Everyone of us man, woman and child have our ocean to cross, our Mt. Everest to climb our deepest despair to work through; a chance to fail, or a chance to succeed. This is not a once in a lifetime opportunity, we are presented with these monumental marks all through our lives, but we forget these accomplishments often as we grow because they are shadowed by new challenges.
Learning to walk as a child, most do not remember this from our own childhood and yet most will not forget that spectacular moment in a child's lives as adults or parents. It is the beginning of ocean crossings, mountain summits, and lifetime accomplishments, the cutting of our umbilical chord or an wavering unstable step in a new direction.
As I find myself in different challenging environments I am asked often "are you scared" or "were you scared" or "does the thought scare you"? I can reply strangely with confidence, "for the most part no" ... "I moved a mountain, I got off the floor".
Looking back to June 29, 2003. I promised a friend that I would share this story in writing after he asked if I ever cried. He was a fellow Ranger and was fighting with a Glioblastoma, he had not cried and was asking how I turned the corner and found acceptance. AH passed within 6 months of our sharing his first tears of acceptance, this is my gift - my promise to him. RIP, RLTW.
Three TV's were on in the house at the same time, a bad habit of a broker; CNN FN, Bloomberg and Fox Financial. The iron is making noises reminiscent of what a bull dog and dragon may sound like in a chorus; hissing, glugging, the sound of the ironing board creaking combined with the unseperable conversations of three analysts that enjoy hearing themselves talk mixed at low volume in the background.
The iron is falling, why? What kind of damage will that cause to the unflawed, perfectly manicured 115 year old maple hardwood floor beneath? It is turning slowly, like a sci-fi movie of spaceships performing aerobatics, perceptually weightless and yet it is in the clutches of gravity speeding towards the floor in a fine display of twists and turns that would make a platform diver proud. How? It has been doing this for minutes, almost hours, each second is an hour, each hour is a day, I can study each detail, every minute turn, I can see the eddies of air it is creating, I am able to watch each drop of water spill from the spout as it rotates past 60 degrees on the designated course of a full revolution. Each hick-up of water bursts forth in a tight pattern, then breaks into hundreds and then thousands of smaller drops again all seemingly weightless. Now that is going to make a mess... and yet further pondering of what the shotgun pattern of water will look like on the floor. Will any drops hit the scar, that will be produced someday when gravity decides to win and slam the iron into the floor? No, the water looks like it will all fall well outside of what someday will be the impact area.
How, how does this happen? How to view water sideways? The magic, the beauty; this is what movies are made of. Is a movie being watched? No, the news is on. What is happening in the world? Is this real? The water, the water IS perfectly drop-like shaped! Now which will move faster? the water that originally spilled or the newest droplets formed? Wow, if only physics teachers could teach this way, no wonder Hollywood is how people find answers to real questions, substitution of the truth or the discovery of the truth by taking a different view! Stand on the desk type thing! Wait, how is this possible? the water - the iron has been falling for days! Smiles all around, this is a masterpiece performance, the director must be happy, the film crew must be ecstatic of this capturing!
You will die from cancer. I am falling.
The view of the iron is not a movie, the backdrop is my living room hall, my staircase just behind me, front door to my left, open expanse to the main living room to my front, backdoor, back porch to my angled right, hall going to the 1/2 bath with a 90 degree turn to the kitchen to my right. Yup, my house and yet time has stopped.
Am I falling? Really? Falling? Cancer?
The iron completes a full revolution. I am now viewing the water from underneath, lost in thought I am aghast at the ability to stop all process and study physics. A smile knowing that at some point I will feel water spray all over me. A bigger smile, this will help wash the floor. I have been up for 36 plus hours, manic, keep moving, clean, rearrange, clean, scrub, iron, mow the lawn - who care's the neighbors will get over it everyone has a drunk night of mowing the lawn at midnight. Another smile, had to re-mow it again this morning, looked like a drunk monkey got ahold of the mower, missed big chunks. I will have to talk to the monkey handler, drunk lawn mowing is not good. Neighbors will be appreciative that I talked to the monkey handler. Chim Chim, that was the monkey's name, the cymbal clanging monkey that stole my mower after getting drunk and violating my lawn and my neighbors ears while littering my lawn with beer bottles. How did a monkey drink THAT much beer? a case and a half? Did the monkey drink the 2 bottles of wine and smoke a 3 packs of cigarettes? Why was the monkey drinking wine out of a coffee mug?
I am a monkey. I am falling. I will die of cancer. I smoked. I drank wine out of a coffee mug. I littered my lawn with beer bottles in a fit of rage while hiding my screams of anger at God with a lawn mower. I am a bad monkey.
The iron is still floating and yet now I can see the iron from a different view, from below it. HA! Physics are wrong, terminal velocity is NOT the same for all objects. Wait, but wait. How far must one fall to reach terminal velocity? Surly it must be more than this short distance. You jumped from airplanes, you should know this. Look it up, use the internet, laughter someone yells through laughter, Charsky you are a dumb fucking monkey! Why bother looking it up. I will die of cancer.
Curtains close, the crowd is clapping at the demented dramatic performance of act 1. But the actors, no one has told the actors the curtains are closed. They are still in character, still playing their parts, bad monkey, dying cancer patient, iron falling, water spraying, talking heads.
Why am I a monkey? I am going to die of cancer.
The iron, it is perfect! The laughter, it has returned. I am laughing, the monkey has a voice again. The iron is perfect because if we both continue on the same path it will strike me somewhere from between my eyes to my temple. Flawless victory! The iron wins, cancer loses - the monkey will be killed by a crushing blow to the head. All I have to do is not move. I am wiling the iron to hit me in the temple, erase the bad news, the talking heads, the littered lawn, the coffee mug with wine stains the other coffee mug filled with foul stinking cigarette butts all of it will be gone in one accepting - blinding short burst of accepting pain. No suffering, no surgeries, no stress on the family no long term fear in friends faces. Over. Done. Quick.
I am going to die while watching the news. I wonder if Maria B. will miss the fact that we never had an affair, I wonder if she will ever know I died quietly watching her, crushed by an iron. She does not care about monkeys. Especially when they are too stupid to move out of the way of a floating iron.
The iron beats the water; the race is won by the heavier victor, the water surrounds and covers like a crowd gone wild. Missed me. The iron stabs into the floor in slow motion 2 inches in front of my eyes. I watch as the wood gives way in a searing smack the weight of the iron has scarred the floor for life. 115 years, it has survived Vermont winters, 3 families with multiple generations, animals and millions of footsteps and in a 3 second process of dropping an iron it is scarred for life.
So was I.
In 3 seconds I was the same as my floor.
You have cancer.
I was scared for life.
What is this, I am shaking? Can I blame it on the monkey? No monkey you dip-shit, this is the merging of your conscious and subconscious. The monkey was your inebriated state of denial. You created this imaginary cymbal clanging, peanut eating monkey because this is what you felt like. You were dancing to music you did not like, performing for your hand out of peanuts. You were a bitch. There is no monkey. Why am I shaking? You are loosing control, this is your brain on overload, this is you being told that you are not healthy, this is you being told that you have no control, this is you feeling pain of hurting others, this is the pain of your failure of your marriage, this is the pain of having an affair after your marriage ended, this is the pain of lies told, this is the pain of aloofness, this is the pain of doing whatever it took to get ahead. This is your consciousness, this is God.
GET UP!! You are an elite paratrooper, one of the strongest in the nation, in the world. You have been tested by all of the powers at be to be one of the very best, strongest mentally, physically, most resilient, most capable of making it into and out of impossible situations. GET YOUR SISSY ASS UP CHARSKY! Ignore all of that bullshit, get your ass up.
It is true. I curl into a ball holding myself. I am alone. I have a beautiful house, I have friends, but no one is close. I am an island. I am an asshole. I am sorry that I did not die when I was born a blue baby. I am sorry that I did not die when I drowned at 2. I am sorry that I did not die at 14 when I was in a coma after my motorcycle accident. I am sorry I did not die during the attempted stabbing. I am sorry I did not die when the grenade went off 3 feet away. I am sorry that I did not die when I was supposed to when my chute malfunctioned. I will allow myself to die now. It is as it should be, I have hurt other, caused pain and I deserve to die.
I cry. I laid on the floor and watched the sun climb higher. It was early in the morning when I fell on the floor. How many tears can the human body produce? Wow? If I become completely dehydrated will I still be able to produce tears? I am completely dehydrated, I drank over a case of beer, two bottles of wine and wiped out the remaining alcohol left from all of the cooking parties I have had. That should mean I am dehydrated. Wait you drank all of that in the span of a night, maybe you are dead and this is just the last seconds of your mind playing tricks, grasping at life?
STOP IT!! FUCKING STOP IT!
I have cancer.
I cry harder. How is it possible to cry this much? I have everything, why do I feel this pain to a depth that is confusing? Is that my soul that hurts? I HAVE EVERYTHING!
I have nothing. I failed at my marriage. I am alone.
The sun has long set, the water on the floor remaining from the iron has merged with the river of tears that I have created a small lake with. Lake Eric, the only salt water lake in Vermont. When archeologists excavate Rutland the Town Of in millions of years they will find saline deposits of a small lake and have to come up with new theories of why it existed at the base of what was once known as Killington Mountain.
It is cold, I am now shivering from exhaustion, lack of sleep, crying for something like 15 hours and yet I can not move. I have studied physics, contemplated the world, my existence and the good and bad scars I have created and what will remain and how will this effect the world. Now, I wonder if I will just be happy to lie on the floor and contemplate, starve myself of food and become complete in thoughts and just wither. Pass out from dehydration, slip into a coma from starvation and die. Deny cancer the chance to take me slowly, killing one body part after another. Prevent the suffering that comes with this wonderful form of slow death.
What a beautiful sunrise. I missed a spot in my manic cleaning. There is a streak on the window. Rise sun, rise. Another inch, so I do not see the streak, then stop. Stop your path across the sky, stay right there, facilitate my dehydration. Amplify yourself through the glass and cook me like an ant under a magnifying glass.
Ant, why did I just think of an ant? I have thought of all of the lies, the hurt, the pain, friends never mourned, spoiled relationships... why and ant? Why an ant in the middle of my feeling sorry for myself? Why now?
"It is not the middle. It is the begging." is the voice I hear in my head.
Ant. Ant. Ant... what do I know about ants? How is this the begging? Why and ant? A single tear squeezes from my eye, follows the saline trail like an ant following the scent of other ants and deposits itself in Lake Eric, the VT salt lake. This last drop of expectation is it. The weight of a lifetime is carried in this simple saline bubble. The lake over runs and causes a flood. But this has happened before I see. For as far as I can see I have soaked the floor with tears. And yet this one drop, the magic drop carrying all of the hopes and questions of a crucial moment broke some small dam and the lake begins to drain somewhere. I wonder where it is draining and then it happened.
I saw it.
On the small river of tears a solid piece of dirt floated. A tear that followed a path like an ant broke the damn. An ant could carry that piece of debris. It would be about 1/8th-1/3 the ants weight. Ants can carry crazy large amounts of weight and move mountains. Water can carry debris that was once mountains and create valleys. Water, ant - water, ant; move mountains. I am missing something.
The speck of dirt was once a piece of a mountain, A piece of a mountain can become a valley or another land form and yet an ant can carry that piece and water can move tons...
Clarity - lesson learned.
If an ant can move Mount Everest; I can beat cancer.
So, when asked if the thought of any of my adventures scare me, I can say "not really." "I was able to get off the floor". I like to see the quizzical look this produces, especially those do not know me well enough to expect an odd answer yet.
A note to add: I no longer smoke, nor have I mowed my lawn or anyone else's at midnight since that fateful night. I found a new reason to live and cherish every moment. Chim Chim is still a bad monkey and I no longer have a TV. I smile a lot more, give more hugs, laugh from my belly and am appreciative of seconds. In short I love, therefor I am.
Everyday I find new challenges, sometimes the challenge is not succumbing to my fears, yes they do exist. Sometimes it is trying to stay focused on growth, or not looking back to much and asking "why" and letting the answers to life's questions present themselves when the time is right. But no matter what the situation is, may it be gail force winds in a storm or a perplexing question that stumps me. I know I have already won, I got off the floor. I took a step and then an another towards a new life. I became an ant, a lake, a river and I became a man. One capable of learning from my past, understanding that I do not have control over everything, and that we will always have moments that look impossible.
I will die.
I may die from cancer, I am smiling when I say I might not. I could die from an iron, dehydration, exposure, or simply from whatever it will be when I am ready. I have already won, I am now just starting my victory lap.
I moved a piece of Everest.