Stuff and Things

G+N.pa 96-97
G+N.pa 96-97

Howdy folks. It is getting pretty exciting round these parts. I am leaving in a week. I am thrilled and anxious and a little nervous and really jazzed up and a little scared. One of my new hiking friends and i were talking a bit about fear/anxiety. I shared a thought with her. This is not my original concept, just something i have heard from many sources and that i draw strength from at times. Bravery and courage do not imply an absence of fear. To be brave, to act with courage, is to be afraid and to carry on despite your fear.

I am practicing with a few acts of bravery here in PA 🙂

G+L+N.1
G+L+N 2003

The previously endless task list is no longer endless and all the big chunks are done. There are still a few things to tend to. If you are as “particular” as i am, there are always more things to do. All the resupply boxes are packed, addressed, and ready to ship out. I have a stockpile of backup food prepared in case i need to have my mail drop angel Liz adjust my portion sizes. I have two boxes of backup gear packaged and labeled for easy identification in case stuff breaks, wears out, or i want something else once i am out there doin’ it.

I filed and paid my taxes. I enrolled in a health insurance program. I got my booster shots both for regular USA life and for almost definite international business travel that will commence as soon as i return to everyday life after the hike (Tetanus and a Typhoid booster). My car is at the doctor’s office getting a new lung so that it will be ready for my folks to use in my absence.

I got some great tent repair tools from the maker of my new tent and have patched the hole i inadvertently made in the rainfly the second time i ever set up the tent. This kit includes a very lightweight device that will preclude the same kind of incident occurring again.

My desktop since 2006
My desktop since 2006

All of that necessary surface stuff aside – there have been some interesting emotional shifts and other reflections during this time of preparation. I look back at the years of drinking and smoking and continue to wonder how and why i lived that way at all, and for so long. There are so many great benefits for me in being sober and an ex-smoker. (I can never be a non-smoker. Even if i thought that it was possible for that title to apply to a former smoker, which i do not, Bill Hicks would crawl out of his grave, join Facebook, and become my friend – just so that he could unfriend me for applying that label to myself. No one wants that.) I will be 5 months smoke free on Friday, but i don’t really feel any different. That does not make me want to smoke again. I love not smelling terrible (or at least not terrible in THAT way). Many people have commented that it should be much easier to hike now. I don’t feel that. I don’t know if not enough time has passed, or if it has more to with me just having a very large lung capacity and staying active even when i was about 40 pounds overweight. I like not smoking. I like not spending the money i used to spend on cigarettes!

The not drinking has many more tangible, immediate, and longer term effects. One of the biggest things for me is that i am not depressed anymore. After living in a constant state of at least mild depression with several rather severe swings into deeper dark places – i have not even really been sad since i quit drinking, and it feels great. Aside from an initial few weeks of changing body chemistry, i sleep so well now. I fall asleep easier and actually sleep all through the night. What a great change that is. Having good sleep alone has probably helped reshape my attitude into the happy sunny guy you all know and love those days 😉 (Yes, i used to be even grumpier. Don’t you wish you knew me then?) I am still me, still have my own ticks, and tendencies, but i let more stuff go now. I am hanging on to less. I do still bottle things inside and am far more likely to channel emotions inside to try to understand and control them rather than just letting them run free – but i am doing it less.

A final thought to keep this “brief” and not spiral into a super lengthy introspective ramble – an unexpected correlation between long distance hiking and sober time. Many guide books offer the advice that if your goal is to thru hike a long distance trail like the PCT, you have to expect some changes out there due to fires, floods, landslides, mudslides, endangered species, and other factors. However you do choose to surmount these difficulties, the key is to walk a continuous foot path from start to finish. You don’t want to have to say, “i hiked the whole PCT, except for that bit near Idyllwild because of the …”. I understood this immediately, both what they were trying to say and why it might be important, particularly in your own memory and in talking with other hikers.

My buddy
Me and Lucas at Mickey and Max’s House – 2011

I quit drinking (this time) in January of 2013, just a few days after finding out that one of my dear friends and mentors who also struggled with depression and addiction killed himself by hanging. But on April 14th, 2014, the day i will start my thru hike attempt, i will be 6 months sober. That is because i chose to drink last October. It was something of an experiment. I didn’t go crazy or shirk my duties or anything – but i did drink for several days. I am glad i did it. If only to know that i don’t need to ever run that test again. I hated it. I was so very disappointed in myself for doing it. I had to make sure that i made a few public statements about it so that i would not have a bunch of my supportive friends trying to wish me a “happy one year sober” in January of 2014 that i did not earn. I don’t declare that i have been sober for a little over a year except for that little incident in October. That would sound and feel false and wrong to me. I don’t want to have a similar thing with my thru hike. I am not a purist in the sense of “every possible mile of the PCT must be walked”. There are several alternate routes that are not mandatory, they just take you to different sites and i am really excited about hiking those paths. For me, those alternates do not break my chain of thru hiking the PCT. Skipping sections in a car or something like that – something that does break the concept of walking a path all the way from Mexico to Canada – that would violate my personal goal. So, i get what they are saying and i am on board!

I am not judging the choices others make. That is their decision and their lives. You go out have the hike that you want to have. This one is mine.

PS – i keep meaning to write about music and m/ METAL m/ but i just have not had the time. And yes, those issues are timely and hike related! My new buddy Minda and i have a lot of common musical tastes, though as of yet, she has not found any Metal that works for her and we have been talking about metal. I wanted to write a bit about it and explain what it is about Metal that appeals to me. It may not be what you think…

Anywho – be well folks.

Rock On!

PPS – i have written about my dogs throughout this blog and i am sure i will again. With the anniversary of both of them passing – Guthrey at the end of March in 2004 and Lucas 03/30/2012 – my company getting really active in the MidEast again (which happened right after Guthrey died), and me going to hike in California again (i hiked the JMT a few months after Lucas passed) it has been on my mind. I miss my buddies every single day. No day is really harder than any other. But i am feeling it quite a bit right now.

 

Yesterdays (in keeping with the recent Billie Holiday theme)

The past few days have been pretty weird.  There is a cloud of multi-flavored nostalgia following me around – sometimes it rains good memories, sometimes bad feelings, and not a few lightning storms of unresolved issues.

I sent two emails to family members to follow-up on some thanksgiving conversations.  One dealt with web design and made me think about my guys in India and my success and failures there.  Our corporate websites and domain names expired quite recently and were not renewed.  I have not really done much with any of those companies in two years, and the websites were not very good – they served more as examples of why I chose to leave than as examples to steer international customers to our shop – but it is still sad to see them go.  I do still talk with my partner Ram regularly and we still talk about and share business ideas, and I do still plan to start more companies outside the US, so you never know what may happen in the future.  The patient was on the table for a long time before anyone had the guts to call it, but the “death” of Red Bananas is still sad.

Me and RamKamal - family celebration at an employee's house
Me, Vijayraj, Ramkaml, and Govind - the birth of Red Bananas

I played some harmonica during thanksgiving which led to a discussion that revealed that a few folks did not know I played harmonica in a metal band for a few years.  So, I wrote a brief thing on being in a metal band and gave a link to the band’s MySpace page which has a few sample tracks, one of which has me playing harp. I had to find a very brief way to mention in the mail to my cousin that this MySpace site does not have my name anywhere.  Truthfully, I am not really sure why that is.  We had a very nice run together.  Things got a little tense between two of us towards the end of my run in the band, some of it musical/band related – some of it personal, but I don’t get it.  So, it just brought up memories of bad times a little more than good times trying to figure out something that I don’t think I ever could figure out.  I try to focus more on the good memories; touring, performing, bathing in creeks, cooking food in parking lots on camp-stoves, feeding XstraightXedgeX kids, coining the catchphrase we put on our business cards “…the straight edge metal band that drinks”, performing on the radio live, playing CBGB, getting to open for Sliang Laos!, and all the rest of the great shows and good times.

I have been thinking about a few cyber-reconnects with folks from the past recently.  Some are comical and fun and some can be confusing.  I have two cyber friends that one could qualify as long lost loves {the loved from afar, love your best friend, never really worked out kinda loves – not the other kind(s)}.  Sometimes it is a little tempting to drop the “so what the hell happened” bomb, but that is actually way more fun to think about (which is not a lot of fun) than it would be to do.  I have been on the other side of some somewhat similar coins, and have actually put some time into thinking how I might answer such a question as well as wondering if I should prepare and freely offer up this info, and the answers just are not fulfilling for the “injured” party.   What can anyone say: I just did not love you, I did not love you the way you loved me, I was a stupid kid and wanted some hot semi-random sex more than poetry and flowers, i did not know you cared, i did not know i was that important to you, your intensity scared me, I did not realize it was such a big deal for you, I know you think you loved me but you did not even know me, I was a big fat faker and did not really know who I was, you did not know who you were, seriously – how could you have loved me, you are great and I was in a terrible place, this is great but i learned i do not want it – take a few minutes and you can continue to fill in this list, none of the answers, even the deeply true ones, provide comfort or itch that place inside you that still needs scratching.

One of these lost loves was with a lady who did have some real problems and seems to be doing very well today.  It makes me really happy to see that, and it makes me want to say that, but I don’t have confidence that I can do it without in the end (or the middle, or near the beginning) turning it around and making it about me – or the me I was then, which by default, makes me try to make her into the her she was then, and that is (in simplistic terms) the person in the time that was having the troubles that I am supposedly so glad that they have overcome?!  And it all gets twisted and fracked up pretty quick.  So, I step away from the keyboard and just be happy from afar.

In part I bring up the “love stuff” because I did get that call recently – the “what in the hey-heck-ho-de-do happened” call and I am not entirely sure how to respond.  This kind of area is one of the only ones in which I have issues wrestling with “the truth”.  In almost every circumstance, I do believe that the truth is the best policy, if for no other reason than it gives you less stuff to remember.  But there is some distinction between leaving things out and lying, and I never know how to deal with this.  When I look back, it seems that all of my “high-minded” attempts to save someone’s feelings by hiding some of the truth did not work out too well.  But this is a different kind of thing.  I am not so much troubled by trying to obfuscate real issues to ease the blow, I am struggling to leave out stuff that is probably not useful or relevant but just hurtful (though entirely true) that I am tempted to say out of my hurt and anger.

And, I have not been in this situation for some time.  I have only really dated two people since about 2000 – one in 2006 for a few months, and one for about a year from 09-10.  There was also one brief fling in the early aughts, and one false start in a long line of false starts with a recurring love interest from high school in 04, and what could have been a complicated sticky international potentially un-requited love mash-up in 05, but – for once – I kept my mouth shut, silently loved from afar, and enjoyed the friendship.

All of these things are fogging up my brain and I am trying to figure out how to vacuum up the thoughts, send them to the right place and make room to get back to work at looking for work.  The situation is getting desperate now as I continue to run out of money and lose sanity living with my folks.  I am still on my most recently developed timetable and things can still fall in line if I manage to hold down my end and put forth appropriate effort, but like sands through the hourglass, these are the times that try men’s souls – or however that goes…

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