Step one: get a dog

Getting a dog was the first step in creating the life I wanted (I’ll detail in another post all the highs and lows of puppy ownership), but this wasn’t about the act of adopting a puppy—it was about the act of decision making as part of a creative step towards the life I wanted.

That sounds like nonsense, it sounds exceedingly dramatic for the simply act of getting a dog. I know. I detest self-help dribble.

This action just so happened to be getting a dog, but it could’ve been any number of things. It could’ve been something as small as cutting my hair, something as big as quitting my job. It was giving myself the power to make a choice despite the warnings of everyone else because the vision I had for my life was now more important than their judgements. And there were A LOT of warnings; from people telling me it was a downright stupid idea, to questioning my ability to care for a dog, to wondering how it would impact my job performance—they came from numerous sources, and I listened to them for a long time.

These arguments were important. Telling yourself that you are going to start living the life you want right now, giving yourself the permission to engage in an action of creation, does not mean you get to blow off everyone else’s concern and input. On the one hand, it is important that you listen and give weight to the people that are close to you. You need to have the strength to come up with your own argument, your own reasoning—and there’s no better exercise than responding to others judgement and concern. This will only cement your desire to act out of your own will.

On the other hand, there are times when other’s insight is valuable. In fact, almost anything anyone close to you says is going to have some truth to it, and it would bode you well to listen. This doesn’t mean you have to accept it in totality, but that you can listen and appreciate their reasoning. Again, this will only further strengthen your own resolve.

It took me two years to finally make the leap and adopt a dog. To be honest, I wasn’t ready before. I was too consumed with my career, too consumed with status, too consumed with appeasing everyone that I knew. I had no time to care about a puppy. Those arguments were good for me to hear, good for me to take a step back and recognize that at that moment, the truth in them outweighed my need to take action.

Eventually, I had enough. Had enough of where my life was taking me, who I was becoming. Had enough of other’s judgements. Had enough of being too afraid of what I wanted to make a change.

So, I bought a puppy.

The puppy needed exercise, so I started hiking again.

I had to make choices on what to do with my time, as anyone in the midst of puppyhood will understand.

I began to question the value I get from the relationships I have. Most of these relationships revolved around one thing: drinking. As I told my group of friends I couldn’t go out, the backlash was intense. They couldn’t understand that I didn’t have time to spend a night getting wasted and two days to recover. They felt personally attacked, and I was able to see our relationships clearly for what they are for the first time.

Many of these friends came from my job, and yep, I began to question that too. This job was started right out of college. It was supposed to be a one year stint while I saved money for the Appalachian Trail. And now where was I? Three years into a sales role, fully immersed into the culture of alcoholism and harassment. And so, I quit the job too.

Seems like a lot to stem from a dog. And there are many, many dog owners who will absolutely say that their relationship with their animal has changed their life forever. But that’s not what this is about. It’s so obvious to me now: when you finally, intentionally, take that first step of creation; when what you want veers away from the grooves life has worn out for you, everything that doesn’t fit will begin to fall away. Just like that.  So yes, it’s a lot to come from owning a dog, but it’s what to be expected, whatever the action might be, when you finally trust enough in your own vision to move forward.

In the beginning, there was a blog

What do I have to share?

Nothing yet.

This blog is made to hold me accountable as I begin to build the life that I want. It will hold a variety of topics: from book reviews, to hiking trips, to living in an RV with three animals and a messy predisposition. Most of all, I hope for it to be a blog about creation, courage, and kindness when faced with the worst of circumstances.

So I will start here, with nothing to show and no wisdom to give, but the promise of a story to tell.

Bear with me as I work out the kinks and find my style. You’ll understand, I’ve been living someone else’s life for so long that this will be quite a work in progress. But I’m excited to be here, and exited to share it with whoever finds my journey along the way.


The Voyage, Reflected


This is the documentation of a voyage.

Should I say, it is the documentation of the steps needed for the voyage. One day, with enough luck, we will see written the details of the actual journey, but first we start here–with only the framework we were all given. Perhaps rusty with years of abuse. Perhaps the sides moldy and weighted with barnacles and calcified scum. Maybe the figurehead that adorns our prow is gaudy and terrifying, a symbol we didn’t understand at the time that has only brought us bad luck.

As we all have, I have been on voyages before, and none without their purpose. But at one point,  as it is always told, I lost my way. The sea during those first journeys was rough, and I wasn’t ready.

It broke into wide chasms, and I wrapped myself up in the garish blankets I had brought with me, ill prepared for the storms.

I stayed there for such a long while that even when the skies had calmed, and the ocean lay in perfect stillness, I still kept to my quarters. And even as I made it back, safely to shore, and my friends and  family dragged the boat inland, far away from the sea and its dangers, still I lay. And soon I began to fume with anger and shame that I had not had the support, not had the preparation that I should have. That I had been afraid. And that fear was now veiled, in shame, as hatred.

I enjoyed this feeling–I replaced the flashy trimmings I had naively picked out before with rugged, spiteful symbols. I gathered up everything that was offensive and carefully adorned myself with them, ashamed of the fear that the ocean has exposed to me before.

I had been living that way for years, until I woke up one day with the longing of the sea-smell that had infused the air of my memories from long ago. Longing to feel the wide chasms open below my ship, giving my stomach a lurch and a shift.

The fear hasn’t gone, but with it admiration–of both the sea and my survival of it, and the need to find my place in it again, this time perhaps more prepared–not with figureheads of mermaids and colorful lanterns, nor with the black sails of hatred and spite, but with those things that lie outside of me–the surface of the sea, and the air, and the abyss that falls both below and above it.

I do not propose to know all of the answers. This log will be, at the most, an attempt in finding those answers. I have not come out on the other side, and I don’t claim to know what it looks like. To be quite honest, I distrust most who claim they have, and give answers and absolutes–as every voyage is different, every ship came to be from different decision about the type of lumber used, about the reinforcements, about the fabric of the sails or the fuel of the engine. Every destination has different coordinates. And every voyager is a different person

It will be a test for me to positively interpret back to you the ebbs and flows, the tides and moons as they occur, and allow some insight into my interpretations, but more than anything, I encourage your own translation, in your own terms, and with your own ship.

I will spend my time adding to and taking away, constantly pushing myself towards the destination I want, fully knowing that that destination will constantly be changing, and enjoying the journey along the way. I plan to document it all here–the successful anchoring into the shores of my choosing, the unsuccessful crashes of wild storms, fires, mutinies, the times that I’m thrown overboard and have to swim back to shore, and the times that I consciously jump ship, feeling the need to succumb to the wild ocean around me. But first, we start with the building, and the taking away. The busy preparation  and sea-wild anticipation.

The voyage starts with understanding my current position. Looking with absolute scrutiny at the landscape in which I reside, not focusing too much on either the rugged beauty of it’s cliffs, nor the painful drudgery of it’s dried plains–the terrifying rapids which lead to the sea, nor the ease and comfort that comes from the small hill I currently reside, that begs me now to stay. Apart, these features tell their own story, but only together do they tell mine.

“The Sea and the Hills”

As I was reading Kim I came upon the first stanza of this poem.

WHO hath desired the Sea? – the sight of salt water unbounded –
The heave and the halt and the hurl and the crash of the comber wind-hounded?
The sleek-barrelled swell before storm, grey, foamless, enormous, and growing
Stark calm on the lap of the Line or the crazy-eyed hurricane blowing –
His Sea in no showing the same – his Sea and the same ‘neath each showing:
His Sea as she slackens or thrills?
So and no otherwise – so and no otherwise – hillmen desire their Hills!

Who hath desired the Sea ? – the immense and contemptuous surges?
The shudder, the stumble, the swerve, as the star-stabbing bowsprit emerges?
The orderly clouds of the Trades, the ridged, roaring sapphire thereunder –
Unheralded cliff-haunting flaws and the headsail’s low-volleying thunder –
His Sea in no wonder the same – his Sea and the same through each wonder:
His Sea as she rages or stills?
So and no otherwise – so and no otherwise – hillmen desire their Hills.

Who hath desired the Sea? Her menaces swift as her mercies?
The in-rolling walls of the fog and the silver-winged breeze that disperses?
The unstable mined berg going South and the calvings and groans that declare it –
White water half-guessed overside and the moon breaking timely to bare it –
His Sea as his fathers have dared – his Sea as his children shall dare it:
His Sea as she serves him or kills?
So and no otherwise – so and no otherwise – hillmen desire their Hills.

Who hath desired the Sea? Her excellent loneliness rather
Than forecourts of kings, and her outermost pits than the streets where men gather
Inland, among dust, under trees – inland where the slayer may slay him –
Inland, out of reach of her arms, and the bosom whereon he must lay him –
His Sea from the first that betrayed – at the last that shall never betray him:
His Sea that his being fulfils?
So and no otherwise – so and no otherwise – hillmen desire their Hills.

Rudyard Kipling, The Sea and the Hills

Tonight especially I am humbled by the range of experiences that my personality, my illness, my experiences allow me. There are feeling, perceptions that are allowed to me that I wouldn’t trade anything for. And yet I understand that always on the horizon–the darkest night approaches, and often there is nothing for me to do but yield. And that itself is a lesson I am grateful for–because if not gratitude, what else?