I almost went camping.
I’ll let that settle in for a moment. I know, I know. It’s true. It’s an almost.
Over the past almost two years, I’ve been sharing all my outdoorsy adventures. Through various woods. On several beaches. Up into the mountains. Swarmed by insects. Delighted by skies. Scared of noises in the brush. I’ve stumbled through nature, learning to walk tall.
In early October, I went hiking. I didn’t share it. I kept it private because I’d met a man. He was hiking with me that day, and it felt special. We went to a park where he’d never been, and I actually took the lead, finding my way around for some of it. Most of it was wandering for me, though, as it always is. He clearly could find his way, said he loved being outside, and said he liked camping. He asked if I would be interested in going camping with him.
Y’all know my usual response would be a resounding Nope followed by much laughter at the thought. I surprised myself in that moment because I didn’t even answer immediately. I’d paused. There was not a no. There was a me saying I’d be willing to try it. He got excited, explaining the best times we’d be able to go before the weather turned. I explained that his excitement could dampen when he realized I would not be helpful in any way, and basically, he’d have to keep me alive. He said he didn’t care and that the most difficult part would be figuring out what I could eat (canned meat was not an option, clearly). Our hike lasted several hours that day, and after that day, we went on to enjoy more than outdoorsy things together.
We never went camping. We’d talked about it. We’d talked about a lot of future fun. There was so much to do and share with each other. None of that happened either. Sometimes things fall apart.
Here’s why I’m grateful. First, the brief recap: my grandmother died, my dad died, my husband disappeared, I started to crawl out of the pit of grief and depression, started kind of dating again, and then pandemic hit. During pandemic, the guy I was seeing on and off cut things off, and I fell back into the pit, realizing I’d never grieved my dad because I’d been grieving my other loss. I started to crawl out of the pit, but with no vaccine yet and my desire to live and not kill those compromised around me, rebounding and dating was not an option. So I worked. I delighted in friendships. I wrote. I meditated. I hiked. I walked. I practiced yoga. I worked out. I went to museums. I danced from room to room in my house. I did all the things I do that create my happiness. I got vaxxed. Then this past summer, I felt it. With the fear that this little body would not be able to take another loss, I still felt the desire to find a man who could share a life.
Manifestation is powerful. The men showed up in my life in strange and sundry ways. None of them were right for me, and that was fine. I didn’t expect to find someone right away.
And then I did. I found a man who was everything I’d been looking for.
And then it didn’t work out.
So again, why I’m grateful. Here’s another loss, and here I am, still standing. This little body is whole. This little body thrives. And when I say this little body, I mean all that is me (setting aside the Buddhist-self-doesn’t-exist-body-isn’t-me-philosophy for now). Resilience is exhausting. Being strong is exhausting. Still, I’m grateful I get to be exhausted because that means I’m living a life.
I haven’t written much about my personal life since I got divorced. That experience changed how I see public versus private content. Sharing publicly all the highs and hiding all the very lows seemed dishonest. I wasn’t into airing the lows of my marriage because I didn’t realize they were lows at the time, and now I can’t see the point in sharing half a story moving forwards. However, I can share what I learn and what I know.
Because I’ve decided that I’m not moving from my house any time soon (I bought air conditioners, y’all—it’s an investment), I’ve been tidying up and clearing out trinkets. I found a box in my living room that felt empty, but when I looked inside, I startled. I didn’t remember I’d saved it. I found the parking receipt for the park from the hike where we’d talked about camping. When I found it, I remembered the moment clearly—I’d taken it from my hiking bag and went to throw it out. Then I’d stopped myself, feeling that feeling of this could be something, and put it in a new box. It was a memory of new beginnings, something I’d thought was going to be more than simply a passing by but a long term reality.
The reality is that it was a passing by after all. My heart is catching up to what my head already knows, and it’s difficult; getting through it is. Getting through it is also exhilarating.
This week, I went on a hike. The leaves are at peak autumn colors. I climbed up steep slopes, got caught up in thorny brush, kept to the trails, and found my way. Yes, that’s a metaphor, too.
Last week, my panel about creators getting through grief with gratitude came to be a realization. The next day, I talked on a panel about being in the creative field. It felt right, like I’d found the crossroads of all I’m meant to do. I don’t know if I’ll keep writing here. Because it’s not a revelation that I go outside anymore, the outdoorsy series pretty much ends here. Maybe if there’s a trip in the future to share or a really fun exhibit, I’ll come on back. To write about heartache is difficult, and as I said before, that line between public and private remains tricky for me.
Also, I’m a writer. This is who I am. Now more than ever I realize why I write. I write to connect, to let people know they are not alone, to share suffering along with joy. And I thank you always for listening.
And I’ve said this before many times, and I’ll keep saying it–to all y’all who help hold me up when I need it most and also celebrate all the wins in kind, you have my heart.