weekends

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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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NOTE:  This is a post from last year, a draft dated 07/31/16.  In it I talk about mental health problems following my car accident, moving on from a major breakup, which was still very much on my mind at the time… eggs.  The eggs were all good last year.  Other things not so much.  At the time that I wrote this, I was feeling rested, somewhat recovered, but about a month later I would fall into one of the worst depressions that followed the car accident, one of the worst that I’ve had as a grown adult honestly.  It’s strange to look back on moments that felt like clarity with something much more accurately resembling clarity.

Sunday Morning

Just before Ten. I’ve slept in. The dim hopes of waking early and going on a hike dashed already. But I needed the sleep. It’s okay. Awoken by the phone, buzz buzz, a text message from (and I know it before I even look…) Mom. I’m still not texting her back. I should call today, though. Things have been good lately. The family visit last week much better than expected.

Breakfast: eggs, potatoes, sausages.

Light and healthy chicken sausages. I’ve done a good job of losing weight and getting back into shape this year. Need to keep at it. The tater tots: my weekend luxury. Besides, I bake em.

Scrambled Eggs a la Jon

1x free range brown eggs
1/2 pat of butter
1-2 tsp cream, whole milk, or half and half
Dash salt and pepper

Pictured: some other morning’s breakfast

Fifteen minutes prior to cooking, scramble the eggs in a bowl. Add salt and pepper. Adding the salt and letting it sit loosens up the proteins and makes the eggs fluffier (credit: J Kenji Lopez-Alt on the tip). In a non-stick pan melt the butter. Add eggs. Stir while they cook. Just as the eggs are setting, add the dairy. Do not add the dairy earlier than this. The timing is the point here. (credit: Michel Roux on the tip.) The proper ratio of milk to eggs, in most recipes, I’ve found to be a quarter cup of dairy per dozen eggs. So bear that in mind. You don’t need much. Just a bit. Continue to cook the eggs until just about fully set. Turn off the heat and let the eggs rest. Like pasta or fish. The timing can be tricky. I’ve really only just gotten any good at it myself. Had to crack a lot of eggs, as they say….

No solid plans for the day. Need to practice Pilates. Should do weights too, maybe the treadmill. Would like to play some pinball. I’m still no good at it, but I’ve taken an interest in it lately. I haven’t been gaming much lately, but I’ve been working pinball in about once a week.

Might make pickles. Been wanting to try some fermentation, but feel pretty intimidated by it. Perhaps more to post on that later. In either case, it would involve a trip to Target, which I may or may not be willing to make this afternoon. Perhaps of there is a Target close to some pinball….

Been doing a lot of redecorating and reorganizing around the house. I reclaimed my spare bedroom this week. It has sat vacant since my ex moved out, and it has lent a certain hollowed quality to the home. After she moved out, I did a pretty big purge, getting rid of things that reminded me too much of her. Tossing some, boxing others. Memories can be difficult to un-entwine when you’ve lived with someone. I imagine, it was easier for her. That’s just how she is. For me, not so easy. In fact one of the hardest things about the breakup was that I was stuck in this house that we had tried to make into a home together. She got to just leave. Make something new. A process of potential and excitement. I had to rebuild. Again.

The car accident complicated everything. Months of physical therapy kept me from doing much of anything around the house. I had not understood it at the time, but as painful as the PT process felt, there was a sweet structure there. A regimen to my days. When that regimen ended, things really went off the rails for me mental health wise. I believe the concussion had much to do with this, but the timing right after such a major breakup could not have been worse. I leaned into my support network and found mixed results. In the end, really, I found myself very much on my own.

It’s been a long summer, but I’m doing much better. I started leaning pretty heavily on behavioral techniques with the help of my therapist. Setting boundaries, removing triggers, avoiding things that I simply cannot handle right now. It’s been hard. I’ve had to let go of some things dear to me for the time being.
And so, here I find myself reclaiming my home. It’s not just my ex moving out, but that I’m living here alone altogether now. No roommates. No one. Just me. At times it’s felt like I’m the one haunting the place. It used to be filled with such life, so many people. And now I roam about, talking to my sweet cat.
I now type from my reading and writing room. This bedroom was home to several others, but now it is me who sits at this window looking out at the shady trees, the ivy creeping up the chimney, the patches of lawns visible in the distance. This is the shady side of the house after all. It’s very peaceful. I feel like a stranger here. A stranger I am trying much harder to like again. Sometimes it’s tough. Like I said, it’s been a difficult summer.

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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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Everything is happening slower than I want it to.  I’m glad that I bumped the move up a week, because it’s taken a lot longer than expected.  There are still a few things left at the apartment that I need to pick up (I left my pictures hung because I didn’t have time to spackle the walls yet).

Just the move itself took twice as long as expected.  I do this thing right…. people, they usually assume I’m in my 20s.  I look young.  And sometimes I feel like I’m still in my 20s.  But after loading and unloading that truck several times this weekend, I felt like I was 50.  Despite having more muscle tone than I used to, I’m not the young buck I once was.

And now that I’m in the house, everything is taking forever.  My list of things I hope to get done this weekend is impossible:
– Reseal grout in kitchen
– Chop down branches in back yard
– Get the deck ready for company
– Get my lawn mower and mow the lawn
– Paint my basement
– Sort boxes and unpack more
– Hit up IKEA and put together some furniture
– Install CO detectors

Heck, I know there’s a bunch I’m forgetting.

I guess part of home ownership is learning to take things one step at a time.

Despite what sounds like griping there, I’m sleeping better than I have in months.  Oh speaking of sleeping, I now need to purchase a split box spring for my bed.  So there’s another thing to do this weekend.

And this is, of course, in addition to this weekend’s social events.

I guess we’ll see how it all goes.  One step at a time…

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It’s been a crazy weekend.  Instead of letting the snow get us down, a number of intrepid souls braved the elements and conquered them with spirited laughter.  Here is me giggling like a kid on a playground.

Sledding is awesome.  Sledding on the way to and from the bar is even more awesome.  This was, of course, following a giant feast that I and some friends prepared.  Everyone cooked a dish (or two!) and trekked through the elements to enjoy fine food, fine drink, and fine company.  It was a fine night.  The weekend has been full of fine nights.

And it looks like it’s not over yet.  Another foot of snow coming tomorrow.  I’m actually hoping to wake up at a regular hour tomorrow and be productive.  I guess we’ll see.  I’m definitely not going to work.  In fact I hope they close the office (again).

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I’m supposed to be at the office right now, lapping up some of those sweet overtime hours.  But instead, I am home convalescing.   I only had three beers at the bar last night, but it feels like ten.  I guess between thanksgiving family madness, catching up with friends, and dates with a particularly awesome someone, I am worn out. *sigh*

This is not good.  I need to be soaking up all the overtime I can right now.  Need to, as in right now it’s not optional.

Since I’m home, though, my goal is to be as productive as I can be.  I need to clean, I need to figure out some Christmas gifts, I need to work on some mix CDs, I… don’t even know what comes after that, but it’s too much.

I will try and post something mor substantive later today.  Perhaps after I am rehydrated…

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Because apparently five days isn’t enough.

It was a pretty full weekend actually.

I managed to catch the Caleb Stine hosted event at the Creative Alliance on Saturday, and it was waaaaay more amazing than I thought it would be (and I thought it was going to be really amazing). I mainly wanted to see this local country musician named Arty Hill.  I caught Arty Hill first a few months back.  I hadn’t been to the place I saw him in years, but apparently in the intervening time it’s become something of a local country hub.  And when I say country I’m not talking about country music top 40 stuff.  No.  We’re taling old Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, June Carter Cash, Bob Wills, George Jones.  That sort of thing.  Old country.  The good stuff.

But Arty only played a few songs at the show, and that turned out to be more than okay.  Got to hear some old gospel songs, old Confederate murder ballads, good old fashioned Irish jigs, and some surprises.  Wish I had some photos and sound bites, but this little mention will have to do.

I was hoping to spend some time reading and maybe doing some writing today, but that didn’t really happen.  This is the sort of thing I need to start being selfish about.  I spent too many hours today running errands and cooking dinner.  It’s not like I’m cooking for a family or anything, so why do I need to go all out just cooking for myself and spend so much time at it?  There are other things I’d like to do.  I guess it just wasn’t meant to be today.

Also I wanted to lift weights today.  I only lifted once last week.  At least I jogged a bit.  But this week I’m looking for some more discipline.  I’ve done a good job of toning up from last spring’s junk food indiscretions, however I have some goals to reach before the end of the year and, time, it is a runnin’ out.

Anyway.

I have a kitchen full of food, and I’m looking forward to doing some cooking this week.  I’m thinking about ginger and lime this week.  Ginger and lime.  That is the sort of tone that I wish to set.

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