Night Light

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Absolute darkness is hard to come by in this modern world.  Light leaks through nighttime windows from streetlights, headlights, searchlights, the moon, lightning storms and even fireworks on the occasional holiday.  Electric clocks, power strips, TV and stereo power lamps come to life in a ghostly glow once the sun has gone down.  For some such lights are a nuisance, for others these dim reminders of day are insufficient.  There are those who are uncomfortable in the dark and those for whom the realm of sleep cannot be deep black enough.  Which are you?

I believe, and say “believe” because I cannot remember for sure, that as a boy I favored the company of a night light.  Things that go bump in the dark might have been, at that time in my life more manageable when seen rather than merely heard.  Now I find that the best sort of night is one in which I can find nothing; no shapes, no glimmer, no semblance of the living world.  Perhaps the days are now so full of goings on that the only way to achieve true respite is in the nothingness of absolute black.  Odd because nothingness is a constant topic of internal dialogue that I bandy about in the face of the ceaseless onslaught of is-ness that has become the definition of this modern life.  

Fear of heights, fear of snakes, fear of the dark, fear of anything, all, in my opinion, are the children of the fear of death; fear of that which we cannot avoid no matter how we twist and turn.  I like the dark, I actually like snakes, but I have a dizzying visceral breakdown when faced with heights.  That last issue must be the reason I learned to skydive.  Interestingly when one falls from umpteen thousand feet the prep time between plane and landing allows for some free will and planning.  As I write this I’m happy to say, though clearly it needn’t be said since here I am, that the process has been survivable.  Its been amazing actually.  I like-ish facing fears; it’s fascinating, life-affirming and potentially boundary, if not leg breaking.  But what if I were afraid of something as unavoidable as the dark.  

A power outage leads the prepared household to a closet stocked with flashlights and candles, perhaps even a battery powered radio.  For the well-to-do who’ve prepared for The Purge, it may even lead to a generator or a full-on panic room.  I like a good power outage, except for the havoc it may wreak on whatever frozen food I’m hoarding at the time in my ancient fridge.  I even have a few decent flashlights and a couple candles hidden away just in case.  I still have kids at the house, so I have to be ready to turn whatever happens into an adventure that isn’t entirely lived out in abject what-the-fuck blackness.  

But back to night lights for a sec.  They do serve a purpose, for some, for a time.  They may alleviate fear; affording calm to those needing a tinge of day in their night.  The also can make it possible for a nearly comatose person to reach the fridge for that super unnecessary midnight snack, without breaking a toe.  Not my thing, but to each his or her own.  Have your night lights if you will, and may they bring peace and restful sleep. I’ll be the one dancing with my vertigo, dizzy and sweating on the ladder in broad daylight cleaning a gutter, hoping I’m able to make it back to earth alive.

Aiming For A Glass Of Water

Glass of water

 

Being single at 50 something on the dating scene is like jumping off the high dive aiming for a glass of water.

Divorce is fun…for masochists. It’s that moment when you realize everything you promised will end up broken. You may be an angry narcissist, in denial of course, or you may just be angry…no judgment. You may be a giver; give, give, give never take. You may be afraid of conflict. You may be a bully. You may be a nice, well-balanced person who made a bad choice in the partnership department. Whatever your position on the spectrum of coping mechanisms, behavior patterns or denial, divorce is the shits.

Will it be hard to start over? Maybe. Are there fish in the sea? Plenty. Will any of them appeal to you? Absolutely! Will those who do appeal to you be age appropriate? Highly unlikely! Online dating: Men with their bare-chested, or fish holding pix, rock on you silly geese! Women with their rudimentary photoshop skills shouting out “look at me” from the polished profile pic saying, “no really…I’m young” looking for a second chance. How could that pool have gotten so small?

It’s not easy to find what you had looked for so many years ago. You may have kids now. If you don’t want more kids the pool narrows. You may want dogs or cats in your life, you may not. The pool narrows. You may have voted red state, you may have voted blue. The pool narrows. You may like hiking or kayaking, or wine tasting, cooking classes, running, volunteering or even knitting/gunplay…the pool narrows. The pool narrows until you look between your two big toes and see that the pool has shrunk to the size of a glass of water. Should you jump?

Are you willing to come to grips with why your marriage/relationship ended? It’s easy during a divorce to cast oneself as the hero. I was exceptionally good at it. The facts more likely point to two sides of the story, and I bring this up for a reason. If we don’t at least attempt to understand our contribution to the chaos then we will visit that same ill fate on whatever poor soul awaits us in that tiny glass of water below.

So what positives can we pull; what gems can we glean from the denouement of a primary relationship, and ensuing diminished chance of future relational bliss? What understanding can we assimilate as we stand on the platform poised to dive into the narrow cup of opportunity that awaits us? An insight gained in the sleepless hours before dawn perhaps? Appreciation for the now not so rare moments of silence afforded to one who has no other? Pausing long enough to hear a truth about ourselves whether we want to or not? If we learn anything…it is everything in that moment. A moment of victory!

 

Have thoughts on the subject?  Please comment.  Life is bigger and better with shared experience!

Free Fall

Free Fall JH 2

“What do you mean ‘bad’?” I asked.

“I think it’s self-explanatory.” He said.

“Nice bedside manner doc!”

He reached into his lab coat and produced a flask and two plastic shot glasses, “Cheers!”

“Ha, we’re celebrating my terminal diagnosis?” I said with a hastily shaken tone cocktail of irony, indignation and false bravery.

“We all have a terminal diagnosis, my friend.  I love you, and this shot is to celebrate your life.  The life behind you, that left before you, and most importantly this moment, when we here together face the inevitable; the heartache, the confusion, the freedom, and the truth, that we all try so desperately to ignore.”

I found myself smiling in spite of the dour news, “I love you, man.”

Doctor James had been my college roommate freshman year, and my best friend for the last thirty years of my now seemingly bookended life.  Together we had surfed the waves off the Santa Barbara coast, chased the same woman at parties and fought over the outcome, ridden a motorcycle through the courtyard of a dormitory with frantic RAs chasing us.  This was the man who knew me better than anyone on the planet.  He had supported me every step of the way.  He knew when to say “I’m sorry,” and he knew how to forgive.  He was the perfect person the usher me onto the crowded tarmac for those awaiting passage to the hereafter.

“So by ‘no’ you mean there’s no cure?” I asked.

He looked me in the eye, raised his plastic shot glass to offer a toast, I obliged with a shaky reciprocal gesture.

“There is only one cure for life, and as mortals, we will all one day be cured.  May you rock the fuck out of the days, months, or years left to you.  May you know that I love you like a brother with all my heart and will ride this last wave with you wherever it may take us.”  He held his glass and my gaze.

Damn him; the fucking bitch made me tear up.  I killed the shot and immediately put my cup out for a second.

“How long?” I asked.

“I don’t fucking know…six months, six years, it’s so fucking random.  Let’s see, no sugar diets, kale, and on the uh-oh side, hidden guilt, self-hatred, or an emerging heretofore unseen badass extreme will to live.  I could tell you some number, but then that number enters your reality and who the fuck am I to shape your perspective on something like this?  I’m just a doctor.”  James laughed as he filled our little plastic shot cups.

“Let’s go to the mountains and hike.” He said.  “I’ll clear my schedule; we’ll go to my place in the Sierras, spend a couple of days and let this percolate.”

“Are you coming on to me?”  My super thin, false bravado wavering.

“Ha, fuck you, I’ll bring coffee, be ready by 8 am.”  Doctor J. hissed with a shit-eating grin.

“Thanks?”  I had to laugh.  Hiking would be good!

#fiction

Have thoughts on the subject?  Please comment.  Life is bigger and better with shared experience!

Let Go Of The Plane

16th Jump 11_20_15 With J Ivey

I gripped the frame of the exit door with Hulk-like strength, except for the Hulk-like, and strength bits.  Suffice it to say I used everything I had to hold on.  In my experience, there’s no greater motivating force within a human being than fear.  The jump light turned from “two minutes” yellow to green.  Time to go.  I don’t know if I remembered to take a breath.  Forgetting to breathe in everyday terrestrial life is an issue for me as it is, no doubt at the moment of exit I had accidentally become nearly ‘oxygen free.’  Air starved brain notwithstanding I did remember to lean out, lean in, then launch, and let go of the plane.

My body tumbled in the wind wash created by my earthward trajectory coupled with the rapid westward bearing of the Twin Otter aircraft.

“Breathe, and calm the fuck down,” I said to myself.

After a bit more negotiating my body finally arched into a V shape.  Legs up, head up, plummeting toward earth in gravity’s firm embrace.  With the flight of my person finally stabilized I could take a moment to connect with this singular experience; moving through space at over 120 miles per hours without mechanical assistance.  The sensation is indescribable, and not commonly known.  Why?  Fear? The result of good decision making?  You decide.

I can’t speak for others who choose to jump from 14,000 feet with no more than a nylon lifeline, but I have to believe that some of them leap, or at least made their first jump for the same reason I did; to slay a dragon.  To confront fear in the now, or never.  To stand over it, perhaps for the first time with a triumphant smile.  If only a smile of sweet relief once we’ed reconnected with mother earth.

One’s inaugural exit, that first jump is exponentially more mind-blowing than any of the next hundred, thousand, or infinity and beyond.  It’s a threshold that cannot be recrossed.  On my very first solo jump, I experience a minor equipment malfunction.  I say minor because in hindsight everything worked out.  However, as it was all going down, I thought I might have a one jump career, and be remembered as the most unlucky skydiver of all time.

On a first AFF jump, (Accelerated Free Fall, Category A) one exits the aircraft at 14,000 feet gripped by two instructors.  At 6000 feet the ‘pull’ sequence is initiated.  If you the student have freaked out, one of the instructors, assuming you haven’t shaken them loose in a wild tumble, pulls for you.  As for the “wild tumble” bit, youtube.com offers an endless supply of “oh shit” scenarios @AFF SKYDIVE GOES BAD.  On my first AFF jump, I pulled the ripcord, at which point I was on my own.  Thankfully the chute deployed.  I dialed my freak from 11 to 9.  Next order of business, fly the thing.  I reached for the control toggles, gripped and pulled hard to free them.  One complied, the other did not.  Suddenly I was in a death spiral; corkscrew spinning under canopy plummeting from 5000 feet.  I distinctly remember thinking, “Are you fucking kidding me???”

The six hours of ground school that morning had scared the shit out of me.  Videos and anecdotes had elaborated on everything that could go wrong, and there I was starring in a new episode.  Somehow I found clarity in this “now or never moment.”  I let go of the left control toggle and went after the right ‘stuck’ one with both desperate hands.  Eventually, it came free at which point the ocean blue Saber II canopy leveled out.  Just like that, I survived.

It’s a numbers game, skydiving.  I’ve known jumpers burned severely when their path crossed a set of power lines.  I’ve known jumpers who are dead now due to equipment malfunction.  I’ve jumped a mere fifty-five times, mostly without incident, a total novice.   I know the odds are that if I keep jumping one day I’ll end up taking “reserve ride.”  Also known as a ‘cutaway,’ a reserve ride occurs when one’s main chute fails at which point that panicked soul pulls a handle to cut/release the bad chute, and pulls another to deploy the reserve canopy.

Though I’ve not had the pleasure, I assume this operation is accompanied by increased heart rate, heavy breathing, and a healthy dose of holy FU#K style “oh shits!”  The beauty of a reserve chute is that, well, it’s available.  It’s a second chance to survive the day.  Your day.  Your kid’s day, assuming you have kids. Your parent’s day if they happen to still be with you, your friend’s day, and your life insurance company’s day.  If the reserve fails, someone’s looking at a lot of paperwork!

I’m currently on hiatus from the sky life.  That said, I know that learning to skydive has been one of the most transformational experiences of my seemingly endless life.  Seemingly endless?  Yes!  Once I entered the red zone known as midlife, time while flying by seems to have been doing so for eons.  I will go back to jumping when the time is right because the experience is life-affirming, and it gives me something I just can’t get inside “a perfectly good airplane.”

If we have roadblocks in our lives, they are most likely made of fear.  If they are in fact made of fear, they are most likely difficult, if not seemingly impossible to surmount.  We as a culture have a fair amount of shame attached to fear, and so we bury it, deny it, negotiate with it, and finally relegate it to the ego basement.  Avoiding fear is comfortable, useful, life-saving …or is it?  Nowadays when I find myself in a place of deep fear, I remember my time in the sky.  The only way forward, the only way through, is to let go of the plane.

Have thoughts on the subject?  Please comment.  Life is bigger and better with shared experience!