Fuck Off Into The Woods.

After my mental (and partially physical) breakdown last summer, I made a decision that I wanted to live my life on my own terms. Free from the teeter-totter of my brain’s chemical imbalance, I’ve been able to achieve more than I thought possible in the last year. Naturally, that means it’s time to push myself even more.

I’ve got goals, folks, and those goals don’t really boil down to wasting my entire life working all the time, giving my energy to companies that would replace me in a hot second if I bit the dust. I mean, of course I WILL work, because I like having a place to live and groceries are important. What I mean is, thanks to my nightly dose of happy pills (and the subsequent serotonin that lingers in the ol’ noggin), I finally recognize that my time on this earth is worth something to me. I actually give a shit what I do with it. And when I’m on my deathbed, surrounded by cats who are probably going to eat my face before I get too cold, I don’t want to look back and go, “FUCK. I wish I’d done more.”

I think about death a lot. Not in a morbid way (anymore), but more of as a vague deadline. My father’s death really rattled my cage as a kid and ever since then I’ve been hyper-aware of the brevity of life. And coming out of severe depression is almost like a rebirth in itself because that person who didn’t want to think or feel or be alive isn’t who I really am. I didn’t have the energy to do much of anything before, but now that I’m able to get out of bed in the morning without having to mentally prepare myself, my intention is to grab life right by the balls and swing it around a bit. Because life is short. Too short.

The excuses I had before for not doing shit just don’t hold up in court anymore. Want to travel. That’s expensive. Who will cover my shifts? Can’t take time off. Too risky. How about, save the money, book off the time, and go? Job won’t give you time off? Then save the money, book the trip, AND QUIT THAT HORRIFIC JOB. Want to go skydiving. Nah, I’m too heavy for the guidelines. So exercise. Eat healthy shit. Or go indoor skydiving where they have an option for us chunky folks. Too expensive. WE’VE BEEN OVER THIS, SAVE THE MONEY AND DO THE THING. What’s the point of having a job if you don’t dedicate some of those earnings to having the time of your life?! What’s the point of being alive if you’re not actually living? These are the things I’ve been yelling at myself during this year of metamorphosis.

So I’m making a bucket list. I, like everyone, have a disorganized mental list of things I’d really like to do before my spirit is digitized into the cloud or whatever. But I want a real, tangible list. Small stuff, big stuff, whatever stuff – I just want it where I can see it. And tick it off. Last summer, I was in the depths of depression and I could barely walk because of my foot problems. This summer, I’m getting off my ass and doing the things I’ve been longing to do. And hopefully some things I’ve never even dreamed of doing.

And with the nice weather FINALLY here, I’ve already gotten started. My ride-or-die best friend in the entire frickin’ universe, Steph, messaged me last weekend about possibly going on a hike on Tuesday. She’s mentioned showing me Crawford Lake in Milton a few times now, and since you can bet this ass hasn’t been on a hiking trail in the last couple decades, I was completely on board. I woke up early on Tuesday, made myself a gigantic bowl of oatmeal, packed my backpack, and met her downstairs. We drove to the park and headed off down the trail and before I knew it, I was surrounded by trees.

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I love trees. I love the woods. I love being outside and having the sun on my face and the wind in what’s left of my hair. And even more than that, I love taking a walk with a good friend and talking our heads off. I mean, I’ve got shit happening in my life, she’s got shit happening in her life, and walking in the woods while talking about your life stuff really heals the soul. Having people around you who can help push you to do more and go farther than you thought possible while also understanding you is SO FUCKING KEY. I’ve been lucky in my life to have a few incredible people cross my path, and Steph is definitely one of them. It never even occurred to me to just randomly hit up a trail in the middle of a weekday but because of her I had a fantastic time AND crossed something off my bucket list I didn’t even know was there.

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The first thing we saw along the trail was the remnants of what I assume used to be a house. Don’t bother telling me it’s not, because I’ve already invented a backstory for the witch who used to live inside it, venturing out to gather herbs and ingredients for her spells. I stepped off the trail to climb over some trees and stand inside the crumbled walls so I could take some photographs.

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I think my favorite part of our adventure was just before we decided to turn around and head back. I was sweating like a pig, my face was a hundred different shades of red, sweat was running down my back, but we had come to a vast and breathtaking ridge. We saw a couple of eagles (or was it hawks? I don’t know, I’m not an ornithologist) flying around so we stopped to catch our breath, and then I saw the perfect spot to get perilously close to the edge of the dropoff.

Steph is terrified of heights so as I picked my way over some rocks and trees, she yelled at me to be careful. I was careful, but I also really wanted to see how close I could get before fear and self-preservation took over.

My heart began to race as I drew nearer to the edge, and at this point my friend was practically caterwauling so I decided to sit down and move slightly closer. I dangled my foot over the edge and looked out over the expansive forest.

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On the way back, I managed to step in two mud puddles and Steph nearly ate shit slipping on a downed tree (I still don’t know how she managed to stay upright, unless there really ARE faeries in the woods and they caught her under the arms or something), but the trip back was just as beautiful as the trip there.

So what have I learned from my first hike through the forest?

Sometimes to clear your mind, you just need to fuck off into the woods for a while.

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Sorting out my life by writing about it.

5 thoughts on “Fuck Off Into The Woods.

  1. LOL…… you captured the entire day so perfectly Jen. I dont know how I didm’ fall in the mud either…LOL

    1. I could’ve sworn that was the end. The forest wanted to claim you. It’s like you grew a couple extra legs to catch yourself!

  2. Love this post, Jen. Love your attitude, and the photos are superb. You have a gift.

    I think about death from time to time as well…actually, death is thinking very pointedly about ME, but I subscribe to Keith Richards’ dictum: “If you’re going to kick authority in the teeth, you might as well use both feet”. Thus, the harder death pushes, the harder I push back, and I can still do a set of 60 decline pushups (slightly more than my age…just slightly).

    The thought I’ve given to death has wandered into ‘what kind of funeral will I have?’ The short answer is none; the money can be better spent elsewhere, but if you’d like a look into a thought experiment, here you go:

    https://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2018/05/your-dying-spouse-466-lets-put-fun-back.html

    And I have found a purpose in all this, that the pain I experience – and today it’s something like unto a horror movie – may be used as an offering for others. Send the pain, Lord, and remove it from someone else. I can take a bit more.

    There’s actually a formal prayer along these lines, written by Andre Zirnheld:

    I’m asking You God, to give me what You have left.
    Give me those things which others never ask of You.
    I don’t ask You for rest, or tranquility.
    Not that of the spirit, the body, or the mind.
    I don’t ask You for wealth, or success, or even health.
    All those things are asked of You so much Lord,
    that you can’t have any left to give.
    Give me instead Lord what You have left.
    Give me what others don’t want.
    I want uncertainty and doubt.
    I want torment and battle.
    And I ask that You give them to me now and forever Lord,
    so I can be sure to always have them,
    because I won’t always have the strength to ask again.
    But give me also the courage, the energy,
    and the spirit to face them.
    I ask You these things Lord,
    because I can’t ask them of myself.

    1. That is an absolutely wonderful prayer, Andrew, and thank you for sharing it with me. I’m also glad you’re still here to share your thoughts with me.

      I agree with your way of thinking when it comes to funerals – they’re hideously expensive. I’d much rather a Viking-tannerite funeral too, just blow this old body up because I’m not using it anymore. The spirit, the soul – that’s where life comes from, and this body is merely the vehicle I’m using to shuffle that soul around this mortal coil for as long as I can. After that, it’s nothing to me. Burying it in a box beneath the earth doesn’t interest me, spending tens of thousands of dollars on an ornate casket to house the body I’m no longer inside just seems silly. But people need to feel they’re honoring the person by honoring their body when really they just need to remember that person and share stories about them and keep them alive in their hearts. It’s not complicated, but like so many other things in life, we make it so.

      Even when your body gives out (and I’m really not looking forward to when that happens), it’s your thoughts and words and actions that will keep you in the hearts and minds of those around you. It’s what will keep you alive, and I will hold onto that when your fight ends. You’ll be remembered by people who never even got to meet you in this life, and I think that’s pretty amazing. Your kindness, your faith and your unwavering bravery are your legacy and I think that’s a pretty incredible legacy to have.

      I know that my life has been difficult because I’m strong enough to withstand it. I’m smart enough to take that pain and turn it into more strength. And I believe that those of us with more to carry are specifically built to carry those burdens, so that others around us who might crumble under the weight of them won’t have to bear that pain. It’s all part of the balance of the universe, because without suffering there is no joy, right? Well give the suffering to those who can withstand it so there can still be joy in the world. Not exactly fair to those who suffer, but we all prevail. Or at least we try, and that counts for something.

      I’m still praying for you, Andrew, that you stay strong and keep fighting for as long as you can. And I’m praying for Barbara as well, because she also carries a heavy load. You are both always in my thoughts. Distance is no match for friendship.

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