I am FURIOUS with my neighbor!! She raises an ire in me that is incredibly hard to control. She spits venomous words at me and baits me to engage in a senseless fight that basically consists of her accusing me of sleeping with her boyfriend because I strut (her words) back and forth in front of their apartment, encouraging him to admire me like a prize pony. (According to her, my strutting occurs when I am grabbing my laundry from the basement—in my sweatpants and pony tail. I must look damn fine in those sweatpants! Why do I even bother putting on dresses if ya’ll really like the sweatpants??)
For the record, I am most definitely not sleeping with or at all interested in her partner. I tell myself I won’t take the bait and return fire. I try to convince myself I am in control of those faculties that tell me to just WALK AWAY. But every time she confronts me (four and counting), I get this urge to try and convince her I am a good woman, a good person… And the thing is, it really doesn’t matter! What’s she going to do, nominate me for the Nobel Peace Prize after she realizes her horrible and embarrassing mistake? Not likely!
Her anger isn’t about me. In fact, I’m relatively certain she knows I’m not actually sleeping with her boyfriend. It’s about what is inside her heart that makes her lash out at a perfect stranger. She is obviously hurting. Even before our feud started, she never had a friendly word for any of her neighbors. She always has a grimace on her face. It makes me sad for her. Not so sad that I don’t deliver several choice words in the privacy of my home after a confrontation, though. I let my blood rise to a boil and I vent for far too long to my girlfriends about it. It runs over and over like a movie in front of my eyes, and I can’t stop it.
For me, anger takes on two costume changes. One I see as something negative, dark. The dark side is the one that makes my veins bulge out of my neck, makes my head ache and my fists clench. I feel the sweat form at my temples and a slow burn starts at my crown and moves into my chest. It makes me feel like I have lost control. It makes me a victim. And this is not who I want to be.

Every issue, belief or assumption is precisely the issue that stands between you and your relationship to another human being; and between you and yourself.

Gita Bellin said this, but I have heard it many times over. Is it true? Am I seeing part of myself in this hurting human being? Why can’t I just let it go? Am I that same, sad girl? Twice, I’ve let myself actually yell back at her, which is very unlike me. In the moment, I truly believe I’m defending my honor…but what is really going on?
The other side of my anger is light and bright, and I see it as pure motivation to change what I don’t like. For example, my recent promotion came out of what started as anger. Did I stomp around and suffer in silence while continuing to go to work every day for less than I deserved? Well, yes, but not for long. I used that anger as fuel to focus on the prize. Once I had a clear vision of how I was going to change my situation, a calm feeling washed over me and I began working on my goal. The nerves and anger dissipated quickly.
Now what do I do with that emotion when it comes upon me? I’ve read articles that tell me to “sit in my anger.” Why the hell would I want to do that?? I don’t want to stay sweaty and fired up. I want to smile and giggle like I usually do.
Is this “sitting in anger” actually a technique of loving myself in all states of emotion? To sit in anger is to accept it. It is painfully obvious to me that I am very hesitant to sit in any emotion for long. Could I really slow down, stop trying to cut to the front, and appreciate standing in a long line in order to get to know that part of me that gets heated?
What do you do, readers? I welcome your suggestions, your hugs, and a few paper bags to breathe into when my neighbor comes a’shouting again.

When I Get That Feeling, I Want Nature to Heal Me

The lick of wind on my ear whispers to me, keeps me mesmerized, and I can’t go inside just yet. I need these trees, the moss, and the giant clovers of the shady forest hiking trails. I need to scramble over rocky hillsides, sometimes in the snow. This woman yearns to taste the outside as long as she can stand it, because it is magical. So I wait another few minutes in order to keep the feeling from leaving too quickly.
I am so grateful to live in the Pacific Northwest. I moved here eight years ago not particularly caring about the wilderness. I didn’t want to harm it, but I didn’t want to be out in it, either. I didn’t like walking through spider webs (To be fair, I am still terrified of spiders!), was not a fan of mud-encrusted shoes, and never had the urge to hug a tree. I liked all sorts of other things about Portland, but the outdoors was not of much importance. I was not really aware of the big “green” movement and what it meant to the environment the way I am now, although I do remember being stunned at the amount of trees below the plane when I flew in to visit before my big move. That completed my impression of Oregon’s wilderness until about three years ago. My love of the outdoors started because my friend and I wanted to do something that didn’t cost much money. I wanted to go to a Lumberjax game. He was in grad school at the time, and was low on cash. I asked him, “Well then, Ben, what do people do around here on the cheap?” He asked me if I liked to hike. I wanted to impress my new friend so I told him I did. In truth, I had never done anything other than Multnomah Falls, an easy and short but steep hike in the Columbia River Gorge. It is the most popular hike for tourists, it is never quiet, and would not be considered wilderness under any circumstances, although it is extremely beautiful. We ended up doing a five-mile loop that involved crossing a couple small creeks, walking over more than a few patches of snow, and viewing two gorgeous waterfalls. I fell in love. At the end we felt amazing. Only later did I tell him that I hadn’t ever really hiked before and that after that hike I saw myself as a total bad ass. Since then we’ve upped our mileage and elevation. Last time I checked we are still total bad asses.
For me, there is no hiking season; there are only more layers of synthetic clothing. My weekend uniform is generally cargo hiking pants, a sweat-wicking shirt, SmartWool socks, and a bandana. I don’t care if I look pretty or not. I just want to be at a comfortable temperature and be able to move easily. I now love spring hiking in the Gorge with the wildflowers and the mucky muddy hikes. I can’t wait until the deepest snow finally melts so I can get to the Mt. Hood hikes. Summer hikes are sweaty but fun.
One of my favorite things about hiking is that it’s a time to let go of any unnecessary emotion. I feel awe at the enormity of the trees and the sky; I almost always feel uncertain when the trail splits and I don’t know which way to go. These feelings are part of the experience. The emotions I want to let go of are the ones that make me feel less than whole:  guilt, fear, anger. Emotions like these have a tendency to creep into the day and overshadow the positive. They shouldn’t, but they do. These emotions disappear when I am out there; it’s an amazing salve for any pain I have in my life. They literally flow out of me like the rivers I so adore for their propensity to make waterfalls, which are my absolute favorite thing about hiking. Rivers can be turbulent and dangerous things, but out of them come remarkable beauty. On the trail I can just Be, shedding the societal baggage of ego and all that comes with it.
I wasn’t going to write a post this week. I was going to let this week slide, let myself recover from a long holiday weekend and the remnants of my birthday celebration. Instead I felt compelled to write this particular post, just in time for my last birthday hurrah—a nine mile hike tomorrow at a new trail. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate me.