Monday, May 6, 2013

The introvert, death, a moose and whisky

The introvert, death, a moose and whisky - she said...

SHE SAID:  After reading the subject line I’m sure many of you just thought:  WTF?!  Where is she going with this one?  Well it’s sort of a long story but they are all linked believe it or not.  I AM AN INTROVERT.  Some will be baffled by that because I seem like such a social beast, talkative, friendly and helpful.  An introvert re-energizes by spending time alone.  Looking back, the last 2 full months were spent in “social mode” with not much time to myself, but I digress so let’s start from the beginning shall we:  The month of April 2013 seems like a blur to me now.  So many things were thrown at me all at once and although I coped I realized this last Friday that I hadn’t as well as I had led myself to believe.   I do project management for a living which can be a fairly stressful environment at times filled with frustration, people and processes. I spend 7 1/2 hours, 5 days a week being "social".  Add to that a new manager who recently started with us (the 9th one in 6 years) = huge frustration of mine when it comes to our dysfunctional department.  He came into our group with “new ideas and directions” which of course we have heard over and over from all nine of them.  It’s really hard sometimes to stay positive.  Helping him adapt and navigate has been a big part of our jobs the last couple of months.  Pile on top of that the news that two coworkers/friend's (not that much older than me) cancer had come back with a vengeance after both being in remission for almost 10 years.  One was in debilitating pain so when she passed we were all relieved.  Sad, but so thankful she was no longer in any pain. My second friend walked into work on a Tuesday at the end of March and announced: “It’s back so I’m taking early retirement and I start treatments this Friday.  The prognosis is good so I’ll be back to clean my desk out next week.  Would be nice if we could do something, maybe you could teach me how to start my own blog”.  Two weeks later my administrative assistant came over to my desk, put her hand on my shoulder and said: “Sue’s last rites were just read & they don’t expect she will make it to the end of today”.  She passed an hour later.  I don’t have to tell you that cancer is not a forgiving beast, nor does it care if you were the nicest person in the world. Two huge losses of kind, wonderful women in my life in less then two weeks. 
Susan's motto for life...

Susan and I were a bit closer, had been co-workers and friends for almost 20 years.  She was “that” type of person.  The one who decorated the office at every chance, dressed up at Halloween and left thank you notes or chocolates on your desk “just because”.  The optimist who hummed “All you need is love” while she photocopied stuff.  People at work saying: “I’m so sorry for your loss and try as I may to be polite or thank them, I felt like somehow they were intruding on my grief.  Five days after her funeral I found a card I had bought for her in my desk.  She would have showed up at work with a birthday cake hat on and we would have celebrated her 58th on April 25th.  That card was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to throw out.  As I struggled with the void it didn't help that my boss announced that my coworkers and I would be tucked away from work for a few days for some team building -> Insert long streak of swear words and much anxiety…  Why?  Because, the hardest thing for an introvert to do is be social, kind, polite and friendly.  Not that we can’t but when it’s for extended periods of time it becomes work and is beyond exhausting.  
No whisky??  Arrrrghhhh!
My energy levels and well being were so low that I became ill and required antibiotics = NO whisky, which really doesn’t bother me except when I’m writing blogs about reviewing whiskies of course!?   Two months, no quiet time, two deaths, a new boss and now, no whisky!?  
The team building was a disaster and in my opinion three wasted days.  By 9:30 on Friday May 3rd I had a huge migraine, I couldn’t eat or think and I felt like I was exploding from the inside out.  That rarely happens to me so I knew I needed to get out of Dodge.  I had to run away and listen to waves roll onto the beach or stare at a tree.  Silence.  I NEEDED silence.  I immediately went online, found & booked a small cabin on a hillside overlooking the Bay of Fundy.  No internet, no phones, no people!   Home by 3:00, car & cooler packed by 4:00 all but a dilemma of what whiskies to bring.  I grabbed two and threw them in the cooler with a nosing glass.  I gassed up the car, bought a lottery ticket and said GOODBYE to the world and took off with the younger of the two dogs. I arrived at 6:00pm, made Teryaki chicken in my little kitchen and took Miles for a well needed hike.  The rest of the night involved cuddling with him as he and I layed on the couch together watching TV.  I went to bed early, slept hard and was rudely awakened by his cold dog nose.  “Hmmm, mummy… I need to pee please” I looked at the clock: 6:15am on a Saturday, of course you need to pee… Wool socks, fuzzy blanket and cold morning air as I padded over to the door and sat out on the deck while Miles milled about in his new environment.  I laughed several times as I watched him get creeped out by the sounds of nature.  I didn’t realize I had such a “city” dog.  I made coffee in the French press I packed (You didn’t expect me to rough it that badly now did you?!), fed Miles and curled up in a big chair just listening to the water rush by, the wind in the trees and the sound of birds.  
150 feet of rushing water
By 7:30am we were out the door for another hike.  I chose one of my favorite trails in Fundy National Park – Third Vault Falls. It’s fairly steep in some places and a good long hike to a spectacular water fall.  Oddly enough it never dawned on me that I had the whole park to myself and I’m not kidding when I say THERE WAS NO SIGNS OF LIFE, ANYWHERE?  Just me, my dog and the entire 270 square kms of park to ourselves…  I wanted solace and quiet, well by golly the universe delivered.  Off we go, good hiking shoes, crisp morning air, water, fruit, binoculars and of course a dram (again you didn't think I'd be roughing it did you?).  Miles had a field day running, sniffing and just acting like a total fool as we hiked.  I laughed out loud several times as he unsuccessfully chased a few squirrels.  As we began the steep descent, I watched my footing because there was still snow in some spots.  We arrived at the falls so I sat and poured myself a whisky (Auchentoshan Three Wood) and yes it was only 8:45am but I truly didn’t care!   I sipped my dram, watched Miles stomp around in the pool of cool spring water. The falls were at a full deafening tilt but at the same time adding to the quiet and peace I truly needed.  If you’ve never had a whisky outside in the forest or on a late winter night you HAVE TO at least once in your life because there is something truly magical about it.  As I sat there replenishing I thought about life, Sue & Pam, friends, kids, my job and Graham.  Tears began to stream down my face and I was finally able to grieve and let go in private.  I was able to just stop everything and simply breathe.  It was like hitting the “reboot” key and allowing myself to be me.  I laid on my back and crossed my feet.  Miles of course came over and parked his Bernese ass on my stomach.  “Thanks man!” I said.  I scratched his head and laid there for a few moments.  The world had finally stopped long enough for me to get off.  Blue skies, the sound of rushing water, a good whisky and a faithful dog at my side melted away the insanity, the frustration and the sadness I had been stuffing deeper and deeper.  In true Lassie style, the following happened: Something made Miles freeze because his breathing stopped abruptly.  I opened my eyes sensing another squirrel chase was about to ensue. 
Don't see this in Toronto, do you Matt?!
I almost crapped my pants when I saw a 700 pound female moose standing about 20 feet in front of us down where Miles had been in the water.  He was spellbound having never seen anything that big before so I instinctively grabbed his collar, prayed his 85 lbs of curiosity wouldn't spring into action and held on tight.  He whined loudly and I commanded he be quiet.  Meese?  Mooses? Whatever the plural is, are pretty much blind by our standards. They have very poor day vision.  I could see her nostrils flaring, trying to pick up our scent.  We were downwind thankfully.  She stood motionless as I quickly downed the whisky and shoved the nosing glass in my pocket.  I looked around for any babies and mentally scanned what I had in my bag or how fast I could get Miles to follow me up the steep embankment behind us.  She took two steps forward and stopped.  She was about 8-10 feet tall and Miles started barking which spooked her even more. It's the last thing you want to do to a moose!? Fight or flight kicked in and I wasn’t sticking around to see what might happen next.  In one swoop I grabbed my bag and literally lifted the dog on his hind legs while running up the rocks to a small edge.  Holding Miles in one hand I grabbed a large rock with the other.  She snorted a few times and went over to where Miles and I had been sitting.  She smelled the ground using her hoof aggressively and looked around as though she was trying to figure out where we had gone.  For once, thank goodness, Miles must have sensed the importance of stillness and quiet and didn’t let out as much as a peep.  She bowed her head down looking like she was listening for us.  Then as quickly as she appeared, she turned around and she was gone.  She simply meandered off in the opposite direction downstream.  I kid you not when I say neither the dog or I exhaled as we both watched until she was out of sight and then I turned to look at Miles who was sitting beside me at eye level.  He stuck his tongue out and licked my face from chin to forehead which I took to me mean:  “Sorry mummy, you are the best”!  I waited a full 5 minutes before I moved mostly because my legs were jelly.  We went over to where she had been standing in the soft earth.  Her hoof prints were there, fresh and deep.  I put my foot beside one of them, it was twice the size of my 7 ½ shoe.  I spent the rest of my hike out kicking myself for not bringing a camera.  It was truly surreal. Then I started laughing.  Laughing so hard I had to stop walking for a minute.  I pictured the article in the paper.  Introvert runs for the hills to be alone, doesn't tell anyone where she went.  Stupid introvert killed by moose, not found for weeks because park was empty.  How’s that for complete irony!? Careful what you wish for apparently! I reached into my pocket and pulled out my Glencairn.  It smelled like heaven.  Dawned on me the sample bottle with about half a dram of whisky was still down by the falls.  Oh well, I thought!? I spent the next 30 minutes walking back to the car, going over in my head the scenario I was just presented with.  I pondered through the “another strange WTF moment” .  

Miles EXHAUSTED & snoring!
I drove until I found reception and called Graham.  Want to come and spend the night with us at a cabin on a hill?  Sure he said, you ok?  I will be, I replied, better bring a Glencairn.  

When I got back to the cabin, poor Miles passed out and I grabbed my laptop and started writing.  Cup of tea, deck overlooking the Bay and this is what sort of came out: Nobody ever promised life would be fair so why do we have the arrogance to say:  Why do these things have to happen to ME?!”  Why wouldn’t they?  What makes us think we are so damn special that devastating things would never happen?  Why is it we don't say the same for the good things in our life?  Why did I deserve to find that $20 on the sidewalk?  Why did I come face to face with a majestic moose in the middle of nowhere on a Saturday morning and not get trampled to death? Am I the only one that thinks this sort of stuff?  Well, introverts are known to think alot and over-analyze things?  hehe...

Life is filled with stuff.  Sometimes it’s really shitty and that’s all there is to it but it's also weird, magical or unexplainable sometimes.  How you decide to deal with it all is your only choice really...   Do you want to look back at your life and say why me?  Or do you want to look back and say thank goodness it was me?  I think I'll take the latter.  I guess it just took a hike in the woods, an Auchentoshan and a moose to remind me.   

Wherever you are, work your way through the shit but stop from time to time to fully enjoy the outrageous, the funny and the life you are living now.  My opinion of course…   

Somewhere on the whisky trail watching sunsets on the Bay, rejuvenated and ready to take life by the moose horns (pardon the really bad pun, but bet you smiled!)



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