I remember a time when all I wanted was to be secure. I wanted to be certain, to the degree possible, that everything would be perfect, now, and in the future. I remember wishing for security, hoping for security, praying for security, planning for security. I’d go so far as to wish on stars, to hold my breath while driving through tunnels, and beg the universe for security. Security was the word I used to describe my resistance to change, my fear of change. Oddly, though, I wanted some change, but only on my terms, according to my overall plan for lasting security; the bigger house, the acreage, the newer car, a bigger paycheck, better performing investments, more clothes, more shoes, a bigger boat, horses, more pets. Happiness. Security.
And I was a prisoner. I was a slave. And I was insecure in my quest, my driving desire, for security. Things went according to plan for so very long, but I wasn’t completely happy, and I didn’t feel secure. There was always a sense of unease, uncertainty, at times, feelings of dread and doom.
As the economy worsened several years ago, my empire fell. The worst I could imagine, happened. Everything was lost. Everything material I’d worked for, for my entire adulthood, lost. The real estate, the acreage, the pets, the horses, the boat, my security, and the means to a secure future. But, in that precise moment when I knew it was all gone, I experienced a sense of peace, of calm, of, dare I say, joy. The burden had been lifted, I was no longer a prisoner, I was no longer a slave. I was, for the first time in my life, free. The shackles of security fell to the ground and I ran. I ran, I danced, I sang, my quest for security replaced with a quest for growth, adventure, uncertainty, and joy.
Since that time, not even a decade later, I’ve left my marriage, I’ve lost a lover, I’ve lost family, I’ve lost friends, children have grown and moved far, far away. Loss is change, and change, is part of life. There is comfort in being comfortable with change, loss, and with insecurity. Life is tenuous, life is exciting, life is not meant to be secure.
Security meant comfort. Comfort meant complacency. Complacency meant a headlong spiral into disaster. Life, now, is moment to moment. Life now is edgy. Life now is adventure and risk. Life now is real. And blissfully insecure. I am happy, almost always.
Oh, sure, I still find myself fretting over potential loss, thinking about “what could go wrong”, what could change in a manner I’m not cool with. And it is only at these moments that unhappiness and discontent seep into my world.
There is something very liberating in losing all the stuff. I look now, with pity, at people burdened with “all the things”, and ever in anguish about not having more. I’ve found so much freedom and joy in being “stuffless”, I often go through my remaining belongings, pulling things off shelves, out of drawers, bundling them up, and sending them away to become other people’s stuff. The sense of relief, with each and every purge, is indescribable.
Yes, there are “things” I want. I want a stand up paddle board right now. Does my life, my happiness, my sense of success, of purpose, depend on it? No. I can rent one any time. And, sure, I’d love for my current relationship to endure, but this is never a certainty. Do I let the uncertainty of permanence poison the beauty and joy I have right now? God, I try not to, I’m wonderfully imperfect, but I try.
In security, we are hopeless. In insecurity, once we understand it and embrace it, we are free and joyful. Security is imperfect. Security is a myth. Insecurity is growth, it is reality, and insecurity, like many good things in life, requires practice and thought, to understand, to embrace. In a blanket of insecurity, we find ourselves, our true selves; our passion, our joy, life. In a blanket of insecurity, we learn to take risks, to accept the present moment, each as they come, with gratitude. We learn to forsake the past, gleaning only the lessons we’ve learned along the way. We learn not to fret about the future, what will come will be right, in that future moment. We are not in control, and we lose control in our attempt. In insecurity, we have the chance to learn to be youthful, adventurous, and joyful. We learn to actually live.
So, like a small child with a ratty, old, blanket, required for comfort, for sleep, for security, there comes a time where it must be tossed into the trash. It must be discarded. When we embrace insecurity, blanket ourselves, instead, with the joy and opportunity in insecurity, we learn to live and we find joy.
I’ve been sliding down a slippery slope of deteriorating self-respect and climbing the mountain of self-destructive behaviors. I’ve been having fun, and, at the same time, feeling like shit in every imaginable way.
I’ve been overindulging and, in the process, undermining everything I’ve worked for and everything I value and believe in, leaving me to question, all over again, my self-worth.
Why do I feel so out of sorts, why do I feel so negative, why am I having feelings of self-loathing? I catch myself, several times a day, at every turn, thinking, or saying out loud, “I really don’t care.” What’s the difference, anyway?
Perhaps I’m being a little dramatic. Things aren’t that bad. I’m just heading down the wrong path.
I went hiking a week or so ago with a friend I met in Alaska. She recently relocated to Northern California, a couple of hours away from where I live, and we’ve been trying to stay connected. She has similar interests in hiking and outdoor pursuits as I do. Other than my kids, there are only a handful of folks I know who are willing to hike as hard, as long, or as far as I. She is one in that very small handful. She is also twenty years younger than I. As I often say, “there just aren’t any young people my age.”
We hiked about twelve miles on a very narrow, single track trail, in the hills east of the town of Calistoga, overlooking the Napa Valley. We encountered four snakes in our travels. I was in the lead and, being a Northern California girl, I am well-schooled in keeping an eye on the trail immediately in front of me, watching the ground exactly where my foot is going to land.
There are no snakes in Alaska, and my hiking partner’s only experience with snakes, while hiking, was in Peru, where the snakes tend to be overhead, dangling from tree limbs. Snakes on the path that resemble sticks across the trail were a whole new experience for her. We were both glad I lead. Three of the four snakes I spotted, politely exited the trail as we approached. The first we encountered, though, stubbornly stretched across the trail, with a steep incline to our right, masked in poison oak, and a steep drop to our left, also festooned with poison oak. I tossed a couple of pebbles at the snake, but it didn’t take the hint. We considered climbing up and around, or scrambling down and around, enduring the wrath of the rash over the possibility of a snakebite. Earlier in the week, on a solo hike, I encountered a snake that behaved in much the same manner. I ended up backing up a distance, sprinting and doing an Olympic long jump over the snake. Today’s trail really didn’t allow for such athletic feats. Ultimately, I found a stick nearby and gently lifted the snake off the trail, tossing the stick and the snake down into the ravine a few yards so we could safely pass.
Other than snakes, the only other trouble we encountered was losing the trail back to the car. After six hours and nearly ten miles of rugged trail, and having not eaten since breakfast, as late afternoon began to turn to evening, we found ourselves on a trail that just seemed to be heading in the wrong general direction. We retraced our steps a couple of times, tried to pick up an alternate trail, and reasoned that, perhaps, we were on the right path afterall, unfamiliar though it seemed. We’d encountered very few hikers during the course of our day, and none were about presently. As we retraced our steps a few times over, we remained calm, applied some reason, a bit of logic, and, surveyed the hills that rose around us several different times. There was a scar on a hill that appeared to either be the result of water runoff and erosion, or an unusually steep trail. We’d discounted the scarred patch of earth earlier, as it, too, seemed to head in a direction we weren’t entirely comfortable with, but, we decided to reconsider, as other options didn’t manifest. Upon reaching the scarred patch of earth, we could see it was littered with footprints, far more than the other trails we’d been picking up in our attempt to get back to the car. We followed the steep path up the hill, leaving, now, our own set of footprints, and, after cresting the hill found ourselves on the familiar, wide path leading directly back to the parking lot.
It was the wisdom we’d acquired through experience, and our ability to remain calm, apply reason, and logic, and our willingness to try several options, admit our error, and try more options, that ultimately led to our success. We tried different things and found the right path.
So, I recognize now, that I’m headed down the wrong path, metaphorically. The path is easy, like a straight, flat, paved sidewalk, but I know, it will lead to misery. I could stumble along, endlessly, effortlessly, still moving along, but really, just going through the motions. Or, I could stop, remain calm, apply some reason and logic, and change my course to reach greater heights, majestic views, journeying impressive distances and experiencing challenges, triumphs and adventures that few realize. This is the path I’ve always desired, this is the path I’ve travelled before. Before taking a wrong turn. I’m choosing the narrow, steep, serpent strewn trail less traveled, now, over the straight, paved, sidewalk. The adventure begins. The adventure continues. Today. If you want things to be different, then things have to be different.
This whole being home thing is a big adjustment. I knew it would be. It seems I just get settled into a happy routine and it is upended by travel in one form or another. I am not complaining, I do love seeing the world, though I think I’d prefer adventure travel to business travel. We all know I am not one to sit home and let the world spin around without spinning around out there, experiencing it!
When the rhythm of my life changes, as it does a few times throughout any year, travel to working at home, working at home to travel, I go through a “storming” phase, where I try to regulate, try to find a routine, just adapt, and, finally, I reach my “norming” phase, where I find normalcy in my altered routine. I do love routine, as long as spontaneity is big part of it, if that makes any sense to anyone besides me.
I am a very self-directed person. I thrive on independence, freedom and autonomy. I love people in my life, I need close relationships like breath, but, I also need a bit of privacy, some me time. Daily, and, preferably a bit at the very beginning and a bit more at the very end, and, hopefully a little bit somewhere in there for some exercise. As much as I thrive on camaraderie and companionship, I like and respect boundaries. I like and respect privacy.
We are having some boundary issues and they are no more prevalent when I return home after a fit of traveling, just more noticeable. While traveling, though I may have very limited free time, I do have completely uninterrupted free time to pursue my activities, whether writing, reading, sleeping, meditating, working out, chatting on the phone, social networking, or feeling miserably alone. Whatever.
At home, and this has been true since my birth, my whereabouts must be constantly accounted for, as do my activities. Like a cat. An untrustworthy, mischievous, cat., and I have never yacked up a hairball on the carpet or sharpened my nails on the sofa. If I am upstairs, in my office, door closed, writing, meditating, or even during business hours, working at “real work”, she will knock, open the door, and inquire of my activities. Often, she will yell, from another floor of the house, “Where are you?” and my response, no matter the volume, is never heard. I must abandon my activity and go inform her of my location and activity. There is nothing quite like finally finding my quiet mind, sitting on my little couch with the morning sunlight streaming through my office window, meditating very conscientiously, and having to yell in reply, at the top of my lungs, “I’m meditating!” This I do so as to avoid the knock, knock, knock on my door, only to have to explain the whole thing. I’ve decided that I’m going to begin answering, “I’m masturbating!” and see what happens, and if no answer, I’ll walk to the top of the stairs, dildo in hand, and explain more clearly. No. I’d never do that.
This, I know, sounds fairly minor. I can deal. I’m tolerant, patient, accepting, compassionate and open-minded. I work at it, it’s one of the things I make an effort to evolve at. Let’s take this to the next level.
I’ve written, before, of our “tissue issues”. Since childhood, Mom, bless her frugal, raised during the depression, heart, has very carefully monitored paper usage of all forms, with the obvious exception of notepads, catalogs, junk mail, and newspapers. Tissue, toilet paper and paper towels, though, are very carefully scrutinized. As a matter of fact, after one very public outburst in the paper aisle at Target about my ability to use a half sheet of paper towels, I stalked across the parking lot to Whole Foods and bought two rolls of my very own, environmentally friendly paper towels. I use them exclusively. I’m about to do the same with TP. I do share in the restocking of TP, but it hasn’t seemed to help. How bad can it be? Example.
I have long hair. Mom has never had long hair in her life, and, in fact, for much of my life, at frequent intervals, has suggested that I should cut my hair, that I look “good” with short hair. So, do I look bad, now? I have cut my hair short, before, now and again, but because I wanted to. Just to be clear. Now, I have long hair. When I shower, a few hairs gather at the drain of the bathtub. After I get out of the shower, I grab an adequate amount of toilet paper and collect the hair from the drain and throw it in the trash. As a courtesy. Who wants to see hair in the bathtub? And “my” bathroom is the guest bathroom, which, and I wholeheartedly agree, must always be clean enough for guests. So, come on over and use my bathroom! Take a shower! It’s clean enough!
One day, when the topic of toilet paper use arose, again, it must have been an odd numbered day on the calendar, as there is a very regular pattern, Mom noted, “I know why you use so much toilet paper, you use it to wipe the hair out of the bathtub.” Yes. True. So, I wonder, has my budgeted allowance been adjusted? No matter, I just throw the hair away, now, in a big clump, sans toilet paper. If you glance into the trashcan under the sink, it looks like someone crammed Chewbacca in there. Mom has yet to comment on the toilet paper savings as a result. It wasn’t until the “trashcan” episode came up the other day that the reality of Mom’s “hair in tissue” observation became very clear to me.
While I was away, the bathroom received its twice-annual makeover. There is the spring/summer/fall collection consisting of rug, toilet seat cover, shower curtain, wall hangings, toilet top trinkets and trashcan, all coordinated. For Christmas, until spring, there is another collection of items in a different palette. So, it’s Christmas now, the bathroom says so. I was asked to not throw hair or tissue away in the decorative trashcan because of the material it is made of. I didn’t ask. It’s plastic. Same as the rest. It just has a fabric cover. I’ve learned long, long ago not to throw anything away in the decorative can, I always use the hideous peach colored circa 1960’s era plastic trashcan crammed under the bathroom vanity. But, it was in this moment that I realized, the fact that she referred to hair separate from tissue, Mom examines the trash, she actually unwads tissue to see what’s inside. I’ve taken to emptying the little trash cans to the big can outside almost daily to prevent her from having to perform her “budget to actual” examination, analysis and record keeping. I’m also making every effort to blow the biggest booger I can muster into every piece of litter I discard. I am being tolerant. And accepting. I don’t have to understand, just tolerate. Sigh.
Boundaries. And micro-management. How to do everything my way.
I may not be much different, but I try. Mom has always been quick to suggest, strongly, perhaps insist is a better word, that certain things be done a certain way. To control how absolutely everything is done. Fine. Usually. Turning the stove vent on when I cook leeks or boil water, placing my coffee press on a hot pad on the almost fifty year old Formica counter to preserve it’s shine, so the avocado and mustard gold streaks in the pattern will continue to glisten another half century, well beyond it’s fashionable longevity, or drying the shower and the stainless kitchen sink after every use (and this I totally support), all just examples. I can manage these, and, in “my” house, I might have my own. I would, in fact, and one example; when using a pot or pan, hand wash it and put it away so someone (me) doesn’t have to fish it out of the dishwasher the very next meal and wash it in order to use it. It’s not like we stock pots and pans like bowls and plates, there is one in each size and they get used multiple times in one “dishwasher cycle”.
When we drive places, as in, I drive her car to places she is afraid to park, and perhaps rightfully so, though I grew up in this town and am quite navigationally adept, she tells me exactly how to drive to our destination and where exactly I should park. She becomes quite alarmed if I enter a parking lot at a driveway other than the one she’s used to.
The line is crossed, occasionally, though, when a suggestion is made and is then followed up on with frequent queries and reminders. These suggestions are usually prefaced with “you should” rather than “could you please”, as in the example above. “You should call so-and-so and say such-and-such.” An hour later, and every hour, on the hour, thereafter, “Did you call so-and-so?” No, I am perfectly capable of managing my friendships, personal relationships, and communication, and of constructing sentences, for that matter, on my own, in my own way.
I remember, as a teenager, having a crush on a young man that worked at my dad’s bike shop. He was French. The young man. My dad, too. Anyway. Mom and I worked at the bike shop on weekends during the summer. Mom vacuumed incessantly and sprayed everything with Windex until we all asphyxiated, I assembled new bicycles and checked out guys buying motocross bikes and skateboards. I got paid to do this. On the last weekend before school was to begin, my last weekend on the job for the summer, Mom and I were leaving the bike shop at the same time as the young French man. She knew I thought he was cute, but I was (believe it or not) a bit shy. I grew out of it eventually. She told me I should say to him, “If you’re ever in Napa, you should stop by for iced tea.” I did. He looked at me like I was a bug. I said to Mom, “That didn’t go very well.” And she agreed, like I’d thought of what to say all by myself, and failed. I’m not a good puppet. From that point on, I have vehemently resisted letting anyone form phrases for me, or to prompt me as to when to speak or what to say. I’ve got this, and I’ve been managing fairly well on my own ever since.
Another time, way, way back, when I was in college in Sacramento, and, for the record, beyond the legal age of consent, my boyfriend lived in Napa. Yes, Stanly, so maybe I wasn’t all too bright about “love” at that time. I would, on occasion, drive down to see him, and spend the night, if I had a late class the next day. Mom confronted me, informing me that she’d seen my car parked out in front of his house at some unholy hour of the morning. Well! What was she doing out? Besides checking up on me. So, I just parked in his one-car garage, causing a great deal of automotive upheaval with roommates and such when I visited.
So I just moved in with the next boyfriend, which, of course, was unacceptable. I was just trying to economize. Think of the time and gas Mom saved not having to drive by every night to see if my car was where it “shouldn’t” be!
I realize that I will never change who my mom is, and how she thinks or feels, nor would I want to. Besides, change only occurs from within. And while I may change my behavior in response to some of her “concerns”, I am not changing any of my beliefs or values as a result. We are who we are, and after her ninety years and my fifty, we are probably, both, pretty set in our ways, however different they may be. Fine. If I pride myself on being accepting, tolerant, open-minded and compassionate, then I shall be.
I try really, really, really hard to be tolerant and accepting of the unique ways people do things, that I may do differently. To each their own.
With that in mind; while I may suggest certain concepts, principles and methods, here and in my daily doings, as a good way to do or approach things, I usually preface it, implicitly or explicitly, with the fact that there are more than one good way to do just about anything, even open heart surgery, and, that the method I’m suggesting has worked, thus far, for me. It is merely a suggestion. Always.
One thing that works for me, now, with certain boundary and micro-management issues I struggle with, is to find a quiet place, however fleeting, and to write down my affirmations and then, the things I’m grateful for. Among my list of affirmations; I am tolerant, accepting, patient and open-minded. Among the things I am grateful for; my mom. And for being as tolerant, accepting, patient and open-minded as I am. Despite our idiosyncrasies, our minor, petty differences, we are lucky to have each other, now, and for all of time.
I’m still “storming” a bit, though. So, another tactic for feeling frustrated is to go to yoga for some quiet physical exertion, stretching and calming reflection. Which I am going to do! Right now! Namaste, dammit!
I remember it like it happened yesterday. I’m riding my friend’s pony, she is riding another pony ahead of me. We are probably seven or eight years old, at most. She is a good rider, she rides all the time. I’ve ridden a few times here and there but want nothing more than to be a good rider. We are at a full gallop, she rides effortlessly, so well balanced, I’m hanging on to any part of the saddle and the pony I can just to stay on. I remember her laughing, her loud, infectious and usually somewhat maniacal laugh. I’m sure I had my focused face, the face of sheer concentration, sheer will and sheer determination I wear a lot, even now. In my usual “I’m doing this” manner, I am staying on that galloping pony and I’m following my friend. She is winding through the trees and at times I can’t see her. I try not to panic, I have no idea where we are or how to get back to her house. She goes faster and laughs harder. I realize that she is actually trying to get me to fall off the pony by about the third time she grabs a branch from a tree she’s passing, hangs on to it for a moment, then lets go, perfectly timed, to smack me in the face and hopefully unseat me. She laughs, then does it again. I hang on, miraculously, and after the third branch sandwich, I figure out her modus operandi and I learn to duck, or to make my pony swerve, to avoid pain, danger, possible death, and, worst of all, an unscheduled dismount. I have no idea where we are going, and truthfully, other than steering to avoid the branches being snapped at me, I’m not steering, my pony is just following her pony. They’re herd animals. When my friend realizes she isn’t likely to unseat me by snapping branches at me, she spurs her pony on a bit faster and tries to lose me in the woods. I have to spur my pony on, faster, to keep her in sight. I really don’t want to be lost in the woods, so my only choice is to keep up. I keep up and I avoid those goddam branches.
Suddenly, my pony comes to a screeching halt and there is my friend, stopped, at the edge of the world. We are on a ledge with a steep drop off inches from where the ponies’ front hooves have become still. From this ledge, in the dimming afternoon light, off in the distance, are the lights of San Francisco beginning to twinkle. It is magical. “This is fairy’s ring”, my friend explains, a magical place with a magical view. Wherever this place was, however we’d find our way back, I was in awe and I was inspired. In being lost I actually found something; I found that I loved riding ponies and horses as much as I thought I would, and I especially loved riding on trails, in the hills, through the woods, with magical views, and this all became paramount in my life and in many of the life shaping, life altering decisions that were to be made over the next forty years.
Forty years later, in Colorado, with my same friend, we are horseback riding. A rare and memorable treat, like reliving our childhood for a brief afternoon. We are loping along a dirt road, there are cattle watching us speed by, momentarily disrupted from their grazing. My friend, with her same infectious, loud and somewhat maniacal laughter, suddenly leaves the trail, spurs her horse on into the woods and jumps her horse over a fallen tree. I pull my horse up to watch. She heckles me, “Come on! He’ll jump it!” I shake my head. I ride, but I don’t jump horses. I just ride. I’m not a bad rider, but I don’t jump horses, just not my discipline and not something I’ve done since we were kids, careless kids. I think she actually called me a sissy or a wimp or some slightly derogatory name. We are over forty years old, but it seems like we’re still in the second grade. My friend tells me that her mother, who is nearly seventy years old, jumps her horse over fallen trees, and I am riding her mother’s horse, so, apparently, he is capable. I had a conversation with my friend’s mom earlier that day and she told me, and I quote, “I’d rather die while out horseback riding than any other way I can imagine.” I mention this to my friend, who calls me a “big, fat chicken”. I jumped the damn horse over the damn log. I lived. And before long, we were loping in circles, following each other, jumping over the fallen tree and any other obstacles we can find, again and again and again. Laughing. Again, I am determined to keep up, not that I’d be lost if left behind, necessarily, I’d follow the dirt road until it ended up somewhere. And I know my friend would never, at least at our more mature age, leave me behind and lost. She may give me a ration of shit for not keeping up, but I won’t even allow that. And in that moment I found something that I had lost, a certain carefree joy, the thrill of taking a risk and casting caution to the wind for a memory that will last forever.
Back home, I’m riding my own horse, having just moved my horses to a friend’s ranch for boarding, I am riding, at a full gallop, up a steep, wooded hill, following my friend on his horse. I have no idea where we are headed, there is no trail. He knows the way through the dense maze of trees that populate neighboring properties, all private, some we have permission to ride on, others we don’t, and I’m not fond of the prospect of being left behind, being lost and finding my way onto an irate property owner’s land. I keep up, at all costs. I’m a pretty good rider for a middle-aged woman, not as well balanced as I once was, on a taller horse than I rode as a kid, and the ground being so much harder than I remember it being from childhood. I am reminded of the wild ride through the woods on ponies darned near forty years ago. I have the same focused face, again, sheer determination and my “I’m doing this” attitude. I do not like being lost, I do not like being left behind. I seem to have deviant friends. But, truth, I am enjoying the hell out of myself. I don’t have many friends that live like this, take chances like this, do fun, wild and amazing things. This is my life. By design. And, face it, life is going to kill all of us at some point or other, may as well make it good! I don’t want to die in a recliner gripping a TV remote. And, again, I have regained something, this day, that is lost on so many other days behind the responsibility of work, family and home. Fun. Thrills. Joy.
Being lost. There are different ways in which we can be lost. We can be lost in a specific manner, as in having lost our direction, by not knowing where we are or where we should head. We can be lost in a larger, more general sense, we don’t know what to do with our lives, our talents, our energies. We may be so lost we don’t even know we have talents, energies, passions or other components of what life is. We can also be lost from something we hold dear, as in we’ve misplaced or lost track of something we consider of value.
How do we become lost? We lose direction. We lose our bearing. We lose sight of a landmark or other navigational guide. We become disoriented, confused, distracted. Our course is altered unexpectedly. There are many ways to become lost, but, usually, we have gone in an unplanned or unintended direction and we aren’t sure how to right our course, or even whether we should right our course. Think about it.
Life is like water in a stream, when it meets a boulder it is diverted.
Jobs, people, hobbies, experiences can all alter the direction of our lives. It is not possible to live and to avoid this. If you remain perfectly motionless and resist any chance or change, possibly, your life can go with few alterations to course. A slow, steady, monotonous course to death. Step into the raft, trust your guide, and go for a thrilling ride down the rapids. That’s what life is meant to be. Sometimes, we have to become lost in order to be found. The diversion around the boulder that alters our path is certainly better than crashing directly into the rock. Think about it.
Do you have to know every twist and turn of the river in advance in order to navigate the rapids safely, successfully, skillfully? No. If you know enough about rivers in general, about eddies and back eddies, the nature of currents and obstacles, you can successfully and safely guide your raft down a river you’ve never navigated before. So, in life, we don’t have to know, for certain, our exact path, in fact, we will go much further towards our ultimate self if we don’t know every step we will ever take. There are many valuable lessons in self from those deviations from our intended course, again, better to divert our path around those obstacles, to change our course, than to run into and be stopped in our tracks by that obstacle. Think about it.
We don’t necessarily need to know precisely where we are going and exactly, step by step, how we are going to get there. True, we should have a destination in mind, but how we get there may differ from our original plan. There are a dozen ways to drive to any point in the city you live in, no one is more right than another. There may be many variables that cause you to choose one route over another, traffic or road construction as an example. The destination is the same, the course can vary. So, if our destination is our goal, how we accomplish that goal is our journey, our path, and the path we choose initially may not end up being the best route. That doesn’t mean we’ve lost our goal, our destination, it just means we need to alter our path, our direction, our method for attaining our goal. Nor do we need to know exactly where we are at any point in time. We may have to lose our direction a time or two to actually, finally reach our goal. Think about it.
So, being lost is good. Losing our way is preferred. Am I talking crazy?
What is the definition of lost?
1. unable to find one’s way; not knowing one’s whereabouts.
“Help! We’re lost!”
synonyms: off course, off track, disorientated, having lost one’s bearings, going around in circles, adrift, at sea, astray
If you are unable to find your way, if you do not know your whereabouts are you really lost? You are where you are. You know you’re there, you can feel yourself where you are, you can see your feet, your legs, your hands. You can see everything that surrounds you. You are right where you are. The only thing you may not know, temporarily, is where that point is related to the rest of the world. You, in fact, are not lost, you just haven’t decided which direction to head to change your location to one you’d prefer, perhaps one you recognize.
When I was working with Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts, many, many years ago, I became aware of the “Hug a Tree” program which encouraged children who were “lost” to not wander. As soon as they came to the realization that they were alone, apart from their group, they were taught to go to the closest tree or similar landmark adjacent to the path and stay there, to hug the tree until someone came in search of them. In the wilderness, or even on city streets, if very young, or very old, and unable to navigate back to your group, to safety, this is extremely practical advice. For, if you are very young, or very old, someone is looking for you from the moment you escaped their view, undoubtedly. By remaining in one place you are far more likely to be found. Countless are the unfortunate stories of children, of elderly people, wandering aimlessly while their rescuers tried to follow their path, tried to find them, and, often, their paths crossed numerous times, but at inopportune times. By staying in one place, especially near a trail or path, the chance of being found increase exponentially. Unless alone in the wilderness, for the rest of us, those of us who move autonomously around the planet, independently, this may not actually be the best course of action. If I just froze and clung to a large, tall object the first time I became disoriented in my travels for work, I’d probably have missed a flight, missed a connection, missed a meeting, and, perhaps, lost my job.
As autonomous, independent adults, negotiating our way through the world, we have at our disposal numerous resources on which we can rely; navigational devices like apps on our phones or GPS units, we may have maps or an atlas handy or that can be easily obtained, and we always have the ability to ask for assistance. At the very minimum, we have our powers of observation, our ability to solve problems, and we usually find our way again in short order.
In the wilderness, of course, this may be a different story, especially if traveling through the wilderness is not something we do regularly. Hopefully, we have planned well enough in advance to have notified someone of where we are going and when we should be expected to return. Hopefully we have further prepared by packing contingency items for our adventure, however short; extra food, extra water or the means with which to purify water, matches, a knife, some nylon cord, some extra clothing. And with a certain amount of preparedness comes the calm assurance that survival is more likely, and with that calm assurance, usually comes the ability to think clearly enough to re-orient ourselves and find our way to the path back to civilization. Or to hug a tree.
Notice, in both cases, in town and in the wilderness, our safe arrival at our intended destination was reliant on the fact that we had a few tools, a few necessary items available to us. We had resources or were able to identify resources that would assist us in our return. Knowing how to equip ourselves in our journey, real or rhetorical, will be a determining factor in our ultimate success and in the efficiency of our route. The trick, then, is to know what we should equip ourselves with, and for each journey, it will differ. The resources I need for a backpacking trek will differ from the resources I need to obtain a certain career goal.
We’ve established, then, that becoming lost, in life, is good, that we gain experience and growth and overcome adversity and challenge by becoming lost, not losing sight of our ultimate goal, or destination, and finding another course, through diversion, to our reward, our goal. We have also established, that in reality, when we become lost, having certain resources, tools and skills available to us give us the confidence and clarity to find our way back. This is true in our journey in life, too. With the right preparation, resources, tools and skills, getting diverted from our original course towards our goals is not just a valuable lesson to be gained, but an opportunity to employ that preparation, those resources, tools and skills in establishing a new course towards our goal.
So, in life, when we are feeling lost, what should our approach be? How should we be prepared? What resources, tools and skills should we have at our disposal to establish a new and better path to our destination, our goal? How do we begin? How do we know?
I remember an acronym I learned in a wilderness first aid and survival class I once took. S.T.O.P., Stop and Sit, Think, Observe, Plan. By taking these steps you could usually figure out a way to survive until help arrived, of course, the more training you had and the better prepared you were, the better your chances of survival. This same acronym can be applied to any situation, real or rhetorical. That first moment when we determine we are lost, that our course has changed, been diverted, or we’ve just temporarily lost our way, whether on the streets of a strange city, in the wilderness, or on a path to our goals in life, if we take some time to stop and sit, to become quiet and calm, that is always the first, most important step. If we frantically try to scurry about and determine, in haste, which direction to head, we are likely to make an error, potentially a costly one. Stop. Become quiet. Listen. Be still. We may hear a street nearby, or voices, or just enough peace and quiet for a solid idea to form. Stop.
I was in downtown Chicago for a brief walking tour. I was pressed for time as I had a flight home and needed to drive through traffic to get to the airport in time. I’d parked my rental car in a parking garage, of which there are many. I’d taken pictures of the garage and made note of the address, but it had the same management company and signage as just about every other garage in the area. As I walked in the direction I remembered the garage being, running a few minutes behind schedule, putting me in a position where I could ill-afford a navigational error, I stopped for a moment to gather my bearings. In that moment, stopped and quiet, I heard a street musician, a saxophone player playing, terribly, I might add, the Hokie Pokie song. I knew, at that moment, that the entrance to the garage was just across the street. I’d noticed that musician, heard the same song, as I’d exited the garage. In my haste and concern over being late, had I not stopped, I likely would not have heard the musician and may have taken a less direct route back to the garage.
The T is for think. After we’ve stopped, we need to think. In stopping, hopefully, we have become quiet and have calmed down, our thought process is much more likely to be logical and productive. Depending on the situation, whether real or rhetorical, in taking the time to think of our options, this phase may take a few minutes, or a few months. If lost in trying to get back to the parking garage, I could probably have thought things through in a few moments and found my way back one way or another. My options may have included consulting a map on my phone, asking someone for directions, hailing a cab and giving the driver the address of the parking garage. Lots of options. In a more rhetorical situation, having lost our direction in pursuit of a goal, we may need to spend more than a few minutes to right our course or find a better route altogether. We may decide we need more education, or a different career path, or some other major course deviation, all of which may require a bit of time and effort to collect all the options necessary to consider. The point is, no matter the scenario, thought must be applied, logically, to get headed in the right direction, again.
O is for Observe. As I observed the saxophone player as I left the garage, it was the observation of that sound, again, on my return, that successfully guided me back. After stopping, and thinking through our options, we should observe our surroundings, the resources we have immediately at hand that may aid us in getting started on our path, again. Thinking and observation are not too unrelated. I consider observation just a more tactile form of thought. Thinking generates ideas from vapor, observation generates ideas from tangible items in our midst. In being physically lost, our powers of observation are usually key in reuniting us with our path to our destination; a tree, a rock formation, a building, a landmark, a sign. In our more rhetorical example, observation may not be quite as tangible. We may, instead, observe behaviors of those we consider mentors in our journey. We may observe activities that generate a desired outcome that will further our advancement towards our goal. We may observe resources that may assist us that we had not previously considered. In observation, we are really just opening our minds to other possibilities, we are becoming creative.
P is for Plan. And this, of course, is the most critical part, whether lost for real or in a rhetorical sense. The old adage goes, “a failure to plan is a plan to fail”. In life, failure is not and should never be considered an end, it is often the means by which we learn what it is we need to know to eventually reach our goal. But, if certain failures can be avoided, like boulders in the stream, then, by all means, we should attempt to steer around them. A good plan will assist us in navigating around failures that may delay our success. If lost in the woods or in a city, a plan can be as simple as calling for assistance, heading in the direction, by compass, that we were originally headed, climbing to a higher point for a better vantage point.
In life, a plan is more ethereal, as in both ether and real. A plan, of course, is paramount, and it always begins with the goal itself. Then we can sketch out how we will achieve that goal. Our plan can be very specific or can be quite general. I think the more general the better for the long term, more ether like. But, each day, at waking, or better yet, before going to sleep the night before, a very specific plan should be made, with our overall goal in mind, so that some positive action and progress is made, steadily. A more real plan. Lest our goal be like the sun in the sky, always there and never closer, sometimes shrouded by clouds, or night, but always present, and never, ever closer.
And, as plans pertain to our goals in life, is it not the plan and the deviation from the plan that is the definition of “lost” to begin with? The goal hasn’t changed, but the path, the plan, does. With constant change and flux, it is then critical that we be as flexible as our plan. We may need to adapt the plan, and we may need to adapt to follow the plan. Making a plan, following a plan, and, necessarily, adapting the plan, all requires change. We must embrace change to have any hope of every achieving our goal.
Nothing ever gets better that stays the same. We must accept change, embrace change, court change, in order for any part of our life, our experience, ourselves to improve. Change is a deviation from the current course, is it not? Change is becoming lost, temporarily, with a change in direction. Think about it.
In being lost we are found. In being lost we learn. In being lost we grow. In being lost, we can reach our goal, our dream, our purpose and become richer for the journey, the deviation in the intended course. Do not fear becoming lost, it may be just the key you need to open all the doors you desire. Think about it.
I love nut butter! Shocked? You shouldn’t be! I’m referring to the product of pulverized nutmeats, like peanuts and almonds, cashews and hazelnuts. In particular, I am a huge fan of Justin’s Nut Butters. Justin and I go way back. No, I’ve never met him, personally, but I like to think I was one of his first, loyal customers. On a high adventure Boy Scout backpacking trek at Philmont Scout Ranch, in our supplied provisions, we were given packets of peanut butter, all natural peanut butter. Tear off the top and squeeze the wholesome nut butter right into your mouth, supplying you with a healthy dose of protein, the right amount of natural sugars and beneficial fats.
There’s something about backpacking, if you’ve not indulged; when living on freeze dried, dehydrated and squeezable foods, you develop a certain affinity for some of this unusual fare. I, for example, am not ordinarily one to buy and voluntarily consume any kind of processed cheese-like product, but I become quite excited with packets of jalapeño squeeze cheese. Especially on about day four of a ten-day backpacking trek. Justin’s Nut Butter far eclipsed any fondness I had for jalapeño squeeze cheese. Far. As a matter of fact, upon my return home from Cimarron, New Mexico, I went in search of Justin’s Nut Butter for my own, personal consumption. I had a very difficult time locating it anywhere. I found Justin’s Nut Butter on Facebook and “liked” their page, and through that connection, learned that Justin’s popularity grew a little faster than his ability to produce nut butter. His fans, myself included, patiently waited, and, alas, Justin’s Nut Butter was spotted by a family member on the shelves of the local R.E.I.! Joy! I stocked up! Before long, Justin’s Nut Butter, in certain varieties, could be found at Whole Foods. And, now, a few years later, even my local market carries a few varieties. Justin has expanded to include candy bars, peanut butter cups and even jarred products, but I only buy the packets that I originally fell in love with.
Last night, I was craving something a little sweet, but it was late, I’d had pizza and beer for dinner, and I really didn’t want to have something too decadent. I rummaged through my purse, through my computer bag and, finally, through my daypack, and I found exactly what I was looking for. A packet of Justin’s Chocolate Almond Butter. In my purse, I’d found Justin’s Classic Almond Butter and in my computer bag, Justin’s Honey Peanut Butter. As you’ve probably gathered, I’m pretty well supplied with nut butter, Justin’s Nut Butter. I have more in each of my suitcases and various other totes, packs and bags. I live ten minutes from Whole Foods, why do I hoard Justin’s Nut Butter? I consider it a resource, a very valuable resource.
In my job, I travel quite a bit. Most airlines I fly with have a fruit and cheese tray for six or seven bucks that I consider a worthwhile meal. Occasionally, though, the don’t have it, or don’t have enough, so I can just have a couple of Justin Nut Butter packets and be fairly well nourished. True, they don’t pair with red wine quite as well as the fruit and cheese, but no need to be too picky with such limited resources at 35,000 feet above the crust of the earth. Once I’ve landed at my destination, I provide training and consulting on software and professional skills. I never know what options will be available for mid-day meals while training, so, I am prepared with, at the very least, a packet or two of Justin’s Nut Butter, and, hopefully, an apple on which to apply it. Hiking, fishing, driving, canoeing, running or any other activity I may find myself involved in often requires a quick, nutritious snack, and, again, I am always prepared with Justin’s Nut Butter.
Justin’s Nut Butter, in my opinion, is a very valuable resource and one I keep close at hand. I may go days, weeks or even a month or two without ever enjoying a packet of Justin’s Nut Butter, but, if I need it, wherever I am, whatever I’m carrying, I’ve got at least a couple packets in one flavor or another. In life, we should have similar resources. What resources do we keep nearby, on hand, within reach, as we work towards accomplishing our goals? What tools do we occasionally need as we evolve towards a more enriching, fulfilling life of happiness and success, success in work, in family and in relationships?
For example, when a stressful event arises, how do we overcome it? What resource do we rely on? Stress ought not be a part of our daily life, it should be occasional and brief. If stress is anything more than occasional and brief, we have more to talk about. As an occasional and brief occurrence, the resource we use to resolve stress is not likely one we employ all the time, but it should be identifiable, available and ready to use. Like a packet Justin’s Nut Butter after a few hours of hiking.
Perhaps in one of our relationships, whether with family or a love interest, there is a shift or a change; a move, a new job, the loss of a job, change in health, some shift of dynamic. What resources do we rely on to work through the period of adjustment that will allow the relationship to function as it should, in support of the parties involved, sensitive to the changes, the feelings and emotions surrounding those changes? Are we, perhaps, listening more acutely, more sympathetically, offering more praise and positive reinforcement? Again, these are resources we know, we are familiar with, they are resources we use often, but perhaps we just need to employ them more generously or more frequently during this period. Maybe we find solace in a couple of more yoga classes a week, or a few more minutes a day in meditation. Maybe a weekend away, in the wilderness or a favorite urban center. It could be you find respite from stress from reading, or crafts or a good, long, hard run. Whatever the method for relief, you know it, you’ve practiced it, you rely on it. Like my packet of Justin’s Nut Butter, it is a known, proven, resource that I use often and that I always have at the ready.
When we find ourselves frustrated or unsettled with where we are in relation to our goals, our values and our guiding principles, what do we do to rectify the situation? Normally, we are, or should be, very clear about where we are headed, the direction to go, and the key step or steps to get there and it should be foremost in our daily task list or agenda. The One Thing. Or, it’s possible, that our goals are no longer aligned with our values. Whatever the change, whatever the shift, whatever the cause, we need to be able to resort to some known, easily identified and readily employable resources to get back on track. Or to lay a new track. We should have a plan for developing our plan and measuring our progress towards the accomplishment of that plan. It isn’t something we spend time on everyday, the plan, the steps towards accomplishing the plan, yes, but developing the plan should not be a daily task. So, the resources we rely on for developing, adjusting or redeveloping our plan are most likely exercises that we know of and know how to work through, when needed. Like Justin’s Nut Butter, it’s there when I need it.
So, whether you’re a fan of nut butter, or not, whether you know of Justin and his nut butters, or not, you should have, in moments of need, a supply of ready to use, easy to grab and go, effective, wholesome and nourishing resources. As we march, daily, in pursuit of our goals, in an effort to evolve, things will crop up that could delay or derail us if we don’t have quick, simple, tried and true resources to employ. Like a squeezy packet of all natural nut butter, having something quick and wonderful, close at hand, to rely on in those times of need is true wisdom.
Whenever you find yourself in a foreign land, you try to learn the customs, the language, perhaps just enough for basic communication. I’ve lived with Mom for a few months, now, and this is what I’ve learned. A “tape” is anything recorded onto any type of media. And more. A tape is a “tape”, a DVD is a “tape”, anything streaming is a, you got it, a “tape”. Anything electronic for personal use is a “facebook”. A smartphone is a “facebook”, a laptop is a “facebook”, my Dell with a docking station and two large monitors is a “facebook”. My iPad and Kindle are both “facebooks”. My TV, when streaming, morphs into a “facebook”. And, to confuse things more, any website or application you use on any of those “facebooks” are also “facebooks”.
I had a discussion with Mom about the “Friends” series. I love “Friends”. I desperately want the series, I’ve wanted it for years. I thought I’d dropped enough hints to enough people over the past decade that perhaps, somewhere along the line, someone would’ve bought it for me as a gift for some gift-giving occasion. I am still “Friendless”. I’ve seen the whole series, multiple times, thank you NetFlix, for your patience, repeatedly sending me those disks (I mean “tapes”) over and over and over again. I’m about to buy the set but don’t want more DVD’s (I mean “tapes”) to store. Mom suggested I “tape” it from her TV each night. She doesn’t have TiVo or DVR, she actually meant VHS. Patiently, I told her no, I haven’t had VHS capability for ten years or so now. I explained that I’d really like to buy the series from iTunes, digitally, but had inadequate digital storage capacity and that the device I’d like costs $500. She gasped and said as soon as I bought that “facebook”, it would be outdated and she launched into a very long, overly detailed story, including details about what was for lunch that day and what people wore. She told of an old neighbor and his ill-fated choice between beta and VHS format, twenty-five years ago. Sigh.
I know we won’t be able to get everyone on the same paperless page, but we could try! How’s this? We don’t keep our 1920’s car simply because we don’t want to invest in a new car, yet, because they’re bound to keep getting better. This is extremely flawed logic, the trend for improvement and advancement is never going to taper off, in fact, it’s likely to continue at an ever-increasing pace. The technology will continue to improve, exponentially, and it’s best to retire the old jalopy and embrace the new, safer, more comfortable, economical and stylish model. This philosophy applies to the ever-changing technology in the rest of our world, too. Embrace those changes, they’re going to keep happening.
We need to embrace technology, as it comes along, for two reasons; to remain relevant and for the quality of life technology can offer.
I consider myself fairly technologically adept. Especially for someone my vintage. I’m not a digital native, I’m a digital immigrant. Mom is a digital refugee. I’ve always been sort of a “gadget girl”. I was an early adopter of cellular technology. I had a “Go-Phone”, like, five minutes after they came out. It seemed so extravagant at the time, but, boy, the first time my car broke down on the side of the freeway exit ramp with two kids in car seats with me, it became so worth it. I called AAA for a tow and the daycare lady who came and retrieved the kids before anyone even stopped to ask if I needed assistance. The tow truck and the daycare lady showed up at precisely the same time. I followed the tow truck and broken car home, picked up the other car, and was only five minutes late to work. Luckily, I was able to call, them, too, and tell them I’d be just a little late.
My ex-husband embraced cellular technology, too. He had the first cell phone in the family. It had a large, black carrying case with a shoulder strap. He slung it over one shoulder and carried his “lunchbox” computer in his other hand. And that’s where he’d still like to be, with his 1920’s vintage car. He adopted early then evolved begrudgingly. And he was in the software business, until it outran him. He has always been out of control with the cell phone, he’d call me 47 times an hour, while I was at work. Gadget girl that I am, I ran out and got a digital pager and told him I wouldn’t answer my cell phone anymore. He could page me and if I thought it was warranted, that it was an emergency, I’d call him back. So then every page, 47 an hour, came through preceded by a “911”. I was also a very early adopter of screening calls!
I definitely embrace technology. And software. I once, out of sheer desperation, applied to a job where I needed to have software skills in several applications and operating systems I’d never used. This was in 1992; Windows, Microsoft Excel, Word, PowerPoint and Project and some accounting software, too. To top it all off, I was four and a half months pregnant at the time, and kind of just let them think I was a chubby girl. Out of 250 applicants, somehow, I got the job. Okay, I worked my network. Okay, so, I name-dropped. That’s how it’s done. And in the first week, I had to master all that software well enough to keep up the illusion of proficiency and to be considered so indispensable that they wouldn’t even consider firing me when I was forced to tell them I was pregnant, not fat, because my suits simply wouldn’t zip all the way up anymore. That was the beginning of my accounting career, I stayed with that company for five years. And became the controller. And that’s when I discovered my knack for picking up software very quickly.
Now I teach software to accountants. If it weren’t for technology and software, I don’t know what I’d be doing. Writing, perhaps. Dammit. Maybe I did make a wrong turn. Truth be told, I started college as an accounting major. I hated it. This was well before computers were used in the industry. Those stupid ledger books and the double entry method. I changed my major and actually have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a minor in political science. I worked in a doctor’s office for part of college and did the “bookkeeping” on a pegboard system (Google it). It was just a job and almost paid a bill or two. When the doctor computerized and I helped with the data migration (that’s not what we called it then), I saw, for the first time, the relationship and the intent of the double entry system and the whole accounting thing went “click”. I continued on in college for my accounting course work. It was technology that brought something as lifeless and dull as accounting to life. Well, for me, anyway.
I think technology adds a great deal of quality to life, if properly employed. For example, Mom has “bookwork” today. She spends days and days every month hovering over a spiral bound notebook writing down every receipt, bill, and check of all time. Given enough time, she can produce a gasoline receipt and the corresponding Standard Oil billing statement for a charge in June of 1967, I have no doubt. Mom “goes” to the bank, has never used an ATM before and still writes checks at the store, much to the dismay of everyone in line behind her. Her checkbook is in one wallet, with a rubber band around it, to hold the receipts in place. Her ID is in another wallet, and her grocery store discount/rewards card is in yet another wallet. The coupons are in an envelope, with a rubber band around it. She doesn’t use “duplicate” checks, so she writes the check, in cursive, which isn’t even taught anymore, then records it in the register, complete with the subtraction to determine the balance of her account. By now, the ice cream is melted and the bananas, purchased slightly green, have become bright yellow and speckled. I swear I’m going to be her age before we get the groceries to the car! Now, I got paid Friday morning at the stroke of midnight. My money landed in my account and when I awoke, I rolled over, grabbed my phone, tapped this tapped that, and the few bills I have that aren’t on autopay got paid. My “bookkeeping” software downloads the transactions, including when the payments clear, and all my accounts pretty much, self-balance. I only have to adjust the allocation of an expense here or there, if it really matters. Zzzzz, yawn, blink, blink, tap, tap, “bookwork” done. Day equals mine.
Or so I thought. Until the mail arrived and I had a renewal notice from the DMV, with their system equally as antiquated Mom’s. Please, please, can we go paperless? And not email? Text me, or, better yet, is there an effective App for that? So I can deal with it, based on a meaningful and timely push notification from the convenience of my smart phone? No. They do have an App, with maps to their offices where you have to wait for hours and hours in line, or sit in those nasty, plastic chairs and wait for your number to be displayed on the museum quality monitors overhead. The App also has practice exams, not helpful. And DMV quality videos, (avoid at all costs). Their App is completely and totally useless. Their website is convoluted, but at least, once you figure it out, kind of almost helpful.
The worst thing about the arrival of the DMV renewal notice was the fact that it had been forwarded from my old address. I moved several months ago and when I did, I went online at dmv.ca.gov and changed my address. Oh, but I only changed it for my driver’s license. You have to change your car’s address, too. So, Meep (my car) gets mail, addressed to me, at my old address. Have we ever heard of relational databases? Match registered owner name with licensed driver name, send everything to newest address on file. Oh. It gets better. Enter the U.S. Postal Service. I had a forwarding order in place. My registration was due three weeks before I received the notice. I should have received it in, oh, May. I got it in, um, August. I don’t think I could be that inefficient if I tried. Really hard!
Mom told me I should write the U.S. Postal Service a letter of complaint. I asked her if I should mail it? Should I buy a stamp, funding their stubborn incompetence, adhere said stamp to an envelope and mail it to them? I was apoplectic.
But, Mom mails checks to everyone for payment. Piles and piles and piles of checks. Every week, after she does her “bookwork”, there’s a pile of several little envelopes, full of checks, with her tidy cursive writing in the return address area provided on the envelope. And stamps in the corner, funding the U.S.P.S. again! She can’t believe I pay everything electronically. How terrifying to just send it “out there”. Oh, I don’t know, I’m a pretty big fan of data encryption. It seems far more prudent versus mailing a check where you are sending a piece of paper that will pass through the hands of many many many people and it has your bank routing number, account number, your name, address, phone number, maybe even your driver’s license number, and a valid signature that will 100% match the signature card on file (electronically) at your bank. That doesn’t sound safe at all! I’ll take my chances with data encryption. Yes, my data has been compromised a time or two, my bank called me, emailed me and texted me multiple times within minutes to verify the activity, then took appropriate action. Because I took advantage of that technology. Without all those systems in place, fraudulent activity can go unnoticed for a time. And if it goes unnoticed for too long the bank can no longer do anything about it and it could cost hundreds or thousands of dollars each time. I’ll take my chances with electronic payment and data encryption.
The best part of the story. Do you know how my bank suspected fraudulent activity? There were purchases made, with my debit card number, from Wal Mart. My bank knows me that well! The chances of me spending money at Wal Mart are so infinitesimal, it’s about as likely as encrypted data becoming compromised!
Yes, I am “like this” with technology. It is my friend.
I just got a pop up notice on my MacBook that said “Shade’s iPhone4 seeking blue-tooth pairing.” I don’t know anyone named Shade. I clicked a button and denied the request. I heard voices in the street out front and glanced out the window. There were two tween-aged adolescents standing by the mailbox in front of my house, staring at their iPhones. From behind the lace curtain I shouted, “Hey, Shade! Is that you?” They nearly shit their pants as they took off down the street! I love technology! Totally made my day, especially since I have everything on my computer encrypted and pass worded. Nice try Shade. What a doofus, still has an iPhone4. At least they weren’t stealing Mom’s checks out of the mailbox.
Have you ever noticed that everyone considers themselves navigational geniuses? Like talking about the weather, the local sports team or the biggest story on the news, people like to share their navigational wizardry. Why? I don’t know. People dictate directions, suggest routes, compare routes and alternate routes. I find this especially tiresome when I am driving in an area I know very well and my passenger insists on a route different than the one I prefer. I also find it a bit tedious when my passenger argues with my navigational gadget of choice, especially when I am trying to hear what my, usually more correct and more direct, navigational device of choice is saying. But worst of all, for whatever reason, is when the navigational wizard is my mother.
Mom and I went to Sacramento today to have lunch with my son and his good friend. My son is moving to Hawaii, with his friend, to go to school, for at least a semester, and if plans fall into place per design, or at least desire, a couple of years. Lunch was great. My day, leading up to lunch, well, you be the judge. It started with a bikini wax. Then an hour and a half car trip with Mom. Then a mammogram. Are we having fun yet?
Like I said, lunch was fantastic! And for me, by this point, well deserved. We went to one of our favorite places. To clarify; my kids and I love this place, Mom is a newbie. Cafeteria 15L in Midtown Sacramento. Their specialty, and the reason we selected this place for lunch today, chicken and waffles. I love chicken and waffles. My mom loves chicken and waffles. My son loves all the leftover chicken and waffles I’ve given him but has not actually ever ordered chicken and waffles for himself. So, that was the plan. Chicken and waffles all the way around. They even had a chicken and waffles face contest! Post your best “chicken and waffle” face and you could win FREE chicken and waffles for a whole year! I was so geared up for chicken and waffles! So, imagine our disappointment when we were told chicken and waffles weren’t served for lunch. They are served for breakfast, brunch on the weekends and dinner. Not lunch.
We scrambled quickly and all came up with alternate orders. Mom had fish and chips, my son had the pasta special, his friend the Cafeteria burger and I had an heirloom tomato and melon salad. And a side of sweet potato fries as an impulsive, mid lunch addition. Everyone’s meals were devoured and enjoyed. Cafeteria 15L is all about comfort food done with style. The atmosphere is comfortable and the design is noteworthy. It is quite fun to sit and really look at the lighting, the fixtures, the selections for décor. One phrase painted on the wall spurred a lively discussion about the generational preferences for the use of ellipses, for example … I’m a fan. My kids are not. Base on that discussion, I am plaguing my son with texts laced with ellipses, just to be a brat …
My daughter is an English major … she hates ellipses, too … wish she could’ve been here today.
The dessert menu arrived. We didn’t really need it; dessert. Or the menu. For on the back of all the wait staffs’ shirts was a picture of the featured dessert and it was so over the top you just had to order it so you could take a picture of it and post it on Instagram to prove to everyone you know that you are “that cray cray”. Bacon waffle sundae. A waffle, vanilla ice cream, bacon, maple syrup and caramel sauce. Double decker. We ordered one with four spoons and somehow managed to clean the plate.
After lunch, we dropped the boys off at my son’s house and headed back towards Napa. If I had a dollar for every mile I have traveled between Napa and Sacramento over the last thirty some years, I’d be a very wealthy woman. I have completely worn out a 1966 Mustang, a 1992 Ford Bronco and three Honda Accords. I’m working on a Civic now. To say I am fairly well acquainted with the traffic patterns is a bit of an understatement. True, there can be daily anomalies, but there are also the daily patterns. Leaving town at 3:30 PM on a Friday afternoon, I really expected to hit quite a bit of traffic in a few key spots on the way home. Mom, in her navigational wizard’s hat, had some crazy alternate route in mind that would have taken a two-hour detour to even begin. I bit my tongue, clenched my jaw, wrapped my fingers tightly around the steering wheel and stayed my course. She fell asleep and we made it home without nary a slow down. It was miraculous! Both the absence of traffic and the sleeping wizard.
With my son’s move to Hawaii, he will not be needing a car. We are car people. My dad loved cars, my son’s dad loved cars (in his own neglectful way), I love cars, every boy I dated in high school and college loved cars, my mom loves cars, the man I love loves cars, my daughter loves cars, my son in law loves cars, our dogs all loved cars. My son loves cars, too. Any car he owns he will practically, if not literally, disassemble and reassemble the whole thing, cleaning each and every part and restoring it to its original condition. He uses only factory parts and fluids and does all his own maintenance and detailing. Tonight, he sold his car and is, for the first time since his sixteenth year, without a car. It was not nearly as traumatic as I thought it might be, I really thought it may be more like the amputation of a limb than a business transaction, but the whole deal went down and the car is presently being driven to Houston, Texas to a fellow Acura Legend fan. Per the Facebook account of the trek, so far they have only received one speeding ticket for 95 miles per hour.
I dated one young man after high school who had an amazing car, a 1940’s era Plymouth Coupe, in black, with a personalized license plate that said, simply, “A Shadow”. His father did hot rod and motorcycle customization, including chopping and channeling. Beautiful work. After a few years, about twenty speeding tickets, threatening and menacing letters from the DMV, and endless expense trying to keep an old car running and street legal, the car was sold. An ad was placed in the local paper that said, simply, “A Shadow has been sold.” I wondered if my son would somehow want to communicate to the world, the world who knows him by his car, especially, that the deed had been done. An ad in a newspaper worked well in the 1980’s. In 2013, it was a Facebook post. In both cases, the letting go of something valued, cherished and even a part of one’s identity, while sad, was, and is, the beginning of a new era. Sometimes we have to let go of something, even something we can’t imagine not keeping, not having, in order to take the next, important steps in life. This is, actually, part of life. Those willing to sever those ties that may be holding us back, or preventing us from growing, moving, leaving, changing, are the ones who will evolve according to their dreams, the goals and their passion. Sometimes we have to let go of one dream to grasp the next.
I’m not sure at what point in my life I decided I “needed” to go skydiving. I really had no inclination to do so, ever, until the past few years. It may have begun as a joke with my kids. We decided when my daughter turned eighteen the three of us, my daughter, my son and myself, would go get tattoos, go skydiving and go to a hookah bar, together, all on the same day. For several reasons, it didn’t happen. Now my daughter lives in New York and my son is headed to Hawaii, so I am left here, with nothing better to do than to go skydiving by myself.
I did it in celebration of my fiftieth birthday, actually. I figured, having made it through a half a century, I needed to do something drastic to kick off the next half century. Sort of like a rebirth, or an affirmation of life.
I did a tandem jump, meaning I was firmly strapped to a man who knew what he was doing. How brave is it, really, to strap yourself to someone, pay big bucks to have them fall out of an airplane and guide you safely to earth? Based on the feedback on Facebook, I’d say some consider it brave, some consider it insane, and some do it nearly every day and welcome you to the club. Brave or not, it provides you with the experience of losing control and then regaining control. It gives you enough of an experience to consider being able to do this on your own.
Once someone else does that for you one time, and you are “imprinted” with that experience of loss of control and regaining control, you can more readily take the next step of doing it on your own, perhaps. I am fairly certain I would not have been able to exit the plane on my own. I don’t think they even allow that now. I’m pretty sure you have to do a tandem jump, then take a bazillion classes, and then solo jump. I don’t know, I haven’t’ really checked into it. Yet. The tandem jump worked out very well. He jumped out of the plane and I really, at that point, had very little to say about the whole thing. Having experienced free fall and the feeling of the chute opening, and drifting to the ground while taking in the scenery across three counties, I am quite comfortable with the whole ordeal, I think I could easily do it on my own once I took the required lessons.
Many years ago, before I was ever in the picture, the man I married attempted to sky dive. His twin brother was an avid skydiver, so my husband decided he needed to try. He paid to be taken up in the plane and when it came time to jump, he could not let go of the plane. His fingers were wrapped around some sturdy piece of airplane and could not even be pried loose. He landed with the plane and never made another attempt. And that sums up much about him; unable to let go of the plane. Years later, he took private pilot lessons, at considerable expense. He finally got to the point where he had enough experience to solo, and he kept opting for “just one more lesson”. He never did his solo flight, never got his private pilot license and his training is all expired by this point, I’m sure. More recently, and the catalyst for the death of the already unhappy marriage, was his decision to “day trade”, in his own fashion. After observing the “behavior” of stocks over a very long period of time, he devised a plan where he could make very short trades, purchase and sell again within minutes. I did an independent study of his plan, and a financial model of the potential results. It looked good, it looked like there was considerable potential, so I consented to let him try. He hasn’t worked since. Nor has he made any money since. Every morning, for the next couple of years, he sat in his chair at the kitchen table, disheveled, unshowered, over-caffeinated, and wide-eyed with fear, and he watched the potential trades come and go. He couldn’t let go of the plane. He just couldn’t make the trades, and when he did, he second-guessed himself and bought and sold too early or too late and either made very little, broke even or lost. But he certainly did not replace his income and the empire we’d spent a lifetime building, fell. All because he couldn’t let go of the plane.
Skydiving is interesting. That may seem like an understatement. It is and understatement, and it isn’t. Skydiving is amazing, the adrenaline rush is awesome! But skydiving is also interesting in the way things become interesting when you overanalyze them, like I do pretty much everything.
Upon exiting the plane, free falling is what much of life feels like; you’re out of control and just plummeting. When the ripcord is pulled and the chute deploys, you regain control, you grab the handles and steer yourself to safety. In skydiving, as in life, we are in command, even if we feel like we are in free fall and completely out of control. All we ever have to do is pull that ripcord, grab the handles and steer ourselves safely back to the ground. When do we feel like we’re in free fall? After high school graduation, before beginning college. After college graduation before landing that first job. Any time we leave a comfortable job in quest for new, better, more enriching experiences. Selling a house to buy another. Moving from one city to another. Ending a long-term relationship. Retiring from a long, rewarding career. Receiving a dreaded diagnosis. We are almost always in free fall in some realm of life, or are approaching it. Yet, we usually land on our feet and continue to live.
This applies to just about anything. Change is scary, we are fearful of much in life, and we allow those fears limit us, limit our potential, limit our possibility for growth, fulfillment, happiness and possibly even being able to contribute in a very meaningful way to the world in which we live. Do you think, possibly, there is a scientist out there, somewhere, who has the potential to develop a cure for cancer or AIDS, but is, perhaps, limited by their fear? Perhaps there exists somewhere a gifted leader and politician, someone who is honest and has integrity and could help our divided nation overcome its partisan differences, but because they are limited by their fear, they don’t pursue their gift. What gifts do you have that your fear of change, uncertainty or failure prevent you from sharing?
Whether you decide to skydive in order to fully understand the analogy of free-fall and then regaining control, or whether you just rely on my description of it, do consider finding a way to overcome fears that limit you. My favorite quote by Eleanor Roosevelt has helped me many times over; “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Just let go of the plane.
Day one back in my world. Ugh. Too early. Not enough sleep. Too long of a day that went an hour longer than it should have. For the sake of customer service. It’s what I do.
I didn’t even go outside except to toss my empty beer bottles into the recycle bin.
I did share my pictures and videos from my last four weeks with my mom, and I realize what a crazy, magical, wild, full and unusual life I have crafted for myself. For that I am grateful, and for that I also wish for change.
I have a good life. I am so grateful for my job, my home, my family, my friends, and not particularly in that order. Vacation gives us the opportunity to vacate our daily lives, to, hopefully, gain a different perspective on the world, to rest, to relax and to rejuvenate. My vacation provided me with all of that, and more.
I’m in a phase right now. I believe our lives go through phases, this seems logical, there is the phase, of course, for growing up, then different phases for each of us as our lives progress, for me, the college phase, the career phase, the marriage and family phase, the “I have teenagers” phase, the empty nest phase and, now, the “what’s the next phase?” phase. Never content to sit back and just ride anything out, I am chasing down the bull I need to take by the horns. With many little efforts, many tiny attempts to move things in a vague direction, I have only managed to see the bull I want to conquer run off, yonder, over the next hill. I never lose sight of him, he just keeps eluding my attempts to grab him by the horns and wrestle him to the ground. Do you ever feel like that? You have some specific goals in mind, and have made some cursory efforts in moving toward them, yet they seem elusive. Ever distant. Ever “some day”. I’m not satisfied by that. I know exactly what I want for several different areas of my life and I’m just sitting on the fence watching that damn bull graze in the distance.
Well, now, I’ve pulled my boots on, my chaps are strapped tight, my hat straightened, I’m wearing my best Clint Eastwood squint and I am taking the first bold, determined strides towards the bull. As the bull seeks to elude me, or perhaps turns to charge at me, I will adjust my path as necessary. But I know what I want and I am not going to keep saying “some day”. Nor should you.
Your life is just that, your life. It is up to you to decide what it should be and then make a plan to make it happen. No one else should, or will, do that for you. If you have a dream for your life, you deserve to live that dream, not to just wish for it. Are you just treading water, keeping your head afloat, while your dreams pass by with every wave? Get on that board and ride those waves. Life is meant to be fulfilling, not just wishful, and eventually regretful.
Is it that we are fearful of our dreams, whether they will be all in reality that they are in our dreams? They will likely be different, they may be better than we ever imagined, or not, but by moving towards them we will, at the very least, not be stuck where we are now. Treading water. We will have learned something, gained some experiences, and possibly everything in our wildest dreams, or maybe some new dreams. Dreams, in life, are related to the phases in life we pass through, they, too are subject to change. The dreams we had for our lives as a child are likely very different than the dreams we have at whatever phase of adulthood we’re in now. And, the dreams I had in early adulthood, some even having been realized and cherished, are now, very different. I have new dreams, different dreams, and, a couple of the same dreams, though refined. Just because one dream doesn’t amount to all we expected it to be at some point in life doesn’t mean we should abandon all of our other dreams. Or worse yet, give up dreaming. As the phases of our lives change, as our dreams change shape and direction, so too must our energy, our focus, our goals and our efforts in realizing those dreams.
I don’t know if you need this pep talk right now, but I do. Time to be bold because time waits for no one. Here, bull! Here, bull!
My wonderful, perfect, fun, romantic vacation draws to a close, and with every passing second I try not to let the fact that I’m returning “home” dampen my mood. But it does. But I try not to let it show, and I’m not sure I pulled it off 100%. Maybe. Maybe not. It’s not like I won’t be back, I will, I just don’t know when and my vacation time from work dwindles. With only half the year behind us and one week of vacation left, it is hard to figure out where to take that week. Next week would be grand, but then the next six months would be hard to endure. I try not to think about it.
We busied ourselves this morning, fishing. We revisited the stocked ponds along the Steese Highway. We were armed, we thought, with what no fish could resist; freshly gathered and dried salmon roe. I harvested it myself and it has been drying in the yard for the past few days, as the salmon strips dried in the smoker. We harvested a small alder tree from the yard, stripped the bark from it, chopped it up and used it to smoke the fish in the smoker. The roe just dried, slightly, on racks in the sunshine.
We visited the prettiest of the several ponds first and saw trout everywhere, jumping for insects, swimming past us in small schools, inches from our “irresistible” bait. I tried a lure, a spoon, a spinner, with and without bait. Stuck up fish. Stuck up hatchery born, commercially fed fish. They don’t even know what salmon roe is, apparently, nor that any normal, wild fish would attack it like Jaws a young, teen, swimmer at the beach. Eventually, we moved on to the next, less scenic, more successful pond, based on our earlier experience. Nothing. Nothing, but mosquitos. We gave up early and fast and returned home, with thoughts of, maybe, hitching up the airboat and going after the “sure to catch” grayling on the Chatanika. Once home, though, in the heat of the day, we decided not to. Not to do anything. And it was splendid, just some quality, quiet time. A siesta.
As evening approached, my plan was to take my man out for a nice dinner, my treat, in thanks and in appreciation for such a wonderful vacation. We called to make reservations as The Turtle Club in nearby Fox, and, thankfully, they had a couple of openings left, and one for precisely when we’d hoped for. We got all dressed up after washing the smell of mosquito dope and salmon roe off, and headed towards town. We had a lovely, lovely, large, large dinner, which, against my plan, ended up being his treat, for my upcoming birthday. My sweet man! We skipped dessert, on purpose.
Across the street, in Fox, is Silver Gulch Brewery, where we met nearly three years ago, and today is Beerfest, featuring tastings and a live polka band in the tent adjacent to the brewery. The parking lot was jammed full, so we parked across the street and skipped the fest and just went in for a quick visit with the “locals” at the bar and a beer (40 Below for me). We had an engagement for dessert, up the hill, and enjoyed filling our free time between dinner and dessert visiting and sipping.
We enjoyed dessert and wine with the neighbors up the road, as we always enjoy time with them. As they prepare to sell their home and move away and make a new life in the “lower forty-eight”, I struggle to face the fact I leave this “vacation world” tomorrow morning and return to my life, firmly rooted in the “lower forty-eight”. People come and go in life, not so much like a tide, but more like a river, there for a fleeting moment, in the grand scheme of things, then on with the current. When I think of the number of people I have had friendships with over the course of my, now, fifty years, the number, in total, is staggering. And, at moments like this, I want the river to freeze, like rivers do, here in Alaska. I will return, soon enough, but it will be different, not better or worse, necessarily, but different. In time, even a short period of time, there are changes, and we have to accept and adapt to those changes. Or be left behind, saddened and confused.
Living with my elderly mom, lonely since my dad passed, or longer, she fills quiet with one-sided conversation; mostly of “how things used to be, when times were better”. She mourns for the world today, not at all like the world she thrived in, a world that, to her, was simpler, slower, softer and more tangible. She just exists in this world, she doesn’t understand it, appreciate it, or participate in it, complicated, fast paced, unforgiving and digital. Today’s world is foreign and hostile, scary and unwelcome. Today’s world, that which Mom fears and discounts, I embrace and drink in. And with this lesson, vivid in my mind, I pray that I am always appreciative, accepting and a willing participant in the world, and as it evolves and changes. As the world evolves and changes, I hope, so, too, shall I. I don’t ever want to be sorrowful or bitter for a world that has changed in my midst, I don’t want to be left behind, saddened and confused. As I head home and my world at home and the world that I love, here, both are destined to change, I vow to boldly embrace those changes and adapt and be joyous for the new, exciting experiences ahead, the new people, with the hope that some people in my life remain steadfast, and with the hope that the people who do move on remain, somehow, close. And so, many smiles, chocolate mousse and more wine! Salut!