Thursday, April 5, 2012

"Want Out"

I found out today that my good friend Stanley “Chuck” Want passed away.  Chuck worked for me as a seasonal firefighter at Eel River Ranger Station, on the Mendocino National Forest back in the 90’s.  I wanted to take a moment out of my day to say a few things in memory of Chuck.  Chuck lived way too short of a life.  He was one of the most intelligent men I’ve known.  He cared about other people very much.  He was hard working.  But his life was beset with heart break and tragedy of the kind few people know much less have to live through. 

 From time to time he would call me, or I would call him, just to check in and see how each other was doing.  A couple years back, he called me and asked if I could help him with some money.  I thought, “here we go.”  I paused and asked him, “What do you need it for?”  He started to sob into the phone and told me that his Wife had been killed in a car accident, that she had been crushed to death by a car that ran through a stop sign.  He didn’t have the money to bury her and needed help.  Their baby, his only child was two at that time.  Chuck’s own Mother had passed away within days of his baby’s birth.  When his Wife died, he told me the only thing he had to live for was his daughter, if not for her, he wanted out.  I helped him, but it wasn't a loan and Chuck never asked to borow money from me.      

His death certificate will likely read that he died from complications resulting from his diabetic condition, but alcohol took Chuck.  He went toe to toe with booze for many, many rounds, and in the end booze took him out.  The last time I spoke with him, he told me that his people wanted to take him somewhere in Southern California to get sober, and he wanted to do it.  But he said that he knew he couldn’t ride in a car long enough without a drink to go that far and he couldn’t drink in the car with his people.  I offered to go get him and take him to a meeting, but he declined saying, “I’ll keep it in mind.”  I didn’t do enough, I should have went and got him and took him to meetings.  The last time I spoke with him he told me that it hurt his stomach terribly when he put alcohol into it, but if he didn’t put alcohol into it, it hurt even worse, and he was afraid to stop because of the delirium tremens (DT’s) that would surely come.

When Chuck worked for me, sometimes depending on who was on duty, Chuck would be assigned to carry a hand held radio.  Standard and accepted radio use procedure calls for ending a transmission with your assigned radio designator (“Engine 52,” or, “Crew 11,” etc.), or your last name if you don’t have a designator, or the word, “copy.”  Chuck always ended his transmissions with, “Want out,” because he thought it was funny.  Today, I can hear his voice saying those two words, and I can’t help but think of the irony in that.

Today was Chuck’s funeral.  I didn’t know, or I would have made the 12 hour drive to Covelo, in the Round Valley, to be there with his people and pay my respects.  Instead I cried here in this chair, looking out a window at those mountains.  That’s where I got to know Chuck, in the mountains.  Maybe finally now, he can rest and have peace.  I will think of him and remember his laugh whenever I am in the mountains.  At the end, he couldn’t drink anymore, but he couldn’t not drink either.  That is the “ism” of alcoholism.  I know of what I speak, as I have three years sober.  I should have tried harder to take him the message.  He willingly followed me towards the flames, but he wouldn’t follow me to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.  I guess that was more scary.

After I found out, I called his Grandmother’s house where he stayed.  She told me Chuck was found in his room, slumped on his knees beside his bed.  He was gone.  There are numerous other close relatives of his who have passed away over the past five years.  His family has had to endure too much death; it’s been one funeral after another, not even time to grieve before the next one.  Maybe Chuck never forsook God, but in his shoes, I may have decided to turn my back on God.  I’m going to believe that he passed while on his knees asking for God’s help, and that it’s never too late.

Rest in peace, Brother      

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Which Wolf Do You Feed?

(quote adapted from a Cherokee story)

An old Grandfather said to his grandson, who came to him angry at a friend who he felt had done him an injustice, "Let me tell you a story... I too, at times, have felt a great resentment for those who have taken so much, with no seeming sorrow or remorse for what they do. I have struggled with these feelings many times." He continued, "It is as if there are two wolves inside me engaged in a conflict.” 

"One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger, for his anger will change nothing.”  Note that this is all fear based.  All of these feelings, emotions or dispositions are based in fear.  Fear we may be hurt.  Fear we may do harm.  Fear we may experience pain or suffering.  Fear that a truth we tried to hide may be found out.  Fear our own sorrow may be too much for us to bear.  Fear we aren’t good enough.  Fear that someone received an opportunity or material favor we did not.  Fear that we are being judged unfairly.   Fear of the past and fear of the future.  I could add to the list, but the point is made. 

He continued, "The other Wolf is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. He does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him, and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.  Note that all of these characteristics are based in love.  They come from a loving nature, either absent of fear, or overcoming fear. 

Sometimes, it is a challenge to live with these two wolves inside of me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit. The same challenge is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."  This is an analogy of the concept that we are always at choice.  Every moment, every thought, every decision, every action, is an opportunity to do the next right thing.  Or not.  It is the pathway to comprehending that out destiny, or fate, our future, is not a matter of chance and luck.  We draw to us most if not all of what we get from life, and this begins with our thoughts.      

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Grandfather simply replied, "The one you feed."         

My life started to get a lot better when I began to understand that the solution to all my problems really is this simple.  We believe that we have complicated problems because that’s what our best thinking prodded by our ego tells us.  Therefore, our problems must require complicated answers.  For me, the truth has been just the opposite.  Self-help books were too voluminous and complicated, too much superfluous information.  Therapy focused too much on other people and what they wanted or needed from me, when all along, my problem was me.  When we put out focus on somebody else’s problems, it’s not difficult to see that the simple solution is usually the best solution.  But when the problem is our problem, it’s somehow different, and people don’t understand that it’s not that simple.  A hundred forms of fear invade our peace, the ego says, “If you had my life you’d understand.”  We fall into the trap of believing that that nobody could possibly understand, that our situation is different, that we are unique.  The truth is that we are just as unique as all the rest of the other unique people.  If you find the right places to go and listen, you will find that there are others who share your same story, no matter how far down the ladder you have gone.  I found those rooms, and there, with Gods help, I have begun to find myself. 

Which wolf are you feeding right now as you read this?  Are you feeding the one that nourishes your soul and brings you peace, or the other one?  Whether you agree with this essay or not, you are at choice right now and that choice will determine how you feel.  That feeling will have thoughts associated with it, and thoughts become things.