This morning I received the best news I’ve had in a month. My buddy John is willing to drive over an hour out of his way, so I can catch an AOC backpacking trip next weekend. The latter part of his text nearly moved me to tears:
“The Trail provides brother. Even when we aren’t on it anymore.”
The reason this gesture had such impact, is because the past few weeks have felt like an absolute shit-slog. The sinusoidal nature of my mother’s condition day to day has gotten the best of me at times. One of the very few things I have complete control over however, is my demeanor towards her. I refuse to be anything less than kind and patient. It tires a man most, that which requires him to act like one.
It’s difficult to speak in a calm voice at 3am, when she’s getting up yet again, and usually when I’m just falling asleep once more. Still in need of an escort to the restroom, and really everywhere else in the house, my sister Kelly and I have traded off sleeping next to the baby monitor. Kelly has taken most of the shifts, and for that I am grateful.
Coming home from a long trail is challenging in ways only those who have done it can fully comprehend. Coming home in the middle of this transition in my mother’s health has been a shock. Thirteen days in the hospital, three flash pulmonary edemas, which are scary enough as a bystander, and her ever-present lack of hunger. From an acute kidney failure diagnoses on day one, to needing to be monitored every three months to make the final call on dialysis; everything feels in flux. This is nothing to say of her countenance, which ranges the whole of human emotion.
Before the stroke in March, I watched my mother cry twice in thirty-three years. It’s nearly a daily occurrence now.
The only real reprieve I’ve felt from this has been an evening at the Heron House. Sitting with my Sangha after a five month absence was beautiful. I received six hugs before I made it into the meditation hall. The support, the words of my teacher that night both gave me the space to let go and just cry quietly. Lisa taught on gratitude, and touched on how much of it we owe our parents. Apropos.
Amid the chaos, I’ve been reading Viktor Frankl, and watching Jordan Peterson excerpts. During one morning meeting, my last boss explained that inspiring rhetoric should be treated like a shower, that is, it should be repeated daily. Rinsing away negativity with the the truth of men who have endured difficult things; this is always a comfort to me.
My favorite maxim for action during difficult times comes from Amy Dresner:
“Stability does not create discipline, discipline creates stability.”
The only way to make a situation better is to start improving a few small things, repeatedly. For me in this moment, that means consistent sleep, going for a run or walk everyday, and getting ample time on the cushion to meditate. I can at least make two of those three happen, and life will be much improved.
A good woodsy distraction is welcome too. I haven’t seen some of the friends on this upcoming trip in years. It will be great to remedy that!
Also in the past three weeks, I’ve managed to visit my nephews school to talk about my hike. Sage started building out his camper van, and we both still wear our Melanzana hoodies on the daily. Jelly is moving to Roanoke, and will be hiking the Virginia Triple Crown with a mutual friend of ours, Crotchidile. Myra (Wonder), a great friend and backpacking mentor of mine, just finished her 2,650 mile PCT thru hike!