Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Angel & the Devil
Today is Tuesday June 9th. 2009.
My wife is upstairs watching the television, and I’m down stairs in my war room listening to J.S. Bach’s “Siciliano from Violin Sonata 1", and eating a bowl of baked beans and a piece of chicken sausage for dinner. The broccoli burned while we were arguing about our current financial situation, so needless to say dinner was a little sparse tonight. Now the house smells of blackened broccoli. Yummy! Ah the glamorous lifestyle of the un-rich & un-famous suits me doesn’t it? The light coming from behind me is dim. The light bulb doesn’t really cast much light across the room but I’m used to it now. Actually I’m sort of a vamp, and I’m more comfortable typing in a dark room with just the computer screen for light. It keeps me focused on what needs to be done. In the end I suppose it’s good having everything off but the computer, being as it saves us a little money in these positively evil economic times.
Earlier today I called in my Unemployment Insurance Claim. For as much as I completely appreciate a national system which has such a fall back position built into it for it’s people, I’ve never been a fan of being a recipient of it’s benefits. I’d much rather be working. My brother Dan and I are just starting to put an engineering and architecture firm of our own together, but paying jobs are still just beyond the horizon. The ship has it’s sails up, and we’re just trying to catch enough wind to blow us toward the rising sun and better days. As my team mate Bill Glover says, “From adversity, prosperity is born.” I believe it.
I’ve been out of work since December along with so many other Americans. I remember it was just about a week after a little office birthday celebration for me. There were no hard feelings though, in being let go. Drastic measures were needed to keep the firm afloat at a time like this, and we all knew our luck could run out on any given Friday if the economy didn’t improve.
Lucky for my wife and I that at least one person in the family is bringing in a paycheck to help us get by. Economic recessions like this don’t come around very often. In the past, the architecture firms I’ve worked for have been specialized in the design of high-end homes, and the clients which normally make up this demographic could bat their lashes at hard times. You’ve got to admire them though. Their houses are absolutely beautiful, and it’s easy to see why from our perspective, they work really hard for these luxuries. In times of economic uncertainty it seemed as though they had built up an insulation to loss. Every other Joe in the country might be feeling the squeeze imposed by the times, but I always felt as if they were never quite caught up in that grip. One day if would be nice to feel a certain sense of economic security of our own. Our clients had always seemed to steam roll right over the bumps in the road which threw the rest of us for a loop or into a tail spin. Essentially what I mean to say is that in the past, even in bad times, if I was designing high-end homes in a well known and respected architecture firm, then I was always pretty secure in at least maintaining a job, but this recession was different. Everyone top to bottom, rich and poor seemed to have stopped on a dime, then were all forced to jump on it to see who would get it first.
Things are hard now, and I’d have to say that on the inside I feel a bit torn. Questions, feelings, uncertainties, they’re all different bends, and turns on this roller coaster of life.
I’m only human, and I don’t always know the “best” thing to do in times like these. Although, in the spirit of that humanity I do usually have a gut feeling about what is the “right” thing to do from a much larger perspective. My eyes were always better at seeing issues from a global perspective. But more often than not, what I feel is the “right” thing to do clashes dramatically with (just about) all the friends and family looking in at my situation. Although they all have different opinions about my life, their technique in dealing with me seems pretty consistent. They tend to have more of a slash, burn, or break his will until he can’t carry on attitude toward my charity passions. Doing something good is only good if it has no risk involved. Many have no problem in letting me know how selfish I am, and that the longer I persist in my efforts to raise awareness through my 10 Mountains - 10 Years project, the farther I would slide from favor in their eyes.
So be it. Let me slide.
Yes, I know it’s sort of sad. You’d think that the ones closest to me, who could see first hand the devastation of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease would be my strongest supporters, but most are not. Maybe they’re too close to me as the subject. Maybe I’m too much like them to make a difference. Maybe they don’t feel they could make an impression on the world, so why would I be able to do it. Maybe they’re honestly trying to save me from myself, or maybe they’re just trying to stop me from do anything they don’t have the confidence in doing themselves? I don’t’ have the answers, I can only guess.
So I reflect on the situation my wife and I are in, and together (though in parallel) we think about how we can cut down on spending so that we can ride this recession out to better days. It could be said that my wife’s philosophy is more in league with my family and friends when it comes to supporting my causes and passions. So in the process of wondering how we could begin cutting expenses, my wheels might be spinning but she’s already at the finish line holding a “Wanted Dead or Alive” poster with a Double-X and a Heart on it.
But in all seriousness, how can I blame her? I’m haven’t had a job or a real income other than unemployment checks for 6 months.
I smell the smoke, and I know the fire is in there somewhere, but my guess is it’s not just the broccoli burning in the kitchen. I know what she’s thinking. The 10 Mountains - 10 Years (A Quest for the Cure) project has got to go. The world can take care of it’s own problems for a while. I should just sit tight, take care of my own, and be content to make a simple small donation to the Alzheimer’s Association and the Michael J. Fox Foundation this year. In everyone’s mind but my own I should be raising the white flag of surrender, handing over my sword and calling it an end to my once great charity epic.
One of the things which I think is so special about our expeditions is the same thing which is making it so hard on us now. All our climbs are run out of our own pockets at our own expense. It’s quite a lesson for us all to know that nothing good in life comes for free, and this is a perfect example of it. When a person wants to join “the Regulars” it’s done with the understanding that they need to pay their own way for everything, and never to expect help or hand outs from anyone to accomplish the goals of the team. We all pay our own way so that 100% of all donations coming in from contributors can go directly to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease research. The charities call for our most sincere and altruistic efforts and that’s exactly what they get. Being one of “the Regulars” is a pretty big sacrifice to ask of people during prosperous times, but in a recession it’s a monumental sacrifice, and I extend my gratitude to all my team mates for standing along side me to try their best no matter how hard it gets.
So now imagine this. I know it’s a little Animal House-esque, but the visual helps.
I turn to the left and the devil on one shoulder says, “Just quit it, and think about yourself. Stay home. Relax. Watch TV. Sip some wine. Smell the roses. Go have a beer and grow yourself a nice gut and don’t let these things bother you. You’re not a martyr. Get your head on straight and be serious for a change. You’re no one special. You’re just a regular guy. No one would care about you if you were the one with Alzheimer’s Disease or Parkinson’s Disease.”
I stop to think, maybe this little devil’s right. Maybe no one would give a damn about me if I was the one with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s Disease. Maybe someday I am destined to become a shell of what I am now and not a soul would care.
Then I turn to the right and the angel on the other shoulder says: “How could you ever quit this project??? No matter how hard it is, you don’t quit anything...ever! You might be a Simone, but never quitting runs back in your Chadwick bloodline for more than a 1,400 years. Get your game face on you’ve got things to do rough boy.”
“Remember when you were six years old and you wanted to become a musician, then low and behold one day you grew up to hear your own music on the radio? You wanted it and you did it.”
“Remember when you were in kindergarten and loved to collect stones and wanted to become a geologist, and then you went to work for the US Geological Survey. You wanted it and you did it.”
“Remember when you were an elementary school student and you wanted to become an architect? Then, you went on to college and graduated with a degree in architecture. Well, ...it seems to me” the angel whispered, “although your curse may be that all things worthy of pursuit may feel as though they take you a thousand years to accomplish, you have done everything you said you would do...granted you were passionate to do them.”
“Which brings me to my final point”, said this little angel.
“Remember when you were young, and anything is possible? Well I shouldn’t have to remind you that the secret to life is that everything has always been possible. Sometimes people stand in your way, and other times you stand in your own way, but you always get around these obstacles. We both know that you’ll never give up on this 10 mountain epic until you’re done, until you’re dead or until the cures have been found. This is what you were born to do.”
It all brings me back to now. Sitting in a dark room with the smell of burnt broccoli in the air, with no money, no job, and running out of options on how to keep this charity project alive.
Today, tomorrow, this year, the next 7 years. How do I navigate through an ocean of time which stands as still as the Sargasso Sea? I suppose at least part of the answer is in the lessons a climber would learn in the over world.
No one will ever carry you up a mountain.
Those without the will, will never find the way.
Patience is not only a virtue it’s a necessity.
Keep moving and don’t stop.
Never look at the whole mountain, it may overwhelm and turn you to stone.
And lastly, all mountains real or metaphorical, great or small, simple or complex can only be climbed one way. One step at a time.
The lessons learned on the mountains will guide me without a doubt. I need to roll with the punches when they land on me. I need to stay waxed, so that the off color comments of those around me who don’t support my efforts will roll off like water. I need to be focused and true to my cause, and I can never give up.
The financial times are hard and although we may not share the same ideas for what is the right way or best way to get through this, together with my wife I’m sure we’ll find a way.
As for support from most of my family and friends, I can always hope for it. But until that ship comes in I’ll count on motivating myself.
People may ask, will I give up on the 10 Mountains - 10 Years (A Quest for the Cure) project?
It’s no doubt, that the answer to this always in constant battle between my heart and my mind, but the last time I looked the flag of “the Regulars” had a heart on it. There was a time before I was born when my very existence could have been in question, but in my mothers mind, even though I still had not taken my first breath and I had no name to speak of, there was never any doubt that she would “never” give up on me. Why would I give up on her?
So the people may ask again, and again, and again, will I give up on this epic?
I may be broke, and I may be hanging by my last thread, but I’m not done, there is still no cure, and I’m still breathing.