September 6, 2017

Health : Perfect Day

It's taken me thirty-three years, but I've come across the fool-proof formula for the kind of day that makes me feel happiest and healthiest.  A disclaimer that I call a lot of things my favorite in the following description, which kind of makes sense.

It starts with coffee.  I love coffee, but drink it pretty rarely because I'm sensitive to the caffeine, or because I want to stay sensitive to the caffeine.  I tend to get moodier on caffeine, happy at first from the stimulation, then a kind of coming down where I dwell a little too deeply in whatever I'm feeling.  So I save coffee for our climbing trips, when 1) we wake up pretty early, and 2) I know that I'll have natural endorphins that will counteract the aftereffects of the caffeine.  It's a special treat.

Then we drive, and even though I lament the distance we have to drive to get to rock climbing and would likely eliminate it if it were possible, I do also love long drives.  People who've known me awhile know that they're one of my favorite things ever (favorite number one, not in order and I won't continue to count).  I like the long stretches of scenery, being forced to do nothing except take it in.  I like the comfortable conversation, the podcasts and music as backdrops to the views; I also like the silences.

Drive to & from Bishop, CA. February 2017

When we arrive, there's usually some hiking involved to get to the area we want to climb. It's called an approach instead of a hike, since the goal is to get to climbing.  Similar to the drive, we'd all eliminate the approach if given the choice, but similar to the drive I generally enjoy it (depending on the distance, and on how long we get lost as getting lost is routine for me).  It's usually the first of many waves of feeling grateful to be outside and away from a city (a city whose compactness I love but can sometimes compress).

Then, there's the climbing itself, which I already glorify in more ways than anyone wants to hear. Suffice to say that it's the main ingredient for the perfect day, because there's a sense while doing it that I couldn't possibly feel exactly like this doing anything else.  Strong and scared, alone in my head and connected to outside.  I'm open to the possibility that something else compares but will gladly take this for now.

If it really is the perfect day, there's a body of water nearby to jump in after hot sweaty climbing.  This can be a creek, river, lake, or a hotel pool (followed by hot tub); any sort of water feels like a miracle after clinging to rocks. And there's beer, which is another thing I really enjoy but don't consume that often due to my sensitivity (I know, this isn't the sort of sensitivity that I like either), and another thing I indulge on these days.  They taste especially good for knowing that we carried their weight to savor them now.

On the perfect day, it's the first of more days of climbing, so 1) we camp and 2) as the light is winding down we know there's more.  Preparing and eating a simple hot meal outside makes me feel how much can be had by fulfilling a basic need.  Everything tastes more distinct and better outside, uncrowded by its neighbors on the spice rack or grocery store shelf.  With fire and wine and chocolate, I'm pretty sure every space I have is filled.

As a person drawn to complications in my work and personal life, I really appreciate how much camping pares things down.  The tent is a favorite thing, shelter from so much made from so little.  The perfect day ends with a warm night, where you can leave the fly off the tent and fall asleep with stars as your ceiling. And it stays warm even as it steeps into dark, so that I can sleep (mostly) naked in my sleeping bag which is one of my favorite sensory feelings.  And if I get up in the middle of the night to pee, I can stop to look up to the denseness of light that we've replaced in the city with the denseness of people.

Not that people aren't part of the equation for a perfect day--they're the outline for everything else, for making it possible and shared.

This summer has been full of variations on this day, and it's been a long time since I even felt summer as a different season (in medical residency the days were marked less by season and more by a sleep cycle that was always screwy).  Each one has felt perfect.

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