Chris Writes

My life in real time

Hello Again Blog

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It’s been a while.  I wanted to write in you every day, but i’ve been struggling.  Some of it good, some bad.  I’ve been trying to stay away from current events, but every new tweet seems to introduce something sinister and partisan and exclusive.  I now know how it feels to have a President in office who has no interest in my concerns.  Not even an effort to pretend to be inclusive.  No token gestures.  Just nothing.

I have never read so many great and insightful articles on the current state of America today.  It feels like journalism is entering another golden age.  Unfortunately it’s almost all about one man.  He magnifies our fears, almost consciously.  This atmosphere of chaos and petty actions and petty arguments seems intended.  To accept him we have to buy into his warped sense of reality, which is an impossibility for Americans like me.

I just don’t know how much longer he can dangle his delusional road trip in front of our shaking heads.  Will the Republicans save America?  Will they intervene for the sake of the people, or even in the name of their own questionable principles?

There is no more expectation that this man will tack into the winds of reality.  I fully expect him to waste our money on the wall that we never asked for.  The wall that was already there.  There is a wall between Americans like me and everything he brings forward every day.  Obama was so warm and open and human.  He used reason and common sense to guide him.

I understand that many of us are disgusted with these Cabinet picks.  Yet, all these people flow from a poison lake.  He is the ultimate unsuitable incompetent.  So how enraged can we really get with DeVos and Pruitt and the rest?

These concerns have a way of drowning out the day.  The things we do to take care of ourselves.  I realize more how my family is such a source of happiness and renewal.  I need to cuddle with my daughter and read books to her, for her benefit and for myself.  This is normal.  This is healthy.  This is a reminder that the reach of narcissistic misogynist leaders is limited.  They can’t get to this.

The truth has never been more valuable.  I see it in the resurgence of Dan Rather on Facebook.  I see in the David Frum’s surreal How To Build An Autocracy.  I see it in Jake Tapper refusing to yield to Trump’s latest talking head.  With chaos comes opportunity.  The stories that are being told are heartbreaking and disturbing and sober.  But they need to be told.

It’s a time to assess what is meaningful to you.  It’s a time of action.  Adding your name and address to the Moveon.org petition just does not cut it in this world.  We have grown lazy in our cozy little worlds.  But it feels like many of us are waking up and being citizens.  For the first time.

We love our country.  Our institutions.  Our neighbors.  Whether they be immigrants or transgender or excluded by this administration.  We want to protect all those people and all of those things.

Blog,  I wish we had other problems, but this is it and here we are.  Thanks for lending an ear.

Chris

 

A Message To Her

I wonder how it was we came to be here.  In some ways our relationship is better than ever.  We have a foundation built on our family life.  Our daughter binds us together forever.  We are able to pursue our individual passions with the comfort of knowing we have each other.  I feel a confidence in myself that I only feel with the presence of you.  You know me and my inner demons.  You give me space because I am the kind of person who needs alot of space.  So are you.

We used to be reckless.  We used to have very little responsibility.  We were young and in love.  I look back with fond memories.  It was nice to just wake up and be out the door in minutes.  If anything i’ve learned about us now is that we can carry the weight.  We have held onto some backbreaking burdens.  We have struggled and clawed our way back into the light.  In our beginning we should have broken up.  What I put you through.  I don’t know how we got through it.

Every struggle we have now is informed by that initial scar tissue.  I see the person you’ve become and it is surreal the you that is you here and now.  Your motherhood.  Your independent businesswoman.  Your nasty woman.  Your advocate.  Your goddess who sings and practices magik.  Your wife who pleads for more intimacy.

I was never scared off or bothered by who you have become.  I admired it and wanted it to continue.  It continues.

It’s a weird time to be in my 40’s.  I feel so uncertain about so many things.  All I have is you to rely on.  My constant.  I need you to believe me and convince me again and again to believe in myself.  I don’t always do.  I love you.  I know you.

I don’t know many people but I know you.  I have watched you for many years.  You pushed me away.  You inspired me.  You showed me how to be.  You angered and frustrated me.  You were in my grasp and perpetually out of reach.

Sometimes I feel too selfish to wait to have you.  To be with you.  To have you tell me that I do exist.  To confirm that I am here and that you love me.  It is hard the sacrifices we make to have something more.  We don’t always get what we want or need but we have each other.

So I guess I could say you are the love of my life and that you are my one and only, but I guess I want to make a plea for a little more water and sunshine.  It’s how living things grow.  We have grown together.  We will continue to celebrate on the day after.  There’s too much to do.  So once again we defer us.

I just want you to know that I see this invisible thing.  Even though it doesn’t come first or second or third.  It is there and it is filled with love.  On long days when we forget and in brief moments when we remember.  I love you girl.  I wouldn’t know how to live a day without you.

When we first met I am not sure that I knew about what real love meant but I know it in you.  It’s not perfect.  It ripples like a current and lashes out in surprising and profound ways.  It’s the calm underneath the waves.  It’s quiet and nonverbal and knowing.  It’s how I can read your mind and you can mine.  Knowing.

Thanks for being my love.  For giving me a beautiful daughter.  For just being you, and trying to be more of you with each day.  I may mock you and smile knowingly, but I really am just filled with gratitude for the opportunity to be with you even if I don’t always know how to express it earnestly in that moment.  Happy Day After!

C.

 

 

 

 

 

He Is Remembered

There was a stretch of a few years when I was new to climbing.  Everything I did, everything I learned was an exciting discovery.  So many treasures did I unearth in the Pacific Northwest.  A place I called home but, up until that point, hardly knew.

Climbing this place began my awareness of the land, the mountains, and the trees.  The animals too.  Oh, how they filled in the natural features with sound and life.  One could feel a sense of solitude, but never loneliness.

There was this leader, his name was Jack.  He had a reputation in our circle.  He rubbed folks the wrong way.  There was the story about how he led a crew up to the summit of Mt. Rainier in bad weather.  He should have turned back, but he didn’t.  He wanted that summit.  They got socked down due to high winds and swirling snow and ice.  A rescue helicopter had been called to pluck them back to civilization.  It was said he endangered the lives of the climbers he led that day.  Some criticized him and called him dangerous.  For that trip and others.

When I finally met him the first thing I noticed about him was his smile.  It was ever-present and infectious.  Like a joke being told without words.

Each summer we would have our cozy campfire in the Icicle Creek valley.  There was drinking and laughing.  Brian had the coals over his dutch oven with cherry cobbler bumbling underneath.  It had to be done just right and only he could do it.  We always gravitated toward Jack.  He was the center of the swirl of activity, holding court in his camp chair.  The campfire flickered across his thin, featured face.  You could always see his eyes, they felt so alive and feverish.

The first time I took my then girlfriend Ophelia he put out the welcome mat and made her feel like she was one of the clan.  She wasn’t a climber or a mountaineer, but she was part of the circle.  They talked and laughed and argued and debated, then laughed again.

I didn’t always get to see Jack, but I knew he wouldn’t miss the campfire.  Neither would I.

A time came when I aspired to be a climb leader myself.  He was the first person I came to.  He became a mentor and key figure in my own climbing story.  We planned a trip.  The idea was that he’d let me lead the trip and he’d sit back and make sure I didn’t kill myself or any students.  He was a strong personality, so I was a little concerned he would take over the entire trip.  What happened was the furthest thing.  He let me run the show.  He answered questions when I had them.  He made me look good.

Sadly I didn’t see a whole lot of Jack after our brief mentorship.  A couple of years later I heard that his wife called the mountain rescue.  He planned to climb Morningstar Peak solo and he was overdue.  No call.  No nothing.

They found him at the base of a mountain slope.  His dog was there by his side, in the snow.  Shivering and confused.

In the report of the accident, they found a blow to the back of his head.  It was thought that maybe he stopped on the slope and bent over for something and a piece of ice came down and struck him.

Life is funny like that.  People shuffling in and out of it.  Never knowing the significance they hold in one person’s journey.  In a hundred or a thousand.  They just go away one day, without so much as a goodbye.

Jack was strong of spirit.  No matter what we were doing, he was a source of great comfort to me.  Just knowing he was there.  It’s been many years now but I will always imagine him in his beloved mountains.  His “cathedral” as he always called.  High up there in on the throne of his god.

 

 

The Day After

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My family exercising our freedom to assemble

Saturday is an important day.  We elected a misogynist to our highest office.  There is no room for debate anymore.  With the possibility of elevating our first woman President, we went the opposite way.  I know that a majority of folks voted for Hillary, but that just doesn’t sound good enough.  Almost half voted the other way.  That is a significant portion of Americans, no matter how we consider it.

That says something about us.  About the behaviors we are willing to accept.  Many women voted for this man.  Many of these women simply disliked Hillary.  They were willing to vote for a misogynist because they simply disliked “that woman.”

A significant number of women voted to make this happen.  So while men should always be looking inside ourselves and acknowledging some stark realities, women should equally be introspecting.  We should all take ownership over this result.

That is why women are marching on Saturday.  That is why I am marching with them.  I spent a great deal of emotional capacity willing the result we see today from happening.  Our children are watching everything that has been transpiring.  They are taking notes.

How do the two most important role models in my life respond to an outrageous and unacceptable result?  We march.  We cannot do this on Facebook or MoveOn.org.  We must do this in public.  We know that he will be paying attention and he must be reminded that he does not have the support of the majority of this country.

We will not just give him a chance.  He has behaved despicably and cowardly.  He has gone too far, again and again.  He has exposed and surpassed the limits of our sense of decency and respect for this highest honor.  So i’m marching and spending my time and money with organizations that will fight against everything he stands for.  There is no reason to provide him with any sort of leeway to do what he promised he would do.

This is the right thing to do if you love America.  If you love your children.  They are always watching and remembering what we do.  So we must do.

Our Collective Trauma

It’s been a test on us.  We grow up respecting our higher institutions.  I voted for George Bush.  The question about him was would he surround himself with competent people?  Would he listen to them?  There was never a question of whether he would respect the office he had so luckily been bestowed.  He had a great role model in Bush Sr., and we knew Barbara wasn’t afraid to grab him by the ear.

This past year many who feel the way I do were waiting for election day.  We felt this collective attack, not from the Republicans or the Russians, from something different.  Someone so far out of the spectrum of possibility.  A man who was embroiled in the Obama birth certificate craziness only a couple of years back.  He took over the media cycle, completely, and still does.

We needed some relief.  We needed this election to finish so that this maniac would go away.  It felt like a national trauma.  A shock to the system.  The numbers began rolling in.  Even this man didn’t believe he would be President.  He was already arranging television deals for his new network.  He spent no time vetting Cabinet positions because why bother right?  There was no chance.

President Trump took no steps to bring the majority of Americans back into the fold.  He filled his Cabinet with the inexperienced, the partisans, and the Wall Street billionaires tangled in a web of conflicts of interest.

So the trauma of President Trump continues for four long years.  The past three weeks have felt like a decade.  His first press conference simply showed that he planned to fight.  He has no interest in helping America heal by moderating his insanity.  He simply does what he has always done.

We knew what we were getting.  There are no surprises here.  Even as him presence destabilizes our government, or nation.  If I were to say someday we will look back on this time as a blip in the radar would you believe me?  Can this country survive a perpetually disruptive and malicious force such as this man?

What will be our standing after elevating a truly despicable human being to our highest office?  The only thing i’m certain of is that Trump will make alot of money off of this honorable position he has been bestowed.

 

Keep The Rock Moving

Personality is roughly defined as a complex pattern of characteristics that define an individual.  Each year we look at our behaviors and how we responded to them.  We pick out those challenges and vow for change.  For a different result.

We seek a different way of looking at things in this year 2017.  Yet, we have our established way of doing things, of seeing.  Our personality.  It is the most reliable thing about each of us.  It predicts the choices we will make.  It solidifies itself very early in life.  We encounter major life events.  We are given results and we respond to feedback.

Some results change us dramatically, but probably not as dramatically as it may seem.  We are still who we are.  Trauma may alter our perception of how safe our world is, but the same  personality is still working or trying it’s best to.

New Years is a relatively innocuous event each year.  It isn’t impactful over the long term.  We take a day or a week and look back.  We make resolutions.  We judge where we are in life and where we want to be.  I tell myself this time next year I want to be starting graduate school.  Things like that.  But whether it happens is largely removed from this small window of evaluation.

It’s not the New Year that means anything.  Dissatisfaction in the past year is not a great motivator for change.  It’s too shallow level.  There is no depth to it.  It doesn’t touch the real yearnings.  The real core issues in our lives.

Many months ago I started organizing my life.  I took all the things I wanted and needed to do and compiled them.  I set up a system for holding myself accountable.  A set of reminders so that I am forced to go back on everything I am working on.  Essentially I do what we all do at the end of each year, but on a weekly basis.

It’s been hard at times, to be reminded of projects and the seemingly agonizing length it takes to complete them.  I made the decision to do this because I know my personality.  I want to forget my hopes and dreams.  I want to shelf them because the pain of seeing them can feel too much for my heart to bear.  The pain became bearable when I broke each hope down to a sequence of actions.  Bite-sized chunks of activity that I am capable of completing NOW.

I have already accomplished more than I thought I could in just a few months.  I just want to continue on the path.  That is my humble resolution.  Keep the ball in my hands and run.

Live Gloriously

The sun will rise tomorrow and it will be no different from today.  There is no magic to a new year.  There is celebration.  There is a moment to reflect back on successes and failures.  To breathe each in.  To be gentle with ourselves.  To realize it’s okay if we didn’t accomplish everything we aspired to.  We weathered the storms, and there were many in the past 365.

In my 2016, I learned that I don’t need to be so passive.  I can dictate the day.  I deserve recognition for my achievements and they were many.  I just haven’t added them all up.

I never make my resolutions in December.  My 2017 started last September, when the warm days were slowly cooling.  When my body was telling me to let off the gas just a little bit.  I resolved not to fold up in my cocoon over the winter.  To stay available no matter where the depression takes me.  To dangle little goals like breadcrumbs through the cold and dark trail.  To remain engaged.

I put a bunch of events on my calendar for January and February.  To force myself forward to the Spring.  I planned out my next 2 years.  Things i’ve been afraid to talk about for a long time.  Now all I have to do is to show up and do them.

That’s my resolution.  To take care of my own well-being.  To be inquisitive and creative with my daughter.  To put the computer down and give more present moments to my wife.  To tell my brother I love him more and give him real hugs.  To always cuddle with Floki, my beloved chihuahua.

To help those in crisis each week, the promise I made many months ago.  To take this alien concept known as self-care seriously.  To rebuild my capacity each night.  To find myself ready each morning to build a great day.  One day at a time.

The ocean is full of people and events I can’t control.  I wouldn’t want to.  I am better than I was before, and I will meet 2017 with all the faculties and skills I have acquired in my life.  Living a good life requires an accumulation of experience over an ocean of time, failure, mistakes, regret, and a will to move forward.

We all move forward and continue to accept failure and rejection because it is the only way to become someone better.  What we have now is good enough.  We deserve love.  We have the capacity now to make someone else’s life better.  With silence and active listening.

There is no magic carpet tomorrow.  It is the beginning of another 365 days.  Live gloriously.

 

Is It Midnight Yet?

I love history.  I find myself getting lost for hours on Wikipedia.  One piece of information leads to another.  It reminds me of when I was a child and I would open up volume after volume of our Encyclopedia Britannica collection.

It still astounds me that I can access most of the world’s information on this handheld device that I take with me everywhere.  That is earth shattering.  These devices are a revelation.  People my age grew up with 6 channels of television, which shut off at midnight.  One of my feet stays solidly in that world before the internet, IPhone, and hundreds of channels of television broadcasting.

It is often surreal interacting with younger folks who never experienced any of those things.  They were born connected to everything.  A million invisible hands reaching into their brains, activating neurons in such a way I could never understand.

I remember simplicity.  I miss it.  Innovation has given us overwhelming access, but none of the tools in which to filter what we see and hear.  We are inundated.  I didn’t realize just how affected I was by it until this election cycle.  The sheer amount of media content on Trump was considerable.  Like nothing i’ve ever seen before.  In politics, the media are usually covering a wide array of events.  Sometimes they focus on a current crisis, but they always move on.  Yet, this entire past year they’ve shown remarkable consistency.  All Trump, all day.

For folks who pay close attention to politics we’ve hit a stage of fatigue that I didn’t think possible.  The media is obsessively focused.  It could be a new disorder in the DSM.  I am definitely displaying symptoms.

What is going on is so alarming.  We are so reactive to it because it’s unprecedented, from week to week.  It’s so bizarre, and seemingly always shocking and the forecast feels so insidious.

So how does one separate oneself from this collective panic attack?  The left is telling us now is the time to get more engaged.  To calm ourselves and redouble our efforts against what Trump and his “horsemen of the apocalypse” cabinet will reap upon us.

All I want to do is find a nice beach somewhere with no WiFi access and 6 channels of television.  A place where everything turns off at midnight.  Yet, I still have this device in my hand and bad news keeps trending more migraines and stabbing sensations in my gut.

 

A Silent Gift

Have you ever spoken to someone and not know what way it’s going to go?  Life is full of these moments.  We don’t know the backstory.  We only know what they tell us.  What we do know is how they are feeling right now.  We try to make it better by listening.  We use silence like a very sharp kitchen knife.  Silence cuts through small talk, through subtle avoidances.  It leads to the truth so alarmingly fast.  No amount of talking can do this.

People listen most to those that give the most silence.  Lawyers know about this.  Good counselors rely on it.  Many of us rehearse what we are going to say.  We have our talking points.  You have to let all of this noise pass, then provide silence for what really needs to be said.  We almost never start off saying what we really want to say.  Maybe it’s that we don’t know yet.  We are like the child that needs to be bored to create something new.

Silence is not nothing.  It’s not the absence of interaction.  It’s like a meditative breathe.  In meditation, we need a few minutes for all the crazy thoughts and ego speak to flush through our heads.  These anxieties, stresses, and urgent demands pull violently  and compel us to pay attention to it.  But we keep our eyes closed and we focus on the breathe.  We see the mania like a cloud that floats through us, past us, and away from us.

Then more silence.  Enough silence to let the storm pass over us completely.  On the outer edges we see the Sun’s rays.  We see clarity.  We remember what got lost.  What is most important to us.  We embrace it.  It feels golden and like warm sand between our fingers.

There is a pureness and renewed enthusiasm for our current life.  Every minute of every day our past stays with us, haunting us, smothering us.  Give yourself silence to find out what’s on the other side.

Home School

She kept us up all night.  Coughing for hours.  Her breathing sounded like a coffee maker struggling to drop those last few droplets over the grounds.  She woke up crying at 3am.  She told me she had a bad dream.  Some army soldiers came for me and took me away and she never saw me again.  At 7am, I decided to call into work sick and spend the day with her.

We are trying our best to homeschool her.  It’s difficult for two working parents to find the time and capacity to challenge our intellectually bright 6-year-old.  But today is a new day, and daddy is staying home.  We learned how to count big numbers.  She pushed me to give her a grade, but I told her grades don’t matter.  What matters is effort and persistence.  You don’t need to get it right, you just have to try again.

We found a website about the Sun.  The surface of the Sun is 5800 degrees (Kelvin)!  Then we talked about water.  About the boiling point and freezing point.  We boiled some water over the stove and watched as the temperature gauge creeped to the boiling point.  We saw hot water turn from liquid to vapor.  Then we lowered the temperature.  Next we put some water in the freezer and waited for it to reach the freezing point.  Finally, we took a frozen block of ice and poured boiling water over the top of it.

I wish I could quit my job and just do this.  Be an observer.  A learner.  A discoverer of fascinating things.  An admiring of the enthusiasm and passion of children.  She lives in a world that adults have forgotten.  Everything feels possible.  Possible is not a catchphrase or a fancy quote to post on pinterest.  It feels like something tangible.  Children live it and we simply try to stay out of the way.