Farewell to Ashy August

Like many others, I moved to the mountains of NorCal for the wealth of outdoor opportunities the area has to offer. And like my friends and neighbors in this mountain community, I’ve sunken into a state of guilt-ridden depression over the persistent smoke from the nearby Carr Fire.

Today, I’m a mixed bag of emotions.

I’m happy the Carr Fire is officially contained.

Sad it killed 8 people and destroyed over 1,000 homes.

Overjoyed the air is clearing up and the blue sky is poking through the haze more and more frequently this past week.

Relieved this whole month is over.

The last time I wrote an update, I was disappointed about SOB 50k being canceled due to a different fire. Little did I know that was only the beginning.

Ravaging hundreds of thousands of acres less than an hour away, the Carr Fire created a permanent atmosphere of grey gloom in my world. I would go out for a run and then turn around less than 10 minutes later — my lungs and throat burning, eyes watering, and spirit essentially smothered.

I woke up every morning feeling hungover without having had a drop to drink. Greeting the day with a sore throat and head congestion. Walking outside to see a sun struggling to burn through a thick layer of smoke.

The spiders seem to have taken the lack of sunlight as a sign to spin into overdrive. Their webs exaggerate the gloomy setting by ensnaring clumps of ash that fall from the sky.

More than once, I’ve taken Bruce for a walk and returned home with a firm belief the world was actually ending.

And then, I just feel like a terrible person for complaining about this. I’m lucky. I haven’t lost any loved ones, or my home, or my favorite trails. This fire has inflicted devastation far beyond anything I’ve suffered.

But I know everyone around me feels the same. In fact, it’s practically all we talk about in the rare instances we actually leave our homes.

I’ve become very withdrawn over the past 6 weeks. Overwhelmed with feelings of anger and resentment.

As much as running is a passion and a hobby, it’s also the primary way I stay balanced in my life. I’ve been maintaining a fitness routine with more strength workouts and yoga, but the peaceful bliss of connecting with nature is what drives me to run long distances, not the physical benefits.

Recently, I’ve been feeling off-balance and not at all like myself.

This morning, I overslept despite setting an early alarm. I have loads of work due in slightly over 24 hours and also am committed to carving out time to socialize and exercise- so I felt pretty annoyed with myself.

Not the best way to start the day.

But I soon realized it was all meant to be when I ran into my good friend Kate at The Wheelhouse, my go-to coffee shop.

Kate owns and runs a vegetable farm, Homeward Bounty. Like my other self-employed friends, we connect on a deep level. We share the feelings of isolation and frustration that creep up when the demands of work overpower our self-care and social lives. We’re both passionate about, and maybe a little bit obsessed with, pursuing our dreams.

We both work from home. While I can’t speak for Kate, I know for me, that means there are no boundaries between my work and personal life. Every day I wake up and fall asleep in my own office.

Last night I dreamed about an editor criticizing my comma placement.

But when I saw Kate, who always greets people with a huge smile and warm hello, I snapped right out of my funk.

She cheerfully asked if I’d be going for a run on this beautiful day and if I’d be running Headwaters next month.

Instead of the enthusiastic, “You bet I am!” I’m sure she was expecting, I crumpled and started talking about how disconnected from myself I feel these days.

“I’m not even sure I’m in shape to,” I confessed.

That was the first time I’d expressed that concern out loud.

Kate surprised me by responding, “I always feel inspired when I see you.”

That threw me off.

I thought I was venting about how I feel like I’m totally failing at life. I was expecting a canned expression of sympathy.

But she pointed out that, no matter how chaotic things get, I always try to pull myself back on track to the life I want to live.

The way I feel right now is the result of a few weeks of neglecting my true needs and making #excuses.

Hardly running, meditating, journaling. Not keeping my promise of updating this blog at least twice per month. Bailing on plans with friends to catch up with work instead. Losing touch with all I have to be grateful for because my focus is on the growing to-do list.

Only a few weeks, and I’m over it.

This morning, before I went to the coffee shop, the quote from Fight Club, “this is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time,” popped into my head, giving me goosebumps.

Waking up cranky, isolating myself, and spending hours staring at my computer screen is not how I ever wanted to live. The only person capable of changing that scenario is me.

So, I take sleeping in this morning as a blessing.

My body needed more than six hours of rest. I needed to see my friend, if only for a few minutes while I ordered my Americano.

It inspired me to check myself… before I wreck myself.

There are so many good things to be thankful for at this very moment.

I’m grateful this devastating fire is 100% contained. I’m grateful for the blue sky and fresh air that greeted me this morning. For Kate, and all my other loved ones. For all the self-employed babes out there who courageously face the uncertainty of running their own business every day without letting it consume their own sense of inner peace and personal relationships.

There will always be that need to find balance. Work will never be “done.” There’s no finish line, here.

That can’t stop me from carving out time for the people and activities that nourish my soul.

Maybe I just really needed a hug this morning, but it inspired me to come home and write this post.

And to forgive myself for it being overdue.

We don’t need a new month, year, or day to re-align with our true intentions. This just happened to be good timing.

It’s past noon, now, but I feel less stressed than I did at 7:45 am, still with a heap of work ahead of me. I’m glad I took the time to write this (and set up Bruce’s new elevated pet bed!!!)

Bruce's new dog bed
Pardon the shadows (they only appear when there’s light!) and residue of fallen peaches

My work will get done. It always does.

But first, I’m going to go for a quick run. Because I can.

xoL

Featured Image: USDA Forest Service photo by Elsa Gaule from flickr

 

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