To be quite honest…

The last two weeks have been oscillating between a running riot and a complete disaster.  I haven’t been able to look at or listen to the news because I become either unreasonably angry or completely inconsolable.  But the last two weeks haven’t been any different than the last year-and-change, it’s just that each new day brings a new reason to be angry and distraught.

I haven’t been able to write.  It’s been impossible for me to focus on my own mental health and well-being.  I’m constantly on guard and losing my composure with people.

But I keep trying.  I really do.  I keep thinking and hoping that just the next bit of evidence, the next political fuck-up, the next failure of leadership will finally rip the lodestone out from under the rotten, rapidly-putrefying carcass of this so-called “administration”.

And every time I look up, yet another horror is being unleashed.  More violence, more petulance, more insanity.

And every time, I scream inwardly: “WHAT. THE. FUCK.”

I find it more difficult with every passing day reconciling my deeply-held belief that America is deeply-flawed and completely wrong about a lot of things… but America keeps trying.  Every day I look around and wonder which one of my supposed “countrymen” is going to pull a knife or a gun and make sure I never make it home or see my loved ones again.

I’m angry at being angry.  I’m angry at people for having made me feel this way.  I didn’t even get a choice in the matter of getting angry, I was made to feel this way by people who clearly have no empathy, no morals, and no soul to save.  Morally bereft, spiritually bankrupt, and hopelessly enamored with notions of heroism and exceptionalism draped around a barely-concealed violence-fetish erection.

But heaven forbid I, or anyone else, become upset.  Because of course that would be a clear breach of decorum.  How can you have civilized discussion around the violation of human rights, repression of civil rights, and the rape and pillage of the only ecosystem known to harbor sentient life if you’re becoming emotional?

It’s like waking up in a Mirrorland Hellscape where Violence is Safety, War is Peace, Vice is Holy, and Lying is Truth-speaking.  It’s enough to make someone scrawl the word “GASLIT” on their forehead with an X-acto Knife.

I keep asking myself how we got here; how we managed to let so many wander so far into the proverbial graveyard of failed philosophies and doctrines.  How someone could possibly come to the conclusion that it would be a good idea to raise Authoritarianism from its place on Political Death Row and have it take high-center-stage.  How so many people forgot that the blood in their veins is the same color as everyone else’s (hint: if you paid attention in Science class, you’d know it’s blue until it hits oxygen).  How their god is one of a multitude, and that all experiences and emotions are valid.  How all genders, races, creeds, colors, and nationalities are as valid as the day they categorically came-to-be.

How did it come to this?  How did it come to fear, anger, resentment, and regression?

More importantly, and the really the only question that keeps me from giving up completly: where and when does it end?

Idleness

Unfortunately I’ve spent the last couple of weeks not really doing anything terribly difficult or exciting.  A lot of recovery, sleeping, and re-settling since this winter due to a lot of things, but primarily to do with the fact that I had injured both meniscus while snowboarding.  I’ve been working hard to stay on some kind of gym schedule, but haven’t had much success.

Then I discovered that I tipped 170 pounds last week.  I’m not happy.

To help me get back to a program, I grabbed the Boulder Fit training program from Power Company Climbing this weekend and set my schedule on my calendar.  Going to start trying to get back into things.  I desperately need to kill my sugar intake and get back down to my bouldering weight at about 155 pounds before this coming Fall if I want to have any chance at working on any of the outstanding boulder projects I still want to complete.

The special project I’ve been avoiding announcing is also coming along quite well.  I’m hoping to have it in a more presentable state later this year with some quality photos and a more stable “game plan” for this coming Fall and Winter with regard to splitboarding and climbing.  Suffice to say, I want to be doing a lot more this coming season.

Kneepads

Something that struck me recently was the revelation that some of the people I look up to the most in outdoor action sports and adventure wear kneepads.

Jeremy Jones and Travis Rice wear kneepads.

I didn’t initially think about it, but I went back and looked again and I was dumbfounded.

Some of my heroes, people that loom large over a sport and lifestyle I hold near-and-dear to my heart, wear freaking kneepads.

The profound realization hit me like a ten-ton hammer.  It was something I “knew” in the back of my head, but because of all the media I tend to consume around snowboarding, climbing, and the adventure lifestyle, details like that tended to escape conscious thought.

The issue is abundantly clear to me now: that shouldn’t have been a realization at all.  This should have been an unspoken, unbreakable truth.

Jeremy Jones, Travis Rice, Chris Sharma, Red Gerard, Eric Jackson, Alex Honnold, Tommy Caldwell, Daniel Woods.  Every single one of these names take their training, their safety, their preparation, and their lives seriously.

Jeremy Jones himself has said in multiple interviews that if he’s not absolutely sure of the conditions of a particular line, approach, or base-camp area, he’ll pull the plug on the whole damn trip.

It’s something that’s given me pause.  Even people at the absolute pinnacle of their sport have to take the time to plan, train, learn, prepare, practice.  Then, and only then, can they really execute.

And the entire reason why this is prescient at all: I’ve had to start wearing soft knee sleeves.  This past winter, I compressed and caused significant stress to both meniscus.  In an effort to let them heal and support them while I still actively train, the knee sleeves became essential.

To be honest, I’ve had mixed feelings about it.  I don’t see “the pros” or “the greats” wearing sleeves or braces–but that’s likely due to marketing and visibility than it is with any real difference in strength or skill (though that’s certainly a factor).  I’ve alternated between feeling terrible about it and understanding that it’s a necessary part of my kit now.

But knowing that even Jeremy Jones and Travis Rice need a little more support from time-to-time in the form of kneepads and sleeves makes me feel a little less bad about it.

Different

Things have been markedly different the last few weeks.  Besides the weather being all over the place, there’s been a significant amount of tumult.  Winter injuries, relationship changes, seasonal depression, social and political news taking their toll – you name it, it’s happened.

The weather finally broke a bit this last week.  A near-tolerable weekend day at about 50 degrees gave me the opportunity to do something I’ve never done before: an oil change on a vehicle I own.  I’d always thought about doing it and dreamed about it, but had never gotten the gumption up to do it.  Got a bunch of tools, got a friend’s help, and got to work.  Never thought it’d be that easy.  No reason to go to a shop for something so simple anymore.  Grabbed a digital rotor measurement caliper, too.  Just need to find the appropriately-sized floor jack and stands and I can start doing my own brakes and rotors too.  Amazing what you can do with a little bit of information off the internet and some warmer temperatures.

Still not ready to talk about the project publicly.  Got a long way to go before it’s ready for prime-time, but I think the wait will be worth it.  Stay tuned.

Injuries this year were an absolute nightmare.  Tweaked both knees at least twice while snowboarding, and I’m fairly sure I’ve damaged the meniscus as well.  Need to get an ultrasound and a physical soon anyway, so I suppose that’s not that big of a deal.  I’ve definitely had to slow down on my training plans though.

Speaking of that specific point, I’ve had to grow into a different mindset as of late.  Since I don’t have anybody to climb indoor sport with where I live, I’ve circled back around to bouldering.  It’s kind of nice to be able to come into the local gym and climb at my own pace again and really work on sequencing, strength, and form.  I’ve missed a lot of it.  But the largest problem has been the fact that I’ve been unable to ramp right back up to the level I was at before I left for Portland, OR earlier this year.  I was climbing indoors at around 5.11+/V5+, and having been out of the gym for almost two-and-a-half months, I’m only really back at a V2/V3 level.  It could also be the change in gyms and the huge change in setting, but I’m definitely not able to climb what I was before.

I’ve had to begin growing into a kind of mindset of realism and acceptance.  I’ve had to accept that I’m not as strong as I was, I’m just as strong as I am right this second.  I’ve had to accept the reality that I only have conscious control of a very small number of things.  I can’t control when a hold is terrible, when a foot is greasy, or when my skin decides to rip–I can only control my reactions to them (and maybe brush the holds off a bit).  I have had to accept that I have injuries, and it’s perfectly fine that I can’t squat what I used to squat, climb what I used to climb, or lift what I used to lift.  I can only put in the effort, and I just have to be happy and okay with that.  All of this has been hard for me to merely be okay with, much less accept.  But, it’s getting better by degrees.

I’ve also largely been taking time away from social media.  I’ve gotten tired of the click-bait shenanigans and partisan shouting matches on both sides.  I’m tired of constantly being deluged with negativity and people screaming at each other.  I’ve gotten to the point to where if I don’t know somebody personally, I’m much less likely to invest emotionally in their story or to try and understand their point of view.  That might sound like I’m closing myself off, but I have to be able to have the energy to be able to give a damn about myself and my situation ahead of anyone else’s.  Especially when I’m still fighting PTSD and depression symptoms every day.

Been tempted to shut it all off.  LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, all of it.  Just close it all down and just focus on the relationships and friendships right in front of me.  I figure most of the people that aren’t reaching out to me directly via email, text message, or responding to this blog directly really aren’t interested anyway… so what’s the point of letting someone else make money off of my data and wasting my time clicking “Like”?

I’ve been thinking about it a lot.  Maybe I’ll do it.  Who knows.

Transitions

The last couple weeks have been a whirlwind of activity and change.  Haven’t been able to really spend time on writing anything as a direct result, but at least it hasn’t been boring.

First, I finally have a new vehicle.  I’m not divulging what vehicle I have publicly yet – just suffice to say that it’s another project.  I’ve said it before, but I’ll reiterate: talking about your goals and projects rather than just chiseling, hammering, and grinding away at them saps the energy out of it and gives room for haters and naysayers to throw static your way.

Best advice?  Ignore them.  Stop broadcasting it.  Get to it.

I’ll talk about the project.  Eventually.

I’ve been winding-down my participation in group and individual therapy in Boston.  It’s become prohibitively expensive and now that I’m living an hour North (in New Hampshire), it’s become even more difficult to ensure there’s ample room in my life for it.  I’ve gotten a lot of out of the process and out of interacting with other people going through the process, but I think it’s time I break away and integrate what I’ve learned and see the difference that the last few years of therapy have made.

Re-adusting to life in a new place has given me a plethora of challenges.  Loneliness and isolation are two of the hardest, but I’ve been working to improve the situation lately.  Met a few new people, been spending more time snowboarding, splitboard touring, and I plan on spending time this season doing a lot more outdoor bouldering.  I’ll probably be dialing back how much indoor leading I do since I don’t have a steady climbing partner in New Hampshire yet, but I want to make sure I stay strong in that respect.  Guess we’ll have to see how things shake out.

Spent time this weekend snowboarding and splitboard touring as well.  Took Friday off, spent time at Killington, VT getting laps in on steep trails and discovered that I’m actually a lot better at navigating steep terrain than I originally thought.  Saturday was spent at Gulf of Slides getting some time in on the ski trail there, which was glorious.  I’d never ridden a trail like that and had such an amazing experience doing so.  I’m stoked to do more of that next season.  Spent Sunday up at Sunapee with a coworker and his friend getting some high-speed groomer runs in and working on getting more comfortable going over low rollers and short knuckles.  I’m actually getting air now and I’m way more confident than I was last season, which is a huge win in my book.  After having dislocated two ribs a few seasons ago and having the psychological fear of injury hanging around in the back of my mind, I’m happy that I’m making progress again.

Going to also work on getting rid of my Facebook account (again).  Recent revelations around data obtained by a Brexit- and Trump-aligned company called Cambridge Analytica have underlined the need for me to make sure that I’m more diligent in what I participate in and share online.  The fact that someone is able to create such detailed profiles by mere inference based on information gathered from adjacent individuals’ social media information should scare anyone that cares about privacy and surveillance.

Reading a lot of books lately and keeping myself informed and entertained through that.  Dropped out of playing video games and scrolling through social media aimlessly.  It’s hard to not fall into old habits, but hopefully things will continue to change in a meaningful way as time goes on.

Generations

Someone came before you. A hundred-thousand-fold came before we were even close to being present. Some would argue that many of us aren’t even “present” now: staring at our phones, our televisions, our computers–anything but each other. Which is a shame because the immense miracle that is our history on this planet is a tale that is worth remembering.

This planet formed as a consequence of the inherent mayhem of the universe. Millions of stars have gone before us, forming the dense matter that permeates our very bodies to our core and forms the basis of life as we know it. That life was borne into pools via simple forms like bacterium and viruses, and slowly we evolved from the millions of other species that evolution provided and the chaos of the universe saw fit to sweep aside.

From our earliest days on this Earth, we have survived and thrived. We have struggled and adapted: tools, agriculture, culture, technology, and ultimately civilization. What we fail to remember is the untold generations that lived and struggled and fought to bring us to where we are today.

I would hope that if there is an afterlife, and my ancestors can see me and know my story, that they would be proud of me. Just as I hope that yours would be proud of you. You are wired for struggle. Embrace it. Lean in.

Teach them well

You’re a parent even if you don’t realize it.  A parent to friends, coworkers, others’ children, maybe even your own children.  A parent to your own inner child, even.  I wish someone (anyone, really) had been a better parent for me—including myself.  I say and do things that aren’t the least bit flattering to observers.  I berate myself for small mistakes, I don’t give myself even the slightest leeway in creative or physical pursuits, I am unable to be a hundred percent present.  All of which might understandably give someone the impression that I’m an angry and uncompromising person one-hundred percent of the time, which isn’t always true.

There are an incalculable number of things I wish I could have done to make things better, a huge number of lessons I wish I could have imparted on the people I’ve met throughout my life.  Allowing the children you see to have a sense of mastery and purpose, fostering a sense of purpose, granting them the space to explore themselves and their surroundings, uninhibited, in the inseparable interests of discovery and growth.

Let them have the opportunity and space to fail.  They’ll ask for help when they need it.  They’ll surprise you as they learn to do what may have taken you years to learn, and you might even surprise yourself.  I wish I could have discovered earlier that what drives my criticism of other people is the intense criticism I hold for myself.  Failure was either too expensive or criticized ruthlessly by parents or peers.

Grant them the courage to ask the hard questions and speak on their difficult and thorny truths.  The worst that you can do to them is to stifle their ability to tell you how they feel by making them feel unsafe.  I wish I would have had the space to be able to say “you make me angry because you live such a small life and it doesn’t seem like you really try”.

Don’t just be a bystander–be involved.  They’re in your life for a reason, and it’s your job to figure out what that reason is.  Similarly, you’re in their life for a reason–and it’s your job to help them find their joy and to be present with them in it.  I’ve had to struggle with the fact that I never had someone involved in the things I was interested in or anyone to encourage me growing up.  Having to find my own motivation for things and struggling with finding validation outside of myself instead of having my own validation and a sense of fulfillment.

In short: be the person that you would have wanted others to be.  Be the parent that you’d wished you’d had.  Be the friend that others see you as.