Paradox in the Wilderness

The countdown continues. I now have an election filled birthday to look forward to; at least something will be happening that day.

The creek is running again, my first spring days in the river valley. Walking down the trail, to wafts of thawing equine manure reminds me of my youth. I haven’t spotted the beavers yet, but they must be excited with the onslaught of spring too. As much as I am enjoying walks with only a tee shirt on, I am still looking forward to a couple of more days riding on snow capped peaks. The boy and I are hitting White Fish Montana next week!

Having spent most of the winter immeshed in fiction (audio and Harry Potter) I decided recently to refresh with some Brené Brown, and have been listening to Braving the Wilderness again. The last two chapters more than once. It has been a good reminder of some insights that I think I have misplaced these past months.

I feel like this next decade needs to be lived on the back of “speak truth to bullshit”. I know I have remained silent on far too many occasions regarding bullshit in my life. Take a simple example that occurred at work today discussing new coffee bag labels. Currently we have a little symbol on the label for either espresso or drip. Both of these symbols are bullshit. Coffee can be brewed in a myriad of methods, and no method is technically superior. One roast is not better than another for espresso; at Transcend we brew espresso with almost all of our coffees. It is just that the market perpetuates a misunderstanding about espresso vs drip coffee which needs to be abandoned. Which is why I emphatically declared today that the symbols will be phasing out this year - speak truth to bullshit (I know a pretty minor example of this, but one nonetheless).

I also was reminded that I need to get to the place (not there yet, even after fifty years) where I am content with who I am. No more striving, no more hustling, no more trying to fit in. This quote which Brown frequently uses has become, for me too, a lightening rod.

You only are free when you realize you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.

Maya Angelou

I am beginning to realize that I have always been an outlier. Yet truthfully, I have kicked against the goads in this regard. I have chaffed at this my whole life, trying to ignore and convince myself of some alternate reality. I am beginning to wonder whether this internal struggle is the root cause of so much of my angst. I say things, in ways that get me in trouble all of the time. I say things at home, at work, amongst friends which get me into trouble. Well, my wife says that it is not what I say but how I say it that gets me into trouble. She may very well be right in that, but to date, I still have a hard time separating, the message content from the tone or method of delivery. Obviously this is something I need to work on, albeit I might need to employ someone full-time to carry around a mirror, so I can figure out what the hell I am doing wrong.

Over the past couple of years I have become a creature of comfort. I like staying nice places, eating good things, drinking great wine. While all of this is not bad in and of itself, I wonder whether it is indicative of something more. My kid (now fifteen) is pushing me hard. I am rock climbing again, thirty years later. We are going to get our lead climbing certificate next week. He wants to go climb El Capitan, and he will, and perhaps I will join him. Even as I type this, I am afraid of the thought of being on a cliff three thousand feet above the ground. But I think I need to do it with him. I think I need to embrace the real wilderness, so that I can embrace the fact that I live and have almost always lived there.

I started Transcend thirteen years ago with a dream of building community. I have been chasing a ghost of community since 1992. My experience living at Legg Lodge in Lethbridge almost three decades ago, has tormented me in many ways. The need for belonging has been a harsh master for much of my life. But as Maya said recognizing that you belong no place, and every place is the real key to freedom. These next years, I hope, will be built on a foundation of belonging first to myself, something that has alluded me all these years. And with that, I know that I will belong in other places, hopefully allowing me to live in such a way that my mirror-steward will have to seek out another benefactor.

I know that I am a paradox. I have always been one. I have poked and prodded and pushed and challenged all my life. I have been the burr under many saddles. I am beginning to see with more clarity, that this is who I am. Yes I need to learn to be kinder to strangers, and maybe even my friends. But I also need to be kinder to myself and embrace the fact that I am that outlier, the guy who lives best in the wilderness. And yes the price is high, as I know all too well. Perhaps with a little luck, I might just figure out, sooner rather than later, how to enjoy the rewards.