Hey there, blog readers, such as you may be. It’s been a while. Recently I found these scraps of posts that never became anything, because, well, I was having a rough time:
I’d be lying if I said I’m happy that summer’s over, but my summer was a long, stressful mess, so I guess there’s a part of me that’s glad to be putting more days between me and then. Time heals all wounds, right? That’s what they say. This summer already feels distant, the way even the vividest dreams do by the time you’re washing the dishes from breakfast. And yeah, I long for it a little like you long for a dream… that is, unproductively. I made some mistakes I’m trying hard to learn from. I learned a little bit about my blind spots about myself — the differences between who I think I am and the way I really behave.
I took three terms — usually a full school year — of anatomy & physiology at PSU in nine weeks: three hours of lecture and three hours of lab four days a week, with a lab quiz or a lecture exam or a lab practical pretty much every day — sometimes more than one in a day — and a final exam every third Friday. I was also working my usual shift at work, four or five hours every weekday afternoon and evening. At work and after work I studied, making flashcards and labeling diagrams and writing out odd descriptions of bone bits and cell types and blood vessels in hopes of being able to identify them on models and cadavers. I went through many highlighters while reading through my lecture notes, looking for the information that seemed most important and ultimately pretty much eliminating the usefulness of highlighting by highlighting everything. I biked to school and work everyday…
2016 was a mixed bag and that’s the truth. The past few days, when everyone’s been reviewing what’s past and anticipating what’s to come, it’s been hard to find the good things about the year, though I know they’re there — I am definitely in a funk, unfocused, feeling a little discontent and stuck. I have had rough years before — 2008, when I was hit by a car, comes to mind, and 2013, when I separated from my ex-husband and moved from California back home to Oregon — but in those years I always felt like bad things were happening to me. In 2016, I had to confront some uglinesses in myself.
Somewhere in there I was looking through old journal entries and I found this little bit from March 18th, 2007, almost a decade ago, when I was writing my undergrad thesis on (among other things) Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar: i was talking to my mom about the fig metaphor and she said, “figs don’t ripen all at once. so pick one and eat it while you wait for the next fig to ripen.” I didn’t get it then, or didn’t believe it. But I ate a lot of figs in my twenties. And I waited for a few to ripen that never did. Others I pulled off the tree too early and they tasted tart and green. The older I get, the easier it is to spot the ripe ones, the braver I feel about climbing up to pull them down, and the more I savor them. I know, I know — cheesy as hell. Well, it’s all true on a good day. The narrative fallacy works for me!
Some good stuff happened in the latter half of 2016. I got all A’s in anatomy & physiology and really enjoyed the heck out of it except for the whole stress-and-lack-of-sleep thing. I am kicking butt in my classes, and I’m glad I decided to make this big leap and go back and study some of the stuff I basically started wishing I’d studied the minute I graduated from undergrad, even if it means that in the meantime I’m broke and living in the apartment over my parents’ garage. I’m really thankful for the apartment over my parents’ garage. I’m really thankful for my job at a physical therapy clinic and for the way it makes me more enthusiastic all the time about the path I’ve chosen, rather than less and less enthusiastic about — to, as usual, extend a metaphor past its breaking point — the clearing I found myself in, with no sense of how I’d gotten there or where to move to next. The push my mom gave me to quit my old job and the support my folks continue to give me in the form of free rent were basically an airlift out of that clearing, and I am so grateful. I’m so impatient, too. But this is the fig that’s ripe right now, I guess. I like being a student. I love studying science (um, except physics, if I’m being honest). Who knew?
In September, the week after I climbed Mount Daniel, I hiked all the way around Mount Hood on the Timberline Trail (and maybe at some point I’ll make a blog post about it). On the morning of the second day, I twisted my left ankle three times in quick succession, and then walked a couple more days and thirty more miles on it.
The week after the Timberline Trail, Elana came to visit me and we went to Olympic National Park for a night — we planned to camp on the coast for a couple nights, but packed up, soggy, in the morning, and spent a day driving around and hiking the short tourist trails in the rain instead.
In October I ran a couple 5k races with my mom, and then I finally went to a physical therapist about the nagging pain in my left ankle. Which pain, unfortunately, I’m still dealing with months later. In the process of trying to heal, I’ve learned a lot about the habits of my body. For now, I don’t run, I wear an ankle brace and mid-top shoes when I hike, and I’m the weirdo at the bus stop standing on one leg, practicing correct foot posture and trying to strengthen my tendons and stabilizer muscles.
In the new year, feeling optimistic, I set a goal of 50 hikes in 2017—with a generous definition of “hike” and, after a little consideration, no minimum mileage. Here’s what I’ve gotten in so far —
• I got a pair of microspike traction devices for Christmas, and in the first week of the year managed to test them out on very snowy Dog Mountain:
• A week later there was epic snowfall in Portland—not our first snow of the season, but the deepest and longest-lasting for sure. I got a snow day off of school and work, and I walked all over town, including up Mount Tabor—counting it!
• A few weeks after that, Trump was inaugurated, and the day after that, millions of women and allies across the country took to the streets, including 100,000 in rainy Portland.
• I tried to head across town to Marquam Nature Park the week after that, but my car’s alternator dropped dead halfway there (on the highway! Very exciting!) and I got a tow from AAA back to southeast. I tried again a whole month later on the first sunny weekend day in a while, and did a little hike up to Council Crest and back. The elevation gain and the view at the end were nice, but Marquam Nature Park is otherwise just like the worst of Forest Park (lots of ivy, muddy trails, never really out of sight of streets and houses). The woods are lovely, dark, and… not very deep. It’s been hard to get out of town for hikes this winter — lots more ice and snow than in most years. And sometimes my foot hurts, and sometimes I just prioritize other things.
The winter has been long and dark but with any luck is almost over. I go to the gym a lot and lift weights and get stronger. I feel best within my body when I move it and use it. I study. I cuddle with my cats. I go out with friends and watch tv shows and feel mildly guilty about not reading books. I get angry at the news. I listen to approximately a bazillion podcasts (reviews coming soon!?). I sit with the uglinesses I mentioned at the top of this entry and I try to be better. I cook things, sometimes — usually noodles. I’m trying to learn how to cook. I water my houseplants and watch it rain outside.