What a Year, Amiright?
If I counted how many times I’ve tried to write this, I’d probably be somewhere in the dozens by now. Unfortunately, writer’s block doesn’t idly pass so I’m posting anyway. I’m still depressed, but I’m not as depressed as I was. The little microcosm I exist in won’t let me be. Good things keep happening to me. And one bad thing. I wake up feeling like garbage and then I check my email and someone wants to interview me or have me on their podcast and I feel like I’m never doing enough to be having these opportunities extended to me, but here I freaking am. Any healthy, rational person would tell me these things are not just happening to me, I’m making them happen. The generous people seeking me out do not have the wool pulled over their precious eyes. I’m actually doing something interesting and cool and people are finding out about it and isn’t that exactly what one hopes for when releasing their work to the world? Yeah, woe is… me?
Alright, let’s just get this part out of the way and quickly: 2016 was garbage. A dumpster fire, as the internet is saying. A continuous heartbreak skipping like the Faith record I’ve had since 1987. I was five and I still remember my mom buying it from the Target on Broadway before Target became cool. I refrained from making arching statements about the year itself while it was still 2016 as if to deflect it’s powers, but we’re now on the 2017 side of things and I can talk as much shit as I want. However, I’m not going to. I do all of the time and will keep doing it, but I can’t right now. We all know what is happening. The White People’s President is doing all of the things he said he would and more. What was that so many people said about how he couldn’t do those things because they’re unconstitutional? Do I need to remind anyone that words matter? Words Will Haunt You Down.
Without being an overly privileged bonehead on the outside looking in telling suffering people to “be positive,” I’ve been searching high and low for any shred of hope or clarity in all of this. One thing I can say with one hundred percent certainty is we, the misfits, the creatives, the third class citizens and plenty of the second class if they’d just put that kool-aid down (read: white women), always find ways to rise above and to fight and we do so creatively. There’s an old ACT UP slogan that will never expire, “Fags bash back!” The dudes in charge can do whatever the fuck they want, and they are, but we will always fight back. That is something to believe in.
The Bad Thing that Happened to Me
I had a little accident. Nothing major, I mean, I’m relieved it didn’t happen ten miles into a trail where I’d have to hike back out or something terrible. I tore a meniscus. It’s a common injury, but it is salty as hell. It was Christmas day, halfway through what was the best trip home to San Diego I’ve ever had. Beautiful weather, a lot of hiking. Brie, my partner, and I were having a great time with my kooky family. I woke up that day feeling kind of sick, which is beside the point, but it will matter in a moment. After all of the holiday hoopla, we decided to go hit some scenic spots and do a little walking to offset the mountain of food we’d been shoveling through since landing. Mom food is the best food. We were at our last stop of this little excursion, La Jolla Coves, where the sea lions were giving no fucks. You actually had to walk around them to get to wherever you were going. I made one weird step and heard a loud, crunchy pop in my left knee. It didn’t actually hurt, but with every step thereafter, there was this awful sensation of my knee wanting to buckle. I minded it best I could, but as I continued to walk it did just that. I was going down and Brie caught me like a superhero. The pain was excruciating, like nothing I’ve ever felt and I knew I needed to go to a doctor, but it was Christmas and I did not want to go to an ER. We were barely in the front door of my parent’s house when my dad, who is a walking catalog of maladies and, thankfully, has every pain pill and muscle relaxer you can think of, is giving me some horse pill of something and tells me George Michael has died. I could hardly process it before the pill kicked in. Bye, bye world…
How is it possible we lost another gay icon in 2016? Queers need their icons. Our father figures who are usually not our birth fathers. George Michael was a big deal in my house growing up and I have always counted Faith as an integral part of my make-up. I was even in a George Michael cover band a few years ago!
The rest of the story just isn’t very interesting. We ended up going to the ER on account of everything being closed for the holiday and there was a patient there named George Michael, which I definitely took as some angelic sign. After five hours, some pointless x-rays and bills for nearly $2000 (with insurance!) later, I was told it would take six to eight weeks to heal, which is a big fat lie, and was written a prescription for ibuprofen I never filled. I spent the last three days of my trip in bed with my injury and the flu.
Back in Portland, the flu continued for two weeks and I could hardly walk for three weeks, which is the perfect breeding ground for darkness to make a home in one’s bones. Not being able to access by best self-care tools, being in nature and hiking, during this generally awful time paired with my physical inability, has been a river of salt in the wound. However, as things usually do, they got better. By week four, I was walking well enough to perform most of my daily duties, and by week five, I started experiencing notable improvements with every passing day. As I creep into week eight, I can feel that I have a long way to go yet, but I am doing so much better. I’ve even done some light walking on flat trails just to get the feeling of my body moving outdoors.
Brie has been my rock through all of this. She also got the flu during this time and still miraculously took care of me. I even had to go to urgent care at one point (are you feeling sorry for me yet?) and she made all of this happen while she was as sick as I was. She has been incredibly patient, tender and a constant, loving force of light. There were some moments where I was being The Most and she was a gentle hand through all of it. I know she loves me, I know this, but sometimes you go through something and you find out whether or not the person you love is able to be there for you when things get down to the real nitty gritty. We’re about to celebrate five years as a couple and while I know we’ve been in it to win it since the beginning, I can say: Brie is my person. I’ve got her and she’s got me.
So, that’s where I’ve been the last couple of months. How are you?
If Self-Conscious Self-Examination is Not Your Thing, Skip this Part
When I first started this blog in October 2015, I was in the best mental health of my life and I feel like it informed a sort of loser-makes-good tone in my writing that
annoys me I want to cast away. It’s a really prevalent tone in outdoorsy media! All of the inspirational quotes and motivational messages instead of actual feelings and experiences. Witnessing my mental health tank over the last better half of a year has had me feeling confused about who I’m presenting myself as. What do I know? Why would anyone care? I’ve become keenly aware of how I chase new identities. When I started experiencing how hiking and nature were changing my life, I ditched everything else I was into to become Nature Girl. At any given moment, I am a lot of things. This is a messy way of saying, I don’t have to decide who I am to be worthy of telling my stories. I may opt for a weekend in the woods over partying in the club, but I’m not not the same girl who likes to party even if we don’t see her very often. I am everything I have ever been, including the worst things and especially the best things. I didn’t lose the “worst” parts of myself when I started to do better and my worthiness certainly didn’t begin with it, either. I haven’t arrived anywhere. May I never arrive! I’m going to keep telling my stories. I will also probably keep taking myself waaaaaay too seriously.
Back to what I said about how we rise up creatively. Despite this flaccid writer’s block, I keep having so many ideas about where I need to put my efforts. Diversifying the outdoors and creating inclusion and visibility feels more needed than ever. As does promoting the healing power of being in nature. I know that I need to write about these things more and I’m thinking critically about how to step up my game. Nearly every day, I post articles and resources on my Facebook community page, Jenny Bruso & Unlikely Hikers, and I’m starting a newsletter. It will be a monthly-ish, stream-lined digest of all of the information and articles I come across. I really hope you’ll sign up because it will be a quick, easy way to get a lot of information without all of the digging. The first one will be out in early March.
Sign up for the Unlikely Hikers Digest! (No spam, no nonsense.)
Thank you for reading! I’ve got more stuff to post very soon. Here are some other recent things on the blog I think you should check out (in this order):