Thursday, October 13, 2016

Spiders and Quicksand

(Just a parenthetical advisory/warning:  I'm deviating from my usual theme of "positive outlet" today, but I will still attempt to comply with the "No Whining" prime directive.  Today's truth is that I'm confused, not thinking very clearly, and writing for therapy.  Feel free to join me on the shrink's couch and stare at the office ceiling as I mumble to myself and engage in a town hall debate with The Little Voices®.  It's not pretty, but it's honest.)

The 2000 movie "The Replacements" is one of my favorites.  The plot is inspired  by the NFL players strike in 1987, where most NFL teams brought in replacement players to finish out the schedule.  It's a comedy, mostly cheesy, but full of great quotable moments, not all of which are necessarily comedic.  Please take a couple of minutes to view the following clip of the movie from YouTube.

I think I've been avoiding my fear.  I am afraid of the day when I can no longer visit a cold, clear trout creek, cast a fly line, and watch a small trout disturb the surface to pursue the drifting fly.  A couple of years ago, I started fishing again.  I don't go after it "like there's no tomorrow."  Perhaps its more like I probably have tomorrow and next week, but I might not have next year.  This felt good.  It's a positive approach.  "I'm going to fish whenever I can go, within reason, because my time might be limited."  It felt like a positive and constructive way of dealing with a difficult situation.  I'm beginning to wonder if it wasn't just an easy way of burying fear, procrastinating the eventual moment when I'll actually need to face it and deal with it.  I'm no psychologist, but I'd bet this is "a thing." Avoidance, mental misdirection, refusal to deal with the real issue?

I was brought face to face with this when I visited someone late this summer.  I don't normally go through life wearing rose-colored spectacles, but I was a fly-rod-carrying Pollyanna.  "I'll swoop in and help this guy out by dragging his... er, tossing him in the car and getting him next to some cold, clear mountain water with a fly rod."  I was confident that it would work just like it does for me: put me near and trout stream and there's nothing wrong in the world for the next six hours.  I've claimed to be a simple man, but I have complexes.  Here's one, paraphrased:
Messiah complex - harboring delusions of grandeur in the belief that the sufferer is a savior.
Then (spoiler alert!), Pollyanna fell out of the tree.

My delusions cracked when I realized that my friend was facing more than just some logistical issues or attitude adjustment.  My friend was dealing with all that, plus some serious physical challenges. I can wave a fly rod as if it were a wizard's staff or magic wand, but I've exhausted my supply of pixie dust to magically transport someone streamside if they have mobility limitations.  The shock of this unanticipated complication sent ripples across the surface of the mental pool where I'd taken shelter.  How can I solve this problem?  What if I can't walk on water or heal the afflicted?  The Little Voices® began their customary debate/problem-solving process, but the cacophony was silenced when one voice asked a rather simple question: "Um... isn't this where we're headed sometime soon?"  Fear. Quicksand.

Speaking too frankly, eventually all roads lead back to me in my mind.  "So, if we can't solve this problem to help someone else, is anybody going to be able to solve the same problem to help us (me) when I'm no longer able to hike down to a creak and toss a line?"  Realizing that someone needed more help than I can offer has uncorked a bottle of my own fear that's been quietly fermenting in a drafty, cobwebbed corner of my mind.

Another conflict is brewing amongst the voices.  I'm facing a potentially devastating disability, yet I am not yet devastated.  I can walk, talk, hike, smile, and even throw a few hay bales around like I did yesterday.  I am Fading, not faded.  Guilt pushes into my thoughts.  Why should I be able to do these things and bring temporary happiness into my life when others cannot?  Is is justifiable to write publicly about the opportunities and happiness I find in angling when friends are facing the end of those opportunities?

I watched "Me Before You" with my wife last night.  Probably not the best flick to watch in my current state of mind.  Perhaps a page from  the "Silver Linings Playbook" is in order.
Nothing like spending time with your own kind of crazy.

Epilogue - I am very grateful for the new friends who've followed my rambling for the past year or so, as well as anyone else who wanders in here and takes the time to read this Entropy®.  Obviously, I have a long way to go on my journey, and I'm glad to have company.  Please accept a few things as truth: first and foremost, I'm not seeking pity or attention.  I'm too fortunate to be deserving of anything resembling pity.  Pity belongs to those who are beyond help, like my brothers.  Second, another quote from a song I listen to frequently these days, "Breathe (2AM)" by Anna Nalick:

2 AM and I'm still awake writing a song.
If I get it all down on paper it's no longer
inside of me, threatening the life it belongs to.

And I feel like I'm naked in front of the crowd
'cuz these words are my diary screamin' out loud,
and I know that you'll use them however you want to.

I have no answers right now.  All I know is that it feels good to fish, and it feels good to write.  With any luck, there may be some truth to be found along the way.
Only then will you understand what happened and why.
-- Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through it

It's been more than twenty-four hours since I abused the keyboard to get those thoughts out of my head and into written form. Regardless of how it looks now, the process was far from linear.  I had a couple of core thoughts/ideas: latent fear and the Quicksand scene from The Replacements.  Everything else was a product of mental wandering or conversations among The Little Voices®.  Upon further review, I'd like to thank my subconscious mind for weaving some threads together...

It has been some time since Parkinson's Disease scared me.  I have stiff, painful, unmotivated, and/or mentally-befuddled days from time to time.  Usually, these make me grouchy or hyper-sarcastic, but not afraid.  Looks like I'm lacking an effective strategy for handling fear.  After all...

The Coach's after-school-special moment in the video goes something like this, "Now our fear is shared, and we can face it together.  And let's put that fear to good use."  Then, I could grossly over-simplify Silver Linings Playbook by observing that sometimes troubled souls do better when together.  What about Me Before You, you ask?  Some of the same, with a little St. Norman swirled into the pain and choices, "But you can love completely without complete understanding."

"What do you think it all means?" asks one of the voices, pretending to be a psychotherapist.  I still don't know.  Mind knots and tangled lines of thinking*.  But I think I'll be better off with a team, and I need to quit worrying about tomorrow's fish**.  Once upon a time, a real psychologist told me this story by the same guy who wrote All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, called The Wollman Reality Test.

I think I've been spending too much time in my own head.  Enemy territory.   Time to do better.  I can walk, I can hike, and I can drive.


Maddie and Tae - Shut Up And Fish

* Sorry, Howard.
** Thanks, Ralph.


  1. I've been ruminating on this for awhile. My two cents is, you did a good thing by dragging your friend out and I'm sure he appreciated it. I say this because I know he loves the attention. Don't take anything for granted and don't dwell too much on what might be or have regrets for those things that might not be. Enjoy life as it comes, your friend does I'm sure.

    1. I think I'll take those last two sentences and frame 'em next to Ralph's sketch and a couple of photos from the epic summer trip. It's a start.

  2. Chris,
    Your post was crystal clear as I read it….mainly because I have sat there on many nights and had those very same thoughts. Anybody who is diagnosed with Parkinson’s fights back those fears, and add early onset to things and you have even more worries. Because as a progressive disease you’re scared of how it will affect you and your interaction with loved ones who are still young and wanting to enjoy the world. Anybody that says they don’t fight fear is a liar….mainly to themselves. SO there is nothing I can say to really help either you or me in this thought process. But I’ll tell you where I am. I have to leave my world of family and writing and the beautiful things that accompany fly fishing for a moment, and I apologize for the change in tone.
    I’m back on the ramp of a C5 Galaxy, with an O2 mask on and HALO rig, looking out over 25,000 feet of black waiting for the light to turn. I’m terrified, but the terror creates a part of me that starts laughing to myself. And for a moment, I’m both a little bit “off” the reservation….and a little bit ultra-focused. And when the light comes on I go with a smile on my face and an anticipation of what is about to great me. Why?.....Because I have always been the type soul that runs towards the gunfire in life.
    Enter PD. When this miserable little bitch that crawled into my head raised its ugly face…..I was terrified. I was staring off into the next 25 years of darkness. And I thought about when or if it may steal my mind from me. And when I had my DAT scan I watched all the 70+ year old advanced patients coming in to the waiting room in walkers and unmanageable shakes and blank stares, and thought….”there by the grace of God go I”. It was rough. Then I got angry. And soon found that angry doesn’t really work either. Nobody likes you much when you’re angry, so you are ruining the time you do have as well. SO when the fear creeps in now….I steal a phrase from Captain America and tell it….”NOT TODAY”. I go fish, I fix a roof leak, I work on my chores & and I grab my bow and treestand and hunt. I win. Right then. The reality is though….as you know, you pay for it with interest for the next couple days. But in the end, for every couple days of struggle, I get a HUGE victory. So now, when I stand on that ramp about to step off into the darkness of a new day, knowing that I may want to still run towards the gunfire, but can’t. I remember…that ugly little bitch that crawled into my head? “IS” the gunfire. And I smile again.

    My best to ya, Ralph

    1. Parkinson's. Not Today.

      Thanks. I'm glad I've got a team.

  3. I never saw that Shut up and Fish video before. Where were these girls when I was single?

    1. I'd ask "where are they this weekend?" but in addition to a chronic disease, I've developed a super power: I'm invisible to younger women. Oh, yeah, there is that single thing, too. (Ha!)

  4. I find it's the "Shock & Awe" syndrome. Where at one point in life the look on their faces may be seen as "Awe". At some point it switches, and pretty much the very same look is one of "Shock". The transition period can be very confusing for both parties. :)