I imagine taking a car to the face is traumatic for anyone, but maybe even more so for those incapable of comprehending much beyond balls, snacks and naps. People use logic and reasoning to make sense of actions and consequences. No matter what I tell him, all Freddie really knows is something big and loud on wheels attacked him from behind, and it was painful and terrifying.
For the past two weeks, I’ve watched my dog mentally recover, revaluate everything he thought he knew about the outside world. Our poop walks were long and rough those first few days, for both me and him. Every sound made him jump. His fluffy tail, usually joyfully waving at full mast, stuck straight down. Steps, tentative. He’d stare down every car near and far, following it intently, head on a swivel until they were out of sight. Any noise detected from behind was definitely the boogie man, and it was definitely out to get him. He’d immediately hit the floor or jump 180° to face his destroyer. If he could cover his ears, I’m sure he would have.
He was also on three different drugs, two of which were controlled and I had to give my birthdate to obtain. So, maybe he was seeing actual boogie men. I’ll never know. And he’ll never tell.
As overly concerned (dog) moms will do, I began hearing the world through Freddie’s ears. I cursed the buses, diesels and dump trucks that passed just as Fred was about to poop, scaring the shit right back into him. I glared at the construction, loud talkers, fast movers who made Freddie freeze in fright. I silently come on’d the skateboarders, barking dogs, mufferless base booming cars that rolled up to my corner stop sign not one minute after successfully getting Freddie to crawl down the front porch steps, causing him to bolt right back up.
I saw the outside world from his perspective. And I could relate.
The world is loud.
“The world just got too…loud,” Dirty Avocado said. We were sitting around the kitchen table at the Collier House in Etna, California, a bunch of ragtag hikers, sharing our reasons for thinking hiking thousands of miles across the country was a good idea. Because sometimes, it’s nice to be reminded.
I sat silent in my chair, listening to my fellow hikers, most of whom I just met that week and quietly acknowledged something I had known for quite some time; my go-to reason, ‘for the adventure!’, just didn’t cut it anymore. I mean, yeah, the adventure was still part of it obviously, but somewhere within nearly 5,000 miles of thru-hiking, it had become more. So much more.
Why do I dedicate entire summers to hiking thousands of miles for months on end? This past year in particular. I mean, everything went wrong before the PCT. My employment contract was cut short making financials a tad more complicated, my friend & hiking partner became ill and had to drop out, I met someone one month before my Campo departure. Why would I choose to jump off the track to an exciting, promising new relationship to hike alone, knowing there was a very real chance it wouldn’t be that easy to jump back on? Why was it so important for me to hike the PCT that year? I missed weddings of good friends, the birth of my sister’s first baby, and watching my favorite little people grow up. And for what?
My mind races, like all of the time. For as long as I can remember, it’s jumped from thought to random thought, sometimes stopping on one for extensive periods of time, so long I forget what I’m doing outside of my mind.
Picture one of those guys super into fantasy football, like, so into it, they somehow have eight different screens up at a time, all showing a different game. My mind is like that, only the TVs are all running a news reel, like you see on the bottom of CNN (or Fox News, relax). And the news reel is just a running commentary of my thoughts, all sort of coming at once. Eight different screens with eight different news reels of thought. Maybe this is how everyone’s brain operates, I don’t know. Unfortunately I only have mine for reference.
I’ve been known to get distracted easily when talking with someone. It’s not because I’m not listening, it’s because one of those TV’s has suddenly become so loud, it’s impossible to hear anything else. And the only way to silence it, is to address it; read the reel, ask the questions. That sounds like an excuse for being a mess. And maybe it is.
While hiking the Appalachian Trail, I accidentally discovered that when I thru-hike, my mind goes silent. I write less because all that’s upstairs is ramen and peanut butter, thoughts of my warm sleeping bag under starry nights, how far I’ve walked and how far I have left to walk. One TV, one news reel. I have a hard time keeping in touch with friends and family, because whoever I’m with at the moment feels like all the company I need, all the company I want. I think so much less and feel so much more. Simple tasks from the real world become complex and I can’t be bothered to deal with them. Some, like bills and basic adulting feel so unimportant, so unnecessary. Others just appear so far from the world I’m immersed in, they seem fake, better left to tackle when I’m one of Today’s Humans again.
Out there, I want my mind to be quiet. I need it to be quiet. I need to give it a rest from the noise.
Because I know all too well how soon I’ll be post car accident Freddie, walking the streets totally aware, just trying to make sense of it all.