Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Sue Memory: Extreme Sports

It was a hot summer day and we were on vacation.  I was barely an adult, so a trip with no parents in sight gave me a tingly sense of excitement and freedom.  As always, I felt privileged to be included with Sue and a group of friends. We were camping at Interlochen State Park in Northern Michigan and were on a day trip to see the Sleeping Bear Dunes.

There is one particular sand dune that anyone who has visited the area will remember.  It is the huge, beautiful one where the breathtaking view down to the clear blue Lake Michigan water looks so inviting.  It also displays a group of warning signs:

 "Warning: Steep Bluff!"

"Return Climb is extremely exhausting!"

and my personal favorite:
"Rescue costs are high, YOU pay the transportation!"

We stood at the top of the sand dune, surveying the sparkling beauty that lay before us, and as we did so a sisterly war commenced.

"You know we're going down there."

"No way. You can go, I'm not going."

"Come on."

"Did you see those signs? They have to bring in HELICOPTERS to rescue people here all the time!"

"You're being a wimp."

"I don't care if you think I'm a wimp."

"Haven't you seen that show, Extreme Sports? It would be like we're on that show! Don't you want to push yourself and experience something new and different? We can do this! It's not a problem! It will be so fun!"

"Arrrggghhhh! FINE"

I relented.  She could always make me relent.

The 5 minute dizzying run to the bottom of the dune was SO MUCH FUN!

Jumping into the cool, crisp water to wash off the sweat and sand felt FANTASTIC!

We laughed!  We frolicked! We splashed each other!

We looked up and said, "Holy shit, that's a long way up."

Even though it was a long way up, I did believe Sue when she said that the climb should only take us 15 minutes or so.  We just needed to get started. We each chose a small rock from the beach to take with us to the top, souvenirs of our super accomplishment. We started climbing. Each step up the 450 foot ascent would begin to propel us forward by about a foot, but once our feet were firmly planted into the sand and we transferred our weight onto the leading foot, the shifting sand would slide us down about 11.9 inches.  The dune is so steep that the only way to make the climb is to use hands and feet (and sometimes knees) to basically crawl all the way up.

We had been climbing for less than five minutes when we decided that holding a rock while trying to climb Mount Impossible was idiotic. Not wanting to lose our (getting more precious by the minute) souvenirs, and both of us finding ourselves pocket-less, we opted to store the rocks in our underwear. 

After a half hour of working at it, dripping with sweat and out of breath, we decided to stop and take a break. When we looked down to take in all of our hard won progress, it looked like we had not progressed more than 5 feet.  That's when I knew that this was going to take forever. And it was going to be horrible.

The climb, it was brutal.
At around the 45 minute mark, something in me snapped. Out of my mouth began to spew an unstoppable and foul string of profanity. In the midst of the excruciating ritual of step-slide-step-slide, I would yell to Sue that I couldn't believe she <expletive> got us into this <expletive> situation climbing this <expletive> mountain of <expletive> sand.

To each of my insane rantings, she would smile and yell the same response:  EXTREME SPORTS! 

That just made me more pissed at her.

It took us just under 90 minutes to complete the grueling trek to the top.  When we got there we were soaked in sweat, sunburnt, dehydrated, and still carrying rocks in our underwear.  I climbed up the last few steps and stood up just as Sue's friend Beth turned a video camera on me. 

"How does it feel to make it to the top?"

I answered with one finger.

And Sue came up behind me yelling, "EXTREME SPORTS!"

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I Can Now Live Life as if I Am Normal

I had quite a blogging hiatus there, what with the holidays and all the accompanying commitments taking over my entire life from mid-November until early January. I had intended to put together a big post with pictures of the kids, the holidays, the fun and excitement, but my perfectionism is getting in the way. I've decided to scrap that whole idea for now and just catch you up on how things are for me at this moment.

A funny thing seems to have happened over the time since my birthday: I've developed the ability to live my life as if I am a normal person. I'm not sure if this is what I want to be doing, or if it is what I think I should be doing, or if it is just the natural progression of my current stage of grief.

I can go about my daily activities without crying in public. I can make conversation with strangers and friends and everyone who talks with me would not really be able to see my inner sadness. It might look to the outside world that I have "gotten over" the loss of my sister.

I can assure you, this is not true.

But I can also assure you that I am okay.

I am learning every day how to navigate my new life.  It is as if a heavy, gigantic box was placed in the middle of my house. When the box first arrived, it was all I could see. I bumped into it many times a day while going about my chores and activities. My focus was how to get rid of the box and how hard it was to get around with that box in the way. As time has gone on, though, the box has become such a normal part of my household that I have learned how to instinctively step around it. I'm finding that the box is just there.  I don't need to spend all of my energy trying to get rid of it, or talking about how inconvenient it is, I just live with the gigantic box now.

I am learning that it is possible to live a life that is both full of love, joy, and happiness while also carrying the deepest depths of sadness and grief in my heart. And the biggest surprise of all, is that it is a very good life, indeed.

These guys here? Will never be mistaken for normal