I am slowing down today. Outside there are many demands, even opportunities, but instead, I’m having a second cup of coffee. My usual state is one of urgency, now, and get it done. But, not this morning.
To some that will read like the written equivalent of holiday photos on Facebook. “Must be nice”. It is, but I’m also pushing back the guilt of ‘not getting around to it’. Whether it’s the pile of dirt, or the stack of papers – leaving them alone is no easy task.
What can’t wait a day? What is so damn important?
The past few months have been more erosion than landslide. My time carved into one hour chunks, from one thing on to the next. Expedience often demanding black and white – nuance can just take too long. I am far more busy than I am aware.
But stopping is no easy feat. The cracks of space fill first with the obvious, the easy. Noise – in all its forms, is a hard habit to break. I have weaned myself off of long form narrative, I haven’t spent enough time in real quiet. It is hard not to fill the empty.
Recently I asked a friend to partner with me on a project. I got a short note back saying he couldn’t, that he had too much on the go. I was bothered by his ‘no’. I wanted him to match my pace. I gave little consideration that maybe he too was losing himself in activity, and that his turning me down was the tough, but right call.
So, once this is done, so am I. It maybe the hardest thing I’ve done all week.
Desire. It’s a loaded word. I’m a big fan, but I don’t always trust it has my best interests at heart.
From Buddha to Jesus, there’s plenty of advice around to suggest that it’s not what it’s cracked up to be and the potential downside may not be worth all the effort.
I was reading an article about long-term relationships. The author suggested that true love can be a real buzz kill. The more we seek to support and nurture those closest to us, the less we’ll ‘want’ them. Even though it’s often desire that got us there in the first place. Go figure.
To toss it out all together seems very baby with bath water. Whether it’s creativity, business, or relationships, my best life experiences have started with that wonderful, crazy, irrational feeling that without which I might never have risked at all. That said, it has also been fraught with danger, disappointment, and failure.
It’s like the dog chasing the car. If racing alongside barking its head off isn’t enough, there is the whole catching it issue. I wonder if ‘then what happens’ ever occurs to it?
Not wanting seems like the better bet. Less suffering, less unmet expectation, less potential mess to clean up in the aftermath. Desire and contentment don’t really make a good team, they have such a hard time understanding each other.
I asked a friend how he would describe the difference between desire and passion. “Passion gets you up in the morning, desire keeps you up at night”. I like getting up early, but I hate lying awake staring at the ceiling.
I was raised by a guilt ridden, lapsed catholic, Irish mother. From an early age I understood the difference between Northern Ireland and the south. In our house there was regular talk of the IRA, shamrocks, leprechauns, and shillelaghs. The Irish Rovers show was a weekly ritual.
I finally made it to Dublin just a few years ago, and was sorely disappointed. I had anticipated a pre-war town, full of rosy-cheeked cherub children running free under a coal fired haze that hung low over the houses. I had expected a country that wears its heart on its sleeve. At least, that’s how it had been described to me. Clearly things had progressed since 1944, when my mother left, at 21, to nurse in England. She never went back.
My mum’s relations were always a mystery. Born late in her single mother’s life, her siblings were much older and beyond any sense of kin. Her connection to home wasn’t based on family, it was the country itself.
My dad was English, but I have little identification with his heritage. Other than having an odd crush on the monarchy, he showed little passion for his homeland. Maybe, given Britain’s status of conquering empire, he took it for granted. Ireland, on the other hand, has always been the runt of the UK litter, fighting for any sense of place or position.
Today, for me, isn’t about green beer, goofy hats, or ‘kiss me I’m Irish’ buttons. It is about celebrating a place of beauty and hardship, of humour and anger, of deep faith and crippling guilt. My mum’s home. Raise a glass with me. To Ireland.
I don’t think I’ve done anything 500 times, at least not that I want to admit out loud. Up to now. This is the entry that puts me at about 150,000 words. I don’t so much have a sense of accomplishment as I do astonishment.
I like to start, try, discover. Not so much do, strive, or maintain. In other words, I am just as surprised as anyone that I am still at it. Writing in the morning has become somewhat of a habit. It may be my only one in fact. I do lots of things, good and bad, just not with this much consistency.
I really do enjoy it. Each morning I face a blank page and ask myself what’s on my mind. Over the course of an hour or so I empty a small part of my brain onto the screen with the assumption someone else might find it, if not helpful, at least amusing.
I got a great note from a friend yesterday. It was a piece called “What it means to be a man”. It was a challenge, a high bar. Maybe too high. I felt I’d failed before I got to the end of the paragraph. The problem was the word ‘be’.
I am not trying to teach, admonish, guide, or lead. I have no more sense of what is right or true than anyone else, in fact I’m often searching for that myself. If I have any objective it’s to say out loud what I believe many of us are thinking. My thesis is we fear vulnerability and worry that we aren’t good enough, or should be more. My question is: Compared to what?
Over the years, what I have tried to suggest is that it’s not so much about being, as it is becoming.
Friday the 13th. How’d it come to get a bad rap? Who makes these decisions? There are elevators in the city that jump from the 12th to the 14th floor. Really? It is actually quite a lovely trait of us humans that we shape our worlds to manage perceptions of reality.
We were in Iceland. Every time the van drove over a cattle grate the guide honked his horn. After a few times I had to ask him why. “To alert the little people. They may be holding on to the bars and I don’t want to squish their fingers” he said with the straight face. “oh”. I responded.
I’ve gotten in trouble for whistling on a ship, or bringing a banana or umbrella on board. All bad luck or omens. Sure the origins of such things might have had a basis in the practical, but in the many days hence, only the rule remains.
God help you if you mention ‘that Scottish play’ on stage in a theatre.
We’re an odd lot. But, then again, it’s a pretty weird place in which we live – there’s so much we don’t understand. Everyday we are postulating why things are as they are, or aren’t. It makes sense that we can’t make sense of it all.
Today should be a special day to celebrate our collective unknowing and all the clever rituals we use to bring order to what at times feels like chaos. From crossing fingers to wishing on stars we are doing what we can to figure things out.
But, tell me this. How in the heck do they build a building and manage to skip the 13th floor? It is one of life’s little mysteries.
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