Wednesday, December 5, 2018


             "When you find out that there was never anything in the dark side to be afraid of...Nothing is left but to love." - Alan Watts

25 November 2018
Rangiwahia hut

   Sitting here at Rangiwahia hut on my own. There is a chilly southerly blowing over in great gusts, shaking the hut which momentarily overwhelms the rain. Then it settles and the constant drumming of the downpour on the tin roof resumes. The soft hiss of my camp stove joins in, creating a sort of comforting lullabye, as it heats the billy full of water for another cup of sweet tea.

    My plan was to have some lunch and a cuppa here then travel along the Whananhuia tops to the tarns below Maungahuia and camp. However the windy southerly, the clagged in tops, and the rain are, once again, making staying here a very attractive option. And with the stormy weather meant to settle in for a few days I may have to re-think my whole 4 day trip. Still, aside from day walks, I haven't been in the hills since early June and hauling the benches up to Top Maropea. So it is just good to be here in the Ruahine, and even walking up in the rain was not unpleasant. Even less unpleasant to find the hut empty.

And as my stove does its work and the rain pelts down I sit here and scribble these words, stopping often to reflect, ponder, and gather my thoughts. And there are so very many thoughts to gather.

The stream 10 minutes or so below the hut and just inside the open tussock and tupare zone. On a good day

The same stream after 20 hours of constant rain.

The pool, normally quiet, peaceful, and a place to ponder

Such as on a day like this. 

After coming back from visiting my family in the States this past July, I found myself highly discombobulated. I know that saying goodbye to my mother impacted me like never before, and the anniversaries of the deaths of my brother and father loomed large, as did my normal anxieties and realizations in having two very different places in which I put my feet. The only common factor in both being me. As even in myself, my one presence, I felt like two very different people. I was feeling lost and out of touch, and quite simply not coping very well. There were other issues as well that had been lying there for years. My growing dependence on alcohol, ignoring my relationships, and past behaviours and traumas I have never acknowledged much less address in any meaningful sense. I may have pretended to at times, even thought I was being honest and truthful in trying to grasp my own self, only to slide back into old patterns as soon as the waters seemed calm

A few months after our return the watershed moment came with Tara. She'd had enough. She was done. I saw it her eyes and felt it in her voice. My growing untrustworthiness in being a partner, my continued and growing unavailability, my drinking and growing numbness.

And I realized I had absolutely no defense or valid response to any of it. None. So the dam burst, well and truly and there was no turning back. I began crying and didn't stop for weeks. And it felt unashamed, and I began to welcome the moments of tears. Tears that were welling up from the ages. Tears from the past and more tears from the present.

I quit drinking. I went to talk to someone and found more strength and support in seeking help with anxiety and depression than fearing what that might appear to look like to others, or to myself. I turned my attention to our long neglected whare, house, and all the things that needed to be done. I cleared the overgrown gardens, cleaned out and cleaned the gutters, moved the ultra-heavy clothesline to a better place, water blasted the entire house, driveway, footpaths, fences, barbeque area (water blasting is highly therapeutic), cleaned out the garage, cleaned all the windows and framework, pruned out and removed trees and bushes to the tune of 3 huge trailer loads. What I didn't do wasn't worth doing.

By the time I looked back a few weeks later a small degree of calmness and clarity arrived. The therapy was helping me to understand the deep seeded causes, and the relief of not feeling isolated was enormous. The biggest discovery was that this was my own self-care, to save me not my marriage, and though related they are very separate. The "therapy" with the whare? The hard work on our house merely a manifestation of what I had allowed our house, my life, our lives, to become. A messy, untidy unsafe and unloved environment.

Kaikawaka in the misty and rain filled forest

Even in the mist a path is revealed

"As I watch you
take that 
first drawing sip
my chest
in anticipation
of too much talk
with too little substance
the face I love
becoming slack
those mostly kind
brown eyes
I am...
to a blurry shape
on this couch to be ranted at
yelled over
or sentimentalized
either way
I don't exist
for you
the tinkling 
of ice."

written by Tara Kloss

In a period such as this reassessment of everything comes into play. Relationships, friendships, social media, eating, and for me drinking. There is no ego left. There is no place left to hide either. I had slipped slowly and comfortably into a separate existence for the most part. Sitting in my comfy chair numbing myself against pain, and the reality of what it was doing to me and to the people I love most. I'm currently in a place where alcohol has no place for me. I know full well the allure of the ice tray, the sound of the cubes tinkling in the glass, the glug of the pour of my whiskey and searching for the that perfect zone of exhilaration and absence of pain with measured pulls at my glass. That perfect numbness. It doesn't last long, like the whiskey, and there is always more ice, and more whiskey. See the problem?

I haven't had alcohol in that comfy chair, or any other chair for that matter for nearly two months now.

So, while I know all to well what the whole process with the booze feels like, before, during, and after, what I am finding unfamiliar, and new, is sitting with discomfort, pain, and having to feel the reality of it all. It lets me know I am alive, it makes me realize what I must own, and what I need to acknowledge and then either let go or learn to live with.

And here I am, alone in the Ruahine on a stormy afternoon. It seems, and feels, appropriate. Yet I feel invigorated and alive. I had a fairly heavy pack on, with my tent, as intend to stay out 4 days. I noticed immediately another effect of no booze and better eating. That being carrying over 20 less kilo’s of body weight. And though tomorrow will be a far tougher test, it was apparent how much better I felt both going uphill and more so down. I just walked lighter and easier, better balanced and fitter feeling. I arrived here in a little over 2 hours which is far faster than the past years of slow plodding. And while I wouldn’t describe myself as moving fast I certainly felt less clumsy and more in tune. I am lighter both mentally and physically.

I have written in the past of the concept of Te Whare Tapa Wha, a Maori focused view of our health. The whare, known as Te Whare Tapa Whā, has four walls and each wall represents a different dimension of health. Right now, in this moment, my own Te Whare Tapa Wha, feels in the best condition it has been, well, perhaps ever!

The Four Walls:

1.    Wairua (Spirit) …My own developing spirituality has always been nature focused. I am realizing now, here, how much easier it is alone, and yet how crucial it is to bring that with me elsewhere and around those I love. There is little point to Wairua unless it shines within. I have not. In particular with receiving the aroha, love, of those I profess to love with genuine grace and presence. For me, it is to realize my own vulnerability is not a weakness, but rather strength. And to have wairua be a sense of lightness.
2.    Tinana (Physical well being) …I am lighter. Certainly physically. I have been physically fitter, but never fitter in conjunction with the opposite 3 walls of my whare. Which means my foundations are firmer, better rooted. Or at least the newly poured cement is setting.

3.    Hinengaro (Mental well being)…I can scribble words here on these pages, but none will do justice to the reality of my mental well being. I have really only begun to pay attention to the importance of my own self-care. I have only just acknowledged and owned the hurt I have caused. Or hurt I have had caused to me, to the past and present pain, trauma and what that has left in it’s wake. I have only recently allowed myself to the feel the shame and tears of weaknesses that have led me to such places, and also the strengths I never knew I had in merely coping. To reach out for help, to be vulnerable without fear of weakness, and constantly seek to be a better man. To seek integrity.

4.    Whanau (Family) …Tara, Taylor, Charlie, Monique, Noah, family here, and my family back in Wisconsin. I have not been very good at making this the most important wall of all, though if the other 3 are out of whack it all is out of form. A very circular and connected system. What I appreciate most is the noticing of even small changes and new behaviours by them merely observing.

Tara watches and wonders. As she should, she also has her own self-care to ponder and figure out, her own demons to wrestle with, her own healing to undertake. And for her to not be absorbed by my own battles. She needs to that on her own, as do I, then focus on our relationship. As she described it as the raw nerve that still jangles between us. 

26 November 6:00am

The rain is still coming down. It has beat on the roof measured and steady all night. The barometer remains low and flat indicating little change ahead. The winds have mostly died off in the stillness of the grey misty morning.

So, do I go or retreat to fight another day? Though I know the route very well it is more the thought of a touch 5 plus hour grind and arriving to find the Oroua in a raging torrent, the hut in in sight across the way. That thought has me glancing towards the plains and car far below. And to what awaits there.

1 comment:

kylie said...

The past will catch us in the end! You are approaching your demons and you will only benefit by it. I wish you well.