Time is fluid, cyclical, and relentless. It’s everywhere and unstoppable, yet we work so hard to compartmentalize it. Days, weeks, hours, minutes, we work to break time into fragments that we can cope with. Unaware and unaffected, time moves on. Perhaps there is no other way, maybe our minds are just not suited to flow with time in its ever expanding and contracting nature. We want time to move in one direction, we want ourselves to move in only one direction with it. Growth, ascension, forward movement. If time is not bringing us somewhere better we easily lose touch with our own direction. We wish to command time and bend it to our will, to believe we are capitalizing one this one element in a way that will deliver us to our goals, our hopes and dreams.
But I’ve come to believe that time has its own will. That we are as much a product of time’s fate as any other. Today’s political climate proves this to a degree, that time has its own weight, its own momentum, a pressure that sometimes binds, folds, and back up upon itself, slowing and stopping until so much weight accumulates that it bursts forth in a flood, rushing past us or carrying us along. But even this fits into the narrative of a flow of time, one that has direction, current, and inevitability.
Regardless of our view of time, and our place in it, it does seem advantageous to break it into pieces we can more easily digest, pieces of time we can hold and weigh and use to plan for our own future. A life, after all, is only one small piece of time, an amalgamation of moments we stitch together into a narrative. Simpler times have come and gone, and today’s time often seems complex, confusing, challenging and even cruel. There’s work to be done, within and without. We’re encouraged to find ourselves, to become our best selves and contribute to the solution, to the repair and replacement of flawed systems. At the same time, we’re groping for meaning, purpose, connection and love. These are the metrics we use to judge time, and our passage through it.
I’m inclined to remember the words of my friend Jon on a rainy day at Farm long ago. Construction and garden work had ground to a halt as a cold slushy precipitation accumulated on the ground. Coffee was made and grunts were exchanged, maybe a game of Catan was played. But at one point, very early in the day, Jon looks at the group and remarks “I’m going to erase this day”, and walked back to his tent to sleep away the rest of the day. Sometimes time is like that, you want to look the other way and pretend it didn’t happen. Start over, try again.
We can’t always be proud of every moment of time. My mind often drifts back to memories, pieces of time that make me cringe and squirm, ones I wish I could erase. Maybe I’ve just got a lot of these, or maybe this replay is just my way of erasing their potential from my future, of ensuring they won’t be replayed in my actions. Maybe, but much like history, time has a way of repeating itself.
The New Year. Try as we might to be oblivious, to be cynical or judgemental, I’m swept up. I want to look back. To stop in the flow for just a moment and look over my shoulder. I want to look at the wake I’ve made, the trail I followed and where I veered off on my own course. While winter can be an opportune time for this reflection, I don’t necessarily find it easy to see the discernible breaks that allow me to separate time into tangible pieces for examination. My entire life is now a winter, there are seasons, yes, but they spread across the globe, and there is no uniform piece that is better than the day. Less and less do I feel like time has any linear flow, and more often I feel like it’s some sort of puddle that is oozing out around us in every direction. Sometimes we are cool and the liquid is stagnant and the flow away from us is slow. Other times it seems the puddle is spreading quickly in every direction away from us, and even as we rush to collect it it’s spreading thin behind us. Our growth in this time is measured less by its flow and more by its texture and crystallization. Time is a dripping leak, are we collecting it or letting it wash away. What is it building?
2017 is over, but I have trouble looking back and pulling it away as a piece of time that is no longer a part of me. It’s tacky, fluid consistency sticks to my fingers, there’s no getting rid of this.
The last few years have brought a great deal of change and personal growth. Looking back I feel like I used to have so much more intention for my life, but that this intent was often misguided or clouded, like I was trying so hard to push time and myself in some direction, but that it was just oozing through my fingers and running past me. I was always looking ahead and living in another moment, one that might not ever exist. As a result I missed some of the most important things that were right in front of me. During this time I was often struggling, fighting, against time, against myself, and inevitably it all came down around me, like all my pushing and holding up time lead it to grow into a giant bubble that just took one finger to pop, and I was left soaked with the reality of who I was and all that I had been fighting.
It was cathartic in many ways and lead to a great deal of change in a short amount of time, or at least rapid changes in perception, behavior and attitude. These shifts slowly seeped into my actions and choices and over the last two years have pushed my life onto a much different course than it was before.
When the year started out I found myself in a place of contentment I had not previously experienced, at least not since I was a child. This is one of the themes that has developed with these changes in perception. Contentment, acceptance, understanding. Peace and composure, humor, levity. I was happy, doing what I loved, surrounded by a community I knew and was comfortable with. If anything was drawing away or overshadowing this contentment it was the guilt, shame, and loss that has continued to haunt me since destroying my relationship and hurting the woman I loved. I feel this shadow often but have found that it is less of a cause for depression than a gentle reminder for the importance of kindness and happiness. I’m not really sure how this has come about, but I continue to be grateful for this awareness despite the pain that continues to come with the loss of someone I loved and cared deeply about.
This contentment may have been the undercurrent of the year, but the rock that was dropped into the river was Adam’s death. I was celebrating my 30th birthday when I learned about Adam’s passing, and while the shock was strong the sadness was crippling. Few of us could claim surprise, which only added to our guilt and aguish. How close I had grown with Adam over the years. These last few seasons especially, sharing the experience of losing a relationship that defined us. I was gutted. There is so much more to say but the words amount to so little.
Acceptance, understanding, deep, deep sadness. Events like this have a shock, an initial sting that can floor you, even send you flying across the room on your ass. But you get up quickly, look around and brush yourself off. You find your friends and embrace, reminding yourselves what you still have: each other. But you fail to notice that everything has changed. The equation is different, a variable removed. This reality goes unnoticed for some time, until you realize how it’s quietly effected your life. It was in this way that Adam’s suicide pushed me. He plunged into his own depths, never to be seen or heard again, and we continue to be effected by the ripples.
Suicide is like that I guess. While we’re left to piece together the reasons, the mistakes, the meaning, ultimately the choice was his. Flawed maybe, but deeply personal and ultimately never understood. Health, clarity, pain, all of the variables we think we know were weighed by Adam can never be known by us, yet we’re the ones left groping for meaning, left to work out how his life, his loss, and his actions will effect our future.
The weeks following Adam’s passing were powerful. Alta reeled, we shook and gasped, and then like the snow, we left. The next few weeks with JB were like soul food. Slow, open, smiling. I am so thankful for his energy and his positivity. Relentless as it may be at times, I look back at how I sometimes used to regard his enthusiasm with contempt, angry at his inability to be serious. Serious about what? Don’t sweat the small stuff, it’s all small stuff.
I spent the summer in New Zealand again. I thought of Adam so often it was sometimes disruptive, yet the influence of his ideals, his character, and his passing ultimately suffused into my psyche in a way I can only regard as positive. I miss Adam greatly, and have been effected deeply by his vision, his outlook, and his choice to leave us. New Zealand felt almost as comfortable as Alta. Like home. Easy, fun, challenging, engaging. I was able to cultivate space and time for myself while engaging with friends on a level that was nourishing. The raw and beautiful landscape is humbling, inspiring, and replenishing.
Something has been cooking, and occasionally, I’ve been getting whiffs. I don’t know how long my departure from Alta has been brewing, probably for as long as I’ve been there. Probably since discovering that bastion of happiness and freedom have I wondered where else could such a life be found. Is it only in tiny nooks and crannies, hidden corners and dead end canyons? Or is it a place we cultivate within? Ultimately these questions pushed harder and harder, and as my experience in the snow world grew deeper I was encouraged to try and answer them.
There is no denying that Adam’s suicide played a large role in my choice to leave Alta, to take a new job in Washington. Our conversations, our questions lingered in my mind. What else is there? I had spent a dozen winters in Alta, Adam had lived there his whole life. We began so many days together, building explosives, standing on a cold platform squinting into the storm, looking listening, is there a result? What else is out there? Every day we shared a love of that place, and then questioned if it was holding us hostage.
Ultimately I decided it was time to find out. And as fate would have it I took a job that Adam passed up just the year before.
Working for WSDOT has been a slap in my face, and despite the shock and discomfort it has been exactly what I needed, maybe even what I wanted. The transition from New Zealand to Washington via Bali and Utah was one of the most disorienting and challenging times in recent memory. It’s been hard. I’m alone. I don’t say this with a negative connotation anymore, just a statement of fact. I am very much alone here, starkly able to face my decisions, my life, and it’s reality.
Often I wonder what others might do in my place, and while this is a mostly pointless meditation it is somewhat self-serving, as I believe that it is a very rare thing to thrust ourselves out into the unknown world anymore. We are taught to find our niche, make our groove, and dig in. Leaving this comfort is scary, painful, and challenging, is there a point? Maybe not, or maybe the truth is that there is no greater path to self discovery and growth.
I’m afraid. Scared that I’ve made a mistake, that what I’ve left behind is gone. Confused. Unsure of myself and unable to answer questions regarding my values. How important to me is exploration, adventure, and growth, how important is friendship, love, community? Somehow in the midst of this cloud I start every day with intent, discipline. I wake up early and breathe, I stretch my hips and find my center, I’m following through.
Is that a piece of time? That’s how I finished the year, and how I’m beginning the new one. It’s where I find myself now. My reflection is quivering, yet clarifying. I continue to come to terms with the reality of my decisions and embrace discovery. I’m feeling lost like I haven’t in years, searching in the darkness of loneliness for scraps of fabric that I can weave back together into confidence and direction. I’m learning to fly by jumping from the cliff. Falling, flailing, reaching out for the help of family and friends that are all too far away, working to find my direction so I might hit the ground running.
Thankful for life. I hope your year starts with just the right amount of uncertainty, just the right amount of direction and encouragement. Give it your all, let it be. Live with intent, don’t worry. Every year, like every day, has it’s own will, one borne in part from the one before it. Make of it what you will, but don’t be discouraged when it makes something for itself. Time has a way of ripening its own fruit. Delicious.