Eddie and I rented a cabin at Lake Hope for Thanksgiving so we could go off and celebrate another year together. 2019 was not without some ups and downs however, we faced all of those together. That’s all a couple, who has been together for almost 28 years, can ask for in my opinion.
This is sort of a play on our “camping trip” two years ago where we spent a week in New York City in the financial district butt up against Central Park where I joked with friends about getting Eddie outdoors. Urban yes, still, we had an entire park of trees and hundreds of thousands of lights in the form of the City itself all around us.
Driving South East, through the twisting turns of the Hocking Hills area, we arrived at Lake Hope Lodge on Thanksgiving eve to pick up our cabin keys. I had stocked the Yeti, and a car camping container, full of things to make the stay an enjoyable one for us. We lit a fire and enjoyed veggie dogs and veggie chili with some wine, well lots of wine, while talking about the experience and of the year in general.
We both fell asleep together on the sofa in front of the fire that night. Really impressed with the dispersed arrangements of the other cabins around us, our proximity to the Hope Furnace Trail, that ran along the outline of the lake, which we were set to walk part of the next day and just the fantastic ambiance of being outdoors and away from the City for a couple of nights.
We made one of my mom’s brunch casserole a la an update I made to it a few years back. It’s one of our traditions. While not heart-healthy, it was good and reminded us of some great times with important people. Our trek up part of the Hope Furnace Trail was beautiful. Super accessible from our cabin. A great way to get a little bit of exercise in on the Holiday.
For dinner, we chose to grill out using the BBQ outdoors. Drinking wine together under the stars while lighting the cooking space with my hiking headlamp and talking. We served the chicken, pineapple, and vegetables with a salad, cheddar biscuits, and Au Gratin Potatoes. Nothing fancy and all our own tradition rebooted once more.
As the years go on, I really believe that tradition, like memory, is just an interpretation in whatever moment happens to be the given “present.” It’s all perspective. Like our Dallas years, when it was just he and I for the better part of a decade in isolation together. Damn. Those days were rough work-wise for both of us and probably some of the highest stress moments for each of us. But we got through them together.
We’ve been talking now through the Christmas Holiday, when he and I both got sick, losing Christmas Eve to just hiding under blankets and pushing fluids and aspirin. Those conversations have been all over the place. Our nephew who sadly lost his girlfriend recently at a young age. Both addicted to heroin. The career change for me. His dealings with his family that has not been without a measure of effort this year. My reboot of grieving for my friend Nick whom I played a part-time caretaker role for far too many years, and sucked at it while losing sight of our friendship. Especially at such a critical juncture while his brain was rewiring and a new person was revealing himself. I lost critical time there and I beat myself up with a ferocity that I would not do to anyone else. Further moments where I pulled back from some friendships, after realizing I screwed up in some friend situations where simple consideration was my failure to own. Then the high shining points of hiking with my straight friends in places like Big South Fork, Red River Gorge, the Smoky Mountains, and the Dolly Sods. Places so beautiful that I think of them all the time now. Much like Mt Hood or the Olympic National Park region that I hiked with my best friend Doug a couple of years back. This was my 2019. My aunt always said that “the odd years are the hardest.” In this case, she was right.
Still, between the Thanksgiving campfire, our sad Christmas, and tonight over dinner at a great little place called Nosh on High here in downtown; I feel grateful for all the lessons, miles, disasters and the 1,000’s of little moments that make up the fabric of the year that we just shared together. Even the things that made me realize I had to drop out of an online support group that I loved being a part of because I could not trust myself not to strike back at the trolls who suddenly showed up this year. While I metered myself at all times, inside, there were moments when I just didn’t like what I saw within myself. It’s exactly why I left FaceBook, among other social media venues, I’d rather not fight with angry people who poke and poke and prod and prod just to get some form of gratification from the pain they cause.
In contrast. The back-country hikes and moments alone on trails or in my tent at night under the stars. The campground camping and making new friends through the summer season. Every single night with my husband or day spent in the office with my colleagues who I admire beyond measure. While complicated, it was a beautiful path to walk. One which, I believe, will take me to new places in 2020 with more strength and love than fear and anger.
I think I relearned some lessons this year. Namely, be kind to yourself. Always hope. Allow for failure. Lot’s of failure. But get back up again, forgive yourself, learn and keep moving with the benefit of course correction. Always have your tent, sleeping bag and backpack ready. Laugh and share of yourself as often as you can. Turn fear into an ally but don’t keep him as a companion. Above all else, never ever feel like you are alone. Light a candle, a stick of incense, sit on a pillow, close your eyes, listen to your breath and feel the universe within you burning with the light of a silver arc stars.
That’s pretty much how I feel about 2019. And yeah, I of all people know tomorrow is not a guarantee, but you can choose to enjoy today and hope for tomorrow.