My Amazon author page
Growing up, our family moved frequently because our Dad was a Naval Aviator. I continued to travel extensively as an adult until the last fifteen years when the wear and tear of jumping on airplanes finally got to me. Now I enjoy the rewards of staying in one place, near the ocean, Paia, Maui.
But during the early 70s, while I had a home in Kula, upcountry on the slope of Haleakala, I traveled often to Indonesia in search of perfect waves. During those years if you picked one word to describe me it might be “surfer” as in the old sense of the word that included all the lack of responsibility that categorized many surfers before the age of professional surfing. As such I was probably a good candidate for the various forms of ‘self-actualization’ groups and gurus of that time, like EST. But I always viewed them as fancy mainland hucksters selling psychological snake oil. What worked for me was high-grade Maui marijuana.
In the late 70s, even with that cynical point of view, I grudgingly submitted to Gestalt therapy to make a weak stab at repairing a rapidly sinking marriage. The experience was confusing for me and in the back of my mind always seemed centered towards extending the expensive sessions into the future. The marriage was going under and it was time to abandon ship. Simple.
But one request the therapists asked still sticks in my mind to this day. Tell us your deepest darkest secret. No way in hell was I going to tell anyone anything close to that. Exposing myself on that level just seemed absurd when I couldn’t even make sense of it myself. Trusting that they could was just too big a leap. Any time I had previously cracked the door to that dark closet, I couldn’t even see all that was there. Dark stuff needed to be kept in the closet where it belonged. So I blundered along through life, distracted by high adrenaline sports and recreational pot obliteration.
The marriage did give me two strong sons and being a father saved me in no small degree from a complete marijuana lobotomy. But when my sons would ask me about my family and events from my past, I never felt adequate enough to explain to them or even myself, what it all meant. So whenever they asked, I changed the subject.
Once the kids left home and I grew accustomed to the empty nest, little things would bubble up that made me edgy. I began to realize that smoking weed had really been a coping mechanism for something I didn’t want to face. So while I stopped smoking, I continued to pour as much energy as I could into adrenaline pumping sports, which worked to some degree but still left me troubled.
After a surf trip with my sons in 2002, I began to write down a massive collection of memorable events. One would spawn another and soon my new pot free mind was digging up stuff I never imagined I would remember. It was exciting to use my mind but what did it all mean?
And if I were to write a book, what was it that I wanted to relate? It came to me with a painful event in 2007. My two sons were living in Indonesia and had families. I was a grandfather and an empty-nester with a new favorite activity to keep my mind and body healthy. During that year at the age of 57, downwind paddleboarding removed me from all the contention of surfing in crowded line-ups while still giving me the in-the-moment focus I loved so much. I felt like I had it together. Life was good.
Splash. I was in the water. What happened? There was no apparent reason for me to fall. Whenever I had fallen, I’d always known why. Scrambling to my feet I immediately fell again. It was strange. Suddenly I felt sick. Standing again ended with the same result. Was it the flu?
I grabbed the board, crawled up on my knees and curled into a fetal position for a moment to take stock. I couldn’t stand up. Deal with it. I decided to paddle on my knees. That would get me to my truck and home to bed.
Paddling on my knees had my head spinning. Each heartbeat felt like those staccato movie moments where the intention is to disorient the audience. The Maui shoreline was a half mile inside. Different landmarks on the island tipped askew with each pulse. I was disoriented. God I felt so sick. Paddling in any position was too much effort. I stopped and tried to concentrate only on staying on top of the board. The wind was blowing and the board was moving. I stuck my paddle up into the air to act as a sail. My speed was good enough. I would make it if I could just stay on top of my board.
A windsurfer sailed by me and yelled he thought I was supposed to stand up on the thing. I tried to call to him for help but when I opened my mouth nothing came out, like a reoccurring nightmare I had experienced as a kid. Staying on top of the board was as much as I could handle.
My board had a rudder and I pushed it to angle towards shore.
I made it to the beach but felt even worse, throwing up as I dragged the board to my truck. I could barely drive.
Stumbling in the door, my chest wasn’t feeling so good. I found the bike heart monitor and checked my pulse. 260.
In the ER they told me I was having an episode of atrial fibrillation.
The fear and possibility of another episode still loomed over me a few months later. Why did it happen? I stepped on the scale. 220 pounds. My god, I had gained forty pounds in the last seventeen years. Was this because of what happened on that remote island off the coast of Mindanao in 1989? Overeating was proving to be a worse form of coping than smoking weed. I didn’t have it together. What else did I have locked up inside me?
The song Waltzing Matilda always surprised me with a feeling of overwhelming sadness. Why? It didn’t seem to be a sad song and I wasn’t a person prone to emotional outpouring. Then I chanced onto the memory that Waltzing Matilda was the soundtrack for the movie “On The Beach”, which took place in Australia after the northern hemisphere had died under a cloak of nuclear radiation. The fallout was slowly drifting south and even Australia had numbered days. Suicide pills were handed out to avoid the horrors of radiation poisoning. Live for today madness became the theme of what would you do if your days were numbered. I was probably far too young to see that kind of movie but in those days there were no ratings to protect innocent minds. Suicide. Beating death to the punch. The idea haunted me.
The realization hit me that there were events in my life that needed to be addressed or else I could be sucked under, down into the same powerful vortex that is created by a sinking ship. Suppressed memories from my childhood were wreaking havoc on me. It was time to open the door. JOURNALS FROM THE EDGE http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00SAEQZ7U is a story of two brothers and should not only resonate with baby boomers but with the many who grew up in military families since then.