Let go(al) and let…just let go

Mountain

Don’t have to climb the mountain to admire its beauty

Where do you see yourself in five years?

It’s a common question at job interviews and often creeps in silently when people reach age or career milestones.

Rephrased more broadly, it is asking: What are your goals?

In most Western societies—the only ones I really know—we are told it is good to have goals; that you need to set your sights on a destination and follow that path to its conclusion. It is how you get ahead. It is how you find happiness, or at least the stuff that brings happiness.

I have spent my life working this way.

Checklist

Life goals complete

I tell you this not to present my resume—you can find that on my LinkedIn pages (yeah, I have two)—but rather to explain the pattern of my life (and probably yours) in contrast to where I am today.

You see, for the first time in my life, I have no goals. And I am finding it incredibly disconcerting.

Sure, like everyone else, I have daily, weekly, monthly and yearly obligations.

I need money to pay for rent, food, bills, hockey tickets, beer. I have editorial deadlines and the odd gift to buy. But I have no long-term goals. I am living my life without my next destination in mind.

Five years from now? Hell, I sometimes don’t know where I’ll be five minutes from now.

In some ways, I am as close to living in the moment as you can get without living under a tree or in a cave (basement apartment notwithstanding). And it’s freaking me out.

Having a goal is a hard habit to break after 50+ years.

Butterfly

What if I had missed this moment?

To be clear, I’m not looking for a goal—floating freely has some lovely benefits—but I struggle some days to know what the point of my day is or was.

Simply being is really simple—it requires no preparation or gear—but our society has taught us that it is wasteful; that it is selfish; that even our “free” time must be productive.

Having no goals, I find, is entirely selfish. I can only affect change in myself.

But I’ve come to realize that “selfish” isn’t bad in and of itself; only when it negatively impacts others, which I don’t believe I am.

Still, like a good Pavlovian pound puppy, I sometimes find myself whimpering at the window, waiting for someone to throw the stick of destiny, to give my life meaning and purpose.

Is it okay or desirable to lead a purpose-less life? Is that my purpose? [Never met-a-physics that didn’t hurt my brain.]

But then, it’s 7:30 a.m. and the alarm goes off. I turn it off and go back to sleep.

Life without goals definitely has its upside.

Seniority

(Source: BBC News Sussex)

(Source: BBC News Sussex)

The world wizzes by

At sixty minutes an hour

As the invisible old man

Shuffles by the store window.

Faces, buried in phones,

Are oblivious to his struggles

As early winter snows

And joints no longer fresh

Imperil every footfall;

Each step an exercise

Of will and forethought.

Hands palsy of cold and age,

Eyes rheum of wind and memory,

But the soul burns wildly

Despite bodily afflictions.

Crowds thicken and jostle;

The man holds his place

To catch balance and breathe.

And historied eyes rise

To catch reflections in glass.

The eyes that watch me

Are my own of blue,

But the husk that bears them

Is that of an ancient;

Frail and mortal witness

To a life eternal.

Real

2_istock_000012358529xsmall

Am I as lifeless as the image

That dances before me,

Within its two-dimensional bonds

Of height and width?

Or does it ask the same questions

As it stares through this portal of glass,

Breathing and thinking in a world

That also offers depth and duration?

Which of us is the corpus

And which the reflection?

Both? Neither?

When we part company,

Who moves first?

And if I smash the glass,

Which of us ceases to exist,

Except in the multitude of shards

That fall to Earth?

girlbrokenmirror

(Images are property of owners and upon reflection, are used here without permission.)

Top 50 Events – A personal perspective

mirror

On Monday, November 18, I celebrate my 50th birthday. To commemorate the half-century, I have tried to look back and capture my fondest memories or most life-changing events.

The following list is not in order, although the subject of event #2 would likely have no problem believing she ranks after #1 and possibly as low as #5. She can be assured little of this would have nearly the meaning or significance to me without her presence for much of it.

  1. Had my sketch comedy performed at Second City Toronto
  2. Married an amazingly intelligent woman
  3. Interacted with a Henson puppet
  4. Saw Star Wars (you cannot overstate the impact of this on me)
  5. Wrote my first screenplay
  6. Met Nicholas Lemon, puppeteer, actor, friend
  7. Coached adult hockey (beer league but it was hockey)
  8. Performed stand-up comedy (never again)
  9. Discovered the Beatles (not saying I was first to)
  10. Was bylined in a magazine
  11. Wrote sketch comedy for a television show
  12. Attended Patrick Roy’s last game as a Montreal Canadien
  13. Watched a Habs game at the Forum and the Leafs at the Gardens
  14. Snorkeled in Barbados, Costa Rica and Hawaii
  15. Became friends with my brothers
  16. Was a scientist
  17. Performed improv on the Second City stage (as part of SC Training Centre…don’t want SC mad at me)
  18. Visited Chichin Itza
  19. Taught college/university students
  20. Owned a collie named Rebel
  21. Photographed orcas in British Columbia
  22. Went to Disneyland
  23. Attended the Austin Film Festival
  24. Met Chris Vogler, author of The Writer’s Journey
  25. Published my own magazine Aliquotes
  26. Experienced 9/11 from Washington, DC
  27. Impacted by murder of John Lennon
  28. Visited Iceland
  29. Played with ferrets
  30. Saw Shakespeare performed in Stratford, ON
  31. Eloped to and married in Algonquin Park
  32. Received spread in Globe & Mail from my PR efforts
  33. Saw George Carlin, Bill Cosby and Billy Connelly on stage (Gods)
  34. Skated on the Rideau Canal during Winterlude
  35. Eulogized my grandparents
  36. Traveled to both coasts with grandparents
  37. Had my heart broken
  38. Discovered bipedal locomotion (hey, it was the 60s)
  39. Watched the movie My Favorite Year
  40. Received an electric typewriter for Christmas
  41. Saw the crystal structure of the active site of a GTPase (it’s a geek thing, but beautiful)
  42. Watched the Toronto Marlies make the Calder Cup Finals (see also ‘heart broken’)
  43. Saw an ad I created on the Toronto Transit system
  44. Met Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits
  45. Discovered sex (again, not first; obviously, this list is not in order; strangely, Star Wars still ranks higher)
  46. Witnessed Toronto Varsity Blues win Vanier Cup on blocked last-second field goal attempt
  47. Rode in a submarine in Hawaii
  48. Did astral photography on a mountain top in Hawaii
  49. Birth (it meant a lot to me)
  50. Celebrated 40th birthday at pool hall with wonderful friends

The Maples – A short story

Center Bar

“The maples?”

“Still there,” Lucy smiled. “They look like hell, but they’re there.”

“I thought the hurricane took everything out,” Jeremy replied.

“Actually, the ice storm in February did the most damage. About half the trees split at the trunk, so the whole copse leans to the left.”

Jeremy smiled at her, eyes alight.

“What?”

“The whole ‘copse’?” he teased.

She slapped his arm, causing his rye and coke to splatter. She mopped the mess with her napkin as he licked the alcohol from his fingers.

“Well, it’s hardly a forest. There are what? Twenty trees?”

“Sounds right, from what I remember.”

Lucy sipped at her straw, taking in the new Jeremy as she took in her iced tea. He had come a long way from the torn jeans and sleeveless sweatshirt she remembered from school.

Truth be told, she too was a long way from the matching couture of her younger days, knock-off Gucci and Prada long replaced by Mommy and Dadda.

“So, what kind of law?” she asked.

“Corporate mostly,” he said. “M&As, takeovers, trusts.”

“A real-life Gordon Gecko!”

He laughed.

“Nothing that sexy. No Darryl Hannahs in my life. Although, I am okay with greed…within reason.”

“Still. New York City.”

“Might as well be Albuquerque for all I get to see the city,” he replied. “Most days, I sit in boardrooms watching people talk to tape recorders and then reading transcripts of the same conversation to verify the transcriptionist isn’t an idiot or deaf.”

Lucy rolled her eyes.

“Seriously, if I wasn’t charging $750 an hour to play Tetris, I’d go back to bicycle repair.”

Lucy’s eyes widened.

“I’m sorry. I should have said anything about the money. Sounds like I’m bragging.”

“Bragging?” Lucy repeated. “Surprised you’re not standing on the bar, crowing.”

Jeremy’s smile faded, triggering a flicker of self-consciousness in Lucy. She put her hand on his.

“Tell you what, you can buy the drinks,” she said, trying to make light of it all.

He smiled, and they fell silent for a moment.

Jeremy swished the ice around in his glass, attracting the bartender’s attention. Jeremy shook his head at him.

“So, two kids,” Jeremy finally managed.

“Yes, boy and a girl,” Lucy said, jumping at the change in conversation. “As well as three dogs, a cat and a goldfish that just won’t die. Don’t believe them when they tell you goldfish have the lifespan of a toilet flush.”

“That’s quite the menagerie,” Jeremy responded. “You hear about a big rain storm I should know about?”

“No,” Lucy giggled. “Besides, Dave would look terrible in the long white beard.”

“Your husband?”

“Yeah,” she replied. “Has a John Deere dealership in town. He’s stable.”

“Stable?” Jeremy chuckled. “Not the most ringing endorsement I’ve ever heard.”

Now it was Lucy’s turn to go quiet, adjusting her jacket below the bar.

“I’m sorry,” Jeremy interjected. “That came out totally wrong.”

“No, it’s okay,” Lucy replied softly. “And you’re right.”

Lucy poked at her ice cubes, searching her thoughts for her next words, as Jeremy waited. Something told him, she was actually glad to talk about this.

“Dave’s a good man. A good father,” she explained, adding quickly, “And husband!”

Another moment of silence.

“The best man I could ask for…in Bedford”

Jeremy waited. Lucy would continue when she was ready.

“I don’t know. Maybe I expected too much after high school…” she faded off into her own world.

Finally looking up, Lucy realized Jeremy was watching her, eyes full of concern. She laughed at herself.

“I’m babbling,” she blurted. “Life is good. Great. Really.”

A wistful smile migrated across Jeremy’s face.

“We all have skeletons, eh?”

“And some of them come with mortgage payments.”

“Attention passengers of US Airways flight 7783 to New York. We are now boarding executive and elite status members at Gate 61.”

Jeremy removed his boarding pass from his pocket and threw a $20 bill on the bar.

“Sounds like that’s my cue,” he said, rising to his feet.

Lucy stood, giving him a quick hug, which he returned, not releasing her right away.

“Good seeing you, again.”

“You, too,” Jeremy replied. “Give my best to Bedford.”

Lucy remounted her bar stool as Jeremy grabbed his bag and headed toward the concourse.

“Hey Jeremy,” Lucy called across the bar.

Jeremy turned back, confused.

“I didn’t think you liked me.”

Jeremy smiled and winked.

“I didn’t,” he laughed. “I like this you much better.”

Lucy blushed as he dissolved into the crowd.

 

(Image is property of owner and is used here without permission because I had to fly.)