Chris Writes

My life in real time

Our Social Media Experiment

It started out quite calmly.  Then our voices got louder.  We had hit a rough patch in our relationship and it was time to find a way out.  We started talking about, of all things, Facebook.  Yes, that great blackhole of timesuck.  The new ‘home’ where we hang our hats.  I have been wanting to step away from quite some time.  When things aren’t going well you look for distractions.  For outlets to connect.  To stay in touch with friends and family.  To share.  To laugh at funny videos.  To denounce the political stupidity of the other.  To do almost everything it seems.

The internet has replaced the TV as the place to go to zombie out.  To waste time.  To disengage from our immediate worlds to be part of a sometimes imaginary world.  This world provides a reward every time we log on.  The likes.  The comments.  They are fed to us in regular interviews.  If we seek, we find, instantly.  So we invest more time because we always get what we want, when we want it.

Imagine for a second if we changed social media.  If we made everyone wait a day before their likes, comments, and posts were added to our Facebooks and our Instagrams.  If we had to wait 24 hours for those responses to the funny selfie we just posted.  Our dopamine feedback loop would be broken and we would have a much different internet experience.

The social media is changing how we relate and how our children relate.  They are born into this.  That makes them an entirely different generation than those, such as me, who grew up in the 80’s.  We knew life before instant gratification.  We had to wait for things.  Many of us grew up knowing the merits of waiting for the things we want most.  Our children will only know this feeling if we expose them to it.  The world, as it is now, is not set up that way anymore.

After the voices died down, we agreed to stop all social media for 30 days.  Specifically those things that provide instant feedback.  Facebook.  Instagram.  Twitter.

I secretly hope this experiment will last much longer.


Let Him Carry His Own Water

When I was in my 20’s I met a girl.  She was a pretty girl with a pretty smile.  She was a tireless worker.  She lived in New York City, but left her life there to come home to a small isolated island in the Pacific Ocean named Guam.  She had advanced degrees in engineering and biology.  She had dreams of being a doctor someday.  Yet, her parents were getting old and they called on her to come back and take care of them.  It was what daughter’s did in her culture.  Actually in most every culture, it was the daughters who took care of the parents.  So she worked as a medical assistant, making just enough to get by.

When we met I had recently graduated from university.  I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.  My father took an opportunity in Guam working for the civil service.  I was born in Guam, but I had bad memories of the island when I was a child.  I wanted to see if maybe I could turn that into something different.  So I went with them.

Then I met her.  She was a few years older than me.  She also was more ‘ready’ to settle down.  But she stayed with me.  She took really good care of me.  At one point, I had no job, and I was another mouth to feed.  I went into depression and spent hours on my dial-up internet connection, surfing the internet, waiting for her to get off of another 12 hour shift.  She even cooked me dinner.

She bought me a $1000 guitar with money she didn’t have.  It was my birthday and she knew I wanted it.  I got to be honest.  I let her buy it for me.  I let her do many things for me.  She was carrying my water, and the water of both her parents.  She was exhausted and run down and I let her keep going.  Taking care of others was what she knew best.

I still think back to her with regret.  With guilt.   I leaned heavily on her, but who did she have to lean on?  I knew it was wrong, but I wallowed in my own pity anyways.  I was a victim, and I played it well.  She didn’t have that luxury.

So when I read about the disaffected white male population lashing out against women and minorities and everyone but them, I understand the anger.  We hear about the ever-growing group of white males who are unemployed and not actively looking for work.  They are prone to drug and alcohol abuse and marathon sessions of Call of Duty on a Monday morning.

They are represented by a man who never had to carry his own water a day in his life.  I thought about Donald Trump when he trotted out General John Kelly in a press conference recently to use his reputation and dead son’s legacy to carry the water for the priviledged narcissist.

It was sickening.  It is sickening.  To carve out a significant portion of your time as POTUS to playing golf, watching news, and mean tweeting.  We live in a country of those who do not carry their own water.  They are cared for by mothers, wives, sons, daughters, minorities, and our military.  They don’t need to be.  They are quite capable.  Maybe they lost some of their priviledge and they sense all hope is lost.  This is what they see in Trump.  They feel emasculated by the lack of easy opportunities because the opportunities are expected.  When they dry up there is something wrong with the system.  It’s the system, not them.

Who gives our young boys this set of expectations in life?  That college, high paying jobs, and pretty women are waiting for us.  All we need to do is try a little and it’s all there for the taking.  Donald told us that it’s there, all you need to do is grab it with one hand.  They’ll even let you do it.  There’s no water for us to carry.  That sits on the back of the others.

And if we don’t receive what is expected, then we burn the whole system to the ground before even considering carrying our weight.

In Peace

I wondered what it would be like to be him.  He was dying.  Things like cars and houses and bills and next month no longer had any value.  You drift between anxiety and fear and regret.  You don’t have any more time to right all the wrongs you’ve done.  You are surrounded by the one’s you love the most.  So you can say i’m sorry for what i’ve done to you in this life.  Yet, life is long and overwhelming and filled with mistakes.  So that is where you leave it.

He died in stages.  In the week before he passed, he looked at his life.  He told me he had trouble sleeping.  His mind was filled with all the events of his life.  All the mistakes.  All the love.  All the memories.  It was a flood that kept him alert and awake.  Then there was the decision to leave.  How does someone decide it is time?  Suffering and pain over long months, over a couple of years.  The gradual taking away of old age and failing organs.  He had a good week about two months before.  He was like his old self, waking up early and doing yard work.  It almost made me believe I had my dad back.  He bought about ten new plants and filled his back porch his favorite flowers.  Then he got sick again and we were back to normal.  Maybe it was this time that broke him.  To feel good, just for a few days, and have that taken away once again.  It broke his heart.

Maybe he saw it as a gift.  One last offering of life.

On those sleepless nights he decided.  I didn’t realize it until the day he died.  There was a lightness.  He was smiling and his body seemed to be floating.  He used few words.  He had little energy but he mustered all of it in this moment.  When he looked at us one last time, as a father.  I felt this energy.  He only had to say one word.  Goodbye.  It was the look he gave that crushed me because I knew this was the last one.

They turned all the machines off.  The only thing left was the pain medications to keep him comfortable.  It was hard, the waiting.  It was necessary.  If not his children to watch, then who?  His heart rate gradually fell.  It fell so low and immediately collapsed.

The nurse came in, pushed the stethoscope to his chest, and shut off the machines.  He was finally with his mommy again.

In Death

I see the texts on my phone.  One stream is from my mother.  She is rapid and seemingly without focus.  A rattling off of events in real time, as she is experiencing them.  I read it like a code, trying to decipher what is happening.  Is he dying in a month or a week?  Did the doctor say he had 2 days or 2 weeks?  I can’t figure it out when pushed through her jaundiced filter.

She keeps asking me to come see him.  It doesn’t matter if I work or if I have a child to protect from this.  She is like a bright homing beacon, perpetually turning, beckoning me to come.  Every day if I would.  If I don’t come then she uses guilt.  Swings it at me.  At my brother.

My father is a good man.  That’s what most believe.  I have reason to hate him.  To want him to die.  To ignore him.

I saw his frail, emaciated body turned sideways on his bed.  There was dried vomit on his gown.  It led into a blue bag.  His stomach bulged, filled with fluid his diseased liver refused to filter.  His face was shriveled over his skull.  Eye sockets sunken in.  Both arms were painted in purple and brown bruises.  Four bags of medication were pumping into his system.  Keeping him alive.

There comes a point in our lives when mom and dad are here, then they aren’t.  I don’t know that experience will change me.  When the conduit closes forever.  Death is hard.  I find it hard to stay here in my present moment.  I wonder what am I doing?  Dealing with this or waiting or numbing myself into non-existence?

I am looking for a hiding place.  From all the beckoning.  In my dream I ask mom, “Do you know why I don’t want to come?  Do you know about dad?  Would you ask me to be there if I told you?”

I was vulnerable once.


I got the text early in the morning.  I wasn’t sure what she thought I could do.  He was in the hospital again.  He hadn’t woken up in the past day and was still asleep.  When I came in he was on his side, a stream of dried saliva crusted down the side of his mouth.  He kept kicking his legs out.  His body jerked spastically.  It wasn’t a seizure.  He grunted periodically.  Those were bowel movements.  He had tubes running through every orifice.

Mom urged me to talk to him, but I wasn’t sure what to say.  She pulled her chair closer and  grabbed his arm, saying “it’s okay, it’s okay.”

The doctor came in and told us we’d need to wait and see if he woke up.  Should I have spoken to him sooner?  What if he doesn’t wake up?  Mom cries.  She tells me that he always called her in the morning.  He didn’t call.  I can’t remember the last time I saw her this honest with her feelings.  Then she shuffles in her chair and the guard goes up again.

I don’t know how to wait on things like this.  Wait for it all to end.  The most horrible kind of waiting.  Things are going to change.  One minute you are sitting in a nice old house.  Then they are swinging through the drywall with bats and hammers.  Now it’s just a shell, this house.  Yet, it’s not over yet.  So you sit and watch a little more drift away.  A little more.  At some point it will feel like its gone.  Who knows when we reach that point.  So we wait.

On The Road



Childhood = climbing rock

I have these memories of nature.  The precious few times.  How my body ached from sleeping on the ground. Waking up to cool air, matted hair stuck to my face. The light so brilliant outside that I had to check my watch.  We were meant to wake up early.  I got lost in the woods and the adults didn’t seem to care so much.  An entire day was devoted to building a dam across a creek.  I decided to dam a river and the water swept me a half mile downriver.  My body never recovered from the shock of cold glacier water.  I could hear thousands of crickets in the darkness.

The campfires were centers of my religion. The flame and the crackle, buffered by a chorus of sound from the night creatures.  It gets in you and never leaves.

We told scary stories and funny stories.We made our own jokes.  It was amazing the things we could come up with. I looked down at my uniform, bright yellow patches reflecting the light. I was 10 years old. It was my birthday. My daughter leaned over and asked me to make her another S’More. We ate many.

The next day my mother made a surprise appearance. She had a large white and blue cake, enough to feed the entire troop. I had this horrible migraine headache. It was from spinning around in circles and making myself dizzy, over and over again.  We never thought about consequences.

I boiled some water and started pouring it into the coffee filter. Heat tendrils drifted into my nose. My daughter came out of the tent in her brightly colored house robe. I told her ten minutes and she quickly disappeared amongst the rock formations up the hill.


The Feathers in the back

She reappeared from behind a rock and waved at me. I waved back. Then she went a little further, looked back, and waved again. Just a little further away she goes.

Me and some of the other boys started climbing a tree. We were so high that the thin trunk swung with the breeze. I could see tents spread out below. A boy below waited for me to come down, but I didn’t. So he left. I straddled the trunk, closed my eyes, and put my arms out. The breeze felt so good on my face.


Tents far below

We scrambled to the top of a rock formation and looked down on the campgrounds. She carefully picked a small bouquet of wildflowers and handed me the most beautiful one’s. I told her not to step into bushes. There were rattlesnakes out here. We downclimbed carefully back down a steep gully. A fall here would be serious.


She walked over to the boy in the other tent and said goodbye.  Soon we were back on the highway. She leaned over to me and said, “I already miss it.”

Me too.

Eyes of My Father

I like to think I am just like her.  That I can turn it on. The joy of being here now.  The acceptance of just doing this simple thing. Tomorrow doesn’t exist.  The next moment doesn’t.  Life plays like a VHS tape, only picking up the tape that runs between the reader.  Wedged and bottlenecked and with no foresight.

I am only frustrated.  Worried about the world.  My job.  It is raining now and we should be climbing dry rock.  We walk from shop to shop.  What i’ve done hundreds of times.  The space lived in her only now.

What else should I be doing?  I check the weather report, but I know it already.

Then we climb, but she is too distracted.  There is too much happening now to climb, to be driven up broken granite by dissatisfaction.  It fuels my limbs, reminding me when I am hampered by my range of motion.  42 year old body willing the spirit of a teenager.

She moves like the child that she is, I was.  We move to a different song.  We move together, sharing this day in different ways.

The climbing is not important.  It symbolizes the passing of knowledge, of passion, of finding barriers, of passing ourselves existing only seconds ago.  She is so much like her mother.  There is a desperation to leave something of myself in the dirt here.  This pile of rope.  Our clasping of chalked hands.

The climbing.  The looking down to see it far below.  The fear in us resonates in our belly, our jelly arms.  It makes us numb.

Five times she says let me down daddy.  Five times we speak of it.  She carries it, in this moment.  Five times she says I release you.  Only one time does she stand at the top of the climb.  It is only then that I see something in her.  I see the eyes of her father.

I release you father.

I release you.
I release you.
I release you.



There’s a room in my basement.  It’s the best place to hear the raindrops fall.  I lay down on the small guest bed and look up at the high window.  I can hear every pitter, like in a tent. A thousand little strikes. Every second.  The water lurches down from the gutter system, draining into the soil.  I see beautiful purple flowers swaying, absorbing the shock of each droplet.  They were made to do this.

Yet if I dumped a bucket filled with water over top they get washed away.  They don’t bounce back.  The petals are flattened against concrete.  They are violently pulled away by sheer force.  Washed away.

They are no longer beautiful.  No longer even one living thing, but many little dead things.

They are strong and fragile.  They rely on Sun, air, soil, and rain.  All in moderation.

I look up through my basement window.  Their stems are firm.  The flowers are upright and proud.  They brace themselves against the wind, then settle to their former place.

How does one find it’s way back to it’s former place?  Are there former places or just new one’s?  Washed away.  Eventually coming to a halt.  In a new field.  With new soil.  Waiting for thousands of little strikes to make us whole.

Old Relics


I find a coffee shop because I need people around me.  I need movement, talking, and indirect interaction.  Then I put on my headphones and go back inward.  I look over to the other tables and see at least 10 other people playing the same game as me.

From as long as I can remember I have felt my loneliness in a room full of people.  I’ve been in remote areas of Alaska, 10 miles from the nearest road and probably 20 miles from the nearest human being, and felt so alive.

Isolation has nothing to do with the proximity of people.

I logged into Gmail and pulled up an old piece of writing.  It felt familiar and distant.  Before love or fatherhood.  Who was that person?  Why was he always so sad?

“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”                                       – Stephen King

I pulled up 50 old essays, clicked on Select All, and the finger hovered over Delete.  My body had this tingling feeling, as if I had already done it.

Then I see the emails.  I still have our entire interaction.  This long email.  It was the end of our relationship.  It was horrific.  You wheeling your luggage down one of those steep Seattle hills.  I got in front of you, trying to reason,  trying to stop gravity from taking you away.  I didn’t succeed that day.  This one stays in the archive.  A reminder that all could’ve been lost.  Can still be.

I’ve been sick for the past few days.  This is must how my father feels.  I saved this attachment, a picture.  It was the moment I left him.  He cried.  He never cries.  The death of boyhood.  Now he cries again, for real deaths.  They are all real though.

I haven’t cried yet.  Maybe I will later.

I found this old email from a guy named Joe.  He was abused throughout his childhood.  This was decades ago.  This was the first time he told anyone about it.  I see that I started to reply to him, but I never sent it.  It was too difficult to tread those muddy waters again and again.

I hope Joe found peace, good health, and someone worthy to receive his darkest secret.  His imeasurable moment.

I take the email, place it into the stream and it drifts away.  I release you.




What We Carry


I was supposed to be in the mountains today.

It may seem odd to say, but snow scares me.  I had an accident many years ago that has stayed with me.  I fell down a steep snowy embankment, picking up speed.  Like a rolling pin, I impacted a ledge which hurtled me into the air.  My body went across an exposed slope of loose rock, like a banana slide.  It was so quick.  I did not know if I was going to die but I had enough time to consider it.  I didn’t.  The worst part was left to the end.  I loosed a cascade of rocks high above me.  I lay there in shock as volleyball-sized rocks came down on me.

When rock falls the instinct is always to look up, which I did.  It was in that moment that a rock the size of a canteloupe struck me just above my right eye.  I got into a sitting position.  I looked down at this stream of blood dropping into my lap.  I reached up to the loose flap of skin of my eyebrow.  I couldn’t see.  I had lost my eyeglasses.  I really couldn’t see.

I was not alone that day.  Ed was waiting at the base of the long slope when he heard me, then saw me.  Later he told me it would take a long time for him to get that image out of his head.  My body hurtling down hard snow and ice.

Ed came up to me.  Asked me if I was alright.  All I could say was yeah, I think.  The adrenaline in my veins disguised any injury, at least for the moment.

He reached over for some webbing to bind my wound, then hesitated.  He pulled out his camera instead and told me, “You’re going to want a picture of this.”

I laughed.  Ed, always the photographer.  Always looking for the perfect picture.  He bound my head so tight my head throbbed.  Then he slowly led me down the mountain.  I was blind without my glasses.  Everything a blur.

Ed was one of my first climbing partners.  Many years later he disappeared off a ridge on Mt. Forbidden.  I was told he fell, just like me.

I told them that I wouldn’t be climbing the mountain today.  I made up an excuse.

It may seem ironic.  A climber who is too afraid to climb.  It happens.  Trauma is something we carry with us.  It doesn’t heal.  When we are strong we may not even remember that it is there.  Then it reminds us.

We are not always strong.  If I don’t think about it, my body remembers.  The feeling of helplessness right before the fall.  I remember looking down the slope at Ed right before I fell.  It was like he was in another universe and I couldn’t get there.  I knew I was going to fall.  I was too scared, too anxious, too panicky.  I had received no training for a moment like that.  I fell over 10 years ago, but I still remember.

I was not supposed to be in the mountains today.  So I didn’t go.