maybe now is just now

I’ve always felt this strong desire for something I’ve called “stability,” but I’m wondering lately if what I’m really talking about would be better called “stagnation.” What’s more, when I say I value “security,” what I suspect I’m really saying is that I dislike variance from “routine.”

These statements may seem simple, but putting them into words is kind of revelatory for me. I’ve always know that changes of plans are hard for me to deal with – but I don’t think I’ve ever really admitted that the stability and security I purport to value so highly is probably just a more acceptable way for me to say that I don’t do well in liminal space, that I have a low tolerance for “in between.”

Take “now,” for instance. I have said recently that I believe that, later in life, looking back on these past few years, I expect they’ll all seem to be one “period” in time: the epoch that began with my father’s death, had a middle-section of leaving my career, going on the road for a year, moving across the country, losing my mom, and now this period of COVID-induced quarantine. I have thought that, looking back, there will be a discernible block of time from dad-dies to COVID-ends. And that, most telling, after that period of time we’ll go back to normal, to “stability,” to “security.”

But maybe that’s wrong. Or, probably it’s wrong. Maybe now is just now. I guess, it’s all but certain that now is just now. It’s not a moment of transition which will have a nice clean end where things return to normal… it’s just now.

And what’s more, I am almost certainly, to some degree, squandering now by waiting for it to end so that things can be “normal” again.

No; I certainly am.

how do we “go back?”

It’s week eight of quarantine. I don’t think I’ve driven the car more than a handful of times. I’ve not been to a single store. Interacted only with family. I know not everyone is, or has the luxury to be able to be, this cloistered. Like all things there is a scale with opposing extremes at either end and we’re all at different places for different reasons, and maybe we even move around.

But how do we go back? I know, you’ll come back with, “we don’t; we go forward” and I’ll pretend I’ve not heard that. Whatever you call it aside… how does this end?

There does not seem to be hope for a binary end; no light-switch. But is it forever, then? It can’t be forever, right? So it has to be somewhere between on/off and forever. And if there’s no black/white transition but instead a long period of lightening gray, what the heck does that look like?

When do we start doing what? With whom? How often? I know the disease is awful and it’s terrible to compare anything to the loss of human life – but the “coming back” from this is going to be hard. People will be judged, people will judge. Everyone will have their own scales and timelines. People will shame other people.

In the US, we are so intolerant of each other right now, so divided and tribal. I can’t help but feel like this “recovery” is going to fan those flames. What’s correct? What’s safe? What’s sensible? Where is objective truth? People are listening to all kinds of tripe; clinging to fringe voices because it’s easier than the consensus.

I honestly don’t know how to behave, but staying here at home is normal now and changing that seems difficult and indeterminate so maybe we just do that? How do you behave unselfishly moving forward?

I hate thinking about it because I can’t fit it into a framework and I crave framework. When I’m 65 I think we’ll look back on this past 12-24mos as one connected “happening.” Leaving Intel, living on the road for year, moving to Florida, starting a new job, Mom dying, the isolation of self-quarantine… it will be one strange blur with a bright-blazing theme of transition. The now/then being so starkly different we won’t help but be able to think of life-before and life-after.

We’re still settling, then. This transition hasn’t ended. Maybe… maybe the the stability and normalcy I enjoyed in California is a thing of the past.

Dunno…

a luxuriating lordship

Nine years ago I wrote about a late-night wakeful moment of deep appreciation of our first house.

What I was attempting to convey then was my prideful appreciation of something owned, a luxuriating in lordship over our domain. Taking advantage of an alone and quiet moment to indulge in the comfort of a place that, because you’ve settled into it and have touched all its cracks and pores, feels perfectly sized for you, matched exactly to your needs.

I like when this happens – when you develop a love for precisely the thing you have because you have it and not a different thing. A kind of irrational love that persists even when a different thing is objectively better. My old sun-beaten, curled and creased leather hat that I’d not trade for a new one. Things that take on the value not only of their construction or creation, but of the living that has happened in them or with them or through them.

I used to tell Sharaun that I never wanted to move from that first house, I said that if we ever reached a point where we had the idea we’d outgrown it we needed to instead check our materialism and re-discover a satisfaction in the magnitude of our blessing. We did move, and for reasons, but I still remember that feeling of connection and satiation – thankful for having what we needed and proud to not have more than that.

Our new home here in Florida tickles that second bit for me, the part of me that is arrogant about living within means and not overdoing it. The home/inhabitants symbiosis I wrote about feeling that night nine years ago will take time, but that “this is all we need because it’s what we have” sentiment is definitely there.

Peace, hugs, happy last day of 2019.

statement of intent

For a long time I’ve wanted to write a book.

In 2020 I would like to accomplish that.

I began yesterday with a very rough outline. The book wants to be about the slow-bloom of my midlife crisis: The things that happened, the choices we made, experiences had, and lessons learned. At least that’s what it wants to be about today.

My coach/mentor told me, before we left on our year-long trip, “You need to write during the trip; take notes. Then, the year following your trip, you should write a book. Use the writing you did and the time you’ve had to reflect on what you’ve learned.” She knows I’ve always wanted to write a book.

I did write on the trip – I think I did a good job at that. But it takes me a long time to process what I’ve learned so I wasn’t ready yet to begin something substantial. I have to talk about it (a lot) and write about it (over and over again). Once I’ve done that enough to where it’s part of my story, I’ve usually decided and internalized what I learned. I think I’m there… and I think it’s time to try.

Part of the process, I think, is continuing to write here, also. Like keeping the grease packed around the bearings.

Later.

conferrence

Among the many new threads of thought that I’ve had in the wake of Mom’s recent passing is my realization that the notion of what and where “home” changes over one’s life.

I hadn’t given it much thought, but what I’ve called “home” has changed over the years. As a kid it was easy, but it changes as you grow up, move out, marry, move away, have kids & visit grandparents – wherever they may be. There’s a “home” for my family (spouse and progeny), there’s a “home” where I came of age, and there’s an important “home” that isn’t a place but instead a proximity – wherever your parents are, that’s also a form of “home.”

I thought: Where is “home” now? Where do you go for Thanksgiving and Christmas when that magnetic north is gone? And then I thought: There is a new and different freedom to be explored here. There is also a torch-passing, a conferrence of eldership and family stake. I think also that there is much to learn about living in this new era, and what responsibility is conferred.

Peace & love.

a transaction of time & money

It’s coming together, this new house.

There are things I’d like to do, but they are improvements as opposed to fixes, desired not required. Get the ceiling redone as smooth vs. this post-popcorn texture; redo the floors; replace some fans and lights. But all of this is indulgence, and not necessary.

It’s good, too, that we got the place in working order. Money is not what it was in California. I guess I haven’t talked about it much, but the move to Florida meant a deep, but voluntary, pay cut. Ah but “pay cut” sounds so violent and helpless, and this is something we did willingly in surrender, so let’s instead maybe call it a “transaction of time and money.”

I feel a pride, and with it the guilt I almost always feel alongside any pride, for making that transaction. Or, I want to feel a pride. I want to be proud that, in opting to leave money and status for time with family I did a noble thing. Yet here I am, making less money and having less status, spinning wheels trying to measure the resultant increase in “family time.”

You know how you know things are a certain way, that they are true and that a situation is as you know it to be, yet you still act as if you don’t know it? It’s not about acknowledging that reality, it’s about permitting yourself to be satisfied. That’s where I struggle. Not in happiness, which I have in spades, but in doneness – the satisfaction of completion. Always bothered by having not yet arrived at some contented state of finished, when once can finally relax and be mindful of the present.

It’s just another part of what I wrote yesterday about learning to live in a state of transition – just phrased another way. To not be seeking some future “job well done” place, to instead be happy with the last breath, most recent beat of the heart, or the comfortable temperature in the room.

“What greater wealth is there than to own your life and to spend it on growing?”

If you can name it, you can work on it, right? I’m working on it.

not flailing at flotsam

Mom joined Dad on Friday, around noon California time.

John and I imagined him waiting for her, asking her sarcastically, “What took you so long?,” with a cold Heineken in-hand for her, to match his own.

Near the end she talked about how badly she wanted to see him again. How it was what she wanted most, how she wasn’t afraid. At one point she remembered Dad’s concern with all things God near the end of his life, saying that she had prayed to God that he let her join him, that he let her go.

Pat welcomed me to the “orphan club,” noting that the initiation sucks. It does. Like I started writing about the day before Mom passed, it feels like a new era. As if to echo my own sentiment, my long-time mentor’s response when I informed her was, “There is a maturity that comes with this phase of life that I think you will enjoy a lot.” I liked those words a lot, read and re-read them, and I think they may have helped me realize something…

For me, this whole thing, this five year happening bookended by the losses of Dad and Mom, is about learning to tolerate uncertainty. No I I don’t mean to say it was engineered to teach me a lesson; I mean that’s what I’m supposed to be learning from it. To be able to weather ambiguity, to be OK with not-knowing, to drift directionless with confidence, not flailing at flotsam.

I don’t know how much I’ve improved. Dad, the RV trip, the big change, Mom… it seemed foregone… I mean we lived for a year with no agenda and no direction. It was bliss. We made a conscious decision to chase family and togetherness instead of promotions and salary. It was wise. But did I get better at living in the the between space? Jury is still out.

Maybe I’m being naive, after all I just got out of my first five-year class on the subject. Maybe the real learning comes after the object lesson, after being pushed from the nest? They may be gone, but I’m happy to let them continue to sharpen me.

Miss you Mom and Dad, love you.

Together again.