Atz Kilcher

From the blog


It is a crystal clear, blue bird, sun coming over the snowcapped mountains kind of day. I am driving east into the sunrise, not great for the eyes but hopefully my spirit can guide me because it is difficult to see the road. I am heading out to my old stomping grounds. I am going for an early morning crust ski with my son Nikos, back in the swamps just behind the Kilcher Homestead where I was raised.

So why am I talking about pain this morning? I lump the anxiety I struggle with under the heading of pain. Any emotional or mental discomfort I believe can be put under this category. Every human has thoughts and feelings that are uncomfortable. They come in a wide variety of frequency and intensity. A little anxiety, a little nervousness can be good, it can keep you alert and on your toes. Too much, of course, can be debilitating.

So of course the first thing I do is contemplate why I am feeling such anxiety. I am going skiing with my son for the first time this year. I am going to an area I haven’t been to in years. We will be a long ways from the road and other people in case something goes wrong. When I get back to town I have to set up my sound system and MC the opening of a new recreational facility. No big deal I’ve done it 100 times in my life but here again it’s been a while. And there are times when I really need very little reason to feel anxiety. I love skiing! I love anything to do with music and my sound system including emceeing! I love my anxiety! Although that last sentence was spoken through clenched teeth and a grimace! Anxiety, PTSD, and many other lesser or more severe emotional or mental maladies are not rational, they don’t always make sense, you do not choose them. But you can learn how to better deal with them.

Then my next thought is about all the things I used to do to mask my pain to hide my pain, to numb myself against the pain. And we as humans do a great variety of things to avoid or numb ourselves against pain. And of course the more intense the pain the more we want to avoid feeling it. I won’t go into the long list of things we humans do so that we do not feel our pain- you probably have a pretty good idea. The problem of course is when we do not feel our painful emotions we also put a damper on all the other feelings as well. And of course usually the things that we use, or the things we do to numb ourselves makes us feel even worse in the long run.

So now on a beautiful morning going skiing with my son, and having been asked to MC an important event, I have an important choice to make. Feel it all, or numb it all out. So I do my little hocus-pocus magic routine. I give thanks for feeling my anxiety so acutely and breathe through it. I then give thanks for all the other emotions I am feeling those more happy easier to feel and accept emotions. That’s the thing about those sneaky little feelings: you can’t just choose the good happy ones and chase away those nasty ones. Nope, it is not like a giant emotional keyboard where you can pick and choose which tones to put the damper on and which ones to play loudly. Nope. They all come together those rascals. You gotta love ‘em all. Just like your kids. You gotta love that little troublemaker in the back seat who is annoying his brother as much as you love that little A student smiling sweetly in the front seat beside you.

I am pulling up to the parking lot out here at the elementary school where I was a schoolteacher of elementary music for many years. I see my son waiting with his skis. The distant snow-covered hills are calling. All is good and the morning hasn’t even begun.


  1. Atz, you are wise beyond your tender years ; ) Your words & musings are a source of solace & kindly awakening for anyone willing to listen & contemplate your messages & their meanings ~ it’s kinda’ like deep breathing fresh spring air alongside a bubbly brook on a sunny morning, toes curling around the cool dewy grass ~ THE real deal : )

  2. Thanks for sharing Atz! You are spot on! It’s so much easier to numb out than it is to deal with all these feelings. I have found many ways to distract myself…reading, word games, computer….I’m gonna try your method . Feel it all!

  3. Can you learn to deal with the anxiety, the pain, the PTSD? Oh yes – buried deep within our own selves, we all have those things in our lives, things done that cannot be undone. It’s very hard to look at those things that pain us the most, but if you can ever get to that place, take the blinders off and look at it all – accept the fact that you are simply human, and we all have our flaws – reconcile yourself with the truth – because most of our pain comes from fighting to keep the truth hidden from our own selves. Make restitution for what you can and what you cannot, forgive yourself. And then you take all of those bad, ugly things, those things that keep you up at night, that squeeze the breath out of your lungs, that hurt down deep in your bones, and causes your heart to break into a thousand pieces – take all of those things and turn them into something beautiful, something good. Your songs could become your best medicine.

  4. Very wise, philosophical words… I often struggle with “triggers” from a highly stressful career (what I believe is undiagnosed PTSD), your thoughts help with the process, bringing those raw feelings to the front definitely help, they get better with time and it helps to talk about them… when you can. I’m always thankful for my family, friends and living free in a beautiful part of our country(NE Washington). Thank you!

  5. This post and the comment by Dolly Bridges brings to mind the lyrics of “Nothing I can do about it now” sung by Willie written by Beth Nielson Chapman, most importantly the final two lines…

    “Running through the changes
    Going through the stages
    Coming round the corners in my life
    Leaving doubt to fate
    Staying out too late
    Waiting for the moon to say good night

    And I could cry for the time I’ve wasted
    But that’s a waste of time and tears
    And I know just what I’d change
    If went back in time somehow
    But there’s nothing I can do about it now.

    I’m forgiving everything that forgiveness will allow
    And there’s nothing I can do about it now”

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