Slippery little rascals those paradoxes. Paradoxi? They’re kinda like newborn calves, slimy and wet and hard to get hold of. Before you know it, they’ve slipped right through a tiny crack in the gate, and all you got in your one hand is their tiny back hoof and maybe some cow shit in the other one, and their mad mama’s horns up your back side!
A therapist friend of mine was the first one to really turn me on to the whole paradox dilemma. I know therapists don’t usually end of being your friend but this is a small town. I taught his kids, we were neighbors, and he was my therapist for so many years and for so many issues that we became good friends. The fact that we were friends did not make him lighten up on me one bit, however, or keep him from hitting me between the eyes when I needed it.
Paradoxes are especially hard for guys like me. I want things a certain way. Black and White. Predictable. I want to make up the rules. Depending on my mood and the circumstances of course. “Two things can be true at the same time” he used to pound into my head. “Black and white can coexist side-by-side and usually do. Your wife’s point of view is as valid and as real as yours.” Whoa there Trail boss, how did we suddenly bring my wife into this friendly little herd of morning mavericks?
After reading this I can guarantee you, you’ll never be the same. As you listen to people talk, pay attention to how many of them speak in absolutes. Finalities. Loud and positive. Their way or the highway. Ain’t no debate. You gotta love ‘em. Life is simple. They got it all figured out. Just like I used to. Take something as simple as the expression, ‘it’s the journey not the destination’. Well I’m here to tell you that sometimes the journey sucks. There’s nothing good about it! And if you don’t get to that destination you’ll freeze to death!
Or another one, ‘it doesn’t matter what you’ve done or been through, it’s where you end up, it’s what you’ve made of yourself that counts’. The fact that you spent half your life behind bars for drunk driving, crippled and maimed a few folks along the way, abandoned and never cared for your children, doesn’t count, none of that matters, because you’re a good guy now. Rehabilitated or perhaps born-again.
Or the two guys on a remote snow covered hill, holed up in a cozy cabin. One took five hours getting there on his cross country skis, the other guy had a 30 minute high-speed, high thrill, leave blue smoke lying low on the trails behind you, 30 minute ride. But it don’t matter none. What counts is they both got there. They’re sitting side-by-side by the fire both enjoying the solitude. No difference.
Paradoxes. Slippery little rascals. I could debate either side of the above issues with equal fervor. Take me for example. I am a happier human being, with much more self-love and acceptance, since I have just given in to the fact that I am a beautiful example of a walking paradox. I tell my wife that all the time when she gets frustrated because she can’t figure me out. “I know darling, that was yesterday and this is today. I know it doesn’t make any sense but right now that’s what I need to do even though it’s the exact opposite of what I told you yesterday.”
The beauty of finally accepting this about myself, is that I have stopped telling my wife she’s weird, that she keeps flip-flopping how she does things, that she can’t just figure out what the hell I need at any given moment, I just tell her, “yep that’s me, you gotta’ love Atz Kilcher and how his special little brain works.”
In the winter the mud flats and the rivers are frozen over. When I unload my four wheeler at my friend Akaki’s house by Fox Creek, it takes me 15 minutes to get here. A straight shot. High speed. High thrill. High exhaust. Other times, I ski that same stretch. Silent. Smooth. Natural. Healthy.
Yesterday, I left the Kilcher switchback and drove all the way up the beach and across the mudflats to Fox River, about 15 miles. Took me an hour. Then I loaded my gear into a skiff and rowed across the river. Then I put the pack on my back, the rifle in my hands, and walked two miles to get to this cabin.
Does it make a difference how I get here? Hell yes it does! And you know what? After I get some river water, start a fire and unpack, I am in the zone. Regardless of how I got here. Now if I ride a horse all the way from the Kilcher homestead, it can take me three hours, now that is really roughing it! By the time I get unsaddled, put the horse in the pasture, put the gear in the shed and walk my sore hips and my bowlegged knees back to the cabin, you bet it makes a difference how I got here! And when I wake up in the morning and can hardly move, it makes a difference again.
How I get here makes a difference. How I get here makes no difference at all. Sometimes I enjoy the journey, sometimes I just slog through it and can’t wait to get here.
If I did not believe with all of my brain, heart and spirit that what counts is where I ended up and not all the twists and turns and heart aches it took me to get here, well, I would not be a very happy camper. So I remain grateful. And humble. And thankful to all of those people in my past who have forgiven me my weaknesses, or not. My mistakes, or not. Who have helped me to get here alive and well and in one piece. But what counts even more, of course, is that I have forgiven myself. What counts, of course, is that other folks may see it totally differently. What counts is who I am today. And every step I have taken since birth, good or bad, right or wrong, up or down, has brought me here, has made me who I am. A paradox perhaps.
It’s not the cards you get dealt, it’s how you play your hand. Now there’s a good one. Think about it. And the next time you’re around somebody who makes an absolute black and white statement, have the guts to say “well partner, there is a whole ‘nother way of lookin’ at that, a whole ‘nother side.” You may want to make sure you’re bigger than he is, and that he aint packin’.