Recently I went snowmobiling with my husband at the Kachess Road Sno-Park here in Washington. It was my second time snowmobiling. I’ve blogged about it, and my mixed emotions about the environmental impact, before. But, still, what a blast.
I love being out in the wilderness, and with this COVID-19 pandemic, it suits me just fine to be dozens of miles away from civilization. And the conditions were perfect. The paths had been groomed just before we got there, and it was a sunny day. It was obviously cold, and we were riding on about 24 inches of snow, but we were equipped properly, and it was a glorious day all around.
I was really rather proud of myself on this second ride. We did 26 miles, and I was able to go faster than the first time, and we got to some locations that most humans will never get to see. When we weren’t tooling around on the paths or playing around in the large, hilly bowl that is kind of snowmobile nirvana, we were sitting there in the quiet, taking in the gorgeous views. Lakes, waterfalls, mountains and valleys galore. Check out the photos and video below.
I was really starting to get why people are addicted to adrenaline. I was feeling like Superwoman out there, speeding along with a powerful engine beneath me, whipping through switchbacks, hitting bumps and (I think) catching air a time or two, with a rooster tail of snow behind me. What a rush. I never wanted it to end.
That is, until I did. Ah, hubris.
I was following my husband up a ridge with steep drop-offs on either side. I don’t really do well with heights, but at this point I was feeling pretty invincible. I was carpe-ing the hell out of that diem!
Then, one of my snowmobile skis hit a rut and jerked my steering wheel sharply to the right. That made me panic and grip the steering wheel even harder, which was the worst possible thing to do because the accelerator is, of course, on the hand grip.
You know that feeling when you’re poised at the very top of a roller coaster? This wasn’t that feeling at all. There was no excitement, no anticipation. Just sheer terror.
The next thing I knew, I was plunging about 50 feet down a 60 degree decline, going what felt like about a million miles an hour. That, I probably could have handled, except for the fact that at the bottom of the decline was a 60 degree incline. I loved geometry in school, but I was rather busy, so I wasn’t going to calculate that angle, but I can tell you it was pretty effing acute. The entire situation was acute. I was sure I was going to crash into the rapidly approaching hillside, fly over my handlebars, and die.
It’s really amazing how things go into slow motion when you think you’re about to cash it in. The whole experience probably took less than 2 seconds, but I remember distinctly every single thought that went through my head as I screamed and employed a lot of expletives. First of all, of course, was the image of me breaking my neck, and the anticipation of the excruciating pain and then nothingness that I was convinced I was about to undergo. Then I thought about how badly it would suck to die on the second anniversary of the day we started dating, and how wonderful these past two years have been. And then I got very sad, because we’re just getting started and I really don’t want it to end. Not yet. Not any time soon. And then, oddly enough, I thought, “Well, at least I won’t have to deal with COVID-19.”
Then, just like that, I was at the top of the incline that I thought was going to be my undoing. I have no recollection of the ascent. I was too busy bracing for impact. I have no idea how my snowmobile managed to get up there. Somehow it defied geometry and physics, and I was alive.
But I wasn’t out of the woods yet. My snowmobile was tilted very sharply to the right, and I was sure that it was going to roll any second. So I turned off the engine and carefully got off of it and stood out of its path, waiting for my husband.
The wait seemed like an eternity, but in reality it probably wasn’t more than 15 seconds. He keeps a close eye on me. He was out front, so he didn’t see my death plunge, and couldn’t hear anything over his engine, but he quickly figured out that I was no longer behind him. Naturally he turned around and came back. I got to watch him ride along the ridge, right past me, because he wasn’t expecting to find me on a completely different hilltop. But he then saw me and made his way over via a much safer route.
Miraculously, I wasn’t hurt at all, and neither was the snowmobile. My husband hugged me and said he was proud of me. But I felt like a total idiot, and I was seconds away from losing it. I knew that if I sat down in the snow and burst into tears like I desperately wanted to do, the rest of the day would be ruined, and we had been having so much fun.
So I breathed deeply, and kept repeating to myself that I was alive. Alive. Alive. We slowly made it down off that hill. And lest we forget, we were still far, far away from the parking lot, so I had no choice but to press on.
My confidence was pretty shattered. I did sniffle a bit in my closed helmet, as we proceeded on less ambitious trails. My husband showed me a lake and a waterfall. He let me take things at my own pace. Snowmobiles do require a certain speed so as not to overheat though, so at one point he passed me and that encouraged me to speed up a bit. I was able to do that. That felt like an accomplishment.
It really was a wonderful day, despite the adrenaline rush and the dance with death. It really was. And I genuinely do look forward to going again.
So, yeah, that happened.
When all is said and done, I was grateful for the reminder of how good my life is. I hope I never take that for granted. Life is so incredibly precious.
The alarm was set. I swear to God. But the volume was turned down.
I rolled over and looked at the clock an hour later. “Oh, Sh**!!!!!!”
“You’re here???” dear husband said. He had just been thinking how impressed he was that I’d managed to get ready for work and leave without waking him up.
I ran around the house, leaping over dogs and trying to figure out what to do. I did a fairly accurate imitation of one of those squirrels who sees a car bearing down on him, and can’t decide which way to run. At one point I was wearing my husband’s glasses, and wondering why I couldn’t see. I vaguely recall running into several rooms for no apparent reason.
I couldn’t figure out how to use my phone. My brain does not thrive on these abrupt transitions. I knew I had to call someone, but who?
I called my coworker as I rushed into the bathroom. “How long will it take you to get here?” he asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know! I’m on my way! Less than an hour. I’m so sorry! Sh**!”
I was out of the bathroom and changing my clothes and out the door, shouting goodbye over my shoulder, in less than 6 minutes.
Thank goodness I have a hairbrush in my car. Unfortunately, I don’t have a toothbrush. And I hadn’t taken my morning meds. This is not the first time I’ve been grateful that I don’t do makeup.
I got to work, only 9 minutes late, feeling nauseous from the adrenaline dump. I refuse to incriminate myself regarding how many traffic violations I committed to do so, and how many times I questioned myself along the way to make sure I was driving to the correct drawbridge.
Upon arrival, I looked in the mirror and realized I still had marks on my face from my CPAP mask. I’d gladly pay someone $500 to let me go back to bed. That offer is still on the table.
As I write this, I’m sitting here feeling gross because of skipping so many steps in my morning hygiene regimen, and kind of resentful of the fact that even though I got an extra hour of sleep, I didn’t get to enjoy it. And I’m doing that leg shaking thing that I thought I got over in my 20’s.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the anatomy of disagreements. Naturally this has been inspired by the extreme divisions in this country, but it also has to do with the fact that I’ve had several fundamental disagreements lately with people I love and respect. I really loathe these situations, and find myself evermore diminished by them.
So let’s examine what’s going on internally when someone disagrees with me. First and foremost, I get defensive. I look for ways to justify my point of view. I feel rigid and unyielding. I don’t listen to what the other person is saying. I’m too busy working on a rebuttal.
And my adrenaline starts pumping. You’d think I was being chased by a lion. And that makes me feel sick to my stomach and a lot less calm and rational.
Next, I start second guessing myself. What’s wrong with my viewpoint? Am I being stupid? Did I overlook something? Am I crazy? Should I really hold this opinion? Will the other person think less of me for disagreeing? Do I care?
Then this internal battle goes on with my adult self and my wounded self. The adult self says, “Listen to what is being said. You might learn something.” Wounded self replies, “No! I refuse! This person is a stupid old poopy head.”
Sadly, my adult self only seems to prevail when I’m well-rested, not hungry, and feeling relatively self-confident. I’m a work in progress. Some days I’m better at listening than others.
Disagreeing is stressful. Listening is difficult. And I think we, as a nation, are becoming increasingly exhausted, which makes it harder to be our best selves.
It’s not that I enjoy irritation. In fact, it irritates me. But sometimes it feels beyond my control.
The good news is that the older I get, the more level headed I seem to become. I think part of that is due to the fact that I can’t work up the energy to be annoyed as often as I could in my younger days. I just can’t be bothered.
Oh, but there still are things. Someone cutting ahead of me in line. People blocking grocery aisles to chit chat. Rude individuals. All things Trump. The common denominator here is that people aren’t playing by my rules. I have no idea why so many people have overlooked the memo that I am Queen of the World, but there you have it.
Another thing that has improved with time is my self-awareness. I am getting better at seeing the physical warning signs of my irritation so as to nip it in the bud. Is my heart rate increasing? Am I feeling adrenalized? Am I starting to fidget? Uh, oh. Time to evaluate the situation.
First off, am I already Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired? Then I need to H.A.L.T. Because any one of those four states are bound to cause me to overreact. At times like those, I’ve been known to look for a reason to be irritated. How stupid is that?
Next, I need to really look at what I’m feeling. Sometimes irritation is a mask for other, less comfortable emotions. Fear. Fury. Depression. Grief. Disappointment. Dissatisfaction with your relationship with the person who is triggering your irritation. A feeling of being disrespected. My own stupid impatience when someone doesn’t comply with my self-imposed time line.
In many cultures, we are taught to suppress “negative” emotions. But emotions don’t hold a positive or negative charge. They are what they are. You feel what you feel. If you suppress that, it’s just going to find a way out in other ways, such as irritation when your boyfriend leaves his dirty socks in the coffee mug. It helps to check in with yourself about what you are really feeling. (For example, you’re annoyed, and frankly a little scared, that he doesn’t care enough about your feelings to put the mug in the dishwasher and the socks in the hamper.) If you aren’t adept at that, and many of us are not, I suggest that you consider therapy. I highly recommend it.
Another thing I try to do is a reality check. When I get irritated, I try to figure out which one of my rules is being violated. (As in: footwear and kitchen utensils don’t mix.) And then I try to remind myself that a) people are not mind readers, and b) not everyone goes by the same rules. (If both the footwear and the kitchen utensil are dirty, perhaps your boyfriend doesn’t see their intermingling as a big deal.) Then, maybe the two of you can discuss your versions of these unspoken rules and form a consensus. That would be ideal.
Probably the most important thing to think about, though, is that you are never going to be able to control other people’s behavior. Never. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t partially to blame for not hearing you when you tell them, however ham-handedly, that their behavior triggers your irritation. What it does mean is you have total control over your side of the equation. You can change the way you react. You can examine it, deconstruct it, and make alterations within you. You might be surprised. That could lead to changes in the other person, too.
But take your irritation seriously. It’s horrible for you and everyone around you. Here’s when irritation gets out of hand:
When you find yourself annoyed at what you know, logically, is a trivial thing.
When you get aggressive by yelling or being hostile or becoming violent.
When you have a chronic problem, such as getting annoyed, over and over again, at the same thing. (How is that working for you?)
When your temper gets worse when you drink or take drugs.
If any of the above applies to you, you have an anger management problem that you should take seriously, and I encourage you to seek help. Your life doesn’t have to feel like a miserable nightmare, and those around you shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells, either. Life is too short for everyone concerned.
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I figured it was just the dog, so I didn’t even open my eyes. I settled back in, wrapping my arms around said dog, who was on the opposite side of the bed from the sounds.
That sure made me open my eyes. But slowly. Because I was fairly certain I wasn’t going to like what I saw. And I didn’t.
It was a little black bat, fluttering on the pillow next to mine. For a few seconds, I tried to convince myself that it was a really big moth. I could live with a moth. I could fall in love with a moth, given the alternatives. But no. It was a bat.
Everything happened really quickly after that. I jumped up, screaming. This freaked out the dog, who bolted from the room. (Some watchdog he turned out to be.) It also freaked out the bat, who proceeded to fly around my head. This, of course, made me run from the bedroom as well, slamming the door behind me.
Okay, good. The bat was trapped in the bedroom. I could take a moment to figure out what to do. First, close the hysterical dog in the bathroom, so I could prop open the front door. And then turn on every single light in the house.
Now it was time to turn around and release the bat. Except, I didn’t have to do that. Because the little b*****rd had squeezed himself under the crack of the door and was already flying into the living room to join me.
We had a moment, the bat and I. I was screeching and dancing in my jammies, he was doing an acrobatic pirouette, all around my head. (I bet it looked kind of artistic, from an emotional remove, with the mute button on.) Then he darted out the door, back into the night.
So, yeah, that happened. After I spent more than a grand last year getting the bats out of the attic and replacing all the insulation, then spending days blocking what I thought were their only entrances into my house.
I’m not having a good day. It’s bad enough when this country already feels askew because of the political shenanigans in the white house. Now I get to wonder if I’m going to have unexpected visitors in my home. Everything suddenly feels out of control. Forget parallel universes. Just stop tilting this one, please. I need my rest.
If you’re looking for me, I’ll be the one sleeping in my car all summer.
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One of my favorite sayings is that a fish doesn’t realize it’s in water until it jumps out of it. I can totally relate to that. I just jumped out of something myself. Epic revelation!
I just got some really, really, really good news, which unfortunately I can’t share with you, dear readers. Just think about the best news you’ve ever heard in your life, and it’s on that level. The news is so good, in fact, that I’m feeling a little nauseous from sheer relief.
And therein lies the situation I just jumped from. Yes, I knew I had been under an incredible amount of stress. Yes, I knew it was making me miserable. But having the problem whisked out from under me like a tablecloth yanked out from under my mother’s best china, with nary a break, is, well, life-changing. There’s adrenaline involved, for sure. I don’t think I realized just how much the situation was impacting me on the most fundamental of levels.
I. Am. Free!!!!!!!!!
That’s an odd feeling. Because up to this moment I didn’t realize I hadn’t been free. I didn’t truly get how shackled I was to my stress and anxiety.
I feel like jumping in puddles! I feel like kissing someone! I feel like a new person. What a gift!
It’s moments like this that make life truly worthwhile. I hope that you get to have a similar experience at least once in your life. And when you do, I hope you recognize it for what it is: a leap out of your personal pond. Revel in it!
I’d say that working on a drawbridge is a very zen-like experience 95% of the time. Unfortunately, you never know when that 5% of pure chaos is going to rear up and bite you on the patootie. I had one of those days recently.
I went to bed at 3am. No, I’m not a party animal. It’s just that I didn’t have to be to work until 3pm on this particular day, so I tend to sleep in. Way, way in. It’s one of the few joys of being single, and I take full advantage of it.
So imagine my confusion when the phone rang at 7am, right in the middle of a REM cycle. My dream popped like a bubble. I hate when that happens. For a minute I have no idea where I am, or even who I am. It’s like my brain has to reboot.
I was being called to come in to work early. How early? 11am. They needed me to work a 12 hour shift. Okay. Crap. I set my alarm for 9:30 and went back to sleep. At least I’d be getting 4 hours of double overtime. (Thanks, union!)
So in to work I went, to find that I had company for the first 4 hours. A Trainee. Actually, I like training people. It’s kind of fun. And this was a pleasant person to talk to, whom I could see would work out nicely. As I’ve written before, I can pretty much tell if someone is fit for this job within the first 5 minutes.
But while he was here, the sidewalk camera shorted out. That’s a problem because it means we can’t see all the pedestrians before we open the bridge, and Seattle pedestrians are horrifyingly non-compliant about staying off of moving bridges, despite flashing lights, loud gongs, and us desperately screaming at them. It’s a wonder no one has been killed. So fixing this camera is a top priority. Which means the electricians had to come out. Now we had 4 people crammed into a tiny little room, and that can be a bit emotionally draining. But they fixed the camera and were gone within an hour.
And then it was time for the trainee to leave. Finally, my usual routine. Peace. Quiet. My own domain.
Then the storm hit. Rain was coming down in sheets. And the next thing I knew, BOOM! Lightning struck just south of the bridge. Now, when I was a bridgetender in Florida, I was used to this. It was a rare day when lightning didn’t strike somewhere in my vicinity. But here in Seattle, I’ve only seen lightning three times in the nearly three years I’ve been here, so I nearly jumped out of my skin this time.
And then alarms started going off. Oh, shit. That’s never good. It turns out that 3 of the 4 drives that operate bridge had shorted out. It was after hours, so I called the supervisor of the electricians, and he told me to walk down to both ends of the bridge and push a specific button to reset the drives. All well and good, but the storm was still raging. I had to walk down with lightning crashing all around me. That was fun.
Then I walked back up to the tower, only to discover that one of the drives had reset, but the other two had not. I made a call again, and was told, again, to go down and push the button. Naturally, the two drives in question were on the far side of the bridge, which meant yet another long walk through the electrified tempest.
I came back to the tower. The two drives were still malfunctioning. Phone call number three. This time he said he’d be right out. So I sat there in the tower, drenched in sweat, waiting, as sailboats stacked up like cordwood on the canal, and I was contacted every five minutes by various boaters and had to explain why I wasn’t opening the drawbridge for them.
Could things possibly get worse? Of course! A traffic accident south of bridge backed up traffic for miles, delaying the arrival of the electrician.
And then the phone went dead. I’m getting calls on the marine radio from a variety of employees, asking if I’m sure that the phone is properly hung up. Do I look like an idiot? Of course the phone is properly hung up. Then the phone fixes itself with no intervention on my part, so of course everyone thinks the phone was not properly hung up. Sigh.
Oh, and the sidewalk camera went out again. Fortunately, it, too, fixed itself. Go figure.
The electrician finally makes it through the traffic snarl, and is able to fix things within 45 minutes, bless him. By now I’m so exhausted from the adrenaline rush that I’m nauseous and practically delirious. I have never been so happy to see 11pm in my life. The next challenge is driving home without falling asleep at the wheel.
When I finally get home, my dog is extremely happy to see me. (I just love dogs, don’t you?) So I feed him, take a shower to get all the sweat off, and dive into bed. I suspect I’ll be asleep within 5 minutes, which is a good thing, because I have to be back to work at 7am the next morning. I’ll be lucky to cram 5 hours of sleep in.
Except, did I mention that my dog is extremely happy to see me? I may be ready for bed, but he is not. He wants to play! He wants to tell me about his day. He wants to know where the hell I’ve been for 12 hours. He wants to warn me about the lightning monsters that come from the sky.
I hug him. I give him kisses. I tell him he’s a good dog. I beg him, I plead with him, to settle down. Finally, he curls up by my hip and…the next thing I know, the alarm goes off, and it’s time to do it all over again.
If I were a cartoon character, I’d have one of those squiggly lines above my head right now. I need a hug.
A friend of mine recently posted this video of Dan Osman, extreme sportsman, on her Facebook page. In it, he basically scrambles up a 400 foot cliff in 4 minutes, 25 seconds. Without a rope.
While this is fascinating to watch, my first thought was, “I bet he doesn’t live long.”
And sure enough, a quick check of Wikipedia revealed that he died at age 35. He was jumping off the 1,200 foot rock formation below when his rope failed. Is it just me, or was that predictable? Physics. The great equalizer.
When I was younger, I might have admired his ability to live life to its fullest. And it can be assumed that he died while doing something he really, really loved to do. How many people will be able to say that?
But I’m not so young anymore, and I know what it’s like to experience grief. And because of that, I can only view this amazing man’s antics as a horrible waste. He left behind a daughter and other people who loved him. Was it worth it?
No man is an island… even if he is an adrenaline junkie. You don’t just live for yourself. You are living for others as well: People who need you. When people give you love, that also saddles you with a certain level of responsibility.
In this tribute video for Dan Osman, which shows some of his more hair-raising stunts, the first thing he says is “When this is all over, I’m really looking forward to spending some time with my daughter and family…” and one of the last things that is said in that video is that a friend who witnessed his death heard his final scream before he hit the trees.
When I see people, usually young men, participating in extreme sports, I have very mixed emotions. But the one that endures for me is sadness. The older I get and the more people I lose, the more I realize that life is a gift that’s more precious than any shot of adrenaline could ever be.
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Without a doubt, the absolute worst part about being a bridgetender is the jumpers. When I see someone attempting suicide, it leaves me feeling sick at heart. I truly believe that life is precious, and that no matter how awful it can sometimes be, the pendulum is bound to swing back the other way sooner or later.
But you can’t work on a drawbridge without seeing someone standing on a railing at some point. I have a theory that people who choose manned drawbridges as their place to end it all are doing so as a cry for help. After all, there are plenty of fixed and unoccupied bridges out there, and they’re usually higher. Why choose one that comes with a bridgetender?
This happens a lot more often than the public realizes. Fortunately, in the vast majority of cases, help arrives in time and they’re able to talk the person out of making this final, irreversible decision. Because the first thing I do, of course, is dial 911.
You see, I’m not a trained first responder. I’m not a mental health professional. And even though I have given it a great deal of thought, and have even written a post about what I’d say to a jumper, it’s the most important moment in that person’s life. Here’s someone who has decided that he or she feels completely out of control, and the only power left is to choose to stop living. That’s the last person on earth who needs to hear my ham-handed opinions.
So generally I call 911 and then gaze out the window, saying “Don’t do it… don’t do it… don’t do it” under my breath, like a prayer. I leave it to the professionals, and hope for a happy ending. And then I feel sick and jumpy until the end of my shift, and often vomit out the adrenaline when I get home. Talk about a bad day at the office.
But there was this one time. A time when I did everything wrong. I still have very mixed emotions about that incident.
I had been having a really bad day. I mean, one for the record books. I can’t even remember what the situation was, but I was kind of at the end of my rope myself. And then I looked out and saw a guy on the railing. Great. Just great.
And all of a sudden I got really, really angry. I guess it all became too much. And I thought of someone I loved who had died recently, and I know if he had been given a chance to live he’d have grabbed it with both hands and never let go. And yet here was this guy on the railing, about to throw it all away.
The last thing you should do when someone is contemplating suicide is yell at them. But I was seeing red. My ears were ringing. And before I even knew what I was doing, I threw open the window and shouted, “Do I need to call 911, or are you going to get your ASS off my RAILING???”
This could have ended very, very badly. This could have turned into something I would regret for the rest of my life. This was an extremely stupid thing for me to do. I still can’t believe I did it.
But just like that, he looked at me, meekly said, “Yes, ma’am,” hopped back down to the sidewalk and left. (When did I become a ma’am?)
All’s well that ends well, I suppose. But I guarantee you I will never, ever do something like that again. It was the wrong thing to do. It just happened to turn out all right that time. The bridge gods must have been watching over both of us.
I hope he got the help he needed.
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‘Twas a rainy Seattle morning, and I was looking forward to a nice quiet shift on the bridge. Most boaters would not be out in this muck. I planned to drink my green tea, write my blog, and just relax.
Then a maintenance crew showed up. I had forgotten they were coming. No big deal. They’re professionals. They know what they’re doing. They need very little help from me. I just need to ensure that I don’t open the bridge while they’re hip-deep in machinery. Easy enough. We have safety procedures in place.
Then I heard the skidding of brakes. That sound instantly puts me on edge. I looked out the window, and there’s a bicyclist lying unconscious in the middle of the street. Not good. In fact, very, very bad. A crowd is already gathering. Traffic is backing up. I call 911. The first responders arrive with lightning speed. Then I call traffic control to let them know the road is blocked. Then the paperwork begins.
All told, the situation lasted less than an hour, but I’m still rattled. Why is that? The woman is going to be all right, but from the looks of her, she won’t be eating soup for quite some time. She landed face first on the grating.
I’m sure part of my feeling is the aftermath of an adrenaline dump. That’s never fun. But there’s also this feeling of being uprooted. I expected to be in one place (a nice quiet control tower, with my green tea and my blog) and was instead thrust headlong into another (your basic SNAFU). I almost felt as though I’d been abducted.
In addition, my ability to plan and organize was ripped from me. I had no time to prepare. These are comfort zones that I dislike having to depart from.
I didn’t panic. Everything went as smoothly as it could, given the circumstances. And while I wish this hadn’t happened to that poor woman, if it had to, it went as well as it could.
And yet I’m still rattled. But I still have my green tea and my blog.