Lifelines and Setbacks

I’ve noticed that every setback comes with at least one lifeline…

Setback – Overwhelmed– Well now I have to be mom and dad and take care of everything – it is overwhelming.  This is on top of the demands from work, which are slowly creeping back to the normal pressure-cooker.  Every minute of every day is filled up with activities and chores and work that I can only do in increments, rarely finishing the same task that I start.  I always have 10 balls in the air, I’m always terrified for when I cannot keep up the juggling act.  I hate that.  That’s why we decided that Deb should quit her job,  a division of labor that would allow me to bring home the bacon, Deb to cook it, we’d split the rest.  Okay, its all me now, my days start at 5 and end at 10 or 11, no down time in between; this is just plain tiring.  I can do it – I have to do it, I have no choice – but some days it just feels like the hole I am digging by never getting everything done every day will one day collapse around me, and the asphyxiation is palpable…

Lifeline – Mother Nature – I know I have an ally out there, someone who will pick me up no matter how deep the hole – the real world.  The rocks and sky and flowers and trees and birds and sunsets and trails, not the office or the malls or power plants.  The place where there is a real promise that everything will be okay.  Death is so much a part of the natural world – but we have isolated ourselves from her, we have forgotten her lessons, and we are afraid of death, afraid of isolation and aloneness, even though these are clearly part of life, so much a part of the cycle of life as seen by the simple changing of the seasons.

Nature has always been my salve, and she will be again.  She is where I put my faith, in the timelessness of rocks and sky, in the beauty life, a life that subsists on death to morph and continue.  There was a day, a beautiful late summer day last August, when Trevor and I were at the batting cages late one evening, trying to work through a long batting slump.  Debbie showed up unexpectedly; at first I was confused, I knew she had a ton of chores at home.  Then it hit me, before I even saw here expression, before she even spoke; oh god, this is not going to be good.  It was the worst news possible – Stage IV.  Being an analytical guy, I knew probably more than anyone what this meant, I knew instantly the odds.  My heart fell to its knees, but we kept up a brave front before Trevor.  But honestly that was the worst day of this whole ordeal.

In stunned silence T and I continued to practice, for I knew not what else to do.  It was a glorious day, my very own personal Sept. 11th.  And then out of the same perfect sky screamed a robin, followed by a Sharp-shinned hawk.  The hawk caught the robin in its talons in the meshing directly above us; and then carried it off to the nearby woods.  T and I followed, and we watched the robin struggle in the hawks talons for only a minute, and then it gave up.  It was a few more minutes before the hawk delivered the coup de grace, but it was not a murder; rather, it was the cycle of life.  Death – and life – come out of the same blue sky. 

The wilderness is my home.  It is our collective home, but we push it as far away as we can now, to our own detriment.  I love my solo treks into the deep wilderness, whether it’s the red rocks of my precious desert or the subtle beauty of the Appalachian foothills of home.  I miss these trips tremendously, I miss especially my quick overnight solo trips to the Ridge and to my secret spots – god how a night under the stars, back on the ground, all senses on alert to every twig break, a real reminder of what is real – would rejuvenate of my soul!   I wonder if I will ever enjoy a night on the Ridge again.  What about exteneded trips into the wild, will I be too old to trek into the unexplored nooks ans crannies I so crave? 

My time in the wild brings me a connectedness and a peace that is so sorely missing in the work-a-day world we have created.  I miss my oldest friend.  But my responsibilities need to come first now, I know.  So I need to learn to take what I can get now. 

My yard is beautiful, and I am enjoying the fall colors (my god, it’s fall already?  Where did the spring and summer go???), especially the goldenrods and purple fall asters.  This spectacle is far too overlooked in Western PA, as the fields turn gold and purple in sublime fashion, but for some reason this does not get the press of the changing leaves.  Today I rolled through the trails of Boyce Park on my mountain bike, a glorious, simple freedom that set my soul soaring, sailing amongst the trees and leaves with an adrenaline that makes nothing matter but navigating that next bend, with the joy of exhilaration that you made down that root-studded slope in one piece, without gravity taking it’s toll, heart pounding and lungs gasping but truly alive, at least for this moment.

And then there were deliberate pauses, to watch the blue jays gathering acorns or the deer graze the understory, the low light of fall casting a warmer glow than any other time of year.  Nature has it’s furies, it’s unexpected storms of fierceness unleashed – but she also has extended periods of nothingness, of just being alive, of just being quiet and still.  I’ve has plenty of storms lately – I’m looking to reclaim some of this stillness and being, and I know I need to make some time for just being outside, for just being – for healing – in our real, true home.

Setback – Sleep (or lack of it) – I haven’t really slept now for close to two months; first was all the medical and health issues, then the funeral issues, then trying to get life back to some sense of normalcy for the kids, now trying to do everything that needs done while working FT.  Wonder when I will crash and sleep like Rip Van Winkle through an entire day or two?  Probably the day I have a big deliverable due at work!

Lifeline – Energy! – Not sure where this is coming from, but I have this seemingly boundless source of energy right now that allows me to get done everything I need to do, plus have some left over for a bit of creativity.  In some ways I’ve never felt more alive, my eyes are wide open and my soul is like a sponge right now, soaking up these incredible vibes.  I suppose some of it is adrenaline, certainly Starbucks helps, and the Dropkick Murphy’s can kick start any morning drive; but I suspect the majority of it is the incredible outpouring of prayers and thoughts directed our way.  So incredible when someone drops a note just to say hi, or when your eyes connect with a friend in a genuine soul gaze, and you can feel that they truly care.

Setback – A smell brings back a memory like a thunderbolt out of the clear blue sky.  An arrow of pain and longing pierces the heart, thinking about a vacation memory or plans that  will never come to fruition – tears are the only answers…

Lifeline – Running, exercise, working out!  The joy of  feeling your heart beat in time with the pace, the wonder of these incredible machines called our bodies, the euphoria and endless optimism of endorphins!

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