The luckiest person in the world? Perhaps it’s the guy who parachuted from space and lived to tell (Felix Baumgartner), or the one lottery winner who didn’t destroy his life with his winnings. Maybe it’s the girl who against all odds married the perfect man, the happy soul who put everything he had on Apple stock at $14 back in the day, or you, or me for that matter?
Hard work is well known to set the odds in one’s favor. However, sayings are “sayings” for a reason, and I appreciate the expression “It’s better to be lucky than good” for the sheer cheek it waves in one’s face. Some say that luck can be defined as the moment “when opportunity meets preparedness,” which I believe to be the best explanation I’ve heard to date, but that definition doesn’t account for the inherent cruelties of life.
In the last four weeks, the engine computer on my car died, relegating it to the role of the world’s largest paperweight. I wrecked hard on my mountain bike, cracking the rear axle and destroying my front forks. My employer of twenty-four years put the entire staff on notice that things were, to say the least, not looking rosy. Two friends of mine perished in freak car accidents, and my father and best friend both find themselves in the late stage throes of leukemia, options dwindling. Unluck seems to abound. Challenging, heartbreaking, costly, income free times have presented themselves. Lady Luck, are you listening? There are people out there who could use your assistance.
It’s not me who needs the gift of luck. Those grieving needed the luck. Those besieged by disease need the luck. My trivial trials can still be wrestled into submission by hard work, by preparedness, and a dash of opportunity…for now. In spite of the rather steep downturn that’s befallen this house in the last month light still shines; dimmed a bit by recent events but glimmering none the less. Glass half empty, glass half full, glass accidentally dropped after too many glasses, whatever. Isn’t it all an elaborate brocade featuring equal parts whim of fate and the choices we make? A bittersweet symphony.
I’ve jumped from an airplane 57 times, but never from space. I’ve purchased a lottery ticket, or two hundred, and once won $3.00. I married for love, but no amount of effort proved adequate to hold the union in place. I bought Apple stock at $200, after the split, and have no profit to show for it. On the other hand, I have a loving family, two amazing young men who I am honored to assist on their journey to adulthood. They light up the world as though every day is a fusion of the fourth of July and the summer solstice. Based on this fact alone, I consider myself, through no doing of my own, to be in the running for the title of, “Luckiest person in the world!”
It’s always darkest before the dawn, but what if dawn never breaks?
Optimism vs. fortitude.One is outcome dependent, the other self-sustaining. Dark times come, and hopefully, go, but “hope” is not a strategy. The only meaningful goal then is to endure, rather than to dream of being rescued.
As the midnight storm clouds bare their icy fangs I brace for the knife blade deluge of unexpected misfortune this season demands.
My dream home came up for sale today. It is not a house to which many would ascribe that moniker. However, It is the very place where my sons did much of their growing up. As it happened, our home was sacrificed, like so many, on the altar of marital dissolution.
The boys and I have spoken often of the dream of one day buying it back, of reclaiming our ‘home.’ Sure the brick facade has been painted over and someone else has imprinted it with their concept of ‘home,’ but with some blood, sweat, and tears, we would make it ours again.
After hours on the phone with bankers, it appears those hopes have been dashed by the advent of ‘market appreciation’ relative to my income. Dreams are fickle things. My heart, though full with the bounty of my good fortune, is a bit heavy today.
Time is an illusion, or so say theoretical physicists, some Buddhists, and a few uncredentialed randos. Change, on the other hand, is palpable. On the cosmic continuum, our human lives are laughably short, unless of course one throws caring for a newborn baby into the mix at which point each moment takes on the guise of eternity.
What to do with such a minuscule timeframe?Establish an identity?Wear it as a mantle, or suit of armor?Perhaps.On a more interesting tack, might we open our minds to the so-called illusion of time and embrace the challenge of change?
That sound we hear at night when we cannot fall asleep, that jarring metaphorical thunder strike that suddenly and unexpectedly transgresses our imagined force field of normalcy, that ominous silence which becomes deafening during unwanted moments of solitude; that is the sound of inevitability.It is the specter or the hope of change. It knocks at the door when we do not expect a visitor, or claws at the window on a stormy night as we toss and turn, tangled in our sweat-soaked sheets.It is the ‘inescapable,’ taunting the prisoner.
Some folks make peace with change, even crave it. Others purposefully oppose it in archetypal ‘arch-rival’ fashion. One path leads to some manner of peace with what is going to be, the other leads to voluntary disappointment. Each is a fine perspective, though one opens new doors while the other bars them. Either way, the drama is short lived.
A dam with no floodgate cannot contain a relentless downpour forever.So it is with the ‘illusory’ incubus we call ‘time.’The waters will crest, the dam will fail, the future will wrench historical normalcy from the hands of every true believer and cleanse the land with the as yet unknown.
Holding tight to the past, or even the present will give the illusion of effectiveness for a decade or two. ‘The more things same, the more they stay the change,’ but only for so long. Nostalgia is bittersweet as is the inevitability of change, but only one of them is optional. Onward!
Perspective, a personal view that we use to define the world; our individual interpretation of “life as we know it.” Outlook is for better or worse the determining factor in our assessment of reality. A proactive, positive outlook will undoubtedly set studier groundwork for one’s future than a negative one. I’m not suggesting that the changing of mind will completely change one’s circumstance, at least not immediately. However, I do believe that taking charge of perspective is powerful. If you’re happy and you know it…Awesome for you!If you are not, shaking up your perspective inventory may be an excellent first step toward finding a better way to start, embrace and live the day.
I’ve taken a lot of modern life at face value. I’m trusting that way, which is not necessarily a ‘best practices’ approach. Conspiracy theories abound about government, food sourcing, education, family planning, etc.. It’s easy to laugh them off if you’re not prone to such leanings. I imagine though that some of the less absurd assertions in this realm hold at least modicum of truth.We are consumers of information, entertainment, calories, fashion, drama, propaganda, medicine, and escape, to name a few. These ‘goods,’ for better or worse, find their way into our personal ecosystems.Taking a closer look, a more analytical, research-based appraisal of what we take in, consume or adopt, often on blind faith, may be the key to avoiding pitfalls on the road to a ‘best life.’But who has the time for that?
As far as I know, I’ve only been here once so I’ll have to rely on historical data and perception to tease out an approximation of the facts. It seems to me that a few too many cars on the road sport some form or another of “Fight such and such form of Cancer” stickers. No, we don’t see ‘Fight the Black Plague’ stickers, yet, but something seems off with the current state of treat vs. prevent. Big business benefits from both pesticide use and miracle cures.Coincidence?Possibly.
Historically speaking life is more comfortable and less violence now than it has ever been, current prison system enrollment notwithstanding.That doesn’t mean it’s time to clock out and accept the lot we’ve been given right? The advent of the information age means that taking responsibility for our own health and happiness has never been easier.Of course, there is the specter of the disinformation revolution to consider. The first American president was treated for his final illness by being bled with leeches, cutting edge medical tech at the time.We have access to far more information than his medical team could have imagined.Is this current library of bio-wisdom more accurate?Hopefully.
Questioning the status quo seems a brilliant starting point in the goal of achieving unimpeachable personal health and contentment. The questioning our motives, perspectives, and assumptions ranks a close second in this quest, should we choose to take on the responsibility of thinking outside the drive-through box. We can sleep when we die, and the one certainty is that though we may dodge taxes, ultimately we will all sleep.While we still breathe it is vigilance, interest, and inquisitiveness that will bend the arc of our lives closest to an outcome that is defined as Happy-ish, Healthy-ish and mostly at Peace. May the quest for these treasures be defined in my life and your’s by fortitude, patience and a super-sized pinch of good luck.
Transient: defined as that which lasts only a short time. Transience is the yin to the yang of permanence, or is it? Opposites in appearance yes, but is it not the case that ‘permanence’ is no more than a charlatan, a false idol, a lie? Permanence is the deception that gets us up in the morning allowing us to wrench meaning from the jaws of existential crisis. In that respect its a benevolent lie I suppose. Deception from inception all the same.
This moment is all we have.It is all that is guaranteed, yet somehow it is difficult to appreciate the present without superimposing it over the illusion of the future…
Pause for dialogue:
Me in mock exasperation, “Dude, stop licking my computer!”Our silver tabby cat Rubicon glares at me for a moment, goes back to licking the left corner of my screen then rubs her face on it.She probably doesn’t give much truck to blogging or existential crises.
In the song “My Generation” the iconic British rock band The Who sang, “Hope I die before I get old.”What’s the rush. We were all born with punched tickets aboard the transient train. There are no doors, the windows are riveted shut, one-way tickets indeed! Whether the journey takes one across the Himalayas or the D.C. Beltway, our stop comes not when we are ready, but when it is. Each moment is precious, even when our moods beg to differ.
Rubicon, the cat, stares at me from the brick porch in the dwindling twilight. I reach down and give a long, loving scratch to her sage kitty head.Clouds pass lazily against the backdrop of the fading blue spring sky. Much as we pass over the ever fading light of individual experience. It’s early for fireflies, but I see one lonely boy broadcasting his premature beacon of hope over the hedgerow. On the continuum of time, he’s a fellow transient, making sense of things to the best of his ability along with the rest of us.
I watch the cat, the firefly, and the clouds follow their paths and am moved by their natural gift for unfettered being. All radiate the aura of simply existing here and now without shouldering the specter of discontent. Its neither blockbuster entertainment, nor acclaimed indy cinema, but I leave the theatre of my evening with a full heart, and plenty to ponder.
A road map of departures. Stories of ‘leaving’ silently scrawled while the rest of the house slept. Notes left as insurance against consternation in case someone woke to wonder where I was. Last thoughts left behind in case, god forbid, some unforeseen circumstance extinguished the hope of a safe return.
The practice of scribbling these notes has spanned many years. Though this ritual began when the boys were young and more situationally fragile, it has become a tradition in our home. Its use is a conscious act to make clear that which would otherwise have to be left to imagination.
The composition book had been rescued from landfill retirement at the end of some forgotten school year and repurposed in the role of a portable bulletin board. At its most useful it lays on the battered hardwood floors of our partially updated 1950 cape cod, in the hallway between the two old wooden bedroom doors of my beloved sons leaving answers, just in case there are questions.
It all begins with raising a healthy child I suppose. A child with a well-balanced sense of right and wrong, the ability to care, commit, engage and admit when they are wrong, and an understanding of reasonable boundaries for starters. These seem fitting attributes for one charged with the making of a new world. Where will this metaphorical child look for cues?
Caregivers/parents set the tone for every coming act on the global stage. Every parental behavior, no matter how small creates a butterfly effect that sends ripples through yet unwritten history. Therefore our responsibility as adults is not merely to our children but to an entire generation and the generations which they, in turn, will bring to pass. Our responsibility that is, if we have a legitimate interest in our legacy; our gift, or blight on the years to come.
“Respect your elders.” The popular expression makes my stomach turn. While I do believe respect is an important lesson I do not believe it can be instilled in a ‘one-way street’ fashion. In my experience, children learn far more from our actions than our ‘teachings.’ If we treat a child with respect, they come to understand it’s true nature, and more importantly its value. Seeing is believing.
“Do as I say, not as I do,” another gem. While listeners are sometimes hard to come by, mimics abound in the realm of childhood. The essence of a healthy future is founded on the understanding that “do as I do” is the curriculum far more likely to take hold.
Leading by example then is the forge on which tomorrow is wrought. What imperative does that place on this generation of caregivers? Will we pass on that which we learned as children? Were those lessons ideal? Are they all we have, the best we can do? Will we even know we are repeating the sins of the father or mother upon the son or daughter? Handing the wheel to the platitude “When I was a kid…” isn’t necessarily good enough is it? If it were, the psychotherapeutic business would not be enjoying its meteoric and seemingly endless growth trajectory.
Self-respect starts at home, as does healthy self-appreciation. These positive self-image elements spread like ‘good weeds’ from those who possess them. If as a child you were deprived of the installation of these qualities the accession from childhood to the role of parenting provides an opportunity to break the cycle, glitch the matrix, to rewrite the future. It takes effort, focus and commitment to step outside the negative experiences that shaped our collective past, but on the wings of counting to ten and choosing to be active rather than reactive it is the path to a legacy we can be proud of.
Remembering what it was like to be a child, the newness of the world in the absence of experience and accumulated wisdom is the bridge that allows for patience and the acceptance of childish behavior. How the hell else are they supposed to act for god’s sake? I submit that the showing of respect, the looking for the positive and offering affirmation, setting clear, reasonable boundaries, the giving of hugs and speaking the words “I love you” as often as humanly possible are the keys to achieving the sacred mandate of raising of a healthy world.