Relax

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The robots are coming no matter what you do.

Christmas can make you crazy. Frantic. Maybe you buy a bunch of stuff you don’t need, spend too much money then freak out so much you can’t actually enjoy yourself. So, don’t do that. Maybe family makes you nuts but you travel across the country during the busiest travel time of the year anyway, only to have a panic attack at the dinner table on Christmas eve — try to avoid this. Perhaps you enjoy every minute, stress and all. Bless you if you do.

I’m middle of the road and leaning towards just enjoying all of it. Kids make it so fun. They love Christmas and all it has to offer. It’s tough not to smile when they come down and spaz out over what the magical old man from the North Pole has delivered.

It does get crazy with obligations and the amount of actual time one has in a day. Still, I won’t complain. Nope. Hopefully we get to play in the snow as well.

giphy-downsizedEnjoy the days off, if you have them. Watch the show unfold if you don’t. It comes once a year, and the robots are coming regardless.

scatterbrained

It’s disorienting.

I’m predisposed to having a scattered brain. Things seem like they are all over the floor every day and I have to pick them up and put them where they need to go. At the end of the day, most of the time, this works and the pieces fit. Sometimes they don’t and accepting that is learning how to be an adult.

The holidays make the mess seem bigger than it is. Holiday season knocks me off of a routine that I have cultivated, a routine that helps me with my scattered mind. I do embrace the holiday season, have fun and enjoy the moments. When the time off and the family time ebbs, the mess on the floor of my scattered brain looks bigger and more chaotic. My diet has gone off the rails — not a diet in the traditional sense, but my usual lifestyle of eating healthy — my weekly goals are blown out (some of you might have noticed that I didn’t post last week.) and inevitably something new is in the works. On top of that, the kids’ routine is shot, the family routine is shot and Monday hits with the momentum of a freight train that wasn’t planning to make a stop. As the adult and the parent, I have to get up, be even keeled and keep the ship tight and moving along.

My writing suffers too. During the holiday season, I find it difficult to work with steady vigilance because the money-making ventures and the accountability work gets done first. I don’t know why this is, but it is. I always end up figuring it out, we all do for the most part.

So, don’t let the holiday season get you down. Roll with it. If emotions are running high, let them. If chaos reigns supreme, let it. Stand back and watch the show. No one will get hurt, too badly. The dust will inevitably settle and life with course correct. ‘Tis the season.

Summer

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In the Pacific Northwest it just stopped raining. Actually, it drizzled today, and there were thunderstorms. But the real rain, the cold, constant wet stopped on June 16th. Three days later it was 100 degrees. That’s how it works here. One day it’s spring, A.K.A raining, the next, it’s summer. That’s not what this is about; I can’t just complain about the weather. Yuck.

Summer is freedom, relaxation and time for reflection… oh wait, that was before kids. Summer is another kind of chaos. It’s good, fun, happy chaos, but it’s chaos. The routine is upended, the schedule is new and the kids are feeling restless. On top of that, I still have to work. As you can tell, those of you who read my blog regularly, I haven’t posted in two weeks.

I’m good with it though. I’ve allowed myself to set the restraints of expectation to the side and let life happen, I’ve also been fly fishing a lot—I need some summer fun too. I try to keep the kids away from the electronic nanny—iPad. My son caught his first fish on Sunday and my daughter caught two last Thursday. So, instead of “my work” I have been working as a parent, getting the kids out there and having a good time. It’s summer after all.

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One must fail to succeed. I’ve been told this ad nauseum. It keeps me from quitting, because success hasn’t happened yet. I wouldn’t say I’ve failed necessarily, but the climb can be excruciating. I can’t help but to us the Mt. Everest or K2 metaphor, both difficult, if not seemingly impossible, mountains to climb where death is a real possibility. Clearly, death isn’t possible while sitting at a desk and making shit up, but the death of my soul when I get rejected or find a massive hole in my plot is real, and it hurts. What I’ve come to realize is that my ego is getting pummeled.

shutterstock_595617548Ego is the sense of self, self-importance, personal identity.  Well, mine is wrapped up in writing and succeeding at doing so. I’m 44. I have kids. They ask when I’m going to be done with my book. “About three more years or so,” I say. My ego cringes. They look at me like I’m nuts and my daughter says, “I’ll be thirteen?” I die a little inside and say, “Yep. That sounds about right.” She makes a sound of exasperation and gets on with her day while I try not to reel on the fact that when this book is finally done it will have taken me eight years — I don’t try to explain that I have finished the book twice but the rewrites are where the real magic happens. I didn’t start this endeavor with any notion that it would be easy, I started because on my death bed I didn’t want to regret not doing it; so, it’s a long game, a slow burn and hopefully people will like the what I write.

Okay. What If I finish this thing and its wildly successful? Hell if I know, but I’ve been told it’s a one-in-a-million chance and it’s no good for the ego because I’ll always be chasing the dragon of success. I wonder if maybe that wouldn’t be so bad, but in my heart of hearts I know it would most likely not be a good thing — at least that’s what I tell myself.

 

Beauty

Not a villain, but can insight villainous tendencies.

shutterstock_607375682I can’t define it. As I’ve been told, it’s up to the beholder to define what is beautiful. This makes sense, considering I find my beat up old truck an absolute specimen of perfection and beauty, whereas other people cringe at how dirty and used it is — it’s funny when they shake their heads at me for being so “blind.”

In many a story, beauty will cause someone to falter from a righteous path, a heroic journey or be lured down the low road. This is the villainous side of the coin, so to speak. There are so many stories of beauty; my favorite being the siren song where the sailors of yore are so intoxicated by a beautiful sound, they steer off toward the rocks or jump overboard to their deaths. Transfixed and transmuted by such a beautiful sound, by their need, their desire for beauty, they die. In this, beauty is a dark magic.

In stories both real and imagined, beauty has caused war, strife, death and acts of barbarism so profound it’s difficult to think that beauty was the impetus. Never was it beauty’s fault, but the fault of humankind and our susceptibility to the allure of wanting to own, control and ultimately consume what we perceive as beautiful.

11137821_369397949918145_644810801_nI see beauty in the joy of my children, the smile and laugh of my wife. I find it in philosophy and dissent.  Yes, dissent, especially now, is beautiful. I find it in waves, mountains covered in snow, a clear lake or a river where I know the fish will be.  Whereas the dark side of beauty, for me, is hardly dark — I simply shirk responsibilities for surf, snow or fishing. Hardly villainous, unless being “unproductive” is a mortal sin these days.

shutterstock_590422925I ponder beauty many times a day without even realizing it. Life is a beautiful thing, even when it does kick you in the teeth.

Resistance

“That voice in our heads is not us. It is Resistance.”          

                                                        –Steven Pressfield

shutterstock_407496973Blind faith in my creative process gets me through the rough patches. Sometimes my fingers feel like anvils, and each attempt at a keystroke is mentally excruciating. I look at the words on the page, my characters, the story, and I hate it. A not so quiet voice in my head tells me its crap, it’ll take too long, I won’t succeed, blah, blah. It’s noise — a construction zone of chaos in my dome, looking for excuses to stop working, get angry and quit.

I’m too persistent. I don’t know how to quit. If this were easy I wouldn’t be doing it, so I relax, step back and see the big picture.

To say a novel is difficult to write is silly because, to me, it’s seemingly impossible. If the novel were a mountain and the process were the climb, then I’ve been climbing for years without seeing the top. I just have to believe the top is there. It’s that simple and that difficult. I might be nuts, yeah, I know.  But, so what. We are all nuts in some way. If you think you aren’t nuts then you are probably crazier than most, and that’s okay too.

In times like this, I tell myself to settle down, take a step back and appreciate other things. Family, the sun, the ocean.  Awareness of the simple things helps me reset. I like to look at life in the present and let the good soak in, but it ain’t easy.

 

A monster.

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It’s organized chaos. These days, we live by the calendar. I don’t know what’s happening from one moment to the next unless I’m fully engaged, looking at or talking about the schedule in the calendar.

youthI don’t remember it being this way when I was young. Life didn’t seem so scheduled back then. I did what I was told and had fun not paying attention to much else but the world in front of me. The simplicity of youth. Now it’s complicated. Kids’ schedule, my schedule, my wife’s schedule, my damn dog has a schedule sometimes. The gerbil might even come up on the calendar now and then. It’s ridiculous. And necessary, right?

What if it wasn’t? Oh glory. Another name for vacation could be Calendar Free Week, unless of course one schedules while on vacation. I refuse. No scheduling on vacation. It ruins the relaxation — I don’t want to have to do anything. I want to choose to do something, spur of the moment is my favorite.

Our family needs the calendar. There’s too much going on not to have it; but someday, when my wife and I are old and gray, I’d like tooldCouple think that we will pay attention to nothing but the day ahead. The moments will unfold before us like life’s little surprises. we’ll walk a dirt path to a river, pond, a lake or the ocean. We’ll relax among the bugs and birds while the sun shines on our smiling, schedule-free faces. A utopian idea, I know, but what the hell, it’s fun to think about when I’m in between scheduling.

Death

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My father died on March 18, 2014.

His friends created a book of poems and tributes for him.

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The following is a forward I wrote for the book.

A Restless Farewell

March 13, 2014, 6:00pm

It’s quite possibly happening, the death of my father. I’ve thought of this many times. I’ve been close with him and the dance of death more than once. It never changes, this feeling of fear for the finite fact of life.

March 16, 2014, 10:00pm

Audio hallucinations started last night. He’s dying. Slowly. Respiratory failure. Those of us on the outside equate it to drowning. Lungs fill with fluid, inflammation causes interstitial tissue damage and  his body can’t fight it much longer. With the help of morphine his brain will not think it’s lacking oxygen. He will hallucinate much like the climbers of K2. The high-flow oxygen that’s gently forcing his airway to stay open keeps him alive.

I was the one who had to explain this to him earlier in the day.

“Your lungs are filling with scar tissue. The oxygen… The amount of oxygen you need to stay alive is only available in the hospital.”

He stared at me, I could see confusion behind his thick glasses. He said, “Right. I can stay here forever. Unless it’s money. If it’s money, I won’t stay alive. I won’t bankrupt you two.”

My sister, stoic with a patience perfect and elegant, nodded and smiled. She had done so much already. It was my turn to put on a face.

“When the steroid treatment is over then we will know,” I said.

“But if they don’t work, I stay here. Like I said. In the hospital. I like this room. I’m comfortable.”

My sister started to cry.

Memories of our trips to Mexico and Canada flashed before me as the words, “The doctors aren’t hopeful”, passed across my lips. He might have cried at that moment.

March 18, 2014, Sunrise.

The waiting room looks out over the city of San Francisco. A Heron cuts the skyline as the sun rises. The tragic beauty of this moment gives me the courage to face a decision every son who loves his father fears most.

My two sisters, my cousin and I held hands in a circle around his bed when the oxygen was turned off. We cried over him while he took his last breaths. I can’t remember who closed his eyes for him.

I read once that a son truly becomes a man only when he loses his father. Maybe. I feel different, more alone in the world but not more manly.

At the time of death there is no fault. All of us will cross that threshold one way or another.  I held his hand, told him he was not alone and that I loved him.  For that I’m grateful.

The day a loved one dies — especially one who was close — is heart wrenching. We must come to terms with death at some point in our lives. Thinking that my father is somewhere other than where I am at this moment provides comfort. However, in the words of Iris DeMent, I think I’ll just let the mystery be.