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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Off the Grid: The Inevitable Darkness of Being

By Ammi Midstokke For The Spokesman-Review

I know it has come again. Sometimes I have a sort of hunch, because all I want to do is wear loose sweaters and eat pastries while listening to “The Daily” and wallowing in angst about the state of the globe. But that could just be a Wednesday.

I know it has come when my lunch box pops open on the seat next to me and the task of reaching an entire 6 inches to close it seems such an overwhelming burden that I let out something between a sob and a sigh of apathy. I decide the gods have chosen to spite me with this necessary effort, and I briefly consider taking the rebellious risk of driving around with my lunch box open, because I’ve had enough of their omnipotence anyway.

I know that somehow I’d have to brake in traffic and my lunch would end up on the floor and the waste, subsequent starvation, and disappointment of dirty salad would crush me with the travesty of it all.

Before this thought process is over, I’m crying and hoping I put on waterproof mascara. I just ordered it off Amazon, no doubt an impulse purchase made in desperation for dopamine. Probably with some sound logic like, “I am unhappy because I don’t have the right mascara.” It came in a box large enough for a refrigerator. I am single-handedly responsible for the destruction of rainforests in the Amazon now. I wasn’t going to cry today, but I live in Idaho and it’s winter and the darkness has seeped into my very soul. I can’t see through it anymore.

This year, like most years, I go through the same motions. I run a hundred million miles. I take my vitamins. I pretend to ski when the sun comes out. I meditate. I go to therapy. I escape to some far away geography where cactus and drought try to dry out my tears. I cut out sugar. And, as usual, I wonder what is wrong with me.

What I don’t do is simply accept it. I see it as an insufferable inconvenience that does not align with my expectations of myself or my Instagram profile. If I am doing everything right, how can I feel this wrong?

This is what I am thinking as I trot down a road on a sun-warmed morning. I’ve just survived the treachery of attempted trail running, where the ice promises a concussion, and I’m trying to feel good. I will myself to do it, because I’ve read enough of spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh to know none of this matters and everything is a miracle and even toast is an “ambassador of the cosmos.”

At least it is downhill, I think. There is no deadly ice here. The snow-capped mountains across the lake are beautiful. I’d probably think toast was a miracle, too, if someone served it to me with a respectful bow every day.

Also, we all know that if I could find enlightenment in toast, I’d have long arrived in Nirvana.

I don’t know why I try so hard, actually. Perhaps there is some part of me that knows when the clouds dissipate, it’s nice to feel the difference on the trails, or taste the complex spice of fresh arugula, or to know I am nourished, well-slept, and therapied ad infinitum. A midlife woman’s version of waking from hibernation is not that much different from a bear’s, only I have typically put on weight and rarely get caught rummaging through the trash.

Going through those motions – run, go outdoors, eat vegetables, drink water, read all Brené Brown books – keeps me from doing what I really want to do: Buy all the athleisure wear and anti-aging products my incessant scrolling has been marketing to me for months.

This year, like most years, just about the time I begin contemplating really bad choices (in footwear, experimental drugs or hair dye), some inexplicable shift will occur. I won’t have to choke back tears when Jason Isbell plays on the radio. I’ll laugh when I spill my coffee. I’ll not be incapacitated by the task of finding matching socks.

When it comes, I’ll breathe the same sigh of relief that my soil breathes when the snow melts, feel the same lightness the trees have when they bud. I can wait, because it is as inevitable as the seasons.

Ammi Midstokke can be contacted at

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