“They waste their years in vain to become some other poet, some other saint.”

— Thomas Merton, shared by my friend Andō, one of the very few people whose work I support via Patreon. I open my inbox daily to such beauty. It’s the most valuable few dollars I spend.

The I of The Storm

A couple of days before we left for vacation, Bethany’s Father went in to the doctor. He’d been experiencing some severe and often debilitating back pain for several months and he finally decided (or, more specifically, was goaded by his daughter, friends, and I) to go to the doctor to get it checked out. Once there, they detected some worrisome vital signs so they sent him to the ER. A scan there detected a mass in his lungs. They suspected cancer. So, they checked him into the hospital overnight to do a biopsy and get his vitals level. A couple of days later, he was released and immediately started radiation treatment.

We left, as scheduled months before, for Iceland.

A few days later, while still in Iceland, the results came back. Stage 4 lung cancer which had spread to the lymph nodes and bones. Not good.

It’s been a whirlwind since we returned. My wife and I getting him to his radiation treatments for a couple of weeks was followed by his breaking his arm and being in too much pain to move (he lives alone) even to get to the bathroom or his bed. We got him to the hospital a week ago and he’s been there since. Daily visits there for my wife and/or I. My wife has been deep in the administrivia of trying to navigate what the next few final months for him hold. I’ve been slowly cleaning his house (which, due to his condition he’s not been able to do for months).

It’s also what we call “Summer Show Season” at Circus Juventas where I’m the Lead Volunteer Rigger. That means, I’ve also been spending several hours (usually 6 to 8) at Circus for rehearsals since we got back and will be spending 20-30 hours a week for the next few weeks while the show is running. Yes, this is in addition to the above.

Of course, life goes on. Beatrix has day camps and music classes and other things to get to. Bethany remains over scheduled with a full work load. And, in true rains/pours serendipity, my client workload has also ticked up.

Then, a childhood friend of my wife’s took his own life a couple of days back. Fuck The Piggyback Guy.

And, yesterday, I came down with a nasty cold/virus/crud. Stuffed up, sneezing, mild fever, sore throat, and general blah. Not unusual this time of year when I’m over worked, under rested, and spending close proximity high-touch time around several dozen circus performers, riggers, and coaches. But, I feel like crap.

More than a few folks have compassionately checked in on me. They’ve asked how I’m doing. How I’m handling all of this.

There’s a phrase folks that know me will often here me say, “It is what it is”. As I wrote in my guide, Mindfulness for Mere Mortals:

“Things are what they are. Life goes the way it goes. People are the way they are. No amount of complaining about it, worrying about it, or being upset about it is going to change it. Even if we can change it in the next moment we must first identify and recognize it right now. All we can do is accept what it is — whatever it is.”

I really do believe this even if, as I preach it, I sometimes fail to practice it. Even when life seems to be an overwhelming torrent and hurricane of hurt, peace is always found by returning my focus to the center — to the “I”. Let me try to explain. Warning: This may break your brain a little (but in a good way).

Let’s start with the declarative phrase, “I am”. I am happy. I am sad. I am angry.

Who (or what) is? Who (or what) is “I”?

You see, “I” is separate from the action. I is not the action. I is not happy or sad or angry in and of itself. It exists before and apart from those emotions or actions. In order to be happy or angry or sad “I” must first exist.

I is pure awareness. Pure consciousness. And, that being the case, it means that I is none of those things. I is simply aware of those things. Therefore, when one says I am happy or I am sad or I am angry one is checking in with that awareness and making an assessment of and giving a label to the emotions they feel arising at that time. But, “I” is not those emotions. I is simply aware of them. And, if I is separate from them, then I is not them. I does not have to be them. I can be aware of other emotions that could also arise, I can choose a different path.

So, how am I in the midst of all that is going on in my world (not to mention the World) right now?

It is what it is.

I am OK.

Traveling Thoughts: Clothing

More loosely gathered thoughts I want to share that arose during my recent travels. This time, on clothing. Many longtime readers may know I’m a big practitioner of traveling light. Years back, I even made a video of how I pack in a single backpack for short trips. Here’s some thoughts I had and short reviews of things I tried during my trip to Iceland:

  • Iceland, being an island not far from the Arctic Circle, can be cool in the summer with unpredictable weather. This was especially true at the time we visited. The Icelanders we met said that the weather was even more cold, rainy, windy, and downright nasty than usual and stayed that way the whole time we were there, said it had been that way all summer, and blamed climate change. I mention it here because Iceland is the first place I’ve traveled where my general rule against packing things “just-in-case” failed me at many points during the trip. I should have packed my heavier rain jacket “just in case”. I should have packed an extra layer or two “just in case”. And, a pair of heavier waterproof hiking boots should have been packed “just in case”. I encountered daily use cases for them there and suffered slightly without them. And, in Iceland, things are expensive. Normally, if you failed to pack for an unforeseen need, many things can be purchased at your destination. In Iceland, if you think you’ll just make up for it by buying and extra layer or 3-in1 rain jacket there, be prepared to pay three to five times as much as you would have buying any such thing at home. A basic sweatshirt will set you back the equivalent of $60.00 USD and that 3-in-1 jacket will run you close to $200.00.
  • This was the first trip in years that I brought different underwear than my go-to Ex-Officio Give-n-go boxer briefs. This time, I brought a few pairs of Uniqlo Airism Boxer Briefs. These things are fantastic. Amazingly light yet strong and sturdy. Good odor-fighting capabilities. They pack down to practically nothing. They wash up quickly and dry completely in a couple of hours. I have found my new favorite travel underwear for sure.
  • Along with my (sadly, no longer made) Patagonia Nomad travel pants, I brought along a pair of Patagonia Causey Pike Pants. These are made for hiking and they are perfect for that. They are also great for travel even if just a tad bit on heavy side than what I normally prefer. Once again, these wash up easily in a sink at night and will be ready to wear the next day.
  • Merino t-shirts are a must for travel. They are an investment for sure but one which will last for years and that you can wear for multiple days (or, for a week trip, bring two and swap them day-to-day) without washing. You can go a whole week with just the two t-shirts (pro-tip: pack one, wear the other on the plane). I brought two on this trip that I already owned but they are both over ten years old now and, I realized on this trip, showing signs of age. These new ones by Proof from Huckberry look fantastic and I’ll likely pick a couple of these up to replace the old ones I have (both from REI and models no longer made).
  • The REI Flash 18 continues to be my favorite stuff-a-few-daily-items-and-still-have-some-room bag. It rolls up to about the size of a small water bottle for packing into your luggage to be used for daily carry at your destination. It’s not a true “stuffs in it’s own pocket” travel backpack but, if you have a small stuff sack to stash it in it might as well be. In Iceland, I had a couple of packable jackets, some pack towels for the daily visit to a hot spring, some water and snacks for all three of us in it and I could have stuffed a bit more in. It’s like a Tardis.
  • The Merrell Trail Glove 4 continue to be my favorite shoes for traveling and light hiking. They were mostly great in Iceland but, as stated above, failed in the exceptional rainy, muddy, nasty conditions I often encountered on this trip. The shoes I should have brought are the Salewa Mountain Trainer GTX which I own and would have been much better for the conditions. I guess the lesson learned is to carefully think through such things and, against my nature, not be so concerned about packing light if the conditions dictate otherwise.