going to try to have less fear in this new chapter of life, and what I mean by that is I am going to try to do things that are even more authentic from my heart.  I always talk about writing more, blogging more, writing a book, speaking my mind more, but I have been holding back in these areas of my life because of fear; fear of what people might think.  Don’t get me wrong, I still care what people think to some extent, but as far as holding me back from actually putting stuff out there, I am going to strive not to do that anymore.  I just want to write for me.  I like to write in my own style with no preconceived notion of how it should turn out.  I like the idea of keeping record of my life.

I am at a stage in life where I am starting to think about what I will leave behind, what my kids will have to look at when I am gone, what my grandkids will read about their grandmother.  I like the idea of my great, great grandkids looking through some of my journals and thinking it was awesome that she wrote that stuff down.  I love the idea of one of them seeing some of my art and wanting to at least have it even if they don’t hang it up…haha…

I am not going to write with the idea of becoming rich and famous.  I am not naive to the fact that won’t happen, but I do love the idea of leaving something behind, logging my life, remembering the fun moments, and learning from the hard ones.

I was glad to see 2016 close!  It was such a difficult year on many levels for me, and I usually don’t care about watching the new year come in, but there was something to it this year for me.  I had to stay up long enough to see it end.  There was so much pain in 2016 for me personally, but I made it through with the help of my family and friends, and I am so grateful to know just how strong the human spirit can really be.

And there were some really wonderful moments in 2016 as well that were monumental like the birth of my first grandbaby, Emmitt!  He is so absolutely precious, and when he lights up when he sees me, well, its intoxicating.  My cheeks actually hurt when he leaves from me smiling so much.  We had some really great family times this year as well, and I have learned what it’s like to be free again…not just free in relationships, but freedom of the mind, freedom to think freely and openly and do what feels good to my heart as well.

2017 is hopefully about being gentle, loving more, doing good, writing, artwork.  It’s about Ashtanga yoga, retreats, nature, and breathing.  It’s about knowing that when tough times hit (and they will), that I can handle it.  It may be difficult, but I will survive it.  I have survived 100% of everything so far.  It’s about being flexible, being kinder and more patient with myself and my heart.  Becoming MY own best friend, nurturing my internal spirit of creativity, quiet and peace.  It’s about continuing to strive to be the best mother and grandmother, sister, and friend that I can be.  It’s about love…love for myself, my family and those I encounter.  And when I fail, slip or fall down, it’s about knowing that I am human, forgiving myself, and just being grateful for every day that I wake up and am given the opportunity to try to do it all over again.

If you have come into my journey at any time, thank you for being a part of it.  If you are still a part of my journey, then know how grateful I am for it and how deeply I care for you.  I look forward to making 2017 a year of calm, peace, gratitude, and taking care of me.  We all deserve peace and love in this world, and a lot of it depends on us.  It depends on me.  I can only lose what I cling to, and sometimes moving forward means I have to shut the door behind me.  Hopefully I closed it tight at midnight 12/31/16.

May peace and love be with all of you in 2017.

 

 

Off the Grid…What is it?

Okay…so I am one of those tree-hugging, hippie, vegan types who dreams constantly of living in a tiny house or cave off the grid.  I know to some of you that may seem a little weird…well, maybe a lot weird, but I have always loved the idea of being away from the rat-race, the daily grind, the responsibilities, the noise that we are forced to be in every day because of societal norms..in other words…..THE MATRIX! 

I am constantly trying to figure out ways to live more sustainably, use less, create a minimal environment that is relaxing and Zen and quiet.  I don’t watch TV.  I recycle.  I get rid of “stuff” all the time or repurpose things to make them useful again.  I am learning about going plastic free.  I vegan-ized my closet/home as much as possible.  The other day I read an article about an 88-year-old woman who has always lived off the grid, doesn’t have running water, cooks outside, makes her own soap, grows her own food, and lives in the house that her grandfather built!  It has no electricity, and she is very happy.  This is how I imagine living.  She even made her own robes!  A woman after my own heart!!!!  Righteous!!!

This 88 Year Old Women Lives Alone & Completely Off The Grid...

Now, I know this is not practical (probably).  I have a young son who has grown up on video games.  I have a grown child with a grandbaby who would probably never visit me if I lived off the grid.  (Incidentally, when he was little I seriously contemplated living in a commune in a hay bale house…no joke!)  However, being a single mom with bills means I have to have a job which I am so grateful for.  I don’t have a garden anymore, and I wouldn’t be typing on my blog if I lived off the grid because I wouldn’t have a computer.  I get it.  I can’t live in a cave or in a mountain hideaway, but I can come as close as I can, right?

Well, you would think so, but last night while talking to my Great Teacher, (Only Love Zen Sangha) while meeting him for my weekly Zen teaching he asked me what my dream way to live would be.  I recited something like the above aforementioned information.  I said it in a very exasperated voice like “I know.  I will never be able to live like this.”  I will constantly be forced to deal with the fact that I have to work to pay bills and put food on the table.  It’s like a vicious cycle that I will never be able to get out of.”  He laughed (which he does sometimes when I go on my tirades) and said — are you ready for this? — He said, “You already live off the grid, and you can live off the grid any time you want to!”  I looked perplexed I am sure.  He said, you can live off the grid in your mind any time you want to.  Every time you don’t do the norm or live by the rules of the “Matrix”, you are living off the grid.  You can choose to take the “red pill” any time you want and wake up.  But taking the red pill (like in the movie The Matrix) doesn’t guarantee that you will have it easier because you are awake.  It just means you will be awake.  Here is what Wikipedia says about the red pill and the blue pill in the movie, The Matrix…

“You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” The term red pill refers to a human that is aware of the true nature of the Matrix.”  Said by Morpheus to Neo… (I love this movie…seriously..love!)

So this is one of those a-ha moments.  It was one of the greatest things I had ever heard.  I have spent a lot of time pining away for what I thought I could never attain.  However, I failed to look at what I am doing and what I can choose to do any time I want to.  I can create or manifest what I want any time I want to.  Every time I choose not to listen to what society thinks I should do, anytime I don’t buy the latest fad, every time I make a choice that is better for the environment or the animals or mankind, I am living off the grid.  Every night when Ezra and I turn off all electronics, shut off the lights and sit by candlelight before bed and just breathe I am living off the grid.  The Matrix wants me to be a robot, wants me to be dumbed down by their politics, negativity and anger.  Well, every time that I don’t oblige the media or whoever decides that today this is what I must have or buy or learn about, then I am living off the grid.

Living “off the grid” is a choice, but it doesn’t have to be in a physical sense.  It can be in the mind, in the heart, in my wild woman spirit.  I can manifest all the off-the-grid stuff in my life that I want to.  I can invite like-minded people to be a part of my life and my circle.  I can make choices that my family would be proud of.  I can choose not to join the masses of people who fuel the fires of dualism.  I can choose to make healthy choices for me and my family that don’t have anything to do with the Matrix.  I can continue to aspire to learn to love even when things or people are unlovable.  I can keep trying.  I can keep going, and I can never give up.  This is the red pill.

And when all else fails, I can go outside without my phone, light up the fire pit, make vegan s’mores, sleep in my tiny camper, and live off my grid just for a little bit.  Today I choose the red pill!  (okay…now picture Neo doing that Matrix thing where he avoids the cyber bullets and bends backwards…that’s me, and if you don’t know what I am talking about, you really need to watch The Matrix.)  Peace and love, Everyone!

Emmitt

So on May 25th, 2016, at 6:39 p.m. my world got even fuller.  My grandbaby, Emmitt, or as he is also known as (My G-baby, my Squishy baby, Grunty Baby or “him’s the tootest!”) was born!  Words really can’t describe what it’s like to be a Grammie, but I’m going to try.  He is the perfect blend of my son, Ethan, and his momma, Ashley.   They are great parents who love that little one so much!  They are handling their new roles like champs and with a great deal of ease, maturity, and poise.  I am so proud of them.  You know, it’s such an amazing thing to have children, to know that “this little human” is a part of you, but then when you get handed your grandbaby, well, that is a whole new level of life and awesomeness!!!  It’s legacy!  It’s spectacular!  I didn’t really know what that love was until that moment.  I remember getting the text from my son saying he was here, and I could come upstairs to see him for the first time.  I literally jumped up out of my seat and yelled in the middle of the hospital lobby.  It’s surreal.  The absolute two best days of my life happened on October 24, 1993, and October 20, 2005, when MY two babies were born.  But now I get to add a third best day, May 25, 2016.  Ten pounds, 14 ounces and 23 inches of the sweetest, most precious, most cuddly, preciousness ever!  I already have my next tattoo planned!  I love you, Emmitt!

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Legacy

Today is the first Mother’s Day without my mother here on earth.  It’s a surreal kind of feeling, and I always am wondering where she is.  I don’t have a belief in anything in particular after life because I haven’t been there to know, but I feel like somehow she is around in some way.  I have always looked at my children as MY legacy, but today I am thinking about my mother’s legacy, and me and my sister are a part of HER legacy.  We both have characteristics of our mother such as strength and determination.  When she set her mind to do something, you best get out of her way, and I loved that about her.  I think Angela and I have that same drive!  Her legacy lives on in me and my sister but also in my children and my soon-to-be grandson…  This morning I was thinking about her and I decided to hang some fabric that was hers in my kitchen.  She loved to decorate, and I do as well.  There is definitely a hole that she used to fill that is now somewhat empty, but it will never be completely empty as long as her memory and her legacy live on in us and our family.  If she is able to know anything about her girls right now, it’s that we are a part of her that lives on.  I am grateful that she gave me life, a life that I am trying to live to the fullest and to the best of my ability!  Thank you, MOM!