Introvert Restoration

I just spent the 30 minute drive home. Screaming obscenities. Into the ether.

It’s my mother’s fault.

I was supposed to run the TWOT yesterday.

Mostly because I like saying it.

I’ve had a lot of those “I was supposed to run…” days lately.

This pandemic.

I went into it strong.

I was averaging 60-70 miles a week when this pandemic started.

Last month, I did a total of 30.

Thirty miles. The entire month.

And it’s not just the fact that I’m maxed out on injuries.

Or that I’m working non-fucking-stop.

I mean, I am. ALL American public educators are working non-fucking-stop right now. Like, way beyond the normal “teachers take their work home with them” that we’ve come to accept. This shit is next level stressful.

So even though I do wake up at 4:15. Every morning. To make time for a run or workout.

I just can’t.

I can barely manage to just sip my coffee and stare off into space for two hours.

That is all the motivation. And energy. I’ve got these days.

So when More Unapproachable Than Me said she needed help with yesterday’s testing. Because yes, America. We have now been forced to push public education right on into Saturdays. I stepped up.

And she thinks I’m this really good person for doing that.

And that she owes me.

And we’re gonna keep letting her believe that.

But the truth is. I needed an out for TWOT.

“I’m so sorry. These assholes are making me work Saturday now. I can’t make the race. Darn it.”

It wasn’t awful.

High schoolers don’t tend to overwhelm my introvert. Especially when they’re testing and can’t actually engage in conversation.

But once testing was over. And I was free to go about my Saturday. I knew I needed some alone time. And my kids were at the house. Working.

I adore my kids.

But I needed time away from humans. That would expect me to socialize even a tiny bit.

So I messaged Rogue and Fall Risk. To tell them where I was going. And what time I should be checking back in. After doing the math. So that they could ask Beautiful Beastie to tell them where to find my body.

And then I drove out to where phone service goes to die.

And if you were missing anyone yesterday. All of America was crammed onto the Peaks of Otter.

My introvert had a mild panic attack as we drove past.

This is why we run at 5am.

But then calmed the fuck back down once we got to the DeFo Special parking lot.

Only four other cars. Good.

It was 1:45 pm.

I had just under 5 hours until sunset.

And this route took me 5 1/2 the last time I did it.

But I really just wanted to make it to the overlook. Around nine miles in. To see the colors of the trees.

I was pretty sure I could make it back down to the parking lot right as the sun was setting.

It was cool. And smelled like nature.

The sun was shining down through the trees.

The only sounds were the squirrels and birds and leaves under my feet and my rather labored breathing.

Stress doesn’t exist out here.

But math does.

Because I was starting to pass hikers.

And keeping count. To match them up with their cars.

Because I wanted to know who else was out here with me.

If I was going to risk getting caught on the Appalachian Trail after dark.

I watch Criminal Minds.

I know the shit that happens out here.

Passed one hiker. Then another. In the first two miles. They both appeared to be your normal AT hiker.

One was listening to an audiobook as he hiked.

Which was comforting.

There’s something about a dude that listens to audiobooks that is completely disarming.

Passed a family heading back down the mountain.

Ok. Three cars accounted for.

Then somewhere around mile three. I heard a voice. Up ahead of me.

Car number four, I presume.

And I felt a sense of comfort.

And the voice was having a full on conversation. With no other voice responding…

And that comfort disappeared.

And as I got closer. I could see him.

Just chilling on a log. Talking…

Pleeeeease let there be another human behind that tree next to him.

Nope. Nope there sure wasn’t another human.

And. Ok. THIS is why ear pods aren’t ok.

Because I recognize that he was probably talking to someone on the other end of a phone call.

But I had no way of really being sure.

Because he wasn’t holding a fucking phone.

And also. Who the fuck climbs three miles up a mountain. Up a really steep mountain. With shitty cell service. To make a call?

And he didn’t even acknowledge me as I jogged by.

You ALWAYS acknowledge the people you pass on trail.

That’s how we weed out the crazies.

It was…unsettling.

So this is where I really sincerely started trying to do real accurate math.

And realizing that it would get darker way faster on the mountain than it does out in the world.

And remembering that I’d only had an apple and a teeny tiny yogurt that morning. And I’d already burned through those calories. So I definitely wouldn’t have the strength to fight unsettling conversation dude off. When he inevitably tried to kill me.

And there was a…I guess it was a mist? Settling into the trees.

Which obviously meant that the mountain was on fire.

Even though I couldn’t smell smoke.

And I started envisioning having to run the rest of the way up the mountain. And down around Cornelius Creek. And does that actually take me to the Sunset Fields overlook? Or down to the bottom of Apple Orchard Falls? Where the fuck would I have to tell someone to come get me from? And would I even have cell service? And would it be better just to die of smoke inhalation? With the rest of the woodland creatures? And how many of them do I figure I could carry? Because I obviously can’t just leave them out here to die.

And so much rising panic.

So I decided to turn back at mile five.

That would have to be enough.

And it was.

I felt amazing coming down off the mountain.

Told the AT hikers to stay cuddled up as I passed them at the shelter. Where I assume they were bedding down for the night.

Because at that point, I was cold enough that I was fantasizing about the sweatshirt in my car.

And I was watching for unsettling conversation dude the whole way.

And never found him…

And only one car had left the parking lot by the time I got there. Which I assume was family of hikers car…

So I feel like I made the right call. Coming down early.

And the mountain did it’s job.

I was feeling fully at peace. And relaxed.

Until.

I turned on the audiobook my mom had urged me to listen to.

Have y’all read this yet?

I’m almost at the end. And I’m not sure I’m gonna be able to finish it.

Because what is happening in this moment of the book. Is exactly the shit that I had near constant anxiety about as my boys were finishing up their high school careers.

And so I spent the drive home screaming obscenities.

Feeling all of my peace. And relaxation. Slipping away.

And finally I had to just shut it off. Shut it down.

And text my mom.

Look. Y’all gonna have to start signing waivers before recommending books to me.

I experience emotions way too intensely these days.

And this is not the year for self-inflicted emotions.

I’ve got 6 days before the library takes this book back from me.

And since my mother refuses to be any help. To her favorite child. Imma need one of you to tell me how it ends.

Just tell me that Xavier is gonna be ok.

Just…that’s all I need. I just need for him to be ok.

I’ll be on a mountain trying to get my peace back while I wait.

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