Tag Archives: pain

What I owe

I’m healing, though more slowly than I’d like. When I’m active, I’m happy. Even when I’m reading or writing, my head is active. Not being able to do what I want is another kind of trapped for me, but at least I know the reason for it and can measure progress.

Yesterday I watched the sky and heard the birds and thought I would like to do a section hike as soon as I can trust my feet again. Only this time I will stop and be part of what’s going on instead of feeling the pressure to simply keep moving. And knowing I will be home after a few days should keep me from closing up like I did on the Trail. I hope.

I still don’t really understand what was happening to me out there. I know eating became harder and harder. Even when I was in town, I could only eat  a little at a time. My body wanted to reject everything. On the trail, eating became an ordeal, a fight that left me frightened and resigned at the same time.

Was this me letting go? I thought of everyone, everything, every unfinished conversation, project, relationship. I struggled with painful homesickness when I remembered my peaceful little house and Max and Annie. They moved restlessly through my thoughts. I wondered if Max was still checking the house for my return. I missed them horribly. I cried while I walked, thinking of all the things I’d done-or not done-to be where I was. I walked every day in pain, searching for something. The woods were no longer the sanctuary they had always been for me. I felt nothing but the pressure to walk and walk and walk. I struggled to interact with the people I met along the way, even though I did enjoy a few conversations, wantd to be part of the relationships I saw developing sometimes. I watched and listened and marveled at the conversations between strangers. People smiled at me and welcomed me into this trail family. Eventually oerwhelmed, I became less and less capable of socializing.

So many days I walked without seeing a soul until I neared the  shelter. I listened to conversations and realized lots of hikers walked alone, all day. Maybe that’s why they gravitated toward each other with such eagerness at campsites. I didn’t want to camp alone for safety reasons, but felt OK lying in my tent on the fringes, listening to people talking and laughing. It didn’t comfort me exactly, just assured me that there would be help if I needed it. Other hikers felt the same, I’m sure.

Closing off, shutting down, were not what I expected to experience on the trail. Just the opposite, in fact. I’d hoped the walking, the solitude, would help me open up, help me see things in a calmer way, help me understand myself and the people in my life. What I understood between the pain and the nausea, was that I was losing any purpose I might have. I felt no reason to keep walking, or anything else.

I decided that besides losing the joy I had always felt outdoors I was also losing the ability to feel anything. I told myself I owed my brother money and that  he deserved repayment of that money, as well as my gratitude for caring about me when I no longer did. One day I stopped walking, saying out loud “I hate this!” and decided to leave the trail.

I’ll pay Johnny back as soon as I can spend days on my feet again (I am meeting my next assignment tomorrow) and plan my next section hike as soon as I get my life on a schedule of sorts. Even though living in Mars Hill is a terrible struggle in the winter and gas is so expensive, I may go back to my little house because that’s where Max is. Being there with Max and Annie again is what I want right now, more than anything. Beyond that, I still don’t feel connected, just obliged. I need to pay Johnny back because he is generous and tender and feels more than I ever did. This makes me regard him with a kind of awe. And I want to deserve his caring.

It’s odd, this whole “why do it?” thing that goes through my head all the time. I watch and listen and wonder why do they bother? My romantic relationships are like old movies now. I can play them in my head and remember that I was in love, that I felt joy and excitement and anticipation and disappointment and pain. I laughed and cried and touched his face, smelled the scent of his skin after we made love and felt my heart jump when I heard his car in the drive. But they are memories washed clean now. Nothing moves inside me when I remember. It is not so hard to keep my life uncomplicated now.

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His wife died

She died yesterday. His wife has been sick for a while, and we all knew it would be soon. Friends offer comfort, using the same phrases we have all used “I’m so sorry” “She’s not suffering now” “You’re in our prayers.”

Everyone means well and what else can they say? I wonder, as he nods and shakes hands, or accepts the endless casserole dishes, if he wishes they would all leave him alone?

I watch the delicate ballet of people moving slowly, the way people do when they get up at night, trying not to wake rest of the household. They are being considerate and kind, and he knows it. It’s all they can do, really, and he knows that, too.

I’m grateful that the usual things are happening for him. Things he can count on, tradition, ritual, expected words and gestures. I know that soon he will be catching himself walking oddly, alone instead of in tandem with her. He’ll throw away countless pots of coffee before he remembers he only needs to make enough for one. How many browning bananas will he throw into the compost pile before he changes the grocery list he’s been using for years?

How long before his friends begin urging him to “get out,” a euphemism for “find someone new.” Will he decide to keep learning the rules of solitaire- living alone?

I, too, am glad she is no longer suffering, but I feel the usual disconnect. This is another experience I won’t have.

My break-ups were devastating. But they were the result of betrayal, abandonment, not the natural progression of life, which is death. After the last, I made a conscious decision to stop trying to do something at which I obviously sucked. I chose to be alone. Now, after several years, I’m poor but man, I could teach a class in Living Alone and Loving It.

I’m not glad that this is something I’ll never know, like childbirth or having health insurance. This is just an observation.

And I’m really looking forward to getting on the Trail.

dragons

Dragon

You swooped low to claim me,

All scales and claws,

Glittering eyes

And whiplashed tail.

We flew together

Into a velvet night,

Shrieking stars

And lightless moon,

Leaving my breath on the ground.

Too soon, too soon,

Your talons relaxed,

The fire you breathed

Toward some other

Lost and desperate soul.

I fell and fell,

Sharp night wind

Screaming in my ears,

To an endless,

Silent earth.

JOY

Joy sits quietly,

Waiting for an opening

Then moves swiftly

Toward the blue sky

Of the soul.

Joy is small, compact

Taking up little space,

Expanding as far

As the heart can reach.

Joy does not come,

It is already there,

Built in, only needing release,

Letting out the clutch

To race and soar

Over the next

And every horizon.