Distant lightning flashed. White light careened through the skylights momentarily illuminating the dark bedroom. The air bristled with discomfort, disquiet coursing through my mind, through every cell in my body. Thunder rolled across the night, and the wind rose to a harsh whistle at the windows. The unease that filled the night was not however born on the wings of the coming storm. It was of my own making; a rising tide the origin of which was a mystery, unknowable and ominous.
As the first huge drops of rain began to hammer the skylights, I huddled in the darkness wrestling with the sense that everything in my world seemed beyond control, beyond the possibility of repair, beyond hope. The spread of this darkness began to envelop my mind, strangling my thoughts, paralyzing any ability I once would have used to still the maelstrom of doubts. For reasons the genesis of which escape me, there are times in life when the smallest thing, the largest thing, everything seems overwhelming.
As the storm overtook the house in its full force, I lay still in the darkness. Fear of living is not something I choose to dance with, but there are times when the music comes up, and that fear reaches for my hand and pulls me out onto the floor despite my resistance. This was such a night, such a dance, spinning around the room I moved to the tune of unfounded fear.
The sound of the hammering rain drew my eyes in the direction of the skylight. As I stared wide-eyed into the blackness a lightning bolt struck, once again blasting the world with white light. At that moment I saw the myriad raindrops exploding against the glass. That’s when it dawned on me.
The raindrops are a metaphor for life. Moments before they had not been raindrops. From an ineffable particle field of clouds miles above they had formed, born into the shape of a water droplet; a singular entity created from the ether. They live in individual form hurtling through space and time; their unique existence real and measurable, for a moment. Upon striking the skylight, the rooftop, or the ground they were transformed; no longer individual drops, returned to the shapelessness of rushing water, washing away to be absorbed by the earth. There they are assimilated and redistributed as means for growth and current for streams and rivers. After a few hot days, any evidence of their unique existence is diminished and finally vanishes.
So it is with life. A beginning from nothing followed by a meteoric plunge through the universe of existence; and finally a return to the fathomless whole of all things. Everything that has a beginning has an end. Once placed in this perspective no journey is without hope, without relief, or without its own particular brilliance. The storm of disquiet within dissipated, understanding washing over me in a gentle wave of acceptance and appreciation. I pulled the covers over my slowly relaxing body, rolled to my side and fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.
Night fell hours ago.As dusk settled over the barren desert landscape, I switched on the headlights.The hum of the engine seems to drum in rhythm with the broken white lines that define the two sides of this strip of desolate highway.Darkness envelopes the world leaving only that which is directly before me to consider.The interior lighting of the console wraps me in a soft amber glow.The high beams offer about one hundred yards of insight into my future; my immediate future to be specific.I drive on in what I believe to be relative safety; confident in the precept that, though I cannot see my destination I will, in ever forward moving hundred yard increments, ultimately reach it.
In truth, though night fell years ago, decades ago, a lifetime ago, metaphorically speaking.The droning of the engine is comforting here in the desert, a white noise lullaby.One of my favorite memories from childhood, prior to the wise institution of seatbelt laws, was be to curled up on the bench back seat of my parents’ station wagon on the way home from some night time gathering.There in the darkness, I’d find comfort in the purr of the Dodge Polara engine and the gentle pitch and sway the given roadway afforded.The gatherings themselves were sometimes fun, sometimes awkward, these were my parents’ friends, who often happened to have children around my age.Regardless of how the evening went, whether I enjoyed it or simply endured it; I always looked forward to the comfort of the slow strobe of street lights reflecting off the vinyl upholstery. I would bury my face in the seam between the seat and backrest, welcoming the warm decent into dream state.
The white lines whip past me, ticking my journey off in nanoseconds.I see little more than these in my given hundred yards of illumination.An occasional signage alerts me to a coming lonely intersection, or town if one could call a desert gas station and closed motel a town, but that is about all I know of my next few minutes.So it has been with the daylight of my life as well.Many of us take life day by day, week by week or month by month.I count myself among that number.I drive through life using the throw of metaphorical headlights to see just far enough down the road to keep my foot on the accelerator.This approach has gotten me here, now, halfway across the southern border Joshua Tree National Park eastbound on U.S. Interstate 10 in the dead of night; speeding I might add, 95 in a 70mph zone.
What if instead of headlights I had searchlights?Of course, mounting searchlights to the roof of my car and plowing through the night might be perceived as incredibly inconsiderate by oncoming drivers, and likely more illegal than my 95 in a 70.But I think as I fly by another desolate rest stop, what would my life be like if I used searchlights to illuminate the future?How would my understanding of this present moment change?Hundreds of miles of possibilities, opportunities and choices would suddenly be illuminated in the space that was once a desert of impenetrable darkness.Some have done so, or we wouldn’t have electric lights at all.
As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted a weeping willow tree, growing dreamily on some mythical property that I would call my own.My own at least for my fleeting time here on earth, then to be left to the next generation of inhabitants who would call that very willow tree their own.Trees have largely become part of the background these days. In our modern, screen intensive society they are nearly invisible. These heroes of Arbor Day are now little more than things one passes on their way from this place to that.Willow trees however still hold the power to beckon, at least to me. Their presence suggests that whimsy is indeed an ancient art to be witnessed and perhaps revered.Not to say that all fall under the Willow’s spell.No, I’m sure not all, but I do.The waking dream of a willow tree’s branches swaying in the wind calls forth the notion of magic to me.And in this, I know, from overheard conversations that I am not alone.
Have you ever had a dream that you were certain was real?So sure that when you awoke, you rose quickly to confirm that what you imagined during sleep was in fact reality?I have many times.Few of such dreams have involved trees, fewer still have involved the willow.That said, I have had more than a few waking moments when a willow tree transported me to the threshold of a dreamlike state.What is it about the weeping, drifting nature of this particular arborescent giant that inspires fantasy?Having finally planted one in the front yard, I am amazed on a regular basis by the seemingly supernatural power of the breed.
Waking in a stupor after a night of poor sleep or poor decisions I can instantly find myself revitalized by the mere sight of the flowing branches of the tree we at my house have named Willo after my youngest who came by that nickname through some random twist of wordplay with friends.His older brother and I planted it as a gift to him one day while he was away with his companions.Upon returning, he saw the sapling and beamed with knowing.
This whimsical, and now with the passing years majestic tree makes me want to sway along to the wind directed cadence of the natural world that persists in spite of my human agenda.It makes me eager to shake off any negative feelings and fuse with the larger world, with the universe even, to the beat of the ancient rhythm that rules this place.The pulse that has guided the world since long before our coming and will conduct it long after our time to rest has passed.
It’s just a tree, in a yard, in a neighborhood, in a city, in a country, on a planet that has spun for millennia around a sun that has burned for a near infinity of lifetimes.Still, to me, it is somehow something much, much more.
Sometimes things feel so spot on, so figured out. Other times things feel so fucked! Honesty is both beautiful and ugly, so here we go. Glass half full, glass half empty, glass whatever until shit hits the fan. You’ve had a bad day right? You’ve had some good ones too? I’ve had both and can unequivocally offer my opinion of the difference between them; I don’t dig the darkness. It’s easy for me to be up when I’m fortunate enough to awaken on the right side of the bed, if something truly wonderful has happened in my life, or if I have an audience to entertain. It’s also easy for me to find the shadows when the hall is empty, or the vicissitudes of fate choose a game of random misery.
Spirit, soul, perspective, blow with the wind when no one is looking. We’ve all likely found darkness shrouding our path at some point. We’ve also probably been fortunate enough to know lightness. I experience both in a relatively favorable measure, but today it is the darkness that accompanies me as I make my way. Odd that a life I feel to be so fortunate should seem so dismal at this moment. History tells me it will pass. And thank god! A funny expression emanating my lips “Thank god,” as I do not currently ascribe to conventional western religious doctrine. Still, I feel it, the meaning of “Thank god,” balls to bones because I have faith. Faith not in books, nor figureheads, but in “It!” The “It” that binds us all together in this life.
How are your dark days? Mine are daunting. Sometimes I feel fearful in my solitude. Afraid that I will fail those I love. Worried that I will fail me! Ha, shouldn’t I have included myself in the numbers of the former? How will I fail? By not showing up, not delivering the promise of optimism and perseverance to which I have committed?
Depression is the antichrist to hopeful endeavor, and some days when I feel it’s weight bearing down on me I find no solace, no sense of possibility for escape. For context, I do not suffer from the type of debilitating depression that some struggle with. Fortune smiles on my brain chemistry in that regard. I am talking about run of the mill, “get over yourself” feelings of depression. The emotional state one simply has to face, and vanquish.
It is to a great extent the way in our culture to have ears only for, “Fine” or “Great thanks,” in response to the question, “How are you?” Who has time for the real answer right? To avoid pariah status, when I find my soul cloaked in crushing darkness I lie, “Doing well, thanks. You?” Perhaps being born in the United States where the concept of “Rugged Individualism” is a historical cornerstone, this automatic response is coded into my DNA. Though from what I’ve read, Rugged Individualism is a walk in the park relative to the DNA encoding that the English have saddled themselves with! Interestingly, my genealogy leads in no small way to that tight-lipped isle of rain-soaked woe. Not super surprising that an occasional down day should find me.
Today I listened to a Tim Ferris Show podcast featuring the renowned psychologist Jack Kornfield. Jack’s career began in the jungles of Thailand where in his twenties while serving with the peace corp he decided to become a Buddhist monk. As he explained, it was a painful but enlightening (pun intended) journey that lead him to new perspectives on self, self-hatred, and self-love, compassion, and empathy. I bring this up because his words struck me hard. Hard as in repeated blows of a mighty love hammer. Multiple times while listening I spontaneously began to weep. Something in his message hit trigger points over and over again. This experience crescendoed during his closing comments which left me clutching my heart, crying full voice on the futon in the family room. Futon? What am I, a college student? Whatever!
Jack’s wisdom and his message of loving-kindness (insert “snowflake quip here) touched me deeply. It afforded me a window through which I saw metaphorical rays of sunlight. The darkness that had enveloped me for the last few days seemed to cower and then diminish. Tim’s conversation with Jack somehow pierced the black veil of my personal manifestation of Rugged Individualism. It reminded me that we are not, or do not have to choose to remain alone in our struggles. Jack’s words reasserted the possibility of choosing to breach the norm of, “I’m fine.” The chance to reach for connection, and more importantly offer connection, with compassion to those we find wrapped in the solitary binds of darkness.
If you struggle alone with your demons, you can share that burden. You have options. Check out Jack’s thoughts on the subject via the link provided below. Write a comment. Please share your story. Together we are strong enough to shed light on the darkness. Together we can create brilliance!
A salesman came to the door yesterday.I was drinking black coffee in the living room when I heard the knock. We don’t get many uninvited callers on our long dead-end street, which works out well for me.I slowly set down my old white porcelain mug and rose from my writing perch on the dark brown leather sofa.Click went the lock. We have no peephole so the next bit would have to be a surprise.There he stood, in a smart black suit, attaché case in his left hand, right hand cupped to his mouth.Think he was checking the state of his breath.
“Hello,” I said.
“Good afternoon,” he replied, quickly lowering his hand.
“My name is Xavier Mulligan, may I please have a moment of your time to present a most irresistible opportunity?”
“How irresistible?” I asked, wreaking of doubt.
“Exceedingly irresistible sir, I assure you.Give me but two minutes to introduce the offer and if by that time you are not interested I will vacate directly,”he said with unwavering confidence.
“Ah, okay.” I reluctantly mumbled.
“May I come in?”
“I suppose,” I said.My hesitation painting my face into a near grimace.Though truth be told, I was a tad intrigued.
“Thank you kindly,” he said accepting the opening door with a quick step forward and then there we were in my living room.My cooling coffee cup reminding me of traditional hosting duties.
“And how would you like to be called?”
“Excuse me?” I said.
“Your name?” He nodded.
“Oh, Landon, Landon Cooper,” I said.Then with the slightest of disarmed stutters, “Would you like a cup of coffee Mr…?”
“Please, call me Xavier,” he offered politely.
I almost laughed thinking that calling him “Xavier” seemed a thousand times more formal than using any surname I’d ever heard.
“Alright, coffee then Xavier?”
“No thank you, but I would love a spot of tea if you happen to have the leaf in-house.”
“I do,” I said fighting the involuntary raise of my eyebrow.“Will Earl Grey do?”
“Oh yes, that would be splendid,” he said, running his free hand through his silvering dark hair.
I realized that by asking for tea, he had cleverly extended the original terms of his ‘two-minute pitch cap.’What had I gotten myself into?
As I microwaved the water for his “spot of Tea” I found myself thinking, “spot of tea?”“Did this guy come to the neighborhood in a Tardis?”My next thought was, “This fucker may be completely psycho and looking to eat my liver with those beans and a fine Chianti.”
I mentally checked in with the baseball bat in the hall closet, then the shotgun in the laundry room; took a breath, set the Earl Grey tea bag in the steaming mug and returned to the living room in the full bloom of questioning my sanity for letting this tea drinking stranger into my home.
“Thank you, sir,” he said, taking the mug and bouncing the bag to encourage the darkening of its brew.
“Again I don’t want to waste your time, so I’ll get right to it.” He said, adopting a serious tone and looking me straight in the eye.
“I’m in the business of unique opportunity.”He began, “extremely rare opportunity actually.”He paused, sipping his tea, eyeing me with a calm, confident smile.
“I see,” I said.“And what sort of opportunity are we talking about?” I asked with a hint of polite aggression.
“I’m in the business of second chances,” he offered, taking another sip of tea.
I stared at him.No words formed.
“Yes, it is an unusual product, to be certain.”He offered,“In short supply and little known on the open market.”
My blank stare slowly transformed into an open-mouthed “huh?”
“Mr. Cooper, if you had it to do all over again would you?”He asked.
“Do what all over again?”I’m sure my tone of voice unveiled the blend of curiosity, incredulity, and consternation coursing through my mind.A mind that had minutes before been at relative peace.Which for me is saying something.
“It, all of it, your life!” He stated matter of factly.
“Okay, what the hell,” Was all I could come up with.
He stared into my eyes, took a long sip from his mug then spoke.“I’m am authorized to offer you a do-over; a second go at this very life you are living right now.
“How…what the…how the hell would that work?” I sputtered.
“Very simply actually.You sign a few documents acknowledging your desire to indeed “Do it all over again” then poof, off you go to take a second run at this one life.”
I gaped at him in total disbelief, absent-mindedly spilling a bit of black coffee into my lap.
“Poof!” I stammered.“What exactly do you mean by poof?”
“I mean you would be born again into this world to have another go.Don’t you think it would be amazing to have a second chance at a lifetime here on earth?Think of all the things you could do, create, accomplish with a second chance!”He settled back on the sofa opposite me and waited, unblinking.
“What about this life?” I thought to myself.“I love this life.”I took a gulp of lukewarm coffee which suddenly seem not nearly strong enough.
“Forgive the language Xavier, but what the fuck are you talking about?How the hell would that work and why should it?More importantly, why have I of all people been selected for this, and I quote ‘unique opportunity’?” My voice rising to a crescendo of insolence by the end of the sentence.
“You’ve earned it,” he offered politely.“I understand that this is, well, odd at the very least but I assure you this opportunity is most legitimate.Please take a moment to sit with it.May I refill my tea?The kitchen is just through there yes?”
I nodded.Xavier rose and headed toward the kitchen; the clip-clop of his dress shoes on the hardwoods gradually fading.I fidgeted on the couch, uneasy, certain that I was either dreaming, crazy, or had accidentally made myself an unbelievably strong midday Irish coffee.Not my habit.
“As a rule, there are knives in a kitchen,” I thought.But if he came here for that purpose, he’d most likely have everything he needed for the job in that attaché case of his.I accepted the likelihood that he was not going to the kitchen for a knife and turned my thoughts the far more ridiculous reason for his visit, offering me a do-over!
Was he offering me a second chance at life because I’d fumbled this one?Was the offer a reward, an act of charity, or on a more sinister note, was it a punishment?Was it a test?I took quick synaptic inventory of my many years and saw ample flashes of regret.Yes, I found things I would have done differently if I had them to do over again.I also found moments, hours, years that I would not trade for all the Earl Grey in China or anywhere else.I sipped the now cold coffee.
There are a million ways to do life; to lose and to win, to surrender and just let it happen. There are moments of triumph and moments of regret.There are memories to wish away, others to celebrate. Perhaps, most importantly all those instances are available to make peace with.Though I’m sure these thoughts have lived in my subconscious every day, I realized in that instant that I’m not proud of everything I’ve done, neither am I ashamed of the life I’ve chosen.Are we here to be perfect, or to learn, and grow?And there was the answer.Crashing out of my flashback trance, I released a deep sigh.Mr. Xavier Mulligan returned with his tea, smiling.
“So,” he said, “What’s the verdict?”
“Hmm, Mr. Mulligan?”
“Please, call me Xavier.” He corrected
“Oh right, Xavier, I’m, ah, I’m going to have to say no to your kind offer,”I said with a new found smile.
“Really,” he said taking a sip of what seemed from the copious amount of steam to be scalding hot tea, without wincing.
“Yes,” I said.“I’m grateful for the gesture, and I do believe this is a most rare opportunity indeed.That said, I also realize that the very trip I’m engaged in at this moment is also a rare opportunity. An opportunity to experience my ‘one’ life, complete with all its gifts, and its share of misfortune; experiences which I’m not likely to recapture should I abandon it now.”I said raising my mug to swill the last bit of room temperature clarity.
“I see,” he said.“Understood, understood.Well then, I suppose it is time for me to take my leave as we have no further business here.Before I go, are you absolutely sure of your choice?”He asked.
“Yes, I am,” I said.Then in what appeared to be a choreographed moment we rose simultaneously, his steaming cup still holding court on its coaster.He lifted his attaché, gave a slight bow, and strode toward the front door.I followed and reached to open it as he buttoned his coat.
“Thank you for your time Mr. Cooper, I’m sorry to have wasted it,” He said.
“Not at all Mr. Mulligan, if fact it seems you’ve given me a gift.”I offered.
“Have I?” He smiled.“Excellent!”He said crossing the threshold and making his way down the front steps into the brilliant sunlight of the late spring day.
This random thought began as a journal note in 2014.
Table manners. Ah yes! A tiny window view into the vast array of merit badge earning opportunities awaiting on the shoulder-sash of parenthood.
My youngest son is hyperactive…seriously! I’ve been told that during his toddler years, when he was scheduled to attend mother’s day out the staff added an extra person just to handle him. Ha, that’s my boy. Nowadays he can often be seen orbiting the table while we enjoy family dinner, which at my choosing we share every night. It appears he came into this world with a wicked case of the “can’t-be-stills!” I could force him to sit…but why? Will he turn out to be a better citizen if I make him do so? Will he feel it’s okay to be him if I force him to “not be him?” Will any of us digest our meal more healthfully, or feel the world has been made a better place if I declare martial law at the dinner table? Probably not. However, at times, while chewing my food, seated within the gyroscopic whirl of his dining room orbit I do hear distant murmurs of a disapproving throng.
“Can’t you control that kid?”
“That walking about is not proper dinner time behavior!”
“Have the decency to teach the boy some manners!”
As though having trouble staying seated while masticating will lead directly to the unraveling of the social fabric of our entire culture.
As a nod to Emily Post and her followers, I have explained to my son that some people will expect the use of traditional, “proper” manners and that table-orbiting may not be considered acceptable in the homes of his friends. He gets it. He has managed to avoid becoming “that kid in the principal’s office” at school, etc. When required, he’s capable of masterful-ish self-control. Perhaps the best way to look at manners is in context. Are our opinions about the matter based on childhood experience? If so they are traditional, possibly passed down through multiple generations. Yes, these specific rules of behavior have been taught, but are they still supremely relevant? The doctrine of a flat Earth was too once widely taught. Do these lessons still hold their weight in the face of scientific, or in this case cultural evolution?
With that view in mind, one has to decide the goal, and more importantly the ultimate impact of one’s parental decisions. I find that after deconstructing most etiquette protocol and running it through the, “Does this rule truly make the world a better place” test, flexibility and acceptance usually win the day. Because really, are we here to “control” children, or help them flourish? I know which answer sits, or doesn’t sit (pardon the pun) best with me. I’m not advocating mannerlessness. I’ve taught my boys every social rule and regulation that I’ve ever learned. They are aware of and able to adhere to social decorum protocol at will. Afterall, knowing the rules is a perfect starting point on the road to doing the right thing, staying out of trouble, and for those of you who remember high school, avoiding embarrassment.
Long after we are gone, our children will unconsciously run their lives on the operating systems we’ve implanted in them. Our decisions about how to handle their youthful “behavior issues” will have shaped more than those teaching “moments.” That is why I let the kid orbit the table at dinner time. And no, I don’t let him do laps at Thanksgiving with the extended family. Even I have my limits. There are times and places for rules to be followed, and at least in my universe, times and places for their bending. Most adults unconsciously carry childhood memories of being brought to heel over issues of manners or rules. How the lessons were “taught” matters, even decades later. The cumulative effect of an upbringing may leave one with a deep-seated sense of self-acceptance, ambivalence or shame. I know which perspective I’d like to see shaping the future of this world. I bet you do too.
Do you have a similar experience to relate? Please comment. Life is bigger and better with shared experience!
Right now I am not…in the company of chaos that is. If I choose that the boundaries of my home are the ends of the universe all seems to stand in a state of relative calm. However, should I venture into the realm of online news, social media, or wander into the wrong place at the wrong time I find myself in a veritable shit storm of well…chaos.
As a rule, I choose peace. Am I in the minority? More and more it would seem that whether chosen or not, some manner of war is the order of the day. Why? Why stir things up? Why choose a harsh word, or a bullet instead of lending a hand, or kind word? Why indeed? Why choose to inflict harm, be it physical or psychological, instead of help or even, as a commitment to the possible benefits of non-action, resort to silence?
Human drama, a sport, a whim, perhaps a necessary evil? Is it evil? To me, it feels that way, but I have been most fortunate in my life to always have Maslow’s hierarchy met, so who am I to say. Some in my same situation seem to feel more alive taking stands on behalf of those who sell division as a commodity. Ego is a tempestuous mistress. I feel more alive when more people have the chance to join me in that act; the act of feeling alive that is, and at peace.
Balance is ancient. Historically, balance seems to be the adversarial antidote to chaos. Chaos in turn, seems to be a human psychologically supported virus of sorts. A virus by nature identifies, attacks and overtakes its host in order to survive. Curiously when the virus has accomplished its goal the host is ultimately brought down, and so comes to an end. ‘The virus’ having attained its goal of domination ensures by its success its own demise. Chaos, if viral at its core is calling to the “Dionysian Being” in all those who will listen. We cannot live in chaos for long, pursuing chaos we ensure only our own temporary fix of adrenaline, followed then by our unavoidable ruin.
Does the desperate need for meaning lead to this ‘run of the lemmings’ in our human species? Some behavior I’ve witnessed would lend credence to this hypothesis. Could the need for meaning instead lead to a reach for calm, peace, perspective…a pause? One would certainly hope so. But where would we get our precious drama?
It is easy to imagine solutions when not under fire. Corrections or right answers seem so obvious in the tranquility of a placid, comfortable familiar repose. Many people struggle in ways I cannot fathom. Others live opulent lifestyles afforded them by hard work, commitment and no small turn of good fortune, for which they most likely take full credit. I’m not saying these beings don’t work for what they have but are we not all members of this world, and so potentially capable of perspective, empathy, and humility? Be these situations as they may, chaos stirs, in and around us all.
Do we look, or look away? Hiding our heads as long as we presume ourselves safe. If the floodgates that have until now kept chaos in check finally burst, there will be no hiding from its faceless wrath. What then? What solutions will we wish we had committed to when we had the chance. What sacrifices will we wish we had made. What courage will we muster when the gun barrel finds us, be we armed, or empty-handed?
Have thoughts on the subject? Please comment. Life is bigger and better with shared experience!
Being single at 50 something on the dating scene is like jumping off the high dive aiming for a glass of water.
Divorce is fun…for masochists. It’s that moment when you realize everything you promised will end up broken. You may be an angry narcissist, in denial of course, or you may just be angry…no judgment. You may be a giver; give, give, give never take. You may be afraid of conflict. You may be a bully. You may be a nice, well-balanced person who made a bad choice in the partnership department. Whatever your position on the spectrum of coping mechanisms, behavior patterns or denial, divorce is the shits.
Will it be hard to start over? Maybe. Are there fish in the sea? Plenty. Will any of them appeal to you? Absolutely! Will those who do appeal to you be age appropriate? Highly unlikely! Online dating: Men with their bare-chested, or fish holding pix, rock on you silly geese! Women with their rudimentary photoshop skills shouting out “look at me” from the polished profile pic saying, “no really…I’m young” looking for a second chance. How could that pool have gotten so small?
It’s not easy to find what you had looked for so many years ago. You may have kids now. If you don’t want more kids the pool narrows. You may want dogs or cats in your life, you may not. The pool narrows. You may have voted red state, you may have voted blue. The pool narrows. You may like hiking or kayaking, or wine tasting, cooking classes, running, volunteering or even knitting/gunplay…the pool narrows. The pool narrows until you look between your two big toes and see that the pool has shrunk to the size of a glass of water. Should you jump?
Are you willing to come to grips with why your marriage/relationship ended? It’s easy during a divorce to cast oneself as the hero. I was exceptionally good at it. The facts more likely point to two sides of the story, and I bring this up for a reason. If we don’t at least attempt to understand our contribution to the chaos then we will visit that same ill fate on whatever poor soul awaits us in that tiny glass of water below.
So what positives can we pull; what gems can we glean from the denouement of a primary relationship, and ensuing diminished chance of future relational bliss? What understanding can we assimilate as we stand on the platform poised to dive into the narrow cup of opportunity that awaits us? An insight gained in the sleepless hours before dawn perhaps? Appreciation for the now not so rare moments of silence afforded to one who has no other? Pausing long enough to hear a truth about ourselves whether we want to or not? If we learn anything…it is everything in that moment. A moment of victory!
Have thoughts on the subject? Please comment. Life is bigger and better with shared experience!
What would I do if I learned that today was my last day on earth? Hmmm, if we asked a random group of people that question we’ed get a spectrum of answers. Would the spectrum be narrow, the answers similar, or would they be divergent, deeply personal and unlikely to overlap? Some might say; “I’d want to be with my family.” Others might choose to find a pound of cocaine and dance naked in a rainstorm of hookers. Might some go skydiving? Or Google the one love that got away and purchase a plane ticket, or find a church and pray until their tongue cramped? Perhaps some would hide in bed, crying away their last hours.
I imagine the answers might share some commonalities if the interviewees found themselves in a similar place on the arcs of their lives. If not, the answers could be strewn all over the mental universe. I, for example, am a parent, and so would hope that some part of that ‘last day’ could be spent with the children whom I love and cherish more than anything in this world. What if that weren’t possible. What if I learned at 6am that my life would end at midnight and both of my sons were nowhere to be found? Maybe they’d be hiking some distant mountain range, or off on a hitchhiking adventure across Canada…whatever. The point here being, the desired spend of my last few hours would not be attainable. Were that the case I would have to find another way to make the most of my last hours as an earthling. I could spend my last day lamenting this misfortune, or? What would you do?
Perhaps there’s a better question to ask. Maybe we’ed be better served by taking a less conventional approach, asking a different question than “What would I do if it was my last day on earth?” The query, “what I’d do” is powerful, yet impractical. If I’m asking to learn anything other than how I’d choose to use a minuscule number of hours that, statistically speaking, I’m unlikely to be presented with, it has little value. This is because the probability of finding ourselves in such a situation is infinitesimally low.
Having a plan is excellent. Carrying jumper cables in the trunk for example, or hiding a key to the front door under a rock in the yard are precautions likely to at some point take center stage under the “usefulness spotlight.” These are premeditated solutions to scenarios we are likely to face. I was not a Boy Scout, but I have borrowed, and benefitted from the Boy Scout motto, “Be prepared.”
It dawned on me today while out mountain biking in the color-rich Autumn woods, that I’d be better served if I knew the answer not to “What would I do if this was my last day on earth,” But HOW I would do it! How would I approach it…living my last day? What attitude would I take? The “how“ can be controlled, focused, owned. The “what” cannot. Perhaps you’ve already been down this philosophical road. For me, it’s a new perspective. I hadn’t spent time comparing the value of the endless passing days of my long-ass life to the single day that I knew would be my last. “How” would I approach it? Suddenly I felt in complete control of my last day on earth! That, I could choose without the need for permission or the hope of right timing.
In my case pondering this ‘How’ made the lingering color of the late Autumn woods brighter to my eye. The definition of things sharpened. If I knew this was my last look at the majesty of life, I would look closer, deeper. This perspective caused my energy to swell dramatically. I took the jumps higher, the hills faster. The strength, love, the gratitude within me grew noticeably, all because of a thought. I dare say I had a bit of a Grinch-like moment of realization, and everything in the world was better, more meaningful and more of a gift than it had been in the moments before.
The expression “live every day as though it were you last” therefore may be commonly misconstrued, or at least in my case misapplied. It tends to call up the ‘What’ when in fact it’s the ‘How to accept/approach it’ that may be the true gift hidden in that cat-poster quote. On any day leading up to my last the answer to the question “How” I would choose to live my last day on earth is a gift, a revelation, a tool that can be used to make every day more than it otherwise might have been. So Namaste friends, Nama-f’ing-ste.
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He reached into his lab coat and produced a flask and two plastic shot glasses, “Cheers!”
“Ha, we’re celebrating my terminal diagnosis?” I said with a hastily shaken tone cocktail of irony, indignation and false bravery.
“We all have a terminal diagnosis, my friend. I love you, and this shot is to celebrate your life. The life behind you, that left before you, and most importantly this moment, when we here together face the inevitable; the heartache, the confusion, the freedom, and the truth, that we all try so desperately to ignore.”
I found myself smiling in spite of the dour news, “I love you, man.”
Doctor James had been my college roommate freshman year, and my best friend for the last thirty years of my now seemingly bookended life. Together we had surfed the waves off the Santa Barbara coast, chased the same woman at parties and fought over the outcome, ridden a motorcycle through the courtyard of a dormitory with frantic RAs chasing us. This was the man who knew me better than anyone on the planet. He had supported me every step of the way. He knew when to say “I’m sorry,” and he knew how to forgive. He was the perfect person the usher me onto the crowded tarmac for those awaiting passage to the hereafter.
“So by ‘no’ you mean there’s no cure?” I asked.
He looked me in the eye, raised his plastic shot glass to offer a toast, I obliged with a shaky reciprocal gesture.
“There is only one cure for life, and as mortals, we will all one day be cured. May you rock the fuck out of the days, months, or years left to you. May you know that I love you like a brother with all my heart and will ride this last wave with you wherever it may take us.” He held his glass and my gaze.
Damn him; the fucking bitch made me tear up. I killed the shot and immediately put my cup out for a second.
“How long?” I asked.
“I don’t fucking know…six months, six years, it’s so fucking random. Let’s see, no sugar diets, kale, and on the uh-oh side, hidden guilt, self-hatred, or an emerging heretofore unseen badass extreme will to live. I could tell you some number, but then that number enters your reality and who the fuck am I to shape your perspective on something like this? I’m just a doctor.” James laughed as he filled our little plastic shot cups.
“Let’s go to the mountains and hike.” He said. “I’ll clear my schedule; we’ll go to my place in the Sierras, spend a couple of days and let this percolate.”
“Are you coming on to me?” My super thin, false bravado wavering.
“Ha, fuck you, I’ll bring coffee, be ready by 8 am.” Doctor J. hissed with a shit-eating grin.
“Thanks?” I had to laugh. Hiking would be good!
Have thoughts on the subject? Please comment. Life is bigger and better with shared experience!