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Climbing Down to Climb Back Up

The Day I Got Narcolepsy

There was a time in my life where I sold cars. A time when my words could shoot persuasively from my mouth and reach the minds of people unsure. That was my job and like any job it is only bearable accompanied with some fun and foolery.

One morning I was speaking with an older lady. I know she was old not because she told me but because it was obvious. I am talking a full head of gray hair and a face made in a wind tunnel. This appearance was a dead giveaway of her superior survival skills. This lady had been fighting back death and was winning.

Though I question what she did with all of that living. I don’t believe she had ever taken the time to learn to speak. I would’ve accepted sign language, I got nothing. I had been doing all the talking. I would ask questions and get a nod at best.  She would mostly just sit there with her mouth half-open barely retaining the pooling saliva dammed by a jutted out bottom lip. I would ask very simple either or questions and my answer would only be a blank stare. Sometimes her stare would be directed towards me, other times not.

We were sitting in the middle of the showroom at a Chevy Dealership and naturally there we quite a few distractions around. There were shiny cars, wacky waving inflatable tube men and a horde of balloons. While waiting for a response to a comment I made I caught her in a staring contest with a cardboard cutout of Oprah. Paper Oprah was there trying to gather attention for XM Radio and doing a hell of job apparently.

I was so bored! I tried everything to get some sort of dialogue going.  I had limited success. After far too long I had gathered just enough information to pick out what I thought was the right vehicle for her. Now this was based on the conversation we just had so it had been a tough decision. She and I waddled out to where the cars were parked. I showed her a few and spent a short amount of time convincing her that the car I had chosen for her was in fact the one for her.

I asked her if she would like to take home the vehicle today as long as we could make everything affordable for her. She started a slow nod. Then her nodding became furious. Her “yes” was so violent and rigid that from a distance her movements would have shared the resemblance of a small head seizure.  It was the most communication we’ve had so far. I grew to love that nod.

She wanted the vehicle. The next step was to drive the vehicle she was trading in and determine its value. I decided to let her drive while I evaluated from the passenger seat.  I asked her the typical textbook trade in questions and sat in silence as had been the custom thus far.

I looked over at her to see her eyes crazily fixed on the street ahead. Her hands gripped tight at ten and two. Her seat scooted as far forward so the top of the steering wheel was level with her hunched shoulders. Her mouth half-open as usual. Drool contained. The only noise the occasional frightening squeak of a bad belt under the hood.

I broke the silence. “Can you keep a secret?” I asked. She nodded. I was bored out of my mind. What came next had not been planned. I didn’t have a secret when I asked her if she could keep one. Maybe she would say no and I wouldn’t have to continue.

I had no such luck, she nodded as usual. I didn’t have any great gossip to share. Not any real gossip at least. I made up the best secret I could think of.  I told her that earlier that week I had been diagnosed with narcolepsy. I told her that no one knew. I had not told my family. I hadn’t told any of my friends. I said most importantly I haven’t told my work about this. I made no pause; I gave her no time for a reaction. My lips continued to spew this spontaneous silliness, “The reason I am telling you this, the reason I am revealing this to you, is because I must keep my job. If my boss finds out about this disorder, I don’t know if I can still work here. So if I fall asleep, I need you to wake me up.”

She didn’t even nod this time, though look on her face had changed. She believed me I could tell. Her eyes bent down with concern. I took advantage. “Can you do that for me, wake me up? It probably won’t happen as the flare-ups are rare” I added. She nodded. I nodded appreciatively back and added one last set of instructions. I told her just in case I do fall asleep make sure you wake me up very slowly. I informed her that if I get woken up to quickly I have the tendency to get violent. I let her know I didn’t want to hurt anyone.

We rode back to the dealership in silence. As she drove her car onto the lot, I gave her directions where to park. Once I had received enough nods to verify she knew where she was supposed to go I decided to try out my new disorder. I shut my eyes and let my head fall back on the seat and experienced my very first narcoleptic nap. She didn’t notice, at least not right away.


I felt the car come to a halt. I assumed she had parked. We sat there for a few minutes, she said nothing and she did nothing. I imagined her wrestling with her mind as what to do. She wasn’t going to let this young man get found out and possibly lose his job. Though the violence. I imagined her very concerned about this; that if she tried to wake me up I might convulse a furry of kicks and punches at her ancient brittle body.

I couldn’t take it any longer. I opened one eye. I saw her face two inches from mine. I saw her hand an inch from my shoulder. I had been sitting there for a couple of minutes. This made me wonder. How long had she been in this position? How long had she been staring at me trying to understand what I had meant by slowly? She wasn’t moving.

Then I saw her hands start to push forward and close the gap to my shoulder.  She was about to make contact. I am sure her heart was racing wondering if my fabled fit of violence would come. I didn’t make her go through with it. I opened both my eyes holding back the tears of hilarity and thanked her profusely for waking me. We didn’t talk about it happening. There were no nods. Communication had seized for the moment. It was odd for her and she wanted to dismiss it all together. I laughed to myself and let her know that I would get her a great deal for showing me kindness.

We walked inside; I sat her at a table and showed her the great deal I promised. I told her the price of the vehicle she was buying, I told her the value of her trade and what her payments would be. I then told her if she would like to take delivery today to sign on the line, I pushed the pen in front of her and fell asleep.

My disorder had returned for a final appearance! My head fell and my eyes closed. I even added a few snores for attention. I sat in a silence as she contemplated her decision. I woke quickly this time as guilt and glares from my boss were enough to cure me. I looked down at the piece of paper and saw a scribble. She had signed. I sold the car. We both looked each other in the eye and nodded.

Shortly after, I delivered the vehicle to her and she was on her way.  I never told her that I had been faking it. I often wonder when I relive that day what she was thinking. I can imagine every time she gets in her vehicle she remembers the time she saved her salesperson from losing his job. She remembers the fear she had in doing so. She remembers being filled with anxiety hoping I wouldn’t go ballistic on her. In reality, all she really saved me from was a day of boredom. If I saw her again today, I would keep my secret and with a nod I would thank her.  I would thank her for purchasing a car from me years ago and saving me from another dull day in Iowa. Then I would promptly fall asleep.

A Lesson Learned From Sinking Metal

I was driving my car to the airport. I needed to reach my terminal a bit early as parking at DFW can be a total nightmare. In my rush I ended up getting off at the wrong exit. I needed terminal B and I was headed towards rental cars. I stepped on the gas; I needed to find a way to turn around. I sped through the single lane track and passed signs for AVIS, Enterprise and others.  I could find no way out.

I snaked passed Budget Rental, the last in the row. There was a police officer directing traffic in and out of the parking garage. As I passed he yelled at me as I had gone through a stop sign. I didn’t care too much as he was on foot. He couldn’t catch me and I didn’t kill anyone, no harm no foul.

My windows were down and I could hear him yelling dis-pleasures at me. That I needed to stop and he was going to get into his car to try and catch me. I did not have time for this. I ignored him, certain that there was no chance he would ever see me again. I sped up to ensure that this would be true.

Up ahead there was a decision to be made. Two paths: the road went straight or veered off to the right. There was not a sign for me to read so I could tell which was the right decision. I did not slow down. At the last second I decided to go right, no straight. I went straight and the road I was on turned out to be no road at all.

The road started to narrow and quick. On my left was an embankment. On my right was a large drop off that fell to a river. Just as fast as I could tell my brain to tell my foot to hit the brakes I was jolted. My tire had risen up on the left curb. The embankment quickly grew and my car was raised. It was raised higher and higher until I was speeding along at a forty five degree angle. The remaining pavement left for my right tire disappeared from underneath it. My vehicle and I spun out into the air a hundred feet above the water.

The Chevy landed wheels down and splashed heavily into the river, the great gob of metal sinking fast. My only thought was hoping that when I hit the bottom, it wouldn’t hurt. I braced for impact. No impact came. Whatever body of water I landed in was clear as spring water and deep as a canyon. I unbuckled. I checked myself, I was completely unharmed. I climbed out my window and started to swim. I looked up to see the sun glistening off the water. Its reflection told me I could make it to the top.

I don’t know if I ever made it out. The brightness of the sun woke me up and I was lying dry in my Dallas apartment.  That terrifying event had been nothing more than a dream, a quick, screeching dream from an afternoon nap.

I am not sure what to take from it. What was my mind trying to tell me? Is my sub conscious just trying to wake me up, to wake me up and urge me to do something productive? Could my brain just have been entertaining itself with a quick action movie? Was it something deeper yet?

Was I trying to tell myself to slow down before I make decisions? To make sure I know what I am doing and where I am going. Was I warning myself that not doing so could result in losing control and landing in some icy unknown? I imagine so.

I would just like to thank my neurons for sending me a message. I appreciate the lecture brain. Yours are much more entertaining and vivid than the ones I get from my parents. They didn’t do a bad job. It’s just your ability to make it feel so real is very effective.

Beautiful Angels

I travel. I travel constantly. I travel five days a week for business, I travel weekends for pleasure. My home is an array of hotels, Hiltons, Holiday Inns or whatever William Shatner hooks me up with. My transportation consists of economy rental cars and cramped airplanes. My friends work at these airlines, hotels and rental companies. My office is any place with accessible electricity and Wi-Fi. My pride is completed tasks, on time arrivals, airline statuses and successful wake up calls.

The last thing I want to do when I return home after three consecutive weeks of travel,( After three weeks of work in Boston, Massachusetts, Mobile, Alabama and Jacksonville, Florida and two weeks with the girlfriend somewhere deep in Montana.) is clean! When I first open the door to my apartment, I unleash the long imprisoned contents of my suitcase and watch as it springs itself free only to rest upon the floors, counters, couch, bathrooms and anywhere else it may land. My rarely used silverware, used once again, though not put away. Dirty forks, dirty dishes and used napkins find themselves spread all across my kitchen and dining room. My bed becomes unmade from use.

I will leave again on Monday. Friday through Sunday I am in a rush to do a million things while I am still in my town. I have friends to see. I have bills to pay. I have a car to upkeep. I have haircuts to get. I have clothes to launder. I have a bike to ride. I have books to read. I have beer to drink! I have a house to clean. Though, in all honesty the latter seems to never be accomplished, at least by me.

I have hired a cleaning company and respect no job more than the job they do for me. The beautiful woman who comes and cleans my house is an angel. (I only assume she is beautiful, I only assume she is an angel, because no one would do that task without being both!) I destroy my apartment. I find a clean place, a wonderful area in a wonderful neighborhood and think for no rational reason; it is a great idea to drop a tiny nuclear bomb right in its middle. There is an incredible mess, there is radiation! And when they come to my apartment, without masks or complaints, its floors become sterilized and my mind released from the stress of another task.

This is a great luxury I have become accustomed to. One of the last I would give up in an ultimate crisis, which it would have to be for me to consider it. I have great respect for these women and those men doing the task, I flat out refuse to do! I was raised by a woman who did the same task. She did this same task long before she way paid for it, back when my baby, toddler and teenager self was dropping tiny nuclear bombs all over her house! She cleaned it, without masks and without complaints. Then she did the same again, to our own house and to others. With the small profits coming in from her selfless venture, she gave my siblings and me a wonderful education. She is a real woman of sacrifice and is to be admired.

With this sacrifice and pure determination, which started long before dollars were ever introduced, she started a business. With this business she is still doing selfless acts of incredible kindness as she has done her whole life and will continue to do.

 What I am saying, what I am getting at, is when these women and men (beautiful angels) walk into your home, know what they are capable of, know what they may have done. You don’t have to behave any different than you are now, just know.


A wieght lifted, A secret revealed: A Nesseth family meeting

I was playing outside with my friends one afternoon after school when I was rudely interrupted by a mandatory family meeting. I was irritated. I knew the rules. You did your homework, your chores and then you were permitted to play outside until dinner. Yes, we were around the dinner table, yet there was no food. I sat, peeved and impatient waiting for whatever was so important that could justify interrupting my precious play time.

My Mom had been pacing around, looking restless and bothered. My dad sat close looking calm and stoic as usual, yet there was an opposite feeling, visible and bubbling on his inside.  My brother and sister sitting with my same confused half nervous look of anticipation.

My Mom had anointed herself the meeting’s speaker. After a couple of awkward rounds of the typical after school mom to children questions, we finally arrived at the meeting’s purpose.  My mom with a large swallow told us the news as bravely as any person could. She looked me right in the eye, now I knew I was the focus, I could only assume I was in trouble. I was wrong. She told me that the doctor called while I was at school, the biopsy results had come back and the tumor was malignant.

My eleven year old mind did not understand the word “malignant”. I, of course, asked curiously for a clarification. My poor mom had been working up the courage all day to tell me this news, once had been enough. This time the tears could not be held back anymore, she choked out, “Chris you have cancer”.

I took this in for a moment. At eleven you don’t understand the severity of the word cancer. She might as well have had said malignant again or you have antidisestablishmentarianism. I just knew she had said the word doctor and I could see her tears. I assumed that whatever cancer was, I had it and it wasn’t good. I looked up at my brave mother. Still trying her absolute hardest to hold it all in, she was close to overflowing, the emotions ready to boil over.

I asked her if they could fix it. I asked her in a very matter of fact way, very calmly and genuinely curious. She told me, well yes. I looked at her baffled. Then what was the big deal? If they could fix it, then why was I inside when I could be outside playing?

I don’t think she could handle how well I took it. I clearly didn’t understand. I clearly didn’t see the severity. I clearly didn’t hear that sometimes death sentence of a word. I could see this, that she was not taking it so well. That it made it worse that I didn’t think anything of it, other than I was annoyed about more doctor visits. Somehow my eleven year old mind knew to tell my mother what I had learned in school that day. I said, “Mom, you know what Mrs. Junion told us in class today? She told us that God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle.”

The tears came harder. Though this time beneath her eyes beaten by a phone call and the anticipation and the burden of having to share this news with all of us and worst of all with me, there was a smile. There was laughter. I believe in that moment, she knew I was right. That we aren’t given anything we can’t handle and there was a few seconds of relief. I could see that I had achieved my goal of easing my mom’s clear discomfort. Which was a half selfish ploy; I saw my moment and promptly asked if I could go back outside to play. She smiled and nodded with the only energy she had left.

Obviously I survived as I am writing these words thirteen years later and after that moment, it was never as hard as it was then. We knew. My mother knew, my father knew, my sister and my brother knew (brave themselves for the attention I took from them) and I knew that there really is nothing we are given that we can’t handle. If you see my family today there isn’t one of us who doesn’t know this, who doesn’t understand this. Anyone who knows any one person in my family knows that each and every one of us is strong and successful. It has taken many moments around a dinner table in Iowa that have made us who we are today.

What’s Outside the Window?

“What is outside the window?.” A question posed by Roberto Bolano to myself last night. Oh boy, you inconsiderate bastard, I thought. He had left me no answer. As I paced around my hotel room, absolutely perplexed, my mind was moving. What did he mean, what does it mean? This man has kept my attention for six hundred and forty six pages and as I turned number six hundred and forty seven and read that last line, Roberto still had me.

I tried to understand what he meant, where he was going. What was this genius of words trying to say with a picture. A square with dashes for lines, the same you would assume is telling you to cut here, to carefully create a perfect shape into the last page of a perfect book. It must be something grand. I just hoped to be smart enough to know.

I decided to focus on what it meant to me, it’s not like I could go ask the guy, I am sure he is buried in South America somewhere, a shrine I hope. The only answer I had, was no answer at all. It was a riddle, I knew that much.

What is outside the window? Was it prison bars? What is outside the window? Was it longitudes and latitudes? What is outside the window? As I stared in, I wondered is it me? I knew one thing for sure, I don’t know.

That final thought repeating in my head, I don’t know, I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s what he intended for me to think. I found it perfect anyway.

No one knows what’s outside the window or outside of anything for that matter. You must get up, get out of that couch, stop staring at that god-damned window called a television. Get up, get out. Go find out for yourself. You need to, you must stop staring and wondering.

Yes, the safety of whatever enclosure you might find yourself in is most certainly comforting. Yes, those walls keep you free from getting hurt, free from falling and free from breathing the city’s toxic air. They are also depressing. That room is also, exactly what is, enclosed. It is enclosing quickly on your life, on your soul.

Go, quick, find some danger, find some love, get hurt, get going!

If you are staring out right now, wondering, what is outside the window? Good. Go out that door, the door of your office building, the door of your home, apartment or loft, the door of your heart, the door of your mind, the door of your soul and find out.

Hurry, your breath is fogging the glass and winter is coming.

Outside a window in Montana

Shadow Chasing

At first a dream came to me, unknown, like a shadow. It was nothing but a gray blob circling my every move right in tune with my watch and the falling sun. It would come twice a day and I would keep an eye on it as it passed just in front of my nose and lose interest as it circled out of sight. I could see it, unsure of its origin.

Then one day I asked myself, where is this light coming from?

What is casting this shadow, this glimpse of something more? What is this burning sensation in my chest? (The feeling can be disruptive and irritating, like heartburn) What is causing these thoughts that are taking me away from my every day hectic schedule of a life already created? What is to be made of this dark and twisty thing that keeps my brain turning, my heart pumping and my feet moving?

Is it a greater need to feel destined and to fulfill such fates with my own power? Is it the need to wipe away that shadow and stand basking in its source? (The only shadow my own, for others to follow.)

The bigger question is do I dare to find out? I am guilty (like most of us) of making that fatalistic choice, by turning out the lights and choosing to walk at night. To have the only dreams I have, be the ones I wake up from.  But let’s be honest, in the real world of big time responsibilities and a list of tasks that never gets shorter, who actually has time for all this shadow chasing?

I have a shadow I am chasing of my own. I have a dream that grows more clearly each day. I have no choice but to do everything it takes to follow it. To dare to make the time, to take the time!  I have to do whatever it takes. I need to get the time even when it seems like there isn’t any left to have.

I have been making choices to reach this goal. I recently canceled my cable. I canceled my Netflix. I sold my Playstation. I sold my television. I have eliminated all of the obvious external distractions. The next to go are those pesky ones inside my head and Words with Friends.

All I have left to do is chase. I have to ask myself what I want and get it. There will be obstacles, that is a given. I will overcome them. I will prevail. I am certain in the end there is nothing more important than the chase itself. That giving yourself completely to the chase is a requirement of a having a life fulfilled, to reach that ever elusive happiness.

I choose to give myself up completely to the chase. And with time I’ve created, I will surely forge ahead. I will write one day about how I stared deep into the eyes of my shadow and met the challenge. I will tell you all about how I went down this path, as unglamorous as it might be, and won. I want to share with all of you of the time I took my soul and shook it from its comfort and took it home.

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