Wednesday, April 25, 2012

In Search of a plan...

--by Mike Adams


Continued from Something Had to Change - click here to read the first part of this story

My sleep that night, was restless. I awoke late the next morning, but felt neither refreshed, nor recovered from the previous night's binge. I stumbled to the bathroom and for perhaps the first time in working memory, I looked, not at my reflection, but at my true self. I didn’t like it either. What I saw, was a barely recognizable young man bloodshot and drooping, he wore a dour expression, which communicated defeat. I’ve heard that eyes are the window to the soul and if this is true, his eyes revealed a beaten old man whose exuberance for life, if ever he had any, had long since dissipated. He stood there, staring at me, terrorizing me. He was a withered and decomposing leaf, tormenting and taunting me to care, daring me to try and change. My head jerked away, I had to avoid prolonged exposure to the emptiness that had invaded me.

I turned quickly grabbed hold of the shower lever and twisted, setting free a stream of water, which would soon fill the room with steam and provide me with reprieve from the haunting visage in the mirror.

For as long as I can remember, showers have had an almost magical restorative quality. They provide relief to sore muscles, vitality to the sleepy, they can wash away the momentary horror of an uninvited personal confrontation. On this morning, the mixture of hot water, steam and soap did not fail me. I stepped from the shower with a restored sense of acceptance and when I looked in the mirror, the reflection was that of a young man trying to get clean for the day...the dreadful spectre of futility had left and I hoped he would stay gone.

The day proceeded as any other. I rummaged the house for sustenance and failing to find breakfast, I walked to the bagel shop. There I drank coffee and ate bread. I sat for hours and watched the patrons come and go. I examined each visitor and considered what tasks their busy lives had in store for them. I envied their sense of purpose and their apparent fulfillment in life.

Two years earlier, I had designed my life to include this free time. I had never intended to sit isolated and depressed each day, rather I had felt it important that I find time to contemplate matters of import. I fancied myself a philosopher, a revolutionary thinker and, at the time,  I had needed to free myself from the constraints of “normal living” so I could focus on “my work”. As it turns out, I was to spend hours in solitude, even when surrounded by friends. “My work” somehow included alienating those who were closest to me and envying virtually everyone I saw.

It didn’t start this way. For a few months, I happily thought about topics of justice and human rights. I considered the minutea of racial inequality and contemplated how poverty entombed our class divide. My intent had been to write a credo, to create a message that could change the world. Within months, my musings increasingly shifted toward the mass of unfulfilled aspirations that a younger version of myself had dreamed. I doubted my ability to complete anything and my focus turned increasingly inward.

So though I had been a vibrant and inspired nineteen year old, two years later, I had thoroughly fermented. My thoughts had shifted from concerns about my fellow humans, to considerations of how I might keep my head above water and booze in my stomach.

The intervening two years, had seen me switch jobs three times, hitchhike to Colorado, try to start a new life there and then quickly return to my old life, my old habits and my old job. The only time I felt at ease, was when I rode my motorcycle through the mountains at dawn or on a moonlit night alongside the Rio Grande.

So there I sat, eating a bagel, when suddenly, I recalled the wrenching anxiety that had gripped me the night before. I remembered with mild horror, the revelation that I was deeply flawed and that something had to change. My words came back to me now, “tomorrow I’ll have to think about what to do next...I’m too sleepy and way too drunk right now!”

So I refilled my coffee cup and tried to recount what had happened. I needed to arrive at an informed decision about how to proceed. I thought for several minutes and then decided I ought to ride East to the summit of Sandia Peak, where my mind might be cleared. I finished my coffee, walked out into the late morning sun, mounted my bike and headed East.

As I rode out of Albuquerque, my mind kept focusing on the phrase, “there is something seriously wrong with me and it has to change if I’m going to survive”. This made me panic and I tried to vanquish the idea with all my will, but it kept crashing through my barriers and invading my conscious thought, insistent and intense, much like an early morning visit from the police.

Periodically, I would become overwhelmed with the high desert beauty, but my reverence was always interrupted with the same invasive question. I rode to the top of Sandia Peak and looked out over Albuquerque. I imagined Buggs Bunny taking a left and began to wonder where I should have gone left.

The summit at Sandia is stunning. You can see the whole of Albuquerque from there and you find yourself enveloped with a surprising number of colors, contrasts and hues. One might think of the desert as monotone, but here in the Southwest, it's as if an artist had skipped and danced about the rocks creating scenery that would stir long forgotten emotions, draw them from deep within our unconscious psyche and move us to tears...that’s just the way it is!


...A person can get lost in rapt adoration of the natural beauty and on the peak, the wind blows making you feel it’s possible to spread your arms and fly. To soar with a falcon above the frail existence of humans below—secure in the knowledge that we are insignificant. It is a humbling experience. It strips away pretense and self importance, so Sandia is where I went to think about life’s important decisions. 

I stood there and gazed out over the city. I saw the volcanoes to the west. They protruded from the earth just past the city basin, where my home sat empty. I looked beyond...into the desert and ravenously devoured the experience. I stood there, transfixed, waiting for a clap of inspiration.

Continued: Sandia Peak, a Plan is Born

17 comments:

  1. All too often we look in the mirror and don't truly see ourselves - for good or for ill.

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    1. Very true Beverly...there have been a few times since that day twenty years ago, when I've looked in the mirror and everything seemed different, as if I were greeting a stranger, who somehow I had known for years, while never recognizing them as authentic.

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    1. Major shift in the works...huge challenges and a long road to redemption. But it does come. I promise!

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  3. The Sandia Peak is truly amazing. I am in Santa Fe several times a year. I am a beach person myself because I live on a coast, but I can see the peak a place of refuse. In each of us there is a defining moment (day, month or year), where we make peace with our demons and take up the pen and redefine who we were and might become.

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    1. This is so true Brenda! I've had numerous moments in the past twenty years, where I was confronted with a decision whose choice was a commitment. This portion of the story is leading up to one of those.

      I too love the beach! I spent sixteen years in Northern Cal. I lived in San Francisco, Sausalito, Stinson Beach, Corte Madera, San Rafael, Novato, Petaluma, Rhonert Park and Camp Meeker (West Sonoma County). Some of my favorite memories are from the top of Mt. Tamalpais...watching sunset over the ocean.

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  4. I love your honesty and your willingness to share your journey--and not just the pretty parts. In all the world, the thing I find most fascinating is the travels and growth of the human spirit, so to be invited to such a personal and revealing series of posts is both a treat and an honor.

    I'll be back for more.

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    1. Thanks so much for your encouraging and heart warming words! They are very much appreciated!

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  5. looking back, youth seems bliiss. It's ofen not.

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    1. That is so true...I fall prey to romanticizing this era of my life and when I stopped to think about it carefully, I realized that it was a very difficult period and I was a very troubled person. Thanks for stopping by the read, Sandra!

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    1. OK Megan...I'll get some more in a bit...it takes a while to germinate though :-)I have to remember and re-write quite a bit.
      thanks for the encouragement! I really appreciate it! A Lot.

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  7. I'm waiting with bated breath for the next installment.

    I think I may need a good portion of this message right about now. Thank you for writing it.

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    1. I had not expected to get this much positive feedback for autobiographical info. Thank you very much for your encouragement!

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  8. Well said about showers! They are panacea for everything!

    I've been in the same place a few times about a few things.

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    1. Thanks Gwen! This is a challenging series of posts. I haven't thought about these events in so long. I've often sort of romanticized this period of my life, based on some "peak" experiences, but much of my life was filled with self doubt, and aimless wandering. Thanks for reading and for commenting!

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