too old to die young now

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NOTE: This post is from Christmas, the anniversary of the car accident.  The weather is warming up around here, and I look forward to getting back on the bike.

It’s Christmas morning…

Instead of gathering around a sparkling tree and tearing away at presents, I’m on my bike riding the North Central Rail Trail. While I’ll be headed to see family soon, I need this time in the morning for me. The universe was stingy with its gifts this year, so it’s important to observe this one: time on the trail with the bike. A gift from my youth rediscovered, what a lifeline it would become this year.

The trail is cold and–past the first mile of the trailhead–mostly empty. A few hardy types like myself and few locals walking their dogs. The green and gold have given way to gray and brown. It would be easy to call it ugly, but as the trees stand naked, one can seen the hills beyond them. Crags of schist and gneiss stone, breaking through skyward, as the Gunpowder River winds bayward below. The occasional quartzite boulder face stands strong, indifferent to the oncoming winter.

This trail, where a century ago industry lurched from Baltimore to Sunbury and back, has become a refuge. A year ago on this day I was lying in an emergency room, having just survived a head on car collision. And this on the heals (days after) of one of the bigger relationships in my life ending. The breakup at the time had seemed a relief, but I had yet to dive into the well of misgivings lurking behind me… and the mental health problems that would follow the closed head injury would only make all of that worse. I tried to do a lot of forgetting, but what I did instead was a lot of letting go. The accident took me close to the brink, and the major change in life would have me gazing deep over the edge… into life, into myself. It was a journey. I wish I could say it was fun, but the most transformative seldom are.

I’m at the point where I’m mostly recovered and am finally starting to talk about it. “Hey do you remember how I suddenly ran out on your birthday that night? Panic attack.” “Hey do you remember that concert I inexplicably bailed on? Depression’s a bitch.” “Hey do you remember that crazy letter I sent you? I was on the verge of a breakdown. Still not sure who I was even trying to help.”

I’d been talking to some close friends about it the whole while, but not many. I learned a LOT about my support network–a process that involved some painful trial and error at times. I saw a whole bunch of doctors and professionals for therapy both physical and mental. It’s interesting: the one who was with me and remains with me after the whole ordeal? My acupuncturist. Big advocate. If you’re thinking about going, go.

It’s hard to talk about these things, though. It’s hard to write this. But a lot of recovery is talking about things. Hell, a lot of just being better and a little more alive every day is talking about things. And the truth is that I started seeing a therapist and working on improving myself a year or two beforehand. But you learn a lot in the crash and rebuild. If people were like computers, every day crashing and rebuilding, we’d each be amazing in our own lifetimes. As such, we build and rebuild simply what we can.

In either case, it is Christmas morning, and here I ride: on trails resurrected from the bones of industry, bicyclists and dog walkers trekking the hills of the Piedmont Plateau as it leans towards the great Blue Ridge. After each ride, I feel a little more alive than when I started it. I’m glad I started doing this. For me, this motion, this vitality is both the build and the rebuild.

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I ran into a friend at work yesterday, and he asked me how I’d been lately.  It had been awhile, I realized.  We used to see each other often, but I couldn’t actually tell you the last time we had spoken. I like him.  We haven’t known each other long, nor were necessarily besties or anything, but he is one of the few coworkers who I actually feel like I can talk to.

My answer, “Well…”

He’s not on my social media, and as I began to casually comment on bouncing back from things, his eyes began to grow wider.  The last six months were something of a Greek tragedy, a Southern gothic.  I told him about the family stuff (which I won’t mention here), but I had a lot more to say about the car accident and the breakup that happened right before it.  And there was more… so much more.  But why get into the minor stuff.

It was a strange moment for him I think because I was smiling and looking great as I recalled a litany of drama.  I’ve been on the upswing.  I was speaking to my acupuncturist (a treatment I highly recommend if you’ve recently experienced trauma), and I observed to her that my life of late has been in strange sync with the seasons.  Winter was awful.  A winter among winters.  But spring… ah spring.

“Most people wouldn’t think of it that way,” she said. She meant that in a good way.  So far I really like her.

So: spring.

Having weathered a saga of things that I won’t get into much here, I’ve turned with the weather to greener things, newer things.  As rough as the past six months have been, there’s a great relief that comes from passing through hell:  freedom. I find myself very unencumbered as of late.  Perhaps I set the stage for much of this last year when I was busting ass and paying off my student loans, maybe I would have gotten here sooner had not life intervened, but in either case I’ve entered a phase where I’ve put down or been released from a number of burdens. Work, family, debt, relationships. Unencumbered.

I’ve been doing things on my own lately.  Going to shows.  Exploring new places.  Pushing hobbies to new places.

This weekend I dropped by a Maryland trail that I can’t wait to get back to: The North Central Rail Trail.  It runs from Hunt Valley up to PA, close to York they tell me.  It used to be a railroad but became one of the many Rails-to-Trails projects that have swept across the country (an awesome parks project that everyone should support!).

On a chilly Sunday in March, the winter still holding spring back for one more week, it is a very peaceful place. The last of the season’s white was trickling through the trees, while the first of the season’s green was pushing up along the path.  Once past the first mile marker, I had the place to myself.

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I plan on buying a new bike soon, and this is the first place I intend to ride it.  The crushed gravel is easy, and there is plenty of shade.  It’s one of those strange places where one can feel very removed from society and yet in fact be still quite close to it.  The peace of a country garden without losing any cell signal.

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I’ve taken up trail running.  That’s what I was up to this weekend.  I do a few 10k’s every year, but I want to add some trail runs in this year.  They just sound fun.  I might have to join a runner’s group or something, as I can’t seem to generate any interest in it among my friends who run.

Or I could just keep going it alone.

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More to come.  Tonight I start another new thing: Pilates.  Since my car accident, I’ve become committed to developing more and better-balanced core strength (I might even start observing leg day at the gym!). I’m looking forward to tonight. It will be fun.

 

 

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I’ve been searching for energy lately. It’s been rough. Buying this house and working on it and the transitions at work–I’m finally appreciating just how burnt out I was getting. So the past few weeks I’ve just been pretty wiped out. If you’ve run into me, then probably that’s been pretty apparent.

But things are calming down. As I type this the asshole contractor who I’ve been fighting with is replacing the shit tile job he did in my bathrooms. This is a relief. My third bedroom is ready to go, and I may now begin the hunt for Roommate #2. This is also a relief.

I take a measure of pride in myself whenever I pull through a tough stretch, and this will count as one. It’s not epic or legendary, but it has yielded some very tangible results.

As I cool off and prepare to resume a more normal routine, there’s something I’ve been thinking about: vigor.

I miss the vigor of my younger days. I mean, one of my friends at work has been emailing me this morning talking about how crazy her week has been: staying up late, getting up early, always busy and basically running on fumes. I miss that. Well I miss some of that. I don’t really need to go back to my “4 happy hours a week plus 2-3 dance clubs on the weekend” days. But I do miss the energy that propelled me through it.

When I hit a rough patch like lately… man, it just makes me feel like an old man sometimes. I guess this is life past 30.

But I hate feeling worn out like that, so my big goal for the next couple weeks is to just be more energetic. Maybe a few tweaks to my routine. Maybe some more time in the gym or some healthier eating. Maybe just being a little more social.

And maybe that sounds a little cheesy. But sometimes this is the best thing that life can offer you: a big cheesy goal.

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Wow, is it almost April already? Been running on E the past few weeks, and my mental energy has been directed either at crisis aversion at work or crunching financial numbers at home as I prepare to start shopping for a house. But I’ve got a minute now. There’s plenty that I could wax philosophical about from my weekend: the amazing Mexican cuisine at Miguel’s in Silo Point; the thunderous excitement of a CCRG bout; the corned beef disaster that occurred in my kitchen; the long hours I put in at the office that are building towards a down payment on a house…

But instead let’s wax on about dating.

I broke things off with the girl I’ve been seeing lately. It hadn’t gone on for very long, so it wasn’t like some sort of huge breakup or anything. You could even debate whether or not to call it a breakup when it’s only been a couple weeks, but whatever. I’ve always been a one girl at a time kinda guy, and when I want things to stop with a lady I will just stop it. I guess what most guys do is they just stop returning phone calls, and keep distancing themselves until eventually it’s either clear that nothing is going on or they summon the balls to deliver the text message breakup. Apparently, this is one of my strengths when it comes to dating. I’m not the string em along type.

Anyway, so I’ve had dating on the brain.

One of the things that I said during our little conversation was “you’re awesome” or something like it, and my ladyfriend noted that two of my contentions were counterintuitive to each other: how can you call someone awesome and be breaking it off with them?

For me it’s pretty much always like this. I guess girls, and well guys too, probably hear that a lot in breakups: you’re awesome. Or hear it played out to its trite logical conclusion: it’s not you, it’s me. But most of the time when I break it off with someone, it’s much more like: it’s not you or me, it’s us.

So in the past couple years, pretty much all the girls I’ve dated have been awesome. In one way or another. And in these breakup conversations, I find myself telling people that they really are amazing, such a catch, and all of that. And I have to wonder if they believe me when they hear it. I hope they do.

Part of being the deliberate type, the don’t string em along type, is that you also don’t date anyone who you don’t respect. So, for me to even date someone, I already have to think they’re awesome. Why would I want to date someone who isn’t awesome? And I guess I’m perceptive enough to figure that much out pretty quickly about someone. That I will say: I’m pretty good at sizing people up quickly. (Not that there aren’t those out there who don’t fool me or trip me up now and again, but…)

One of the things about this recent one is that we had a big age gap. So to hear her call me out for being duplicitous, well, it reminded me of when I was that young. Ten years ago, when I was into someone and dating them, man I was so into them. Yeah, it sounds stupid to hear someone say “you’re awesome but let’s not date” when your head’s in a place like that.

I debate how much I miss that. I miss falling head over heels for girls all the time, but at the same time I don’t miss the subsequent heartbreak. Emotionally, my life is very tranquil right now. And I value that. But I wonder sometimes if I should fear it as well. I don’t want to become too complacent, you know.

In either case, right now I don’t know if I even have the time or energy to be dating anyone at all. Which was really my main reason for wanting to be single right now. I’m not so sure it’s a good idea to be getting to know a lady when I’m so preoccupied with work at the moment.

Watch, like tomorrow, I’m gonna be in the grocery store and I’m gonna spill a gallon of milk on someone’s foot, and then I’ll look up, and there will be my soul mate….. and I’ll fuck it up because I’m trying to buy a house in two months.

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