Reliving & Reminiscing

I recently recognized one of my biggest paradoxes as a male.

For years as a young man I pushed my limits in terms of safety; doing dangerous things allowed me to figure out who I was and what I was capable of. These activities defined my sense of self concept. Then as a new parent I felt an overpowering urge to be safe and to make sure that I was on the scene for my son for the long haul. Since that time I have struggled and this has seemingly been reflected in a reduction in creativity and productivity. Now I have to tell you that I love being a parent, it is the single most adventurous and stimulating activity I have ever encountered and I throw myself into it wholeheartedly. I have though struggled as I do not always feel I am being all I know I can be. This is dangerous terrain; while I am thinking about what was, I am not focusing on what is.

The major difference between reminiscing and reliving became very apparent a few weeks ago. Kimberly made it possible for me to take a few days off and go and do something. I elected to take off into the mountains and camp in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. It has been many years since I have taken a trip just for me and by myself. I normally find that it becomes a walking meditation and I start by being very focused on the present and as I experience this, I can then focus on a single event or issue and give it my total attention. Walking alone is one of the best tools I know for solving any issue. On my way to the mountains I stopped in a climbing store in Boulder to pick up some tent pegs. Sat on a table were a number of Welsh and Scottish climbing guides and I was quickly sucked into reading them and thinking about trips and routes from my youth. This is reminiscing, contemplating what was and while I can harness this energy, if there is good in the situation it is a by-product.

Later on that day I was wading through knee deep snow, I was working exceptionally hard for my relatively sedentary body and I was renegotiating my plans with myself. I had initially intended on a backpacking circuit that took me up one valley along a ridge and down into another, knowing that I was going to have to get up really early to pick Cai up from school at lunch time on the third day. I was impressed with my residual fitness and yet I realized that if I wanted to make it in time for Cai, I also did not want to cart a backpack while flailing through deep snow. Then there came a flash of insight into what I am. While I do not do it so much these days, I like to be on high ground looking down and gaining the perspective this affords. In that moment I decided to climb a peak the next day; one I could see from my campsite, and then walk part way out along the route I came in and thus take advantage of my ready created trail.

So the decision was sparked by “reminiscence” however the true good of the situation came out of the action of “reliving” my past. The following day as my body was stretched with the effort of altitude, gaining height and floundering in the snow it occurred to me that this is my essence. As I constantly had to talk myself into going further – there was no one there to do this for me – I saw how I live resilience and determination. This in turn serves as a metaphor that I can use as a reminder of who I am.

What do you reminisce about? How do you relive your youth in a productive way?

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Of Sons and Fathers

It has been a long time since I last wrote here and a lot has happened, the most significant being the death of my father. Now I feel the need to state up front that I did not really know him that well. He was born into an Edwardian English paradigm, one where fathers distanced themselves from their progeny. Fathers worked and children were seen and not heard; think George Banks in early scenes of Mary Poppins. The last few months have consequently involved lots of soul searching and the potential for a great deal of sadness and regret; I am though feeling far more positive as this chapter in my life ends. Through talking with people about him and revisiting memories that have long been hidden beneath more current thought, I have come to a better understanding of why we did not get to know each other. More importantly, for the first time in decades I have found a way to forgive him and this forgiveness spawns learning that I am very glad to engage.

When I think of my teens and twenties, I recognize that I was driven. This drive led to some of my most memorable moments; so much so it provided a lot of the stories from which I still teach. The drive came from a desire to fill a void. I was looking for my tribe. I was searching for adventure, excitement and a feeling of knowing what I was truly capable of. It drew me into the company of a bunch of lost boys, a number of surrogate parents and some of the most incredible people I have had the privilege to call friends. It also took me to many exquisitely beautiful places, allowed me to truly test my metal and gave me the opportunity to bear witness to some of the most incredible scenes of bravery and human spirit. The life of climbing and mountains has been a corner stone in my existence and will be a part of me I will always hold dear.

Why am I telling you this? Well my thoughts have been straying of late. I found my niche because of something that was lacking in my life and ultimately I cannot help but ask the question, “do I need to deprive my child to allow him to find himself?” Just yesterday Cai asked me, “why do you always tell me that you love me?” He is ‘taxingly’ insightful for a six year old. Ultimately, I know my father loved me, as I told Cai though, he just never informed me of this fact and did not know how to show it. What I have come to realize is that talent and accomplishment are not a reflection of a healthy or unhealthy home life. This gives me hope because I know that as I watch Cai’s talents and personality develop he will find himself with or without me.

(At this point I encourage you to look at some video of the sons of two friends of mine both of whom have doting fathers. is a myspace of an amazing talent in folk music and is a showreel of incredible Parkour.)

The take home point for me is it is ok to show that I value Cai, it is alright to tell him I love him and take interest in what he does, it is important for me that he knows he belongs and feels I care. The hard part will be in watching and hearing the crazy and dangerous stuff that allows him to learn who he truly is.

If the foundation of any relationship is showing people that you care, how do you do it?

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