New Years Resolutions 2017

For Us, and this is the Imperial “Us,” last year was a full-fledged, no-holds-barred goat rodeo. Lots of famous people died, even more, not-so-famous people passed away, and then we elected the first Ompah-Lompa to the highest office of our country. And let’s not forget that 2016 is expected to clock in as the hottest year in more than 136 years of direct atmospheric measurement.

Despite the fact that we could be looking back at the burnt and tangled wreckage of our cluster event that’s not what this post is about, is it? Nope! We’re looking forward, because gosh darn it, 2017 should be better.

So, without further adieu, here are a few of my New Years resolutions.

Take Aral Backpacking

Have you any idea how troublesome it is to locate appropriately sized backpacking gear for a six-year-old? Seriously! As a result, I’m banging the rust off some of my ill-used sewing skills. Our first box of supplies showed up yesterday, and I’ve opened up the Pfaff.

I’ve read a small collection of articles lately that all center around the “problem” of young people staying indoors too much. First, this makes me feel old, namely because now aged enough to see two generations of young people growing up under my branches. For instance, this article in Outside — “The Outdoor Industry Has a Millennial Problem” — posits a number of causes for the drop in younger people being involved in Wilderness, but my older son Justin recently informed me of the only reason that really matters.

In a recent phone conversation, he told me that he doesn’t really know “How to plan a bike tour.” In his possession, he’s got some of the best gear for this purpose ever constructed. He’s been on a couple of nice long ones, enough to know that a bike tour is largely just an exercise in improvisation between disparate locations. I about sprained my eyes rolling them, but I listened all the same. That’s what old people are supposed to do.

It seems that I may have made some mistakes raising the first one. Go figure. I let him labor under the misunderstanding that getting outside requires precision planning and forethought. It doesn’t.

Rather, what you need, he has in spades. An ability to learn from your mistakes, an abundant sense of wonder, and a warm jacket. Alright, maybe some warm socks too. But seriously, that’s the bar of entry to this and many other outdoor endurance sports.

Aral and I have been walking a lot. He just completed a 4-miler (long for him at 6) without even noticing that it was indeed longer than most of the walks he’d previously done. He finished with a smile on his face. So, Mr. Thyer, how to you teach a kid that he can pass the bar-to-entry for backpacking. We’ll you put a pack on his back and march him up the trail.

Continue Primal Lifestyle

I probably need to write up a review of this, but yeah wow, I’m doing so much better. Last Septemeber started a “diet” which essentially got me out from under the consequences of the Standard American Diet. I’ve lost a lot of weight, I’ve kept this weight off too, but even better, I’m not always inflamed. My face, my foot, my sinuses, even my fingers are significantly less bulky. My joints move easier, even when they’re cold.

Tess bought me a pressure cooker for Xmas, and she’s been saying that she wants to join in the fun. Now all I need to do is teach Aral to like eating nuts.

Recover and Publish Short Stories

John Hancock's Recovered Short from Immortality Chronicles

John Hancock’s Recovered Short from Immortality Chronicles

One of my favorite things about publishing through Windrift Books is that after a pretty short period of time all rights revert to the author. Amazon’s relentless expansion of lists means that there’s a place for short stories. Great Stories In One Sitting breaks down reads, based on their length, by the approximate time it will take most people to read them. A lot of Samuel Peralta’s authors have been floating to the top with stories they’ve published previously through him.

GOAT (“Greatest of All Things,” in case you didn’t know) was my contribution to the acclaimed Doomsday Chronicles. It’s gotten great reviews next to the other PA fiction in that collection, and I had the best time writing it. Consequently, I’ve begun to develop one of the supporting characters from that story by writing more about him. Murray Biyaal is a sort of MacGyver hero of the Navajo Nation in a crumbling Western future.

I’m going to start with GOAT and plan to self-publish a whole series based on this cast.

 

Tomorrow is Veterans Day

Tomorrow is Veterans Day, and right now I’m feeling raw. Six years of service to my country as a soldier, six more before that working the front lines of public lands and somehow its become pointless. All that sacrifice. While the rest of you were out there getting college degrees, I was up reading over radio intercepts from DPRK, trying to puzzle together what the fuck those assholes might be about.

I gave my oath to defend the Constitution and this land ultimately because I grew up with a strong land ethic. I read Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac while huddled against a rock for shelter in Colorado’s Flat Tops Wilderness. My radio had died two days before, a storm had moved in, and all I could do at the point was wait it out. Several months later, with my new wife, I found myself back in Florida searching for work with health insurance. My youngest brother had signed up, and damn they made it sound like all you’d have to do was work hard. I’d done that, months wondering the wilderness picking up hunting trash and endless summer days swinging a Pulaski. So I took my work ethic, my young wife and, my land ethic and I signed up expecting that someday I’d return to the wilderness.

My relationship with that woman, my foot, my time, and so much more of was burnt in the tabernacle of service to my country. Until now, I’ve been at peace with this.

I’ve recently been told “Wait and see. Everything is bound to work out for the best.”

Veteran’s Day is the anniversary of the signing of the armistice, which ended the World War I hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany in 1918. Veterans are thanked for their services to the United States on Veterans Day. Veterans Day honors those who served the United States in all conflicts, especially veterans.

How can this be so? Where is the honor in this?  A man who lied and manipulated his way into office. The Electoral College intends to install a man into office who doesn’t understand the concept of sacrifice. Who, unmindfully, has the land ethic of the Once-ler. A man pathologically unwilling to share. A person with whom I have no common values. Someone as to be so unlike me that our only commonality is the shared genetic heritage of our species and the randomness of the geographical land of birth.

Typically, I’d be writing to ask that people hold their thanks. Frankly, it makes me uncomfortable because it feels like a request. Maybe you want to know what I did, where I’ve been, who I saw die; I don’t know, but the request is made when you say “thank you for your service.” I hear the anticipation in your voices. It’s not a movie, it doesn’t work that way. When I left the service of my country, I left a broken and desperately screwed up person. Not the same guy that gave his oath six years before.

It’s taken me sixteen years and a lot of hard work to feel “normal” around the majority of you. I find grace only far beyond the things of man. In the wilderness. And for a man who holds this as his essential ethic how could I want the esteem of a people that would elect a man with no respect?

Dear America,

My disappointment in you has reached a phenomenal apex. Truly, I don’t know how it’s possible to feel so much of this low down dirty frustration, but you’ve gone and made it possible. I guess Americans are innovators, and so many of you just engineered and optimized a new kind of international bad mood.

I’ve spent a good deal of time this morning casting about in search of solace. I guess I’ve found some. Here, let me itemize these places of grace.

  1. I am consoled to live in a democracy, one that is only as good as its voters deserve. We are the government, so to those of you who’ve used your vote to say they’re unhappy with this social system of self-rule you’ve simultaneously volunteered.

    And again, in my lifetime, you’ve given yourself every opportunity to make your world into the utopia of your heart’s desire. You control both Houses of Congress, the White House and now the Supreme Court. Absolutely nothing stands in your way. Not for the next four years, and likely for a long time after that. You are now entirely responsible for what happens next. Success and failure are yours alone so keep that in mind as we move into February. If you care, as so many of you said you did, then you’ll look at the country and the world that you’ve given yourself on that day and use it as a benchmark from which to measure success.

  2. It should now be obvious, beyond any shadow of a doubt, where voter suppression and gerrymandering are happening within our borders. I’m looking forward to seeing the demographics of the vote correlated with age, race and cultural makeup of the neighborhoods where it took place.

    See number one, because if you’re behind the outcome of the 2016 election, then this is now, too, your responsibility. I suspect that we’ll see plenty of places where the vote — access to voting — is not unencumbered.

  3. For millennials, in particular, you’ve just gotten your first big wake-up call. I know, this is going to make an already tough introduction to the world even more challenging. I mean, what did you think electing a guy with six bankruptcies and multiple divorces in his past would mean for the economics of the country.

    Perhaps, you’ll realize that Snake Oil salesmen only sell snake oil? The point being, that if you voted Republican because you wanted a good job, or you wanted to see manufacturing jobs return to the country, or you wanted an affordable education, equal pay for equal work, maybe you voted for the team, or maybe you just didn’t vote the outcome of this election is as much your responsibility as it your gnarly old grandpa’s. Some of your parents won’t live through this term of office. In any case, we Gen-Xers are less numerous and struggling as much as many of you are so now you’re going to get a great big reason to be involved. And that’s a good thing.

Is this the end? Who knows? Significant challenges that will require full participation from an informed citizenry loom on the horizon. I expect the President-Elect to claim his mandate any day now and in doing so, he’ll signal the direction he’s going to take us. I still love this land, I’ve defended it both figuratively and literally, and I know it some of its best features intimately. That’s where I’m going to invest my time and energy because, as I’ve mentioned, so many of the rest of your feel you’ve got the rest covered.

Keep in mind that we created this government “in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,” and I’m certain you’ll have it taken care of.

Here Comes the Storm

You can read all about it here, but right now there the remnants of Typhoon Songda are off the left coast making things very wet and very windy.

While not a hurricane this is a big deal. We haven’t seen anything this bad, in fact, since 2006 when another instance of bombogenesis blew down trees and powerlines during a cold November.

We’re hunkered down for the time being. Electricity and the internet are still working, but I don’t imagine that this will last for too much longer. If you’re in the path of this beast, take it seriously. These are hurricane force winds headed our way, and you live in a place stupid with trees that love to blow down given the least excuse.

I support I-732

This is a no brainer. Seriously, I strongly support I-732, the revenue-neutral carbon tax swap, which will help to reduce Washington State’s greenhouse gas emissions, lessen the regressiveness of our tax system, and serve as a potent bipartisan model of long-term action for the rest of the nation. More information here.

It’s Not About How Strong You Are

I’m going to ask you to pretend for a moment. I’m going to request that you empathize with me and try to imagine yourself within the context of my experience. I’m making this request because recently Donald Trump spoke to a group of Vets.

When people come back from war and combat and they see maybe what the people in this room have seen many times over, and you’re strong and you can handle it, but a lot of people can’t handle it,” he said.

The implication I and many others took away from this exchange was that some of us are somehow lesser because we can’t cope. Apparently, we lack strength, as if volition and an iron-will would be our only protection.

Exercise

Now picture yourself laying down on a gurney. It’s one of those nearly solid, foam rubber ones that you find in hospitals. You can feel the cracked vinyl covering through the rough cotton sheet. It’s uncomfortable, but that discomfort is increasingly distant. This isn’t your first time, you’ve been here before. The IV in your arm and the plastic mask situated over your face are taking you very far away from the echoing sounds of nurses and surgeons preparing your body for yet another surgery.

You’ve got misgivings, unresolved concerns, but as the chemical cocktail suppresses your life — a mere breath from death — the drugs obscure all this. You couldn’t struggle even if you wanted to.

Now imagine that some hours into this surgery you’re suddenly awake. This time, it’s not a gentle wash of gasses and counter-agents the anesthetists uses to bring you back. This time, it’s an excruciating pain. Your mind is roused. Your heart races, thumping like a hammer inside your ribs. Bob Marley is blaring from a white and silver boombox in the corner of a room that smells of blood and antiseptic. There are people with instruments and masks at the foot of your bed. Your foot is flayed open. Wrenched open and held that way with metal hooks.

All of your senses are working overtime in an instant.

You scream.

This scream is not an act originating in your conscious mind. You don’t think Oh shit. Now the script says to scream. You just do. For the first time in your life, you experience a primal rage. You express this anger, as a response to the hurt coursing through your body.

Hands push you against the bed. Secrets, and there are many of them, spill from your mouth. Anything to make it stop.

Eventually, they put you out. Ultimately, you move on.

But this experience sticks to your soul, like fallout from a dirty bomb. You don’t know this, not on a conscious level, but you wake up sweating, heart pounding most nights. You can’t hear Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Loved” and not break down in a quaking fear. Your animal brain is consistently coiled and ready to pounce. You leash this part of your mind, but it will push you to rampage despite your best efforts to contain it. Your relationships will crumble in your hands. You’ll add eternal shame to your pile of dysfunction.

Time passes and things will seem to be getting better. One day you’ll wake, you’ll begin your day like any other. Like every other. You’ll walk into the kitchen, bend over to kiss your youngest child and discover that the beast has found a new way to mess with you.

You’ll writhe and convulse on the kitchen floor. You’ve lost control of your mind as much as your body. Soon anti-seizure drugs will conspire to rob you of all the good left in your life. They’ll transform you into a husk of yourself. They’ll suck the color from your life. You’ll abandon hope.

They’ll do this for nearly two years. You’ll know what it means to disassociate. You’ll lose all grasp on reality, experience psychotic episodes, and end up in the ER more times than you can count.

You’ll unravel. You’ll lose your job, have to sell your car, your insurance claims will be denied by the VA and your private provider alike. You’ll spend your retirement trying to figure out exactly what could have gone wrong. Strangers will judge you. They’ll imply that you’re to blame.

Eventually, if you make it through that gauntlet, you’ll only find a little peace as your family struggles to prop you up. You know that they’ll love you despite all this for as long as they can. They don’t understand. You can’t put it into words.

You’ll brave this singular demon accidentally created in the middle of a surgical ward every day, whether you want to or not. Whether you have the energy necessary to confront your beast or not. You’ll do this all day, every day.

Summary

This characterizes my struggles with PTSD and later PNES. Yes, there were other events which may have contributed to my condition or subsequently complicated my life. Ultimately, this is what lies at the core of my experience. It’s fear. An animal fear that no amount of will or fortitude can overcome.

In fact, the only relief I’ve ever found from this fear has come in my vulnerability.

I think it’s important that I share this dirty secret because there’s apparently still much misunderstood about PTSD and it’s consequences.

As you probably know, I’m not a fan of Trump, but in this case, not for the reason you’re imagining. I know he tried to show a modicum of sympathy for Veterans suffering from PTSD. In doing so, however, he exposed his chronic lack of empathy. Beyond the very narrow bounds of his experience, Trump seems incapable of imagination.

Combat isn’t the only cause of PTSD.

Effective therapies that help people who have PTSD do not rely on the force of their will or the strength of their character.

PTSD isn’t about weakness.

PTSD isn’t about strength.