It's important to know who you are and to accept the things about yourself that you cannot change. This is a lesson that was reinforced for me during my recent trip to Norway. I'm just never, ever going to be an outdoorsy person; nor am I ever going to be a tough Viking like my Norwegian family members. And I am OK with that.
It started at the cabin. Near my family's farm, there is a cabin called Vikebo. It is beautiful, crafted of lovely rich woods with spectacular views of the fjord. However, it has not electricity, running water or toilet.
It has an outhouse.
If you are unfamiliar with me and my psychological problems, you probably aren't seeing the problem. But if you know me, you are cringing already. My feelings about outhouses are so very strong, it is impossible to truly convey them to you. Language is not a good enough tool; I would need to physically transport you to Hell to make you understand this level of negative emotion I'm talking about here. Outhouses to me represent all that is vile and evil in the world. Every bad idea, every disease, all pain and suffering can be summed up by the existence of the outhouse.
I don't use outhouses.
Well for the first two days in the cabin, I simply reduced my food and liquid consumption. In my mind, if I could just not eat or drink, I could eliminate the need to use the outhouse. I would only eat at other peoples' houses. That was my plan.
Well you can imagine how that worked. Day three I broke down and drank liquids.
I woke up at 2am, like I did every morning. But this time was different. I had to pee.
"Shit" I thought to myself. "OK, let's think this through. We're going to the farm house around 11. I can wait until then. I can. It's just a mind over matter type thing. What I'll do, is I'll go back to sleep and I won't wake up until 10:45 and then it will be fine. Fine."
I laid there in my bed. Thinking. Waiting. But it's not dark and I can't go back to sleep. So now this is a problem. After struggling mightily for two hours I knew what I had to do.
I had to use the outhouse.
I was shaking with fear. I prepared myself by getting my little bottle of hand sanitizer out, making sure it was easy to reach - when combating germs, seconds count. I held my breath of course - everyone knows that if you breathe in an outhouse you will be killed by every class of disease. I couldn't sit on the sit. I just couldn't. So I did what girls often do in this situation, I attempted to hover. However. I was not taking into account the fact that the outhouse was meant for Norwegian Viking Giants, not wee French girls. So my hover turned into more of a "forward bend" and you know what happened.
I peed all over myself.
"FUCK" I screamed. This was not a problem I should have had to deal with. I'm not a baby or an incontinent senior citizen.
Of course, with no running water, I couldn't wash myself or my clothes. My eyes filled with tears of rage. Contaiminated. I was contaminated with pee and outhouse diseases and filth.
Well there was nothing else to do. I walked down to the fjord, stripped my clothes off and decided to hop in to clean myself in the glacier water.
If you have never experienced glacier water at 4am in Norway, take my word for it. It's the coldest thing you will ever feel.
I touched my toe in quickly. My skin burned and the muscles contracted in fury beneath the skin as if to say "No the fuck you don't Dana".
OK. Clothes first. I took my clothes and dunked them in the water, beating them on rocks and getting them moderately clean. When that was done, I couldn't postpone any longer. I needed to clean myself. I sat on a rock and dangled my feet in, trying to get them used to it. They didn't get used to it. But I had no choice.
I plunged in up to my waist and shrieked like a banshee, immediately zooming back out of the water to the safety of dry land.
I went back up to my room and got dressed, hating myself for my weakness.
Later that day, when we went to the farmhouse, I took the hottest shower ever, scouring every inch of my skin until it was lobster red and irritated. Then I refused to leave. It was maybe not the most polite thing I've ever done, but I just couldn't go back to the cabin. I couldn't. I situated myself in a spare bedroom and declared myself home for the duration of the trip.
Cosseted and spoiled with running water and electricity, I happily settled down into my comfortable new place.
But. One day my cousin suggested that we go for a hike.
I explained that I am not a hiker. I don't like hiking - it's really not my thing. My cousin assured me that it was a very easy hike - even her children could do it - and I didn't even need to bring water or anything.
But "easy" is a relative term. To me, an "easy" hike is essentially just a walk that takes place in the woods. To my family, "easy" is a two hour uphill muddy trek on a freaking mountain. All uphill. All. After an hour or so I was like "we're almost there, right?" I was sweating profusely, and was probably dehydrated from my ill-conceived "liquid reduction" plan, and I was not having fun. Prepared for an "easy" hike, I wore my designer jeans and a nice button down blouse from Anthropologie. They were covered in mud and sweat. I felt ugly and tired and miserable. And then I was told we were only about half way there.
Now, maybe if I cared about waterfalls it would have been totally worth it. But you have to understand, I don't really care that much about waterfalls. I mean, yes they're nice and all. I don't think they're UGLY or anything. I just don't think they're something to get all excited about. So, lacking proper motivation, I quit, like the weak spoiled Orange County Princess I have become. I trekked back down the mountain, purchased a bottle of lemon-sparkling water and fooled with my digital camera while I waited for my hardier family members to look at the waterfall and come back down again.
My family members are the nicest people alive. I love them dearly, especially for putting up with Princess Dana, which can be difficult. Ask Phil. But I'm totally intimidated by them. They're so big and strapping and hardy and tough. Compared to them I feel sickly and consumptive and difficult.
Tomorrow I start yoga teacher training. I'm pretty excited about it, except for the fact that our "getting to know you" activity is a one hour hike. They have described it as a "gentle, mellow" hike. In the same email they said to wear comfortable shoes. That's how I know "gentle" and "mellow" are lies.
I've learned that if an activity requires comfortable walking shoes, I'm not going to enjoy it. Unless it's Disneyland. But nothing else. Everything I like to do can be done in heels or barefoot.
The biggest problem is, this is a meet-and-greet type activity. This will be my classmates' first impression of me. That is not a good thing. They will forever have the impression that Dana is "that girl who bitches and moans and sweats and swears and has nothing nice to say about anything". And I'm not like that all the time! I don't want them to think that! But I'm also a truly bad liar. I won't be able to say I'm having a good time, or that it's such a nice day for a hike (It's really hot here! What are they thinking?)or that I'm happy to be there. The best I think I can pull off is brooding silence. But then I'll be "the mopey girl who won't talk to anyone". I don't want to be that girl either. And why do hippies think everyone likes hiking? Why? I signed up for yoga, not hiking! Part of what I love about yoga is that it's typically done indoors. Can I pretend to be sick? Not sure how that will go over....
There are some things about nature I like, however. I enjoy any kind of boat activity. And I also enjoy picnics as long as they don't take too long. But mostly nature terrifies me and makes me unhappy.
Here are some other examples of me versus nature:
Once while camping I attempted to make cheese tortellini with homemade gorgonzola sauce, sautéed mushrooms and wine for dinner. On a campfire. Because I hate camping food which is basically just hot dogs, chips, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and warm soda. So I thought I would classy up the place. It didn't go well. I had to borrow extra pans from some people downriver. I burned the bottoms of the pans which angered them. But seriously!? Who brings pans camping and says you can use them on a campfire and gets mad when the fire scorches them? That's what happens.
Another time while camping, we heard a truck come close to where we were camping. Then there were gunshots. Then there was low murmuring. We raced to my car, where we quietly, QUIETLY got in, covered ourselves with blankets and pretended not to be there. We didn't hear shit. We didn't see anything. Just please please leave us alive.
On hunting trips, I sometimes saw elk herds. Elk herds are terrifying.
See the skiing blog - lots of examples there.
Once during one of my husband's family reunions I got bitten by a mosquito. It was unpleasant.
Once for work I volunteered to to to Yosemite National Park to remove encroaching lodgepole pines. They warned us about "altitude sickness", describing it as getting sick from being on a mountain. "Haha" I said to myself. "That's ridiculous. How could fresh mountain air make you feel sick?". Well, as soon as we got up to 10,000 feet, I was pretty sure I was going to die. My head felt like nails were ramming into it, and my stomach rumbled with displeasure and I couldn't breathe. I didn't feel well. Well, the ranger came and gave us the "bear talk". I had never really been afraid of bears before, but the ranger struck the fear into me. So when literally every single person on the trip decided they wanted to - of course - hike, I felt pressured to go with them in order to avoid being eaten by the bears I would inevitably encounter if left alone. Well, if you have altitude sickness - which I did - a hike is basically the last thing you should do, right behind jogging and doing wind sprints. It made it so much worse that by the time we got back to camp all I could do was lie down, gasping for breath, as my feet went numb and my stomach punished me for depriving it of oxygen. I spent two days lying in a tent, unable to do much else. On day three I was well enough to stand and walk, so I decided to help out with the manual labor. I would lift my shears and do a little work and then go dry heave in the bushes for a few minutes. Then I would work for a few minutes and then I would have to lay down for a few minutes. Repeat.
Once Phil took me hiking in the mountains because he likes stuff like that. After roaming around on Mount Baker for what seemed like ages, I was ready to go. I had tried to be a good sport, but enough is enough. I wanted to eat some Italian food and take a nice hot bath adn put this nightmare behind me forever. Phil said to me "But don't you want to see what's over there?" "I Bet It's More Fucking Trees Phillip" I snapped. Phil was angry with me - and for good reason- I was being horrible. But nature brings that out in me. It's not pretty.
Once I was attacked by a goat.
Another time a goat got on top of my car and wouldn't get off of it. Do you know how to get a goat off your car? I didn't either.
Because I get cold outside, I tend to hover near the fire, no matter what. This usually results in lips so severely chapped that they crack and bleed, and clothes that stink like smoke. The blood from my lips drips onto my stinky clothes. I get progressively uglier as time goes on. By the time the trip is over I look homeless - and not like one of those trendy Portland/Seattle hipster homeless chicks - like the "needs-to-get-back-on-her-meds, someone should really do something" homeless.
My point is, I'm not an outdoors girl, and pretending that I am in an effort to please others only ends in misery.
So perhaps tomorrow I'll show up at yoga teacher training with a massive headache that will prevent me from hiking. Or perhaps I will be late due to traffic or work or whatever. Or perhaps I'll be honest and say "You know, I really prefer not to hike for an hour in the blistering sun with strangers for no reason. I'll just get myself a smoothie or something and wait for y'all. OK?"
Or maybe I'll wuss out and just go on the hike and make everyone hate me because I can't control my bad attitude.