driftwood (part 1)

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Lake Erie

As December 31, 2017 rolled around, as per usual, I claimed to be so over New Year’s Resolutions, yet still felt compelled to author a list entitled:

2018: Year of Done Better

with the rationale of, they’re not so much resolutions as they are guidelines for living a basic happy and healthy human life. Like, shit I should already be doing, but I’m not. For example:

6. Eat real food
7. Cook more meals
9. Water! Drink it!!

And yes, many items on the list include exclamation points. Other items are actual things I want to accomplish or start doing in earnest:

19. Mountain bike!
20. Hike the Wonderland Trail and/or the JMT
22. Snowboard moooooore**

** Oh man, I had BIG plans for this one until a certain four-legged creature derailed me. Two winter passes, 66 different possible mountains…I was basically headed to the Olympics (In my head, IRL I only visit terrain parks when I accidentally find myself in them, and then the fun comes in gracefully avoiding all the obstacles, including riders coming from the air).

And others are simple reminders I wish I could remember without having to write them down for reference:

5. Don’t dwell on what you can’t control
14. Don’t place your happiness in someone else’s hands (in retrospect, this should probably be a bit higher on the list. #2019)

And that’s all I’ll share because you don’t really care and some of them are embarrassing and anyway, what’s on the list is not the point. The point is why I made the list, which is mostly because I really like lists. Actually, I really like checking things off lists. Oh, and because 2017 tried to destroy me and I felt like making a list of things that would prevent 2018 from doing the same thing might be helpful.

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Feeling like a shipwreck. Patagonia.

Normally I pride myself on riding the wave, but by the end of 2017, I felt more like a piece of driftwood slamming up against the edge of stationary objects, tumbling around, dragged under, pulled back to sea again and again with no control or destination, instead of the sure footed surfer atop a board. I wasn’t riding the wave anymore. It was attacking me. I was drowning. Suffocating.

If that sounds like the worst, it was. And I am (someone incapable of sugar-coating shit) sugar-coating it.

The New Year is arbitrary. It means nothing more than the flip of a calendar, the slight upward tick of a number, the next period of 365 days, a complicated construct of time established probably for some excellent scientific earthly reason that I don’t care to look up. But just like a birthday, nothing is any different when the so-called new year hits. You don’t get a reset button where you can start fresh, a blank slate where people forget, where you forget about the past year. It’s not a requirement that 2017 be packed neatly into a filing cabinet to be referenced only when absolutely necessary in order for 2018 to proceed. It just…happens. You can’t stop time any more than you can erase it.

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Inside a clock tower in Montréal.

But what it does provide, is an excellent opportunity for a personal mental reset. I mean, New Year, New You, right? (Is it just me, or has that been pushed extra hard this year? I can’t remember ever hearing that before.)

So there I was, at my own personal rock bottom. I’ll spare you the gory details, but with the help from Tessa and Lisa, sister under one arm, friend under the other, I crawled out from my cave as they lured me with love and spoon fed some hope back into the shell of what I once was. They both suggested I check-in with my doctor, and for the second time in my life, I’ve been diagnosed with adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood. If you recall, the first (medically recorded) time I felt out of control of my emotions was when I quit my life and bought a one-way ticket to the Arctic Circle, pretty certain I was over Wisconsin, triggering a series of totally predictable anxiety attacks. Fortunately, I had an equally entertaining conversation with the triage nurse who called me back after I electronically scheduled an ordinary visit with my PCP with the reason of: heart palpitations.

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This year’s New Year date, the Dinndorfs, obviously.

I’m just calling about your scheduling comment…can you describe what you mean by heart palpitations?

Oh hi! Yeah, uh well. I dunno. I thought maybe that was inappropriate, I didn’t know how else to put it. But I can feel it? I mean, I can constantly feel my heart beating. And I’ve honestly never noticed it before. Maybe this is normal? It doesn’t feel normal.

Can you feel it right now?

Yes. It’s very loud. I can barely hear you.

And what does it feel like?

Like someone’s playing racquetball inside my chest? I think. I mean, I’ve never actually played real racquetball. But I’m starting pickleball in February.

I’ve never heard of pickleball. 

“Yeah, me neither. I have no idea what it is, but according to the internet it’s all the rage.”

“Interesting. Okay, so your racquetball heart…”

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Dead wood. Patagonia.

This lead to a regular 30 minute primary care session that ended up lasting three hours, which they continually apologized for, but for which I was ecstatic. I experienced my first ever EKG to check out my racquetball heart. And all the blood work. The mental health people came in as part of a new holistic initiative at my healthcare provider, which literally blew me away. I couldn’t believe the attention my “heart palpitations” comment in scheduling via MyChart got me. I felt…special. Cared for. Like for the first time in my life, after all these years of paying for insurance, the concept of healthcare applied to me. Sort of like getting in your first car accident.

But the truth is, I needed help. And they saw that. And they gave it without making me ask for it. They saw the wave had taken me, listened to my struggles and efforts to stay afloat, and threw me a bone. Or a buoy.

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May be a mess, but made it to shore.

Note to any mental healthcare professional out there: if you’re seeing someone for the first time, treat them like you’re randomly running into them at an airport, sharing a drink. Really makes everything less awkward. I literally had no clue who this person in my room was, but he just started talking to me and I talked back. By the time he got down to business, I felt like he was an old friend.

So, I spoke with (doctor) and it sounds like you’re quite aware of what’s going on internally, so I’m not even gonna go there now. But just out of curiosity, how do you think you got here? Any major life changes?

Nope. No. Not really. I mean. Well. I guess I just got back from hiking the PCT (explanation of the PCT), but I wasn’t like this after the AT, so I don’t think it’s that. Oh, and I just started working primarily from home after basically spending a decade on the road (abridged version of my professional work life). I’ve never actually really lived here, I guess. I don’t know, just normal life things, really.

It’s sort of cute you think those are “normal” life things.

3. Write 2x/month (at least)

Which is why there is a (slightly less depressing) part two. It’s January 28. Gotta reach those 2018 quotas. You know, New Year, New Me.

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Madison, Wisconsin

3 Comments on “driftwood (part 1)

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