Control Freaks

There is a cold that seeps in slowly, down to your bones. You may not even realize it’s there until you’re snapping at loved ones or unable to sleep. You won’t always see its full strength, sometimes you can keep it in check. Sometimes it will scare you with its intensity.

Anger takes many forms. Sometimes it is righteous, but more frequently it is not. Often times anger is just a sign that we are a little too concerned about the amount of control we have over our lives.

We are anxious creatures, always wanting to have everything in line. Certainly some people aren’t as concerned about having all their ducks in a row, but I dare say the vast majority of us like to have our routines and our schedules and our predictability.

I am one of those people. I operate best when I have a written schedule and predictable hours. This is however not the existence I have chosen. Nor has it been the life chosen for me.

I worked in wildland fire and now my wife works in wildland fire. This is not a predictable line of work at all. I now stay home with five children. Control over every minute detail is impossible with little ones. Many of not most days it seems Chaos is the supreme ruler of the house.

My three year old wiped my phone completely clean. Squeaky clean. Nothing that wasn’t in the cloud was saved. I lost it. I yelled so much. I couldn’t handle the fact that my life (and by extension my three year old) was not totally in my control.

My wife has been having some (completely normal) growing pains starting this new job. Money is tight (as usual). The truck struggles to get up the hill from town (duh, it’s a 35% grade). The van has a coolant leak (super slow). The trailer gets kinda messy (seven people in 200 sq ft).

There are many things for my anxious mind to latch onto. So many things to spin me into anger. I can’t seem to get anything together. One day I keep my cool, the next I’m bickering over some dirty dishes.

Our pre-marriage councillor was the first person to point out to me that I liked control. It had never occurred to me before. But man was he right, feeling out of control is the number one reason I spiral into an anxious and contentious mess. I tend to pick a lot of fights when I feel out of control, even with myself.

I think God has put me exactly where He wants me. He knows exactly the kind of crucible needed to make me trust Him, or die trying.

Knowing Who is ultimately in charge is not a fun lesson to learn. Especially when one is a control freak like me. I am a hard headed sinner indeed.

Anarchy and Hobbes

Since I have free time now, I’ve been able to go back and re-read some of the books that influenced my political thinking. One of these books is “The World’s Great Thinkers, Man and The State”. It’s a compilation of political thought from Hobbes to Marx.

The contribution of Hobbes to this compilation comes from the second part of his work Leviathan:“Of Commonwealth”. In this treatise, Hobbes lays down the foundation on which the State is formed. Basically he argues that in order to live peaceably, natural man must come together in covenant and give up their individual rights to a sovereign who rules as their representative.

He gives a long list of rights to this sovereign, most of which are not rights which individuals have. This begs the question: “How can the sovereign representative be conferred rights which the individual man does not possess?”

The individual does not possess the right to levy taxes on his neighbors to pay for a road or the defense of his personal property. He does not possess the right to censor by force his neighbor’s thoughts and beliefs. He does not have the right to put his neighbor to death simply for disagreeing with him. How does he transfer rights which he does not have to his representation? Surely that representative should be restricted to the same limitations as those whom he represents.

Hobbes argues that natural man is in a perpetual state of war, which necessitates the formation of bodies politic to “keep (men) in awe, and to direct their actions to the common benefit.” It seems to me that he essentially gives to the sovereign the freedom to act as an exaggerated natural man, using violence and war to institute the “will of the people”.

The formation of Commonwealths does not relieve man of the problem of war, it merely elevates war. War is perpetual in the Commonwealth, as the sovereign must use violence and coercion to keep “peace” among the subjects.

Even if the original covenant was made voluntarily, as Hobbes describes it, it surely cannot be binding to future generations of those who did not personally assent to be subject to the sovereign in power. Force must be initiated to keep those subjects in line, force which is not in the rights of individuals to use.

While I concur with Hobbes that natural man is prone to violence, I disagree with the premise that natural man should bind together to give another natural man or group of natural men the authority to wage war for them. It seems predictably dangerous to do so. Concentrating the violent tendencies of natural men into one central power does nothing to end war, it just makes war a regional thing instead of a local matter between individuals.

I believe that a better state of being exists when individuals retain their own rights. Even Hobbes understands that man will cooperate in order to better his position in life. There is no reason to believe man has to centralize power into the hands of one man or group of men. Man cooperates just fine without the use of coercion or warfare.

Anarchy is not lawlessness. It is simply a lack of centralized force. Anarchy does not plunge us back into warfare as Hobbes contends. It places us back into the position we were in prior to forming commonwealths, that is, a state in which we may voluntarily cooperate and form whatever agreements we wish with our fellow men, without coercion.

From my reading, Hobbes makes a better case for why we shouldn’t form commonwealths than for why we should support them.

Tight Spaces

A trip to get internet…

When you live in a tiny space, you tend to know well your living partners.

Every cough, every fart, every bump into the wall. Every single time they go to the bathroom (where is that WD-40?). You hear all the quarrels, all the laughs, all the times they play a little too rough with the cat.

There is a certain level of intimacy that you simply don’t get in a sticks and bricks house. There are no rooms to lock yourself up in, nowhere for the kids to hide. You go outside for alone time, or you kick them out. Or you simply hide in the van. Or you get over it and accept that these are in fact your children and you will never escape them. Much of the time though, someone’s going outside.

You get creative in the marital department. It’s really not much different from when we were co-sleeping with toddlers and newborns. We have curtains and did I mention that van? We even have a tent if we need a “night out”.

Tight knit spaces seem to make for tight knit families, at least at the ages they are at. We’ll see how it goes in later years…

Seasons

This is my third season.

In fire, we describe a firefighter’s experience level in terms of “seasons”. A typical season is six months long and can be quite arduous. Sometimes the season is busy and physically demanding, sometimes it is slow and mentally exhausting. Sometimes it is a bit of both.

This is my third season as a stay at home dad. So far I find that parenting is a lot like that as well.

My first season began in Truth Or Consequences, NM. My wife handed me the keys to our truck and trailer and said “don’t destroy our house.” She went off to fire boot camp and left me to find a camping spot for five kids, two cats, a dog, and me. I never felt so free and optimistic. I was newly unemployed, and she had no job prospects, but I felt like we were finally headed in a good direction.

That first season we stayed with family in Virginia. She worked 60 hour weeks and I battled family disagreements, juggled school and play, and tried to keep seven people fed well. It had its problems, but for the most part it was easy. I felt like I accomplished something. I felt that I had it under at least some control.

Then came the second season. After a fire season in New Mexico, we returned to our home in Florida. I now had to worry about more than just a couple rooms and a trailer. I had an entire house to care for. I stumbled. I failed. I succeeded in some, I completely missed the mark in others.

It wasn’t completely the role reversal we were going for, and I almost wonder if that is part of where the struggles came from. I still worked. I still tried to take on more than I could. I let some things slide and over focused on others.

I didn’t even realize my failures.

Now I am in my third season, the beginning clearly marked by a new living space and a stable schedule. I have only 200 square feet to care for, not nearly the same distraction as 1800. I have been given an opportunity to make a good season.

This is going to require focus and determination, two things which don’t come to me easily. I intend to learn in a small space what I couldn’t in the impersonal space of extended family’s houses or the “large” overwhelming space of an entire house. This tiny space doesn’t require too much work, unlike the tiny people in it. They are going to be a main focus this time in a way they weren’t in previous seasons.

If I can’t handle this, I definitely can’t handle a “normal” living quarters.

Settling

Third time is the charm, right?

This is the third season we have done the “pull a trailer across the country and live in it for half the year” routine. One would think that this would mean a smooth move in.

Despite having quite a bit less stuff crammed in this year, we seem to have finally sorted out what comes and what stays (except cups. Completely forgot those.), settling in is not without its struggles. This trailer was not designed to be lived in, so storage for things like pots and pans, or for seven people’s worth of food is almost non-existent. Perhaps by the end of this season I will have my pantry sorted out.

And an odd thing happens every year. Those little people who didn’t take up much space take up more space. It seems the reduction in stuff has been offset by an increase in flesh. And noise.

If all of that wasn’t challenging enough, let’s add 9,000 ft to the equation. Last week at this time we were sitting at a 18 foot elevation, you could practically swim in the air. Up here just getting out of bed can make you breathe heavy. I know I’m not that old! This means headaches and irritability and the need for a nap halfway through the day. And that’s just the adults.

Shortness of breath is a terrible thing for anxiety by the way. It’s like a panic attack without the panic. Which in turn leads to a panic attack. That was fun.

The kids seem fine. They love it here, especially the snow, which for Florida kids is a complete novelty. Even in the cold, they spend most of the time outside, building forts and climbing things. This is great for us, because they sleep. Oh man, do they sleep out here.

If you ever want your kids to sleep, send them outside.

And take away their internet. You will notice a slow down in my posts these next few weeks. This is due to super spotty phone service on this side of the mountain. This is bad. And good. Bad for blogging, good for forcing one’s self to make the most of life. Especially kids. They could spend entire days sucked into a screen if you let them.

Which means they don’t sleep. And sleep is good…

Not That Sacramento

We made it!!

Not much of an exciting last day. The roof stayed on, after I applied nine more strips to it.

Overkill? I think not.

There honestly isn’t much to say except that it is great to be back in familiar territory, even if I’m in a new position…

Tomorrow (today I suppose) is unpacking and repacking day. Let’s see if we forgot anything 🙂

Texas. Just Texas

Houston

Texas is huge. Too huge. If Texas wasn’t so huge we’d be in New Mexico by now.

I kid. But only slightly. Seriously, why is this state so large?

Day four began with an exorbitant expense. Roof repair tape is not cheap at the only open place in town (no one buys rvs on weekends?).

I patched the roof, got the horde rounded up and fed, cleaned up some of the accumulated trash out of the vehicles, and hit the road around noon.

The roof patch worked for about… 20 miles. Thanks to the blazing hot sun the goo of the tape just kinda melted and the tape began to slide. So much for having a “wide temperature range”. Grr.

I added a few more layers of tape and we proceeded with caution.

Then the license plate began to slip. I swear, everything melts in Texas! Now our plate is tied to the ladder of the trailer with a zip tie and a couple of pieces of clothesline. We look classy.

Texas is not only huge, it’s also humid. And with no ac, it is a sweaty drive. I hung out in a gas station just to soak up the air. A sunset and the cooling of the air it brings has never been more welcome.

Also Houston. Lol no, it’s not THAT big.

We made it to Junction, a town with no phone service. That might be the only notable thing about Junction. The roof needed a bit more rubber cement and a push on the tape. I think it will hold up. I hope.

It’s day five. Lord willing, this is the last day of driving. By tonight our smelly, dirty, bloodshot-eyed, little wagon train should be in New Mexico!