Saturday, November 15, 2014

To last year and my free spirit. It survives.

I sometimes look back and question the meaning of this blog. Did I use it as a form of self expression or open honesty with my friends? Did I intend it as an outlet for my writing desires?

In it, I have captured instances I never would have remembered, of passions I once held so high. In it, I can see both my rise and fall as a free spirit. I can see areas where I had more self discipline (and much less.) I try to keep my silly notions of love far and away from this place ... Yet they creep in.

So today, hopefully, I will start again. I should write about the current political atmosphere, the unjust nature of a society that allows a strong middle class to disappear. Yet ... I shall not write about these things because they are out of my control. With all my knowledge, I realize every day how powerless I am in this society. I am powerless both in society and for myself. Every day, I believe I know less about people, about me, about the world. Yet, I can know the moment and focus on what I can do write now. 

I find myself writing in the bustle that is the COOP during a late Saturday morning rush. Every table is full with people in their conversations, drinking coffee and eating the COOP's delicious food. A woman maybe in her 30s sits at a diagonal from me. She sits alone, stares into her drink, and then scans the room. She does not seem anxious, but maybe a little lorn as she breathes across the top of her steaming cup. Men sit and stand around, dressed in their camouflage jackets and hats. Some have the regular hunting orange. Most others seem to be college students or faculty.

I randomly told a barista today that I may never know Moscow. It is a quiet place during one of the most busy and controversial phases of my life.  I long for so much while I  am here. It all started with Steph. I always thought I would marry her. I thought I could finally move on with some of my larger life plans, like kids and family. But the other side of me kept pushing my career. I thought, back then, if I was not moving forward, I was falling behind. So I came here to Idaho and left her there with her goals. It thought it was fitting to leave her there with her goals so I could focus on mine. However, I slumped into what I now deem was something akin to clinical depression. My body started shutting down. I drank too much. I barely held onto strained connections with the people around me, and I felt I was coming every closer to the disastrous consequences of being too poor in America. Once down there, I felt my life would be awash with waste, no way out, no matter how talented I may be. I asked myself what really separated me from those who I had helped in the past? I lost my faith in life. I soon lost my hope. So the idea of Steph was the only thing I hung onto. I became more sick and more stressed. Soon I found myself leaving school to be with her. I needed a restart, but my spirit even when returning to Denver was still dead. So I malingered there, first with Erinn then with Steph. My uncle did not send the money he promised to send, the $1,200/month (for three months) I was counting on to find a job. His business was falling on hard times, he said. So with no money, I again fell into the spiral of poverty. But there is something about Colorado that kept me afloat. I decided that it was the only thing that might save me. I needed to be a man of action so I moved in with Steph. I soon found myself healthier each day, but spiritually still dead inside. Her words were cold, focused on her own goals. It would take a fight to elicit any emotions from her. Maybe that's why I initially loved her. She was focused, and I had enough spirit for both of us. Yet, with my then bankrupt spirit, it was not enough. Soon, I was offered a job in Carbondale IL. I reluctantly accepted. I felt it was a wrong move, but back then, I felt as if everything was the wrong move. I trusted the people inviting me though, and Steph urged me on. So with a great deal of inner conflict (I had just interviewed for a job at a small research firm and had a second interview), I left.

My time in Southern Illinois was both depressing and magical. I would awaken in a cold, smelly, mouse-infested camper or a muddy tent most of the time. When the cold lifted, I was covered in seed tick or mosquito bites. During this time, I would go to the hospital once with an allergic reaction and feel sick many nights from worry or stress. Yet, I soon started to emerge from my spiritual sickness. Curt strummed away on his guitar singing John Hartford songs around the campfire. Al sang, laughed and cut me with his deep, meaningful conversations. Meanwhile, Teresa gave me a cold outer core that would warm into a friendship. It made me feel as if my actions were satisfactory, as if my life had some purpose.

Most importantly, the children and nature encompassed my life with their relative antithesis of what I had become. Life and hope was what they were to me. I felt joy and laughter when working with them. I remember a vivid vision of standing in a torrential poor, my hood pulled over my head, cold to the core, slightly shivering, (feeling more alive than ever) talking to a 12-year old girl about the difference between perceived risks and real risks. She did not want to do an element on the challenge course that rose six feet from the ground. She had seen her classmates do it, but she still feared it. It reminded me of so many times on the rock face when all I could see was the fall even though I knew I had the power to do it. I had spoken to this girl a few times before. She was nerdy, interested in science and had a very inquisitive mind. I saw great things in her future, but I also thought of me at that age and the people who had inspired me. I said to her that life has two kinds of dangers: real and perceived. If one started to confuse the two, it would lead to a life not lived. It would lead to fear, and one would be at the mercy of whatever society wanted. Real risks come with real consequences. However, perceived risks may seem scary, but they are no more real than the boogie man that used to stand in the closet during our childhoods. So feel I told her to feel it out with her mind, and I told her to have faith in those whom she trusted to guide her. She said she trusted me, and I soon saw her conquering the element. The smile of her face, of her mom's face (one of the chaperones) and the laughter of the group soon ensued. So there we were, in the pouring rain, on a 50-something degree day, shivering and so happy. 

Moments like this were akin to stepping into the sunlight from a deep dark cave. The moments wrapped me up in their warmth and reminded me of who I was, whom I had become, and the path back. This world and its fears stripped me of my true nature, and suddenly it was coming back. The situation with the girl was not the only incident. There were others: Al (a guy I viewed as legendary) telling me he would miss me and our conversations; jumping off Curt's boat in the moonlight with two of my best friends: Thaddeus and Tyler; a boy telling me that a moment in the dark, in a group, not talking, by the lakeside, surrounding by a cacophony of singing tree frogs was the most beautiful of his life; pulling Teresa's niece back from a copperhead snake; Thaddeus's offer to stay at his place after my allergic reaction; Anne's offer for me to stay with her even though I knew she was annoyed by me; the random canoe trip back from a lunch spot with two boys to grab the food I had mistakenly left where I saw two beautiful women on the camp's beach (of which one would ask a colleague if I was single); the random trip with the climbing girl to exchange some canoes where she would tell me that I was a handsome man (I had really lost any confidence in appearance).

Recalling it now, nearly a year later, I know I have forgotten more than I remember. But I needed to put this down on a page. Because now, I work with so many people who I do not know. I connect with people who know me so superficially. I hide behind a mask here in Moscow. I am so busy. I am so poor. I doubt myself at every corner. I have no friends in my back corner. This journey seems to be a rock climb where no rope exists. Either I make it or I fall to my own demise.

So like any rock climb, I try to let go of the past, try not to focus so much in the future. I try to focus on each movement, it's beauty and not the fall potential.

It is only then I can keep climbing.

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Ambitiously enduring.