Fear and the Flying Leg

Some of the stories that I tell here on this blog page are stories that I have told and retold over the years.  The stories may be less true than they once were because as I get older the need to make myself into the hero seems more important to me.  The backlash effect of that of course is that I am falling into the “Glory Days Syndrome” also known as the “I Used to be Great Syndrome” or by the lesser known “If I Hadn’t Gotten Injured I Would’ve Gone Pro Syndrome”.  This story is not about my one time or enduring greatness, this is a story about experiencing someone’s weakness that ended up displaying my weakness.

I spent many of my summers during and after college working at Christian camps in Wyoming and New Mexico.  I served as an archery instructor, mountain bike instructor, rappelling instructor, and rifle range instructor (I would say riflery but my auto correct keeps telling me that is not a word).  My very last summer working at the camp in Wyoming saw me spending up to 6 hours a day above any sort of shade teaching people, children and youth specifically, how to rappel.  For those of you that are unfamiliar, I taught people how to walk backwards off a 30 foot wooden cliff.

This particular day my associate and me had been up on the tower in the morning and had to go back up for an afternoon session.  Jeremy and I had moved past the point in the summer where we appreciated all the sunshine we were getting and were now to the point of trying to get people up and down as quickly as possible.  Into our lives came a boy that I will call “Mike”.  I would like to say that I changed the name to protect the innocent, but honestly I either forgot or blocked his name out of my memory because I might still be a little angry with him.

In order to go down the tower you have to go up the tower, which requires that each person climb a 30 foot cargo net.  Mike showed some apprehension at this point, but so do many of the kids that go up the tower.  In other words, Mike did not display any sort of abnormal apprehension at this point so we encouraged him that he was safe and he proceeded clumsily up the cargo net.

Jeremy and I then proceeded through our normal spiel which was a devotion about trusting the rope and not your brain that was telling you that this was not safe and how that was analogous to trusting in God and not leaning on your own understanding.  Following the devotion we would show people how to put their gear on and then how they were going to get down.  This is when things started to get interesting because I remember Mike slowly working his way to the back of the tower.  He was doing what most people do when they feel danger.  They distance themselves as much as they can from the thing that threatens them.

Mike had watched a few people go over when we asked him to get on rope.  I walked him through the various instructions, made sure his gear was safe and then I asked Mike to turn around and face me.  This was not something that Mike was prepared to do.  He did not want to turn his back to the thing that threatened him, the wooden ledge.  At this point things started to unravel rather quickly.

Wait, you might have taken that to mean that the rope unraveled quickly, it did not, it fact the rope did not go anywhere at this point because Mike was not going anywhere.

Mike had a panic attack, he told me that he was going to puke, then he told me he couldn’t do it, then he tried to run to the back of the tower to sit down (still on rope mind you), then he told me he was going to, well, defecate right there on the tower.  Mike was not ready to rappel that day.  So we move to phase two which is to have the other instructor walk backward with Mike to the ledge and start down with him.  Normally if we can get people over the edge, they go the rest of the way pretty well.  It is the first step, that transition from vertical to horizontal, that puts most people into some form of panic.

Phase two did not work and more promises of things coming out of Mike’s body were made.  So we moved on to phase three which is to ask Mike to go sit down while we get the rest of the kids down the tower.  Even during this phase Mike was freaking out, which did not help get the rest of the kids down.  Phase three is to scrap our desire to help Mike through his fears and get him down the tower.  So 2 hours after Mike came up the tower, we asked Mike to climb down the cargo net.  This was not amendable to Mike, so we tried to get him to rappel again, which was also not amendable to Mike.  Mike had one proposal to make, which was not amendable to anyone else, and that was to make the tower his permanent home.

Three hours into this stand off we were finally able to get Mike off the tower.  Jeremy and I were hot, both physically and emotionally.  Mike’s fears and what they had manifested had taken every bit of our patience and love.  We packed up our gear, walked away from the tower, and headed back for our bunk.  Halfway back I dropped my harness on accident and in my anger I kicked it with my fake leg.

My leg flew off and hit the bunk house.  All I could do after I had landed on my butt outside the door was to lay there and laugh, what else was left.  Fear can debilitate and exhaust every one of our resources and the resources of people around us.  I wish I had more patience with Mike that day to help him figure out how we could help him conquer his fear, that really was the point of why we did rappelling at that camp in the first place.  Faith to overcome fear.

My Square of Shame

As I alluded to yesterday I had a rough fall, which as you will find out is funny on two levels.

I have always wanted to be a handy person and I still aspire to be such a person, however the case against my desires keep building.  Back in September of last year my wife and I decided to take a large couch unit off of our friends hands.  To say that the sectional is large might be a bit of an understatement as it took both our Suburban and our Caravan to get it from Portland to Poulsbo.  The only problem with sectionals is that they are kind of like parents, they tell you what to do not the other way around.  What I mean by that is when you acquire such a large chunk of furniture you really only have one place in your house that it will fit, and only in a particular way.

So I did what most people would do in a situation like that, I went out and bought a television.  Why?  you might ask.  Well the only place we could put the sectional was facing the fireplace which means that the very bulky and awkward television that we had needed to go because it did not fit on top of the mantle.  This makes a whole lot more sense when you have already told yourself that you wanted a new TV anyway, then the only thing you need to do is help others see the logical progression that you have built up in your head so that they are okay with it.

So I fretted and researched and ultimately bought a cheap, but large TV from Costco, which I have been very happy with.

Did I mention that I am cheap.

The reason that I made that last statement is so that the rest of this will make more sense.  The Seahawks first preseason game was coming on, and my neighbors were supposed to be coming over to watch it at my house.  So now I have the “new to me” sectional, the new TV on the mantle, but no channels.  I refuse to pay for cable because that would give me an excuse to watch more TV than I already do (which is still more than I ought) which means that I had to run my antenna wire from the front of the house to the center of the house.  That involved moving the wire, drilling a hole, and discreetly hiding the wire so that it did not stick out.  That means I have to go up into the ceiling.

In order to get into the attic I have to take everything out of my pantry.

I could leave that last on its own without explanation, but I think that context is important here so I will tell you why.  The pantry has an attic access and the braces for the shelves are actually ladder rungs that have been mounted on the side of this awkward pantry/closet in my kitchen.

Once I was up in the ceiling all was going well, I drilled the requisite hole in the wall, I ran the wire through the hole, I walked the wire across the ceiling bracings and …. #$%#@@!!

I went through the ceiling, and the reason that I left the last paragraph with an implied swear word is because I don’t want to tell you what I said repeatedly while I was holding myself up so that I would not go all the way to the floor.  My son felt as though this was an appropriate time to point humorously that I should not have punched a hole in the ceiling.  He was pretty proud of his humorous observations until my wife told him quietly, yet abruptly that he needed to be quiet.  He did happen to point out before his mom-imposed silence that I probably should not use the S-word, let alone repeatedly.

Now here is the great part.  My neighbors were scheduled to come by and watch the game in less than an hour and I had a hole in my living room.  So I took off to the hardware store (I will mention which one if they will sponsor my site, but it rhythms with dome repo) to get a piece of sheet rock to cover the hole, which is the piece in the picture attached to this blog.  As I was heading to the Suburban I called my landlord, a man that is most graceful with my mistakes, to let him know what I had done.  As I was going to the store he came up to the house to see what happened, walked in, and started to laugh.  He told my wife that we should just put a picture of Jesus or an American flag over the hole.  And my wife told him that is why we don’t have him decorate our house.

My son calls it my “Square of Shame” and now many of my friends as well.  I hope to fix it soon but I have no confidence in my drywall and popcorn ceiling repair skills so I continue to drag my feet.  Thankfully a month later I attempted to destroyed the deck and it distracted people from my attempt to ventilate the living room.

 

I Am No Longer the Religious Zealot, They Are. Isn’t that Great?

So here is some historical context to set the stage for what I am about to say.  Over the last hundred years of so Christians (especially fundamentalist) have been making comments based on their zeal for their faith.  Not that they were wrong for the most part, but they did not use any sort of evidence or data, or science that the world would lend credibility to.  They would just say things like “the earth was created in six days because that is what the Bible says”  As an evangelical I like the phrase “because the Bible says so” but as someone that realizes that I live in the world I know how little weight that argument holds with, well, everyone else.  I personally like data and fact and evidence, I think that it brings great credibility to what people say.  I also know that data, facts, and evidence are tools that are brought to bear by bias people.  And there is the rub, many scientists today are operating with more religious zeal than a Bible thumping, hell fire and brimstone, turn or burn, screamin’ from the pulpit fundamentalist preacher.

Please understand that I am not going to address one single current event because I am positive that this will turn off people that have opinions one way or another.  What I want to address is science.  When I see the news I find that science is no longer being practiced by scientists, and data is being skewed or blown out of proportion so much that there is no actual way to get back to the facts.  Then they do something highly scientific, they get lots of other people to buy into what was bias from the beginning.  Consensus on bad science does not make good science.  Science today starts with a bias, goes about finding evidence to prove it, tries to convert followers, and then tries to dissuade anyone from arguing that it is not true.  Does this process sound familiar?

“Look at this boys and girls, this is how cults are made.”

This process is more of a religious process than a scientific one.  And here is the funny thing, I can use to process I learned in elementary school to do science.  Science says that I observe, develop a hypothesis, go about experimentation to see if the hypothesis is correct, and then something magical happens.  If the hypothesis is wrong I have to start over, not skew the data to prove my hypothesis.

I am just so happy right now because I can now look at scientists, politicians, and celebrities pushing the “science” of the day with the same arrogant contempt that they have looked at me with for so many years.  Not that I will, but I could.  They are now just as religious as me, maybe more so.  So go ahead those of you that believe in Jesus, feel free to loose the chains of oppression set upon you by those that have tried to prove Christianity a farce.  The very people that once made it their religion to try to disprove Christianity have now set their sights on starting a new religion.  Now that they have done that we can start treating them with disdain and they can set their sights on developing a music program.

Sir, You May Want to Sit Down for This

I took my front fork in to the bike shop yesterday in order to have some routine maintenance done on it.  By routine I mean that I have neglected to ever do any maintenance on it.  I grew up on a fully rigid Shogun “Prairie Breaker II” so when I first got suspension I guess I figured that they took care of themselves like the steel fork of my youth.

I proceeded to the shop part of the store and asked the guy up front who was replacing some tubes if they could work on the fork.

“Sure, let me go talk to one of our mechanics and I will be right with you”  He said.

As I was waiting I wandered around the store noticing all the brand new bikes in the store.  My friend Dave and I swapped bikes back in 2007, he got my road bike and I got his full suspension mountain bike.  As it turned out I hated road riding and Dave decided that mountain biking was not a venture that he should be taking on with one arm.  Dave does everything else that you can imagine with one arm, but mountain biking is not one of them anymore.  Road biking, however, was something that he could do and I was more than happy to get rid of the one that I had bought brand new and was not getting any joy out of.  That bike was an attempt on my part to adapt to living in eastern South Dakota, it didn’t take.

So needless to say (but I guess I will anyway) my bike is getting old.  The Diamondback Full-Suspension bike is I would guess almost 15 years old now.  I tried to take care of it as best I could but it is starting to nickel and dime me.  I looked at the new Cannondale full-suspension 27.5″ and 29″ wheel bikes and realized how old the components and technology on my bike were.  I lusted.  I thought about starting a “Go Fund Me” campaign to buy a new bike, then I realized that those campaigns are for noble reasons.  I just wanted a new bike.

So the guy that took my fork back into the shop brought it back out and was accompanied by the most merciful mechanic I have ever seen.  He looked at me as a doctor would if they had to give me some bad news.

“You look like the doctor that is about to tell me that my dog just died”  I said.  I had intended to say “you look like the doctor that is about to tell me that my child died” but that seemed a bit harsh for the moment.  Instead, halfway through my quip I changed direction and “dog” came out.

He looked shocked (hey, I made a pun), then he smile and said “yeah” looking at my shock “your dog just died”.

“They don’t make parts for that shock anymore, and we can’t fix it”.

So I spent the next ten minutes working with the “merciful mechanic” on finding a shock that works for an old mountain bike that has 26″ tires and V-brakes.  For those of you that do not know what that means, I am riding a dinosaur.

Thank you to Silverdale Cyclery for your impeccable bedside manner, as a pastor I know that no one likes bad news.  You gently allowed me my moment to mourn and helped me move on.

Coffee, You Lied to Me…and My Dog

I went on a long ride on Saturday, 12 miles of mostly single track in the Port Gamble Trail System.  It has been amazing to see how much development they have done over the last few years.  Not only am I riding many new trails, but the clearings are starting to turn back into woods so I get lost in there much more often than I used to.  Don’t get me wrong, I can always figure out how to get back to my vehicle, it just takes longer than normal.

My biking partner on Saturday is in much better shape than I am, and apparently is much more graceful than I am.  I say that is because I would have a hard time waiting for someone to catch up if I were the one constantly in the front.

When we finished the ride he asked me how far we went.

“How far did we go?  8 miles?”

I pulled out my phone to look at my trusty app (I still have not received a call from any riding app companies about sponsorships).

“Twelve, we went twelve miles.”  Now I could have laughed at him for undershooting his estimate by fully a third of the distance.  However the reality is that to him it probably felt like 8.  To be honest, to me it felt more like 20 so I guess twelve is a good middle ground.

That brings me back to this morning, or rather I guess it should bring us up to last night.  I came home after having pizza to realize that something had not settled well in my digestive system.  At 40 years old I should remember that pizza never settles well in my system.  My 12 year old can mainline the stuff and ask for more, but I end up saying things like “I bloated” or “I shouldn’t have eaten that”.

Now we can talk about this morning and the title of my blog.  After the events that transpired last night to get rid of the stuff that didn’t settle well I woke up feeling like junk.  I went to make my normal cup of coffee and I was resigning myself to taking a day off from riding and catching up on the news (again I am 41, this is what I do, I catch up on the news).

Then I had a cup of coffee.

After the coffee kicked in I started to think that I could go out for a ride and I owed it to Spendy, the family dog, to go for a ride.  Last week I mostly went to places that have lots of other people on the trail so I didn’t take her.  However, 6:45 am on Millie’s Trail is always dead so she gets to be my riding companion.  So I suited up and took off.  It took me about 2 minutes into the ride to realize that I did not have it today.  Then I committed one of my own cardinal sins, stopping within spitting distance from the top of the ride.

I did not have it today, so I blame the coffee for lying to me a telling me that I am fine.  Spendy was slightly disappointed because I had shortened her run, and I was disappointed because I try to never stop within range of the top of a hill.  What kind of a wuss stops right before summit-ting to contemplate  the cup of coffee that they had that morning?!?

I love to blame things that can’t defend themselves because its easier than blaming myself, and less work than victimizing those that can defend themselves (this is of course tongue in cheek, I am not a monster people).  Food would seem to be an easy target except I am not sure that it can’t defend itself.  It is constantly kicking my butt or lying to me, and I keep coming back for more.  Its almost as if it is executing some master plan to defeat me.