I like to think I'm deliberate.
That I labor over decisions, both big and small. That I'm meticulous and make well-counselled decisions.
In something approaching 50% of the time, though, I think I operate more on impulse. This tends to be OK, as I trust myself in most matters. Deliberate, impulsive, these are things I'm used to both striving for an being, respectively. One thing I'm not, or at least up until recently have not been, accustomed to is calling. A decision calling to me is something than an impulsive one. Impulse is fleeting; I didn't buy those new $150 earbuds even though I liked them and seem to collect such technical doodads - better judgement, nay, deliberate decision-making, intervened. A calling, on the other hand, does not fleet.
When there's this feeling... in your chest or somewhere approximate. It's a nagging thing, isn't it? Even tainted around the edges to make you feel like not doing it is somehow wrong. A calling, being willed from the inside or some outside force, as near physical a thing as a pinprick. I was called to do the RV trip, did you know that? I don't say it, but I felt like we were supposed to do that; meant to bond and explore. Yeah sure, you're thinking that I'm likely also "called" to my daily bowel movements, that I'm some crystals and auras new-age type getting messages from the Pleiades. I'm not; as much as one can impartially judge themselves as such a one. I knew that trip was the right thing to do, while on it everything felt right, and looking back at it there's no denying the overall correctness of it. It was a calling I chose to heed.
Is "calling" even the right word? Not sure. When someone chooses the seminary, what's that... a calling? A desire? How do you tell the difference. In my life, I also desired (greatly) that past summer's trip. Called, or wanted? Maybe it's the persistence of the feeling that leads me to want to dub something a calling versus a desire. I desire a steak, medium rare, salt and pepper only. I'm called on a journey. What does one do, then, when one feels some compelling urge to do something seemingly irrational... like a drastic career and scenery change?
Why do I daydream about teaching middle-school math in upstate New York? What is that kind of fantasy. I even see the town in my head, all Bedford Falls and Mayberry. My kids know your kids and your wife and mine are in the same PTA meetings and church committees. I don't work until 10pm. I don't work until 11pm. I don't work until midnight. I don't think about work in the shower. I don't think about work on the weekend. My fucking till balance at the end of my grocery-checker shift doesn't weigh on my shoulders like an anchor. My paycheck loses decimal places. Our saving stalls. I wouldn't be able to do things like that RV trip I was "called" to; I'd have to pass-up the calling because I couldn't afford it. Right? Little devil on the right, little angel on the left. Warring.
I can't even write one-minded about it and I'm just manic-depressive enough about it to where it'll likely never happen. There is this part of me that wants it like an ideal, though. To get closer to my family, my God, my planet, the things I like about myself and the things I feel my time is best spent on. Why waste it working until 10pm, 11pm, midnight? Why waste it rebalancing my 401k? Why sow or reap or store away in barns? Why labor or spin? How long can I keep pretending to seriously ask myself these questions before I give up and admit I'm too scared or convince the family to take the first steps with me? I'm not serious, surely.
Self-indulgent catharsis. Feel better. More coming at a later time. Thanks for reading.
Man the weather here is refreshing. Something about the air here at the in-laws' place: fresh coming off the water and just a little touch of Florida humidity but without the oppressive heat and density of the summer months. Christmas-time in Florida really is an excellent clime.
Our trip out was disastrous. We woke at 3am to catch a 6am flight out of California, and that flight was delayed by all manner of things for over an hour (with us sitting in our seats on-board). This resulted in a missed-connection at Denver and the airline auto-re-booking us on a 6pm flight later that day. Not wanting to spend eight hours in the airport with two kids, we tried standby on a couple earlier flights with no luck. Eight long hours later, as 6pm finally rolled around, turns out that outbound aircraft had issues. Another hour and a half and a new plane later we were finally on our way. We pulled into the driveway here at 2:30am Florida time, nearly twenty-one hours of travel time after our west-coast departure. Poor Cohen didn't sleep the entire time, stubborn little man that he is, and was wrecked for our entire first day here.
But now we are here, and all the Christmas presents I had shipped from Amazon were here before us, and the sweet tea is plentiful and family's already come 'round to play... it promises to be a good time. I'm trying to stay away from work as much as possible, but have so far checked email daily like a sucker.
I'm looking forward to some un-scheduled time. No having to be somewhere at this time or meet someone at that time.
Oh and maybe some writing if the inspiration strikes. Bye.
Got into Vegas from Shanghai just an hour or so ago.
Upon seeing this shiny place ringed by desert again, I didn't expect to have such a strong emotional reaction. Maybe the jetlag contributed, but being here again after this summer's RV trip, for only the second time in my life, just smashed down on me and almost made my eyes water. It's not like I'm remembering something that happened twenty years ago, either - we were here back in July. I think it's a testament to just how impactful that trip was on me.
Maybe I didn't realize exactly how broadly the journey effected me, and to some extent maybe I'm still settling back into things and coming off that road-high. Writing might be one example of this. I know in my head that at some point I'm going to call this sounds familiar dead-time "the big gap." That I've already named it for future writing means I'm getting closer. More telling still are the ideas for entries that have been jumping into my head again; on plane flights, in taxis, on the soccer field, the shower; the usual places.
It could be that I haven't seen my family in two weeks, and won't for another few days before we meet again in Portland. Missing them and being here, a place where, even if we didn't really have the best time in the world, I was last together with them on this wild transforming journey, surely plays a part. I miss my family.
So I don't know... but I'm going to go out and walk the strip a bit (after a shower to wash the full day's travel off me) and see if I can catch further nostalgia.
Until later then.
I was due to start work yesterday, fresh from seven weeks away.
It's not that I was nervous about going back to work... but a bit hesitant about diving in and trying to drink from the firehose. Didn't matter, in the end, as I came upon a jury duty summons while sifting through the pile of mail which accrued during our holiday. So I sat there today, reading, working on Keaton's last video, thinking. I thought a lot about the trip; how lucky we were to be able to take it, how smoothly it went, how it managed to change my perspective just a bit. To a degree, I think I was wanting to run away from normal... run away and take shelter in the little family we've built. Being there, hidden away in a box just the four of us, was blissfully awesome. To function so highly together, to enjoy our own company... something about it was almost therapeutic. Sorry, I could talk about it for paragraphs. I'll stop.
So I whiled away the day at the county courthouse. I met a woman, I figure she was about 300lbs, although I'm not sure how here weight is relevant. She was complaining bitterly about the whole thing. "I don't know why they keep us so long," she lamented. "They ain't never gonna pick me, my husband is a convicted felon and my dad was too." This left me, not being a guy who runs with many felons, lacking a proper response. It's so tempting, to slip into some least-common-denominator type conversation. I could've said, "I watched a Dateline about felons once," or, "I learned about felonies in Civics class," y'know, to establish some common ground. Instead I just found myself slightly sad that she was registered to vote. For new readers, here's the part of almost every paragraph I write where I go back and dilute my own writing by playing devil's advocate: In the end I shouldn't be too critical though, I don't know that woman - she could be a heavyset saint who just keeps bad company.
Being on the road and not writing regularly felt odd, good-odd, but I like writing. Double-down then, back to the keyboard and blank page and trying to bang out some good reading - things have been mundane. Stupid brain turns vacations into "being behind" upon return. Fix this and get back to that and do this so that can be all ready. First-world problems... flowing like the clean, potable water which flows unabated from the five taps in my house's central plumbing. Malaria? They cured that, right? That one president invented a vaccine, I think.
Well folks, we're back home after our extended jaunt.
I won't spend a lot of time waxing about how great it was (it was) or how well-behaved we all were with each other (angels) or how I feel more American for the experience (Semper Fi). Instead I wanted to write about being home.
We rolled up Tuesday afternoon and worked until late that night just unpacking the RV. Moving load after load of our road-things back into the house - not putting them away in their proper places, mind you, just facilitating the exodus. Wednesday we rose early and began the arduous process of cleansing the vehicle before return - a process which reminded us both of the old apartment days, facing that "how much do we need to clean?" quandary. One final sewage and wastewater dump and we had the vehicle back on time. It was an odd feeling, dropping it off for good again... and the resultant move-out piles are still only partially dealt with.
Sharaun has said to me several times that she'd have been ready to do another six weeks, not come back for double our time away. I have to agree, although being home is nice. We took the homecoming mass unpacking as an opportunity to do some spring-cleaning and organizing (something the OCD in me adores). Having a few days off before returning to work, I had a small list of minor projects I wanted to run-through and have been able to make good progress. Yes, it's good being home; I love our house.
And yeah, I'm slowly beginning to peek at work stuff. I re-downloaded the corporate email app to my phone and have been doing sporadic replies to new threads. I've batch-downloaded everything which came while we were out and halfheartedly parsed through it once or twice. I had lunch with my coverage guy and good buddy and used the hour to poke a bit about what's been going on. You might say I'm thinning the cobwebs, but I guess it'll be a week or so before I'm back firing on all cylinders. From what I've seen, things for the most part went as things tend to go...
And with that quick summary I'm off to enjoy the day & kick around on Keaton's last couple videos. Until Monday for the blog, take it easy.
Man I wish we hadn't gone to Vegas.
The Grand Canyon was, to me, the epitome of what's great about this trip. An outstanding National Park, expertly run and managed, clean, easy to get around and enjoy - and so dang beautiful. Part of this could have been my expectations, as I was assuming the Canyon would come up on us while we traveled along the same desert flatland we'd been in for days. I hadn't even imagined the forested environment at the park's elevation.
Before we left I had people tell me all sorts of things about the places we were going. "Mt. Rushmore is pretty boring." "Niagara is a five-minute stop, at most." "The Grand Canyon is 'OK,' but it's really just a big hole, it would be hard to spend multiple days there." I tell you what, though: No place, not a single one, on this trip inspired me the way that one did. Maybe it's because we're nearing the end and it was such a pleasant surprise, I don't know. What I do know, however, is that I've got to get back there and do so "adult" hiking. I want to go rim-to-rim, want to raft... something about that place made me want to settle down and never leave. Thanks Mike for the recommendation to stay a little while, you were spot-on.
And if the Grand Canyon was the epitome of what I wanted out of this trip, Las Vegas was the antithesis. When I finally hit the pillow last night around midnight I told Sharaun, "I think it was a mistake bringing the family to Vegas." Don't get me wrong, I think I could perhaps have a decent time here with a pack of friends - but as far as "harshing the buzz" of our current trip, this place was all about it. One big commercialized, sprawling shopping mall with the worst of human proclivities on display at all times. All glitz, glam, spray-tan and popped-collars, thudding bass and costume-jewelry and lipstick-on-pigs - it was the polar opposite of what I was seeking from the trip, and my personal nightmare in terms of "things to do" (shop, waste money, dance at a club, pay for sex, etc.).
Thankfully, it was just a one-night "miss" and we're closing the whole thing down with another few days in God's country. And, really, we did have some fun... the Bellagio fountains were cool, the gardens inside too. The volcano at the Mirage was neat; the Atlantis show was fun, and dinner was good. Other than that, blech. Maybe some other time, in some other context... who knows...
And then it's over! Keaton's new video is uploading now, look for it soon. See ya!
A week from today and I'll be pulling this RV into our driveway at home. The next day I'll return it to the rental joint. The following Monday I'll rejoin corporate zombieland and trudge among the cubicles groaning for reeeee-sooouurces, sche-duuuules, and the like. I'm not looking forward to going back.
This week we stopped over in New Mexico. On our route is a little winery run by a fellow I used to work with at the sawmill. Only he doesn't work at the sawmill anymore. He makes wine in Mew Mexico now. In his tasting room we had the talk again (I've had the same talk with him over dinners in Shanghai, Austin, and California). Y'know, the talk about running away from corporate indentured servitude, about making your own road and tossing the paycheck for the passion. One thing this trip impressed upon me, seeing so many old friends in so many places across the country doing so many different things: There's a lot out there to do.
I almost covet my job, thanking God for the work and the income and the fact that I don't hate it. All those things are good to be thankful for. But when I see so many people doing so many things and living just as happily and fruitfully it reminds me that my job isn't the only job. It's not the only way to make ends meet. Right now it's working well, sure. But sitting at that winery, walking around that cheese farm, riding in that fire truck - those are all good pieces of information to override the typecast poison of the modern cast of the American Dream. It makes a guy think that there's infinite mobility out there, and that nothing is good enough to be resigned to, y'know? I mean there's gotta be a middle-school math teacher position open somewhere in upstate New York... right?
Anyway, gloom aside - I'm really looking forward to our last week. Sharaun's driving us towards the Grand Canyon as I write in the passenger seat and we'll spend two full days there bumming around. After that we decided to make one more last-minute change to the itinerary and toss Death Valley for an evening in Vegas. The goal is to get in early enough to take in a show, wander around, and eat some buffet. I've never been, and we'll be at the Hoover Dam that same day so it just made sense. I know, the only people who take a baby and a five year old to Las Vegas. After Vegas we close the trip with a few much-anticipated days with friends for the Fourth down in the California high desert. Can't wait.
I'm off to edit together Keaton's newest video, with luck I'll get it done on the road and have it posted before we arrive at the Canyon tonight. Until later.