Resolution blues

Hi, friends. Not a lot of words on this blog recently. That’s because I don’t have much to say.

Well, that’s only partially true. I don’t have much to say that is hopeful or clever or even a little bit witty.

See, I’m still pretty pissed that the highest position of power in our country is about to be assumed by Donald Trump. It’s really getting me down, mostly on a societal/philosophical level, because…jeez. This is my country, too, and I love it, and what Trump represents…well…it makes me sad and angry and…so many other feelings, none of them good. And enough has been written, by better writers than I, about that, so I’ll pipe down.

Maybe I’m just in a funk. That is possible, and normal, and I’m not ashamed of it. Yes, I know I need to get over it. Thanks.

But it’s now January 2nd, and since I always blog for the New Year, I’ve decided to write a blog post for those out there who are feeling like I am.

This post is for all of you who can’t bring yourselves to go through the “In 2017 I vow to _________” game again. Because every year, we vow to become skinny, which will somehow make us more happy. Or we vow to be more organized, which will somehow make us more productive. Or we vow to focus on our relationships more, which will somehow make us less lonely.

And every year, it feels like we fail. Note I said it “feels like” we fail. I don’t believe we ACTUALLY fail (except me, on the getting skinny part, but I’m used to that by now). We accomplish a lot, actually. We get through each day, we travel, we cook, we do our best to support our friends/family, we try to exercise, we try to do good for our fellow man. That’s not nothing, folks. But sometimes, it feels like nothing.

I get you, my people. I’m feeling it, too. I see happy facebook posts of colorful scripted hashtags about #kindness and #intention and #purpose and I want to scratch over them with a magic marker (I refrain, because my I-Phone is worth more than my car at this point), because for crying out loud, do you really expect me to think about only ONE word for an entire year? And why isn’t that word #chocolate or #bagels or something real?

I know how it feels to feel like everyone else is content in their lives, while we flounder, looking for the place that we fit, wondering “is this it?”, and if we will always be just slightly on the edge of what’s comfortable and normal.

I also know the guilt we feel after having such thoughts, because, after all, we’re healthy and employed and have a warm roof over our heads. How dare we not be grateful and happy and appreciative of all we have?

I get it, my friends. And I don’t have any magical way to solve it. I guess giving it some time, giving less time to social media, changing a routine, or maybe even, despite how false and fake and silly it feels, setting a goal or two for 2017?

I can’t quite get there yet, but maybe I will soon. New Year’s resolutions are a false construct, a symbol, something we’ve made up, so if you can’t get in to them, don’t add that to the list of things making you feel like New Year’s Scrooge. As Neil Degrasse Tyson tweeted today, there is absolutely no astrological significance to this time of year. So if you’re not feeling it, that’s ok. Maybe we’ll feel it on some random January or February day. Maybe not.

Whatever happens, 2017 is here, and, resolutions or not, I hope it’s a good year for all of you.

PS: Here’s one thing we can do, even if it feels hard; support our friends who have found a resolution they want to achieve. It might wind up feeling pretty good, and bonus – it’s a nice thing to do.

 

Three tips for all of us after the election

This is my third attempted blog post in three days. The first two, which I thankfully didn’t publish, were full of hope and optimism and excitement about the days ahead. In my pantsuit-nation-fueled, out-of-touch brain, I was looking ahead to a day when a woman would have finally broken that highest of barriers, when we might have some hope of taking better care of our planet, and when SCOTUS might not be overwhelmingly conservative for the foreseeable future.

Whoops.

Today, I SO wanted to write a blog post that starts like this:

Well, that happened. A reality-tv star will soon control our nuclear arsenal. Good night and good luck, America. 

However, that’s snarky Jodi. And boy, does she want to come out, but guess what? She had her chance during the campaign, and she lost. I never really let her out, which I will always regret, but today, I’m eating some serious humble pie, so my attempts to make sense of our new reality will be, hopefully, a little nicer.

On the bus to work this morning, I reflected on how sad it made me that I couldn’t talk about my dismay and sorrow with my parents, who have always been my shoulders to cry on. Because, well, we disagree heartily on politics, and we just. don’t. talk. about. it. When I left the coffee shop this morning with my bad-for-me-but oh-so-necessary everything bagel, I felt like I might be able to pull it together and help my staff and colleagues process what had happened.

And then, I got to the office, and I saw everyone’s red-eyed, shell-shocked faces. Then I got emails from both of my parents telling me how much they love me and were proud of me, despite our disagreements. And yeah, well, the whole morning was basically me trying to do some work while watching Hillary’s (classy and brave – it was, even if you hate her) concession speech and fighting back tears.

In the raw aftermath of a hard, hard day, I realized a few things. Most of these I thought before the election, but I think they are worth saying now.

IT DOESN’T HELP TO DEMONIZE EVERYONE WHO VOTED FOR THEIR CANDIDATE

It may be too soon to say this, but I’ve been wanting to say it for months and didn’t have the guts. All the articles and commentary that have said “If you voted for Trump, you are a Nazi” or “If you voted for Hillary, you are a stupid libtard who hates America” aren’t the answer. To be crass, such simplicity won’t help us win the argument, and to be honest, it’s not true. We all have people in our lives who love us, who are good people, who care about each other, and who voted for the other side. I’m not sure we will ever be able to fully understand their decision, but they are still our people and we have to find other, more grown-up ways to express ourselves. Or, to accept that these people will no longer be in our lives.

IF YOU DID VOTE FOR TRUMP, PLEASE TRY TO UNDERSTAND THE FEAR THAT MANY ARE FEELING TODAY

Several of the Trump supporters in my life have expressed that the fear and despair that I and my friends are feeling today are the same emotions they have been feeling for the last 8 years.

It is really, really hard for me to accept this as true, because of what I see and what I know of the real-life, dangerous experiences of my LGBT, minority, and female friends and colleagues. But I am trying to accept it, and to recognize that fear is not a competition; it’s an emotion that rules without regard for context.

Still, it’s worth pointing out that the KKK is happy that Trump won the election. Let’s just sit with that for a moment. Trump has made public statements that directly insult, and in some cases directly threaten, entire swaths of America, putting people of diverse backgrounds into simplistic boxes for the sake of a tweet. While you may think, and it may be true, that the media blew such comments out of proportion, or that Trump “didn’t mean them”, the reality is that (just as an example) there are kids, right now, worrying if their parents will be taken away from them because of things Trump has said. Please, respect that such fears, even if you don’t share them, are very real today and probably will be for a while.

WE HAVE TO DO BETTER FOR EACH OTHER

One thing I did see today that gave me hope is a lot of people seeking and finding tangible ways to take action. I loved this (admittedly left-leaning) piece telling us to quit whining, recognize our failure, and get to work. And while I’m glad that many of us on the losing side are fired up, I also hope that those of you on the winning side are also fired up to do your part to try to repair the damage this campaign, and indeed the last few years, have wrought, on this country. It’s too simple to blame it on Fox News or the “mainstream” media. We are all complicit in the horror that we just put each other through, and what history tells us could happen if the cruelty continues. We clicked, we shared, we watched, we repeated the talking points, we allowed ourselves to be put into false boxes pitting Group A against Group B. I want to believe that we are better than who we were over the last few years.

Are we? I’m not sure. Time will tell. But in the meantime, I suggest we turn off the national debate for a while and work on making our own families, workplaces, and local communities better. We are not going to find too many role models of decency in our nation’s leaders, so let’s see if we can find them among each other. There is so much we can do, by serving those who need us, spending less time on social media, and being compassionate. It may be too late. The zombie apocalypse might be inevitable, and if so, well, I’m glad I have friends on well-stocked farms in Arkansas. But I’m not ready to give up yet.

And for what it’s worth, this doesn’t mean I’m not going to eat a whole pint of ice cream tonight. And perhaps wash it down with some wine and chocolate. And look at lots of dog videos. And read some escapist fiction. And well, mourn a little bit more. But, as we rise out of the fog of despair, or bask in the glow of victory, we can already see there is more work to be done, especially by those of us who have been sitting on the sidelines, thinking that voting is enough. It’s not. We just got a wake-up call. So let’s grab some coffee and get going.

Random rainy Saturday musings

Lately, I’m pretty bored. Not because I don’t have work and activities going on…I do. But they aren’t really lighting up whatever region of my brain is supposed to light up when I’m thoroughly jazzed about the spin our home rock is doing around the sun.

This, of course, prompts my tendency to think deep thoughts about life, society, and where, if at all, I fit. Today I feel like writing some of these musings down, in no particular order and without any plan to resolve them. You’ve been warned.

So, it’s Saturday. A Saturday after a fairly long week, made longer by having a show last weekend. A show where I didn’t have much to do other than be present and show support for those around me who were working their butts off. Aside – this is called “management”, for those who’ve always wondered what managers do.

It’s Saturday, and rain is in the forecast. I woke up and immediately (well, more like after 30 minutes laying around in bed checking facebook) decided that Sadie and I need to get a walk in before the rain begins.

Interesting factoid: Since she came into my life 6 years ago, there have probably been fewer than 50 days in her life when Sadie hasn’t been walked by someone. That is remarkable, and represents some serous mileage.

One of the things I dearly love about my life…I can choose to walk the dog whenever I want, and I live in such a wonderful neighborhood in which to do it. I have walking/breakfast options of all kinds: short jaunts to Dunkin and the local pastry place, a slightly longer jaunt to the local co-op followed by eating by the pond, or, like today, a few miles round trip to my favorite, the Ula Cafe, where they have biscuits with sausage gravy that I’m only allowed to eat after I’ve run within the last 24 hours. Yum.

On said walks, I run in to all kinds of people: other dog owners, parents with kiddos, college kids, retired folks. Today, I think everyone had the same idea as me; get out for some exercise before the rains come.

I love being part of that bustle, but I also can’t help but feel that age-old sense of being alone in a crowd. I don’t know any of the people I pass. I don’t know their names. We don’t hang out. We might share a smile or a pat each other’s dogs, but they aren’t my friends. It’s a lonely feeling sometimes.

I came home to two boxes of cookies outside my door, with no idea why they were there. I noticed some by a neighbor’s door too, so maybe they came from our landlord? Weird. I left them out there. I’m not sure what to do with them.

It’s raining now, and I’m ensconced on the couch thinking that I should do some housecleaning before settling in for some movies/tv. This is another thing about my life that I (most of the time) love – more often than not, no one needs anything from me, so a Netflix binge is allowed and acceptable.

But once in a while, I wish there was someone here to need something from me.

As I tried to talk myself into doing the dishes, I came across a facebook post of a friend that included the words “parenting can be an isolating journey” and I had to pause for a second. Parenting is isolating? That panacea of procreation, that miracle that will give life meaning after long, cold years of living only for oneself? I thought being single/kid-free was the ultimate exercise in isolation.

Then I laughed at myself. Because such comparisons and generalizations are silly. Life can’t be put into such boxes. It simply doesn’t work that way. Sometimes, while alone, a person can feel totally fulfilled. Sometimes, surrounded by people, a person can feel completely isolated. That’s just how it is. That’s just being human.

And it’s a comfort to me, in a selfish way, that I’m not alone in feeling alone sometimes.

End random musings. I’m off to do those pesky dishes and put away the laundry that’s been sitting in the basket for two days. Have a lovely day, everyone.

Peak-bagging in the White Mountains

Living alone can be wonderful, empowering, freeing, fun.

It can also suck.

Like, for example, when you’ve just done something fairly epic and you have no one who is forced, by virtue of his/her being trapped in the same space as you, to listen to you retell the story, adding the occasional “wow” or “uh huh” at appropriate intervals. Dogs don’t count, because, well, they can’t speak.

Blogging just ain’t the same. But we humans are nothing if not practical and persistent, so I will use the tools I have and blog on, because, dammit, I want to tell someone about my Saturday hike in the White Mountains.

I don’t understand my recent obsession with hiking lately, but luckily, I am able to indulge such whims without it negatively impacting my, or anyone else’s life; after all, the laundry left languishing on the floor at home is mine alone. Sadie would probably argue that her life is negatively impacted, being that she’s often left behind when I embark on longer adventures, but, well, I will just have to accept that dog mom guilt. Because I’m pretty sure the tortuous 7 hours in the car would have erased any joy she’d have gotten from the 7 hours on the trail.

Anyway, I set out at around 5:45am, with a 2.5 hour drive ahead of me. Driving in Boston early on a weekend is bliss; I zipped through town and onto the highway. The sun was rising to my left, the harvest moon was setting to my right, mist was rising off of various ponds and rivers; it was magic, pure and simple. A wonderful start.

I-93 is so eerily familiar – I drove it a million times in my youth. It’s still a little weird to drive by exit 23 without my car automatically taking the exit…but it’s only a little bit weird. I feel pretty remote from that part of my life these days.

Anyway, I arrived at the Edmands trailhead around 9am and it was already fairly full of people. It was a beautiful late-summer-not-quite-fall day, and I set off with a spring in my step.

A little background for those unfamiliar with the Whites: there are 48 “4,000 footers” up there, and those tall (for us East Coasters, at least) hills have been calling to expert and would-be hikers for hundreds of years. I was headed for Mt. Eisenhower, which according to most articles, is one of the more “moderate” 4,000 footers, because, well, I’m still building up my fitness and skill for difficult mountains. If I felt good when I got up there, I planned to bag Mt. Pierce, as well, about 500 feet lower and a mile and a half away, and then loop back on the Crawford trail.

This is the 2nd time now that I’ve been lulled into the idea of “moderate” by a White Mountain (the other time can be revisited here). And objectively, it wasn’t like I was scaling a vertical cliff. Nope, the first three miles were just…up. Sometimes mildly up, sometimes more severely, but unrelentingly, steadily UP. There were no switchbacks. The trail showed a lot of use, which meant it was full of roots and boulders and mud and so I trudged, waaaay slower than I’d hoped, up the first couple of miles. I stopped a lot. I was passed more than a few times, and I’ve gotta admit, with no one to talk to other than the occasional fellow hiker, I was a little bored.

But eventually, I passed a trio of older hikers who informed me we were 500 feet from something (I didn’t catch what we were supposedly heading to) and that put some life into my legs. And finally, I saw a hiker ahead of me get out his camera. Yes!

We emerged to a brief view of the brilliant blue-green that is the signature of the White Mountains. I saw no evidence of changing leaves, by the way.

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And then, I turned back to the trail and blinked. Gone was the boring woodsy upslope – instead I faced a cliff of wet, black rock. It’s a sign of how I’ve changed that I said to myself “FINALLY! Something fun to tackle!” and up I went, slowly as always, but grinning nonetheless.

After I cleared the slippery rocks, I found myself on a flat ! trail that was clearly winding around something…and that went on for a bit. There was a slightly hairy place where I was stepping over boulders that were part of some kind of rock slide, completely exposed and at the mercy of a fairly steep cliff to the right. I wished for hiking poles in that moment. A few more big boulders to scale and then I reached the junction of Edmands Path and the trail to Mt. Eisenhower’s summit, which looked pretty steep from where I stood.

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However, there were a few dozen hikers at the junction, and they were loud and chatty, so I lit out for the top of Mt. Eisenhower pretty quickly. It was a short trek up, about half a mile, and not nearly as hard as I’d thought; just some scrambling and long rock faces. I saw this view along the way…I mean…come on.

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And then, the summit, marked by a huge cairn and 360 views of the mountains, including Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast, just two peaks away, looking tantalizingly inviting. The weather was completely perfect, which is saying something at a place where it (the weather) has killed people when it’s bad. But not today, it was sunny and windy but not too cold. So, so, so gorgeous.

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One sandwich and a bunch of water later, the gaggle of loud hikers had reached the summit, and I layered up and prepared to head down the mountain and on to Mt. Pierce. The trek down was as fun as coming up, with some helpful wooden ladders dropped in occasionally when things got too steep.

img_9557When I reached the bottom of Mt. Eisenhower, I found myself at a crossroads and had to get my map out. I set off along the Appalachian Trail (also known as Crawford Path), and had one of those moments that the chronically directionally-challenged among you will understand – even though I’d checked the map 17 times and confirmed with a passing hiker that I was indeed heading to Mt. Pierce, I still had that niggling fear that I could possibly be going the wrong way. So out came the map again, and this time I even got out my compass, confirmed that Southwest was the direction I wanted, and continued on my way.

Crossing the ridge between Eisenhower and Pierce was wonderful. Gorgeous views, easy hills. The biggest adventure on this stretch was remembering how to use the bathroom in the woods, which I’m happy to say I achieved without incident.

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Mt. Pierce was full of lovely views, too, but by this point, about mile 6 into the hike, my feet were starting to hurt, and I was feeling tremendous dog mom guilt, so I didn’t linger, and headed down Crawford Path, which is, for those who care, the oldest continually in-use trail in America. This path was basically a reverse of the Edmands path – a long, rocky, muddy slog through the woods that, I’ll admit, sort of kicked my butt. I’m pretty sure that every muscle in my legs rioted on me at least once on the trek down. I might have whimpered once or twice as the 3-mile trail seemed to go on FOREVER. It was also crowded, and several times I encountered lithe, gorgeous teenagers hauling giant boxes of supplies up to one of the huts, which of course made me feel totally lame for being tired.

However, I did reach the bottom eventually, only to have another 2 miles of road to trek before I got back to my car. I passed one couple who were talking about how much they couldn’t wait to take off their boots (YES!) and another group who asked me if they looked as bedraggled as I did (NO, they looked positively chipper…bastards). Despite my niggling fear that I’d again taken a wrong turn (even with multiple map checks), I did eventually make it back to my car, where I might have collapsed on the hood for a moment or two before violently tearing off my shoes and socks and nearly weeping in relief.

Then it was the drive home, which was made nearly 1.5 hours longer by traffic and other nonsense coming in to the city. By this point, the dog mom guilt was at its peak, but Sadie, the awesome pooch that she is, had not peed in the house and was super glad to see me.

However, going down the stairs to let her out that night, and the next morning, and the next night…yeah…ouch.

So, all in all, a good adventure. Can’t wait to get back up there and bag some more 4,000 footers. Thanks for reading and hopefully adding your nods and “uh-huh”s at the proper intervals.

PS: Summiting more than one peak is called, appropriately, peak-bagging, and it’s cool to say you’ve done it. I won’t lie.

 

Mountaintop words

The other day, I wrote a blog post for work that used the word “awesome” three times in three paragraphs.

Blech.

I was grateful for the colleagues who pointed it out, ever so gently, even as I imagine they were gagging onto their keyboards. I was also fully willing to say “Yeah, that was BAD writing.”

But sometimes, I do good writing. Maybe 10% of that writing ever makes it into actual public circulation. After all, it has to be edited, approved, rewritten, and, more often than not, tempered so as not to offend anyone.

Usually, I can accept this as the nature of a job in non-profit marketing. I mean, if I couldn’t accept it, I’d have lost my mind a long time ago.

But once in a great while, I simply lose all ability to accept it, and I fantasize about saying, out loud, that editing the fun or hope or vision from my words kills a little piece of my soul.

Yeah, I know…melodramatic much?

I suspect my colleagues know I feel this way, and because their heads are cooler than mine, they are secure in the belief that my need to fun or hope or vision is trumped by the need to be safe.

Because safety, well, it’s not likely to get you hurt.

But it’s also not likely to get you to the top of the mountain, where the air is clearest and your heart beats faster and anything is possible.

Up there, the right words might just make a difference.