I haven’t written much lately. If you follow this blog that would be wholly apparent by now, but I have been gone….staring at the sky, at trees, swatting bugs, and hiking until I couldn’t feel my feet anymore. My idea of a rest from work was hard labor camping and pushing myself to physical limits hiking. Most people laughed when I said I was camping for two weeks straight. They literally thought I was insane.
But this camping trip afforded me a good long time to contemplate everything in my life. There are huge changes on the horizon, massive lifestyle changes, that could not have been properly dealt with trying to manage a household, a relationship, a kid, a puking cat, and trying to squeeze work shifts in there as well. There would be too many excuses to put off dealing with the upcoming changes and hashing out long-standing issues.
The first night of my trip my ex was served divorce papers. It was an interesting night for me because it had taken me 5 long years to fill the papers out properly and get to this step. It meant to everyone involved (the ex, me, my partner, my kid) that 16 years of investing relationship was definitely coming to an end in some senses. We still have to communicate concerning our kid, but we will be free to move on with our lives. This will benefit us both. It still feels like a little bit of a failure to have worked hard at something for so long and still not be able to make it work, but in the end, we are much better humans apart than we ever were together. Time and distance reveal that. Honesty does too.
Prior to this first week of camping, my 11-year-old got her top braces placed. She seemed in good spirits at the start of the trip but by day 4 she was a complete misery and wanted to go home to her dad’s. I was heartbroken but didn’t share that with her. I made it seem ok, but that night back at camp without her there I sat in front of the fire and cried. It wasn’t so much that she wasn’t there, but that I had once again failed to provide a good time. I felt 40 and lame. What I had wanted for her was some sort of connection with the other people in the world….to be older and be able to chime in on lame/fun/scary camping adventures and create new bonds with interesting people in the future. I was trying to give her a classic American childhood summer, but then I remembered the world is so different from what it was. Technology and comfort and more important that swatting mosquitos and playing flashlight tag and cooking over an open fire. I missed her too. It was our week off together and she cheated me of some of that. I could have been a heavy and made her stay. I should have done it on principle, but I’m weak in that way.
The rest of that trip without her was spent hiking at our leisure to different trails we hadn’t seen before and a trip to Geneva at the top of Seneca Lake where like all good Americans we checked out the Wal-Mart (cleanest bathrooms ever!) and Big Lots and Salvation Army. It was a fun time full of laughter and the view was pretty damn nice as well. All told, we walked/hiked about 40 miles that week and it has left me feeling stronger and more fit. I am presently 3 pounds from my current weight loss goal. All I did was walk and stop eating chips at night. Boom, 16 pounds gone.
But on this trip I learned something important about myself. I am much stronger than I give myself credit for. I have always been low in the self-esteem department, but out in nature I felt confident and brave. I had time to reflect on how much like my father I really am. This month or so we have been re-kindling our estranged relationship. It was never because we didn’t love each other. It was more based out of my anger for his lack of presence in my life and his shame for not being there. What I realized was that we have this life together, no other, and might as well put the past behind us and try again. When I was younger, he taught me so much about nature. He gave me knowledge of plants and animals and trees, how to walk in the woods quietly, history about Native Americans, how to fish, how to hunt, how to cook, how to build a fire. He gave me something so beautiful that it never left me. Out in the woods is the place where I feel whole.
The second week of camping was to be a “romantic” adventure…..just me and Michael. A whole week to ourselves before the schedules get hectic with work and school and extra curricular activities. The first night was rained out. Severe thunderstorms all through the night were predicted so we decided to stay home that night and not ruin the entire trip by hating each other setting up a tent in the rain. The part we went to was very pretty. The ride to get there harrowing, but seemingly worth the trip….except it was like Viet Nam there. Humidity through the roof, mud everywhere, and more gnats than you could imagine. The mosquitos weren’t shy either. The first night we couldn’t get the fire started after trying every method we could think of for over 2 hours. It was the maddest I had ever seen Michael get. I showered and went to bed. He stayed up angry staring at the camp lantern instead of a fire. The next morning we got a meager fire going…just enough to cook two sausages over before it went out. He felt triumphant, but we needed a better solution. We put our Bear Grylls thinking caps on. In the end, we bought “Enviro-logs” from the local hardware store in town. That would be Duraflame to all you hipsters out there. It created enough heat to catch the wood on fire and burn like crazy all night. We were warmer and bug free, oh, and we could cook food.
This trip started like that and never got any better. The humidity held its ground. The college town we were excited to see was crawling with meth heads. Our favorite place at the falls suddenly had the hugest ground bee network flying in front of it (I’m deathly allergic to them) and the water was too cold to swim in (47 degrees). There were other mishaps along the way and at some point we just laughed at everything because it was the theatre of the absurd. We did enjoy having some much-needed heart to heart conversations that will forever change our relationship and make it stronger. We did laugh a lot. We shot golf balls until our back hurt and there was not more grass left from all the divots we launched in place of balls. The town’s people were warm and inviting and friendly. In the end we left a little early with the warning of fresh thunderstorms moving in. I couldn’t bear the thought of an even wetter night that the ones we had already experienced.
It felt good to come home. The look of our trees and buildings and even the annoying people from our own Wal-Mart were a sight for sore eyes. It was a good vacation with many challenges but a rewarding one. I feel ready to deal with the mountain of responsibilities that wait for me later this week.
I promise to get better at this writing thing. I need to.