On Curve Balls, Stoicism, and Inevitable Death

I spent this afternoon communicating with my mother through questions, charades, and hand gestures. She cannot currently read anything I write here, and I learned a new word today. “Alexia.”

The stroke occurred sometime around my birthday, the second now in a four month span. She was hospitalized in between for dizzy spells, which resulted in her right-side carotid artery being cleared. The last time I spoke with her on the phone, she had a Freudian-slip of sorts, explaining to me that she “hoped to make it” to my birthday. We live five hundred miles away from each other, so it was an odd sentiment.

Her “mini” stroke in October left her with some cognitive decline. Even after her surgery, she remained often confused, almost child-like in demeanor. Given this, I noted her comment, but didn’t give it much weight.

She’s now only able to speak a small number of words, though she does seem to have full cognition again. She’s quite easy to communicate with in person actually. That she cannot communicate via phone, text, or even a hand-written note however, makes her oddly isolated. Skype might be a viable solution. Reading is her favorite pastime. I suppose audiobooks can fill that void?

In the past two weeks my mind has gotten pretty quiet. I’ve greatly reduced the incoming stimulus by turning off my phone and laptop regularly. While my meditative states aren’t as focused as they were a year ago, I’m able to sit and read for hours at a time. I’m sleeping about twelve hours a day, and only leaving the house to go for runs, purchase groceries, and visit my Sanghas. It’s beautiful, and it’s exactly what I’ve needed. Rest before a completely immersive adventure.

I keep weighing the ethics of going on a thru-hike while my mother in this state. The reality is, there is very little I can do to help her. I told her today, that I was leaving on the 22nd. She really didn’t respond either way. With her condition, I’ll be distant in a different way this time. I think she understands that. Keeping in touch with my sisters in real time is fairly easy on trail though. I can get home pretty damned fast too. It’s not the PCT.

On the drive down to Florida today my sister Kelly and I listened to Rich Roll interview Ross Edgely. Edgely swam around the entirety of Great Britain last year. He’s the first one to ever complete this challenge. He spoke a lot about “right reasons” and the support he had from his family. About an hour later, Kelly asked me about the reasons for my hike this year.

Really at this point, it’s about giving myself space for six months. I’m more committed to the time frame than I am the mileage, or even Katahdin. I need to mourn my failed relationship with Molly. The last time I put so much effort into a failure like that, I was riding the bus home from Vermont.

I gave her everything I had, and I’m still learning from her. I’m learning so that I can date again. Date one woman in particular, and I’m tired of long bus rides…

Mostly though, I’m hiking because I want to. I want it more than anything else. Hiking long distance is the only time in my life that I’ve gone to bed content to never wake up again. Absolute fulfillment. It’s my jam, even if I suck at it sometimes! It’s what I’m willing to suffer most for, and fear most never suffering for.

It’s the same reason Alex Honnold free-soloed El-Cap, Anish hiked her calendar triple-crown, and Catra Corbett keeps on running.

That, and the petite vagabonding Amelia Earhart Spitfires in running shorts. I do adore hiker-trash girls.

One thought on “On Curve Balls, Stoicism, and Inevitable Death

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  1. Ryan I really believe your Mom would want you to go on your hike. She knows that hiking is part of you now. Go and enjoy. Love you Aunt Cathy


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