Summertime Nostalgia

“So what do I need for backpacking this weekend? It’s going to be a shorter trip but I still need food, clothes, and supplies for three full days and nights… And next Saturday I’m going on a river float all day with friends, should be so much fun! Oh and I have to remember to borrow my roommate’s water filter for the next camping trip coming up in a couple weeks. Don’t want to be stuck in the mountains without sipping the good stuff from the streams and rivers!”

These were the typical thoughts running through my head during the summer time a couple years ago. Having spent the previous numerous summers working in the travel industry and with little free time, I had come to appreciate having the freedom to explore the many outdoors opportunities that were at my footsteps in Northern California. Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, the giant Sequoia trees, Big Sur, the coastal redwoods, and many of the gorgeous peaks of the Sierra mountains were all less than a half day’s drive from my urban life in the middle of San Francisco. I had the unique opportunity to live in a dynamic and fast-moving city and yet have access to some of the most beautiful natural scenery around; a truly fortunate situation to be in and one for which I was continuous grateful.

Fast forward to now and some things haven’t changed. My friends are still going on those backpacking trips, they’re still hard at work seeking undiscovered lakes or less traveled trails to explore and planning fun adventures. The river floats are still happening as are the epic day long bike rides that customarily include a pastry and coffee jolt or a cold beer conclusion. The roaring campfires (and the stories and laughter that come with them) are still burning strong, and the miles and miles of the fun-filled drives crisscrossing the varied topography of the California that I love so dearly are still being driven, albeit in slightly nicer cars reflecting the improved career trajectories of my thirty-something social community.

The major difference, of course, is that I’m not there.

It’s like watching a movie you’ve seen a hundred times but with one of the major actors missing. It doesn’t feel right.

To say that I’m envious of my friends’ adventures is the understatement of the century. I would give anything to be tromping through the mountains with a backpack on my shoulders, laughing and chatting and admiring the grandeur of mother nature’s best offerings. And honestly, the one thing that may be harder than not being on those adventures, is hearing about them first-hand and masking my frustration and resentment with my attempts to conjure sincere excitement.

So what’s keeping me sane this summer? Pretty simple actually. My desire to reach my shorter-term goals of recovery, some of which are looming closer on the horizon, fuel me just as much as a summer adventure would. I know that the sense of accomplishment I would receive from standing up on my own or taking a few unassisted steps in a walker would fulfill me more than these adventures did in the past. I’ve worked so hard for so long that seeing the fruits of my labor would give me immense satisfaction. While my current summer adventure is a bit more lonely, and a lot less scenic than my former escapades, the rewards are, to say the least, tantalizing, validating and worthwhile.

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29 thoughts on “Summertime Nostalgia

  1. One of the most difficult things about a life changing injury is that as dramatic as it is for the injured person & maybe a few of his closest loved ones, is that life does not change for those around him. And social media, complete with a picture perfect play by play of everyone’s exciting adventures is a constant “in your face” reminder of that. I have seen this in the case of my brain injured son. It often feels like we are inside looking out the window at a world we are no longer part of. I try to bring a spiritual element to it & I find that helps somewhat. We are all on a journey and for whatever reason, some get tested more than others. We learn lessons from such a life altering experience & are able to be more compassionate towards others. We appreciate seemingly small things more than we used to in the “before.” And would we give all of that up to go back to the before? In a New York minute. But since time can’t be turned backwards, you’ve got the right idea. Keep challenging yourself & create new & different adventures. Because although it is much easier said than done, moving forward is the only direction worth going….

    1. Great advice. I know exactly what you mean about “looking out at a world we are no longer a part of.” It may sound defeating or pessimistic for outsiders, but I completely identify with what you’re talking about. And yes social media can be a nuisance. I’ve changed my relationship with social media quite a bit since my accident, for many of the same reasons. You’re right that a philosophical approach makes sense, or for me, just pure realism. What else am I gonna do? If I can’t join in on the activities I used to do, I can either be sad and mope about it or try my best to enjoy the adventure I’m on. It’s not always easy (as evidenced by my post) but that’s what I try to do. Much love and healing to you and your son -AB

  2. As always, Arash your honesty is refreshing.

    Perry has been watching the same movie, it sucks. We too are working on a new life-focus, new movies, and new scripts. So while you may be lonely at times, just know you are NOT ALONE.

    A childhood friend of Perry’s once asked if she could come to visit us, as with many long lost friends they do surface following one’s life changing events. It was early in Perry’s recovery, maybe two years ago, and we were mostly still holed-up in our self inflicted cloistered rehab mindset of isolation. We were busy busy busy with daily PT routines, but knowing we needed to “see people” Perry set a time for her to visit. As I am the default able bodied host for all visits I was supportive of the event, though tried to mask how I was not expecting an exciting time for myself. I ended up being surprised. The friend, it turns out, had experienced her own life-altering health experience. She sincerely was able to show compassion to Perry’s new state while being REFRESHINGLY open and honest about the difficulties. After listening to Perry respond to the classic 1st question, “How are you?”, which triggers Perry’s endless attempt to minimize the negative searching for positive things to report, the friend retorted with a bold blunt statement; This really SUCKS doesn’t it! Though we each found this reply slightly odd, I sensed Perry felt relieved as I did in such an honest expression rarely uttered “in public” during these types of post-accident visits with family & friends. The visit ended up being rather brief, but was very uplifting. Her honesty was so disarming, we each seemed to instantly relax and were able to share the joy of the well wishes that were intended to be conveyed by such a visit. She only came once, yet to this day her visit is the one I remember best.

    In this vein I hope you don’t mind me stating at the start, this old movie you and Perry can’t avoid watching SUCKS. The able bodied adventurous active recreational world is still out there playing in theaters near you. Meanwhile, both of you are doing an obsoletely amazing job of skipping this feature film by scripting and living your own shorts. You two have become indy film creators, you are focused on the clips of the moment, those lifestyles that are within reach today, with no time for things to pass idle time or to stretch life with intermissions. Sure you maintain some longer term dreams, but the focus day to day is on short term achievable images. Like Chris at SCI-FIT with his well packaged You Tube clips on client successes, these new films/shorts are our new form of entertainment, they don’t suck they INSPIRE. Hollywood eat your heart out.

    Just be aware we’ve got the red carpet ready to be unrolled for each of your successes to come. The feature films will continue to be shown, and audiences will flock in their been-there-done-that lifecycle, but some of us look forward to your Opening Nights and all the SCI-FIT shorts to come.

    Enjoy the rest of Summer! It is still a season to be enjoyed.

    Stay tuned, Carey

    1. Carey, your reply was well written and well said.
      Arash, everything you wrote was so heartfelt and for what it’s worth, Vaughn feels the same way. It’s tough to see others continue to enjoy doing the things you long to do. Driving past the golf course never gets any easier.
      It’s good to see you channel all your energies, frustrations, and dreams into your recovery. You are an amazing individual and I know that when you hit your goal of standing up and taking unassisted steps in a walker, it will give you more satisfaction than any vacation could ever provide.
      One of these days—soon, I hope– you can over to our house and we can kick back with Vaughn, shoot the breeze, drink a cold beer, and look at the beauty of Mt. Diablo. I think that would be fun!
      In the meantime, look forward to seeing you kick some A** at Sci Fit!!

      1. Carey,
        First of all, you are an amazing writer!! I always love hearing the spouses point of view (Denise, you too). You have a great way with words that remains positive and inspiring to me even. Thank you 🙂

      2. I would be happy to have a day like that with all of you! We should plan it soon. I know what Vaughn and I experience are very similar and I wouldn’t mind looking up at Mt. Diablo. 🙂 Big hugs -AB

    2. Very, very well said Carey. Thank you for sharing your sincere thoughts and first hand experiences. I knew that you and Perry went through similar emotions but you highlighted them so well. I like that you shared the story about the friend visiting you and her refreshing attitude. I hate answering the question, “well, how are you?” I know exactly what you mean by Perry’s attempts to answer that question in her own way, framing the positive, protecting most from the negative. And yes, the reality is that this injury does SUCK. While I tend to be as positive as I can in general and try not to get too bogged down in negativity, sometimes it’s important to express just how crappy things can be.

      But you’re right about the new films out there and how Perry, me and so many others are working towards our upcoming successes. Thank you again for your thoughts and words. Many hugs to you both -AB

  3. Libbie opens the comment with the significant point of it all…..your whole life and future has changed overnight and the rest of your world is carrying on as usual.

    It’s hard. There’s no doubt about it. And if anyone……anyone at all…..says it isn’t, then they’re totally insensitive and un-educated.

    I devour my friend’s bush walking and hiking adventures around the world with a ‘gluttony’ that, if it were food, would make me the most obese person in the world. Next Monday they come back from 7 weeks in Africa and there’s no doubt I will ‘pig out’ on the latest photo images.

    The best part about it is, that they take the time to share their adventures and are intelligent, observant and articulate raconteurs – it’s like reading or watching a great travel adventure. And they take the time to share (with me). Sure, they will probably spend an inordinate amount of time with their best friends who’ve just come back from exploring Russia, but I’m always glad they still include me in the cycle of their lives.

    You (like me) may not be able to travel or participate in life’s big adventures, but taking the time to explore the smaller adventures and simple pleasures in life has to be a worthwhile goal. I’me sure you get just as much a thrill from each step in your recovery as I get in capturing a good photo of the heron at a nearby lake – 10 minutes from my front door.

    Never lose sight of Hope. All you need is the Right Key (to unlock your door).

    1. Thankfully, no one around me has said that it isn’t hard. I have a very understanding and sensitive community around me who support me fully and I’m always grateful for that. Yes it’s all about finding thrills in those steps of my respective journey to keep me motivated and not too resentful that I’m missing out. Hope is an omnipresent thing for me, it never subsides, never goes away. It’s one of the only things keeping me sane during this time… Thanks for your words and support -AB

  4. Thank you again Arash for such wonderful vivid heartfelt writing. You conjure up so much, what a gift this is to all who read your blog. I wish you all the very best. I am sure you will get there! Melanie

  5. dear arash,

    i just re-read your latest letter. your honesty is huge. i liked what you said about how being able to walk a few steps on your own would be even more rewarding than former hikes or rides. it is where you are now and you are moving forward although it is much harder and lonelier. you have a goal and you are launched.

    laura said you were in montana; it is big sky country. bob’s sister and 2 nephews live there and have been there for the past 40 years.

    you are always in my heart and send hugs and the warmest best wishes always,


    1. Yes those steps would be so important to me, so much more important than any weekend trip that I’m nostalgic for. Would be great to see you soon. Much love -AB

  6. I look forward to your recovery, keep fighting the good fight AB! You’re almost there and you’ll definitely be back on track. 😀

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