My New Kilimanjaro

 

"It's gonna take a lot to drag me away from you...

There's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do...

I miss the rains down in Africa...

Gonna take some time to things we never have..."Text Box:

                                                                   Toto


In 1982, the band Toto recorded the aforementioned lyrics in a song called 'Africa'.  Around the same time it was released, I was going through a difficult academic time at the University of Washington--so much so that I had been asked by the Deans Office to leave campus and go to a Community College for a quarter.   I was too wrapped up in the 'Athlete' compartment of the term 'Student-Athlete'.  The concept of the Walkman had just hit the market, and each day on my way to Seattle Central Community College via bus-- I would hook up my Walkman cassette and listen to the song 'Africa' on my journey to and from school.  This was a way of getting focused and getting my 'Academic Text Box:  
My old 'Kilimanjaro', my P.O.V. while driving to Topanga Police Station to pick up my sons.
Circa: Fall 2014
Game Face' on.  It worked, as I pulled myself from the depths of academic destruction and achieved a 3.8 G.P.A. for the quarter--thus qualifying me for re-enrollment at the U.W.

Fast forward some 33 years later, and the song still has a special place in my heart with regards to dealing with challenging situations and getting my 'Game Face' on; only this time I have used it as motivation in dealing with my divorce and the separation anxiety that comes from not seeing your children everyday of their young lives. As you may or may not know, I have had to go to great lengths to fight for my rights as a father, so much so that it has inspired my next book: "Dad Interrupted: The Fall of 2013 Divorce, Betrayal--and the Aftermath of Fighting to be a Father."  So the refrain mentioned above and the lyrics from the song really resonate with me, and keep me focused on what I hold near and dear to my heart: my three sons--Chad, Matthew and Ross.

 

As I was driving up Balboa Blvd to pick-up my sons from school last week, I took notice of the majesty of Text Box:  
My new 'Kilimanjaro' on my way to my son's school.
Circa: March 2015
the rolling hills in the backdrop; they are the same hills I used to see a little further west some 4 months ago when my visitation consisted of a pickup/ drop off point at the Topanga Police Station.  I remembered how excited I would be driving up Canoga at Sunset and seeing the hills in the backdrop on a Friday evening as my visitation began, and conversely how sad and depressed I would be on Sunday evening seeing those same mountains as a signal that we were close to the drop off point--and thus close to saying 'goodbye' for another week.  Deepak Chopra is right when he says: "All life experience is by contrast, and one gives meaning to other."  The two events created about as much emotional contrast as one could experience over such a short period of time. It was amazing how my paradigm of those hills could drastically change in 48 hours, and this shift had happened every weekend since April of 2014 when the Family Court mistakenly ordered this barbaric arrangement.  (Thankfully, I kept reminding myself that nothing last forever, and that "this too shall pass".)

Text Box:  
L-R: Matthew, Ross and Chad--Loading up the van and on our way to the Police Station after a visit.
Circa: May 2014
Well as of February 6, 2015-- with a new and more equitable visitation arrangement in place, I have found a new paradigm with those same hills as a backdrop.  I now have my sons every Thursday night (with pickups at school) until Monday mornings (with drop offs at school) every other weekend.  On the weekends they don't stay over, I get one overnight from Thursday afterschool until Friday morning.  I also now get 50% of all vacations.  Those same hills now have provided me with a new point of view, and have become my 'New Kilimanjaro'--- and thus a new symbol of hope.  The depressed feelings of the Police Station drop off have dissipated, as the school site is a more natural transition and less emotionally abrupt; for both me and my boys. If I am so keenly aware of this drastic emotional turn of events, I wonder in their hearts what they must be feeling.  Surely the weekly visits to the Police Station must have had a negative effect on them.  

This paradigm shift was inspired by a shift in my emotions that stemmed from listening to this portion of the song--often repeatedly back when the old arrangements existed and I had to drop them at the police station.  Repeating the thoughts and experiencing the emotion of hope that stemmed from the thoughts--kept me in the moment, and helped me slowly chip away at the injustice of the old visitation.  (As you read the lyrics below---Keep in mind that the reference to 'The Wild Dogs' is a loving reference to my sons--in particular their behavior at times after I would pick them up... They were often so giddy and happy to see me that they were over the top with energy).

The Wild Dogs cry out in the night

As they grow restless longing for some solitary company...

I know that I must do what's right,

As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like a leprice above the Serengeti

I seem to care what's deep inside

Frightened of this that I've become

                                                                             TotoText Box:  
My three sons and I at mediation point--Balboa Park.
Circa: March 2015

This 'thing that I've become', is the father that I have always wanted to be at a deep inner level. 

This 'thing that I've become', is the father that I have always known I could be at a deep inner level, if given the proper opportunity.

This 'thing that I've become', scared me initially because it required me to move out of my comfort zone and take action and fight for what I love and believe in.

Ultimately, I am back on track to creating the legacy and loving experiences that will resonate in the souls of my sons for eternity.  I am 'Africa'.

 

 

 



 

 

 

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