Perseverance

...now browsing by category

 

The time I walked to Breckenridge

Friday, July 4th, 2014

The night before I left, my mom said to me, “I just never want you to be scared, or anything to be hard.”

I laughed, because didn’t she know what I’d signed up for?

Like it or not, I was right: the first week on the Colorado Trail has been scary and hard – mostly hard. And despite the temptation to sugarcoat the details for my lovingly protective mother, I’m just going to give it to you straight.

I was prepared for a challenge. I was prepared for physical discomfort. But I was not prepared for the pain. On the first day, my pack weighed 45 lbs – the equivalent of a 5-year old child. My friend Sarah hiked the first two days with me, and when we would stop for breaks, we would unbuckle our packs to have them drop to the ground like boulders, like that ride at amusement parks that pulls you up, up, up, just to release and send you plummeting to the ground. Granted, Sarah’s pack was mostly a Bota Box of wine (of which we barely had any – sorry, Sarah).

Mine was just heavy.

I quickly developed sores on each of my shoulders, spots where my straps rubbed me raw. I hope you’re not offended by a bare collarbone, because here it is.

photo (12)

Then came the blisters. First my left heel, then my right pinky toe and the one next to it, then the ball of my left foot, then the left pinky. I doctored them as best as I could, but there was no way around the first few days of excruciating pain. Every step was like walking on knives.

The heat wasn’t helpful, either. Saturday and Sunday, Sarah I went whole hog, hiking 21 miles the first day and 20 the second. The days were so hot, we’d arrive at our campsite ready to vomit (hence the minimal wine consumption).

Before Sarah left on Sunday night, she looked at me and said, “You’re really brave.” But is it really bravery if I didn’t feel afraid? I was too shell-shocked to feel fear.

“But what if I’m not tough?” I said, blinking back the tears.

“You can do this,” she said. “You can do this.” And then she drove back to Denver with her husband Tom, and I spent my first night alone in the woods.

I thought that the decision was made when I put in for my leave of absence last fall, or maybe when I gathered each piece of gear, or definitely when I stepped out on the trail on June 28. But I’m learning that the decision to hike this trail is made every single time I pull my pack back on, groaning under the weight, and then straightening my shoulders and moving forward. It’s a constant re-deciding to keep going.

I could tell you a lot of stories from this week – about how in a moment of desperation I lay on my back in the middle of the trail in Happy Baby pose (feeling anything but happy), or how I leapt an uncomfortably wide irrigation ditch with my full pack on (like a heavy-laden, off-balance superhero), or how I came across a felled tree blocking the path and it was too high to climb over so I opted to crawl under (and wound up stuck, belly to the ground), or how I feel a new kinship with Lance Armstrong (because if someone were to offer me performance enhancing drugs, I would take them), or how I came across car campers who said the 5 magic words (“Do you want a beer?”), or how I awoke on the fifth day with a fire in my bones and tore over the Continental Divide (like She-Ra, Princess of Power). I could tell you how amazing my shower in Breckenridge felt (a holy experience), how delicious my burger tasted (try the curry ketchup at Empire Burger), or how I cried this morning when my dad brought me a resupply of food (and a visit from Foxy).

But it’s time for me to close the computer and head back to the trail – I’m about to be dropped off at the trailhead to hike into tonight’s campsite, tears still in my eyes. I’m going to keep going. And that’s what the past week has really been about – deciding and re-deciding and walking even when I didn’t think I could walk any further, through the tears and discouragement and the most beautiful terrain.

I’m 104 miles in. Here’s to 104 more.

ContinentalDivide

Forgive again, begin again

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

It’s never too late to learn how to forgive, over and over and over.

Today is another one of those days.

New song

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

For me, writing songs is like kissing boys.  There might be some good luck for awhile, but then, for one reason or another, it just ends.  There is always the hope of it happening again, and that when it does, it will be fantastic – but it might take years.

Years.

Anyway.

I finally finished a new song!  It’s super sassafras, and I think I really like it.  Maybe one day you’ll get to hear it.

As for the kissing of boys, WOULDN’T YOU LIKE TO KNOW.

Wetterhorn

Monday, July 12th, 2010

On Friday morning, my dad and I left at 4am and drove for over 2 hours to hike for 6 and see only one other person all day.  It’s a very, very thin slice of the world’s population who will ever stand where we were on Friday – between the remote location and the 4-wheel drive roads and the amount of physicality one has to employ to get there, you have to REALLY mean to go.

But we had an opportunity, and we grabbed it.  We really meant to go.

The hike was long and steep, but my daily walkoftriumphs have paid off, and we kept a good pace.  Nearing the top, the summit looked so close.

But when we actually got closer, I realized that we were going to have to scale this (see here for another perspective):

Now, listen.  I’m no rock climber.  I have no triceps, remember?  Plus, heights and me?  We don’t get along so well.  It’s not so much the heights that bother me – it’s more of the plunging to my death that really freaks me out.  I don’t even like to skin my knees, let alone break bones, lose limbs, chip teeth, etc.  And wouldn’t you know, the first really scary part, when my dad assured me that the rock was secure, and if I just put my hand *right there*, I could get a good grip – the rock BROKE OFF IN MY HAND.

But there was only one way to the top, and I wasn’t walking off that mountain without a summit.

Despite my fears, and freezing a couple of times, unable to move or breathe, starting the stressed-out-whistle-breath thing, after a long, slow climb, I made one last quick hand-over-foot movement and scrambled my way onto the top of Wetterhorn Peak.

Fears: faced, engaged, overcome.
Self-confidence: boosted.
First 14er of the season: conquered.

(Now go read my dad’s post about what HE did the next day.  AAAAGH.)

Annie Parsons: Ex-Con

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Although I watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympics last week, I have yet to watch an actual Olympic.  However, I must say that I’m liking Shaun White these days.  I don’t know why – I never paid him any attention before.  But isn’t he so likable?  His big smile and happy heart?

Don’t you think Shaun White has a happy heart?  He seems like it.

You know who DOESN’T have a happy heart today?  Yours truly.  The DMV is officially the thorn in my side, the hitch in my get-up.  After basically being accused of being a criminal and driving a stolen vehicle, they refused to issue me Colorado license plates.  I now have no choice but to make an appointment with a little organization called the COLORADO STATE PATROL to clear my name.

It’s practically the Salem Witch Trials.

Except, come to think of it, not really the same at all.

Forward

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Tomorrow is a new year, a fresh start, a clean slate.

I like markers.  I like new beginnings.  I like boundaries that separate “this” from “that.”  It gives me a sense of control, however misperceived.

2010 is a year of starting over, in almost every way that I possibly could – even in ways that I didn’t ask for and don’t want to.  New city.  New home.  New people.  The “new people” part is the part I really don’t like – I’ll be honest, I don’t really want any new people.  I like the people that I already have, thankyouverymuch.

But I think back to 2 years ago when I moved to Nashville, and I could not believe that I had left Seattle.  I spent the first 6 months with one foot still in the Northwest, convincing myself that the relocation was temporary, and that I would be returning sooner rather than later.  I tried to freeze my long-distance friendships – like frogs under the ice, just biding time until the waters thawed and they could once again swim freely.

But that day never came.

And you know what?  I’m glad.

I exchanged something very good in Seattle for what turned out to be something very good in Nashville.  Incredible friends.  Amazing experiences.  Growth and challenges and hilarity and LIFE.  I would not trade my two years in Nashville for anything I once had in Seattle – not because it was better than what I had in Seattle, but because I have now experienced it, and it’s mine.

You can’t give back what is now yours.  I wouldn’t want to.  Not even the hard stuff.

So as I head up to Denver today to get the keys to my new apartment, and I wait for my furniture to be delivered next week, and I start working in the office on Monday, and I drive around this massive urban sprawl that seems so foreign and gigantic, I want to be present.  I will leave my heart wide open to the people in front of me – not forsaking my far-flung, beloved friends, but hopefully, gracefully, allowing those relationships to change.  This is the only way to truly live.

Even though I didn’t really ask for it, I chose it, and I CHOOSE it.  I’m excited for what Denver might hold.

But, um, friends?  Please come visit me in 2010.  I miss you already.

Sooner or later

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

I went to the dermatologist yesterday.

I have an age spot.

At least, I’m calling it an age spot.  The doctor called it a “sun freckle,” and I was like, lady, I’LL SHOW YOU A SUN FRECKLE.  This spot is 5mm by 4mm – much larger than I am comfortable chalking up to just a “sun freckle.”

(To be fair, let’s remember that I have a flair for the drama when it comes to physical woes.)

I wanted her to burn it off, but she said no.  (Why does no one ever indulge my desire for the quick fix?  *pout*)  Instead, she gave me some bleaching cream to use twice a day for 3 weeks.  If it doesn’t help, then I’m supposed to stop using it because if I use it for too long, it could cause paradoxical darkening.

“What’s paradoxical darkening?” I asked, doe-eyed and naïve.

Well, Annie, paradoxical darkening turns out to be exactly what it sounds like.  The cream is supposed to fade the spot – but if you use it for too long, it can have the opposite effect and make it worse.  Get it?  Paradoxical darkening?  Get it?

In any case, it made me think of one of my favorite quotes – one that I’ve written about before, but surfaces frequently enough in my thoughts that it’s worth mentioning again:

Crying is all right in its way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.”
-C.S. Lewis (The Silver Chair)

Indulging my feelings is all well and good for a moment or two.  Everyone needs a good cry.  Everyone needs the freedom to acknowledge when they feel left out, or left behind, or unwanted, or unseen, or just tired and sad.  But at some point, it’s time to decide what to do – otherwise, the very thing that was supposed to make you feel better only winds up making you feel worse.

I’m making a plan.

And in the meantime, I am bleaching the devil out of this spot.

Stay

Monday, June 8th, 2009

Music is never going to pay my bills – and I have no expectation that it should.  So why is it important that I dedicate any time, energy, or effort to it?

Because I believe that we simply must do what we love.

But in the last 6 months, I’ve really stopped pursuing musical endeavors.  I am not writing.  I rarely go to shows.  I feel depleted, and uninspired, and checked out.  I work long days, and have my evenings booked up with various commitments and responsibilities.  So many other things have taken the place of writing.  Silence is a rarity, imagination seemingly an impossibility.

How do we keep the thing that we love a priority?  In the midst of work and relationships and laundry and grocery shopping and getting a zit INSIDE ONE’S NOSTRIL, how do we stay focused on what we were created to love?

I am grateful for my very full life.  But these days, all I want to do is drive away.

I don’t know where to go, though.

And so I stay.

I can blame my lack of creativity on this exhaustion and depletion, thinking that I just need to change something about my day-to-day reality.  It’s so easy to live a guilt-based existence, assuming that if only I did this or that differently, I could dig myself out of this hole.

But to think that “success” or “failure” – in any area of my life – is up to ME?  That is giving myself far too much credit.

I have to remember that the only true source of life and inspiration is in Christ.

I don’t know where else to go.

And so I stay.

Steady goes

Monday, May 4th, 2009

There have been a lot of times in the past several years when I have needed courage.  Between the ending of relationships, and a solo cross-country move, and feeling so alone I could barely breathe, and being relatively destitute, and getting roommates, and starting to share my music for the first time, and introducing myself to hundreds of new people, and continually putting myself out there… I have been through a lot of big, dramatic, grandiose transition.  Change is scary.

But for me, change is not the scariest thing.

In recent months, a lot of things have fallen into place for me.  I’m on stable ground.  I have a home, and a Tennessee family, and a great job, and a feeling of belonging.  I know my way around the city, and I’m involved in my church and various other groups, and I feel very much a part of the fabric of my Nashville community.  Things are steady.

Then why is my first instinct to run?

I’m finding that staying put requires a lot more courage than leaving.

Privileged

Monday, April 27th, 2009

I did it.  And it was the worst best thing I’ve ever done.

I have started this post at least a dozen times, and am having a hard time putting into words what happened on Saturday.

I could tell you about waking up at 4:30am, and stressing out in a traffic jam on the way to the race.

I could tell you about the last minute visit to a Porta-Potty that had no toilet paper.

I could say that miles 1-5 were fun, and 5-8 were less fun, and 8-9 was really tough, but 9-10 was easier, and from 10 on, it was sheer agony.

I could talk about the heat, and the people passing out right and left.

I could give you the amazing finish times of all of my friends, who I am so ridiculously proud of.

I could report that I came in 8,449th out of the 22,749 finishers, and 3,987th out of the 14,505 women.

Or, perhaps my favorite tidbit of information: I could talk about the friend-who-will-never-be-named who is so hardcore, she PEED HER PANTS in the last mile so she wouldn’t have to stop.

But I think that this is my biggest take-away: what an enormous privilege.  To have legs, to have a body that works, to have the opportunity to train for something far more physically taxing than I have ever attempted before.  To have the ability to run.

Even in the heat.  Even when it’s not fun.  Even when I didn’t get the runner’s booty that I hoped for.  I am ABLE to run.  Not everyone is.

And this girl is getting busy getting grateful.

I am so glad I did it.  I am so glad it’s over.  And I guess I can’t deny it anymore: once one has run 13.1 miles, she is officially a “runner.”

More to come in the next few days…