TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Thursday, October 15, 2020

Life is Hard

My parents ingrained many phrases into my head growing up. We were a house of phrases in fact. I could rattle off a dozen probably right now, but I won’t. Wouldn’t you know, these phrases turned out to be true. My dad for example always said, and probably will still testify that  “No Pain, No Gain.” In other words, tough it out because this, whatever this is, will make you stronger. And it takes damn hard work for gain of almost any sort – so expect pain. My mom has her phases that are just as true. One that often comes to mind is: “Haste Makes Waste.”  I heard it enough, you would have thought I’d listened. But I had to learn that haste makes waste for myself over and over again. Now that I know for a fact that haste does in fact make waste, I try to teach my students to take their time and focus, that it will save them later from having to redo whatever it was they messed up because they neglected to take their time and focus. I repeat the phrase my mother taught me to help them remember.

Calico 30k profileIn my  struggles I always look to those old sayings to see which one fits. I’d have to say that for the year 2020, I’m not really feeling the “No Pain, No Gain,” or even the “Haste Makes Waste” vibe. What I’m feeling undoubtedly is “When it Rains It Pours.” Although I started off the year at Calico which was a longtime comeback in need, it was apropos that I was sick for that race and got sicker, missing several classes as a result. (This was before the pandemic.)

BG 13.1 LOGO2I was kind of blindsided after that because things seemed to be going along smoothly by spring 2020. I had no clue that things were about to get a lot tougher. I had a good spread of classes to teach at two schools. It looked like my trails were going to open up in the near future. I had races scheduled and permits filed for Billy Goat 1/2 marathon and the Saddleback Marathon. We were getting lots of rain even in mid spring, so full creeks and green meadows were taunting us all.

I was on campus the day before spring break 2020, the last day I taught a class on campus. It was raining hard. Even with an umbrella, I was drenched by the time I made it to my truck. For some reason that image is ingrained in my mind. That was the last day I stepped onto campus. I have not been there since.

I got a lot done during those next several months working from home. I kept my hiking up, and even did some running. I had to. I had to in order to keep my sanity. Things had changed much too much for me, and slowly life began gnawing away at my courage and I began to feel weak and afraid. I hate fear. It is the worst feeling.

My country had gone crazy, adding to the pandemic, we now had riots and social unrest. I noticed friends around me going through really tough times, truly terrible times for some. Just put one foot in front of the other was my plan. I did that and even though everything seemed like it was crap, I didn’t really brace myself for the fact that it could get crappier. First it was little things (besides the no groceries on the shelves and regular pandemic stuff).  My cell phone was stolen out of my purse while grocery shopping. I drove into the wall in front of my house and destroyed my tire. My second job decided not to continue the courses I teach for the summer and fall. Fires broke out in the state. And all the national forests out here closed down. All the while, we never really opened back up in California due to COVID cases and I had to postpone both trail races.

I continued taking my own medicine by hitting the trails as much as possible during all this, even during some hot summer days. July 30 was my last hike. It was a good time (about 11 miles) and I even made a short video of it here:

My feet haven’t hit dirt since that day because right around that time my youngest son became very ill. I naturally assumed he had come down with a bug, perhaps COVID, who knew. And so, we all braced to catch whatever he had, which by the way was pretty terrible. But none of us got sick. And just when it seemed like my son was improving he would get sick again. We were seeing doctors and specialists because he couldn’t keep down anything and lost 20+ pounds in a month. Nothing else mattered at that point. I had a one-track mind, and that was his health. My shoes and packs and trail gear all got tucked away. 

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I am so grateful that I was able to teach my classes online this fall. My son was eventually hospitalized for 10 days at the end of August. I lived in his hospital room during that time and was able to work remotely. He went through many procedures before doctors finally diagnosed him with two chronic conditions of which there is no cure. There is treatment however, which is what I’ve really been focusing on these past months. All the while, social unrest continues, and the pandemic and it’s closures carry on as well. It’s been a little discouraging, and I have been actively seeking methods to conquer the terrible feeling of fear.

62207536201__CCAFA231-D335-4A24-BB2B-A24384673496When it rains it pours for sure. My computer was hacked on the hospital network and my AppleID was stolen. Back at home, my cat caught an infection as well that landed him in the vet with a handful of drugs to administer back at home. That same day, our dog ran into the prickly pear in the backyard and stabbed a spine through her throat.

I am now on the other side of all that above and it reminds me of another saying my parents used to tell me, and that is: Life is hard. Yep, it sure is. It’s joyful and so many other things, but mostly, life is hard. Oddly, I try and mimic that by climbing hills. But apparently, when life is actually hard, I don’t have the energy to do it for therapy. But it’s time now. It’s time to get back out on the trails again. I have started taking out my out my gear and have begun prepping for a trip back out again for a nice big dose of medicine. Let’s see how long it finally takes me to do it.

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