Saturday, May 30, 2015

Thin

The girl stood at her desk, shifting uncomfortably. Her friend looked over from the next cubical.

"How are you today?" the friend asked.

"Ok. I feel a little tired. I think I need to eat something," the girl said. This last admission was made with what was not quite embarrassment, but definite sheepishness. And perhaps a little guilt.

"Oh," said the friend, looking annoyingly blank. "Well, why don't you eat something?"

The girl rolled her eyes, like isn't that obvious. "Well," she said with an expression indicating if you're really going to make me say it, "it's so I can be more thin."

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Back

"I feel like myself again," I said.

"Which is what?" asked the psychiatrist.

"I feel good, I feel happy. Sometimes I think, hey, maybe the depression won't come back."

She looked at me, head tilted, pen poised over paper. She gave a wry smile that wasn't really a smile.

"It'll come back," she said.

~~~

The little girl had a pencil 
and found that whatever she wrote about, she became

So she wrote about being brave
And being strong, steadfast, and true

She wrote about mysteries and adventures
Through foggy swampland and desolate forests 

Over craggy mountaintops and wind-whipped deserts
Where she, the valiant heroine would press on 

Despite threats to her mortality, to her body and soul 
Nothing could harm her 

For she was embodied with a magical power 
That burned from within 

And it could never be extinguished
Not with the wind from ten thousand mountains 
And the torrents from ten thousand storms.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Trail Children

I was hiking purposefully on the John Muir Trail one early morning last August, not purposefully because I had anywhere in particular to be (I didn't), but because the wind was blowing relentlessly. I did not mind the wind and actually felt it was warranted, given that I was on my way home after a failed hike. I had been intending to leave it all on the trail but was returning home early, miles short, so any hardships faced at this point were well deserved and would be absorbed without flinching.

I had camped near Marie Lakes and was now headed northeast towards Donohue Pass. Like everything on the trail, the night had been a mix of discomfort and a sort of simple bliss. I had trembled violently in my bag, barely sleeping as the winds whipped through my campsite, yet I had reveled in it as I wondered when I would next be back in this place, feeling bitterly cold but also achingly, vividly alive. It would not be soon enough.

As I was descending Donohue Pass half-frozen, I came across a family of four just coming out of their tent. They looked tentative but agreeable enough and amply prepared for a morning of hiking, but what surprised me was the size and relative youth of the two children. The oldest looked smaller than my youngest, who was 5. As I talked with the parents, I learned that the children were 3 and 4.

I imagined having my own two children out in those surroundings. The idea baffled and astounded me, seemed outrageous and foreign. Yet, I could see how it was doable. The parents told me how they had huddled in their tent for warmth and that the night had not been easy, but they had survived. They were excited for the opportunity to get out of their tent now and look around. They were headed to Tolumane Meadows, about 10 miles away. This was a simple enough downhill hike and the canyons and streams made for idyllic views, but as I once again thought of my own kids in that situation, I marveled at the distance.

I pulled ahead of them after a short while but got enough of a glimpse to see all four family members moving steadily and making good progress down the trail. I even had to hurry and stay organized at some junctions to make sure they didn't catch me, much to my mortification.

My family is not like that family, but I like thinking about that family as a reminder of how it can be when you introduce your children to the trail at a very early age. My kids got started at a much older age, and I still struggle to involve them in camping and trail running, truth be told. I recognize there is no forcing it. We have certainly had our share of spectacularly unsuccessful attempts.

There was the one time I tried to take the kids hiking at a popular local spot known as Chantry Flats. We got off to a late start, so had to park further from the trail as the parking lot was full and all the closer spots were taken. We parked the car and started hiking towards the trail head, but it was a hot day and a winding asphalt road, and by the time we had actually reached the starting point, both children were threatening a mutiny the likes of which I had never seen. At one point Caden (then 4-5 years old) actually sat on the wall and refused to go any further, which I responded to by saying a few things I wasn't proud of - suffice it to say, it was not my most graceful morning.

I thought it was best for all involved that we give up the attempt (still without ever even making it to the trail head), head back to the car, and live to hike another day - but it was a pretty discouraging first try.

Then there was the time I tried to get the kids to hike up the Echo Mountain Trail. My thinking was that they would love the views of the city if only I could manage to get them on higher ground... but there was the rub. The "getting them on higher ground" - well, they just weren't interested. We went perhaps an eighth of a mile before their whining and complaining got the better of me, and I relented - and as they ran back to the car, they went fast enough to look like trail runners, I can tell you that much. Oddly enough, I didn't find that comforting.

Despite these defeats and others, we stuck at it, and we did make progress. I figured if I kept exposing the kids to trails, hiking, and running, something would have to catch. At some point there would be a feeling. There would be an acceleration. There would be a relaxation, a quickening, or an understanding. There would be an experience. And it would be a good one.

And we have had those experiences. When we expose ourselves to trail running and being outdoors, even fleetingly, I see my kids having those moments. It happens when they charge up the hills so they can run madly back down, or zoom down a single track because they like the way it feels like a roller coaster. When we determine that we will reach a certain tree or a certain hilltop so we can see what's on the other side, or simply so we can hoot that we conquered that incline.

And what has been our mileage? Nothing to write home about, not anywhere close to 10 miles, surely. Maybe 2 or 3 on our longest hikes. More often, they are less than a mile. But they are happening willingly.

Our latest outing was this weekend, taking my boyfriend's dog to the park. I didn't utter the words "let's go hiking." I didn't set out with a plan, other than to get the kids and the dog in the general vicinity of a trail, then see what happened. Then I gave it a simple, "Hey, let's go up there."

"Ok," the kids said. Quick as a wink, they were up the trail. Running. Climbing. Hiking. Running some more. When my daughter tired, I handed the dog over to her, as I could feel he was pulling - he did the same with her, making it easier (and more fun) for her to climb the trail. My son clambered ahead. He was barefoot, which is what finally slowed him down - when he reached a section on the trail that was strewn with tiny pebbles, that gave me a chance to catch up to him.

"We could climb Mount Everest," he said by way of casual conversation.
"That would be amazing," I said.
"Mount Everest is the tallest mountain, and it always will be - that's why they call it ever-est. Because it will be that way forever."
I think of the recent earthquake in Nepal, and how this reportedly caused the mountain shrink by one inch. I decide this is not worth introducing. "Yes, there is none taller."

Caden is silent, focused on his climbing. Then he speaks. "I'm 49 pounds."

This is the extent of the conversation. Throughout it all, there was not one word of complaint. The day was warm, the trails were steep, but not one time did I have to force participation. And there was spontaneous, joyous running.

Those are the associations I am trying for here, these are the memories I am trying to make. We don't need to move or conquer mountains, do 10, 5, or even 2-3 miles in a single day. But we should be enjoying ourselves.

Caden this weekend - up, up, up
More up
Sevilla and Willie heading down

If I can keep getting my kids outside on the trail, keep building these positive associations, the minutes and mileage will follow. They will naturally want to go or climb further. Or maybe they won't. But at least I will have exposed them to a world and a pastime that is of value and they will remember, even if it's later when they are older and looking for ways to fill their time or capture their focus.

Positive associations, not big miles. The miles will follow. For now we will focus on the smiles, and the sheer joy of running.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Next on deck: 200 miles

I'm going to be running 200 miles this week! Or as my kids would say, "So what."

I have run at the Born to Run event for the last four years - 100k in 2011 and 2012, then 100 miles in 2013 and 2014. This year it will be 200 miles.


The course consists of a 10-mile pink loop and a 10-mile yellow loop - do both of these 10 times consecutively to claim the 200 mile finish.

Featured Cartoonist: Jared Roselló


A cartoon by Jarod Roselló - Jared is a Cuban-American teacher, cartoonist, and writer, and you can see his website here. I like some of his more recent stuff featuring the Well-Dressed Bear. I would probably like some of his not-so-recent stuff as well, only I haven't scrolled back that far.

I found Jared's website when a Tumblr I follow posted the cartoon below. Seeing this carton helped me realize that depression is an infliction that affects many people, seemingly striking for no reason. For some reason this made me feel better. Perhaps it was the realization that it was not only happening to me. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Chapters

True to form, I have been feeling so optimistic recently I have been downplaying the potential intensity of any oncoming low moods.

Surely, I think, they won't be that bad ever again! I mean gosh, I'm really feeling much better. This whole medication thing is a terrible idea. Completely out of proportion. Not even sure why I would still go see a doctor; it seems like a waste of everyone's time.

We'll see, the more reserved me says patiently (if a little dryly) in the background.

I will still see the psychiatrist this upcoming Saturday, and if she gives me a prescription I will hold it tight in my sweaty little hands and either fill it right away or wait to fill it - we will see.

In the meantime, I've been focusing more on pursuing my life's purpose and doing things I actually enjoy doing, versus things that feel like a waste of time and leave me empty or feeling like crap. It's the most novel idea.