Monday, February 10, 2014

Time management, experience of and death

I imagined a lot about life when I was younger. I thought about all sorts of options, diplomat (not real self aware with that one), wandering waitress/bar tender with a motorcycle driving my Harley from town to town, or some organizational job in some far off locale.  All of them ensured no attachment to place and non stop adventures to reminisce about in my old age. They all seemed possible and there was a deep appeal to being a vagabond.  But alas, that is not at all how it turned out.  I have a partner, a mortgage, a stressful job and never enough time.  Life is officially occurring at light speed and as far as I can tell, there is very little one can do about this.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


The past weeks has been awful. Unremittingly terrible and tragic and has caused me to have sharp shooting pain behind my eyes all day everyday. The chaos, loss of life, disproportionate and lack of response combos have diminished my capacity to believe that there is any point to our species except to offer a lesson to hopefully more intelligent and thoughtful species of what can happen when you fuck it up so royally.

But tomorrow is my birthday. 37 years old. What I have to answer is have I done what I meant to do while I am here? Have I been who I want to be and done the most I am capable of doing with the time and resources available to me? Not sure, but will need to keep trying, because what else can you do in the face of all of this evidence?

Monday, April 01, 2013

I am not a Mom

I have been thinking about my decision to not have children.  It is something I have thought about with varying frequency and intensity over the past two decades, but I'm a few months from my 37th birthday and it is only now starting to sink in as a reality.

To offer some context as to why that is happening, I should point out that I am, by nature, a planner and my life story is the plan I spend the most time on.  I decided in high school, that whatever I did or did not do, I would get to 80 years of age with no regrets. A lofty ambition to be sure, but it has enforced a specific sort of discipline in my life choices i.e. "Will this little adventure be a great story in the old folks home that brings laughter and knowing sighs to your peers or will this be something you don't talk about because you wish it had gone another way."  As you can imagine, that particular barometer has led to certain decisions that have lead my father to declare with conviction, "The fact that you are still alive is purely accidental."  Happily it has also provided great protection from all the bromides about what makes a life a life worth living.  While some cliches may be true, some are total crap. So in this vein, I realized early that I had a strong ambivalence about having children and decided two things: 1. I would only have children if I felt deeply called to and 2. That I would need to make the decision definitively by the age of 35 due to maternal risks and a general figure your shit out in a timely basis ethic.

Then last weekend I attended a recently resurrected tradition called non-family Thanksgiving with friends from college.  Of the attendees, myself and my partner and one other set were the only ones without children.  All of the children of my peer group are now in the walking/talking stage and therefore constitute their own small people society whenever their parents hold get-togethers. I hope for their sake, that we are able to maintain non-family Thanksgiving, because I'm sure it will provide an excellent extended social network to all of those children that they otherwise wouldn't have, but I digress. There were several moments during the afternoon as I watched the milieu of children, all of whom I have known with some level of frequency since they were born, that I recognized the impact on me, that none of the stories of these little people's lives were descended from me.  I began to observe that I  knew the location of some children, but not others. I smiled at some interactions, but was oblivious to most of them as I talked to the adults.

 It began to sink in that not only did I have favorites, but that I was deciding, to some extent unconsciously, that some of them meant more to me than others.  I suppose this is to be expected, but it still struck me as odd that I was picking which little people to invest in, as if they were mine for the picking. They are not. They are whole individuals with whole stories that literally have nothing to do with me. I will be at most the crazy friend that showed up at their parents parties who never had kids but no one talks about why.

And that is what has me thinking so much about this. With the benefit/horror of the world wide web, you can now find every nightmarish thought humanity has ever conjured about any given topic with a quick search. It is enough to make one feel ambivalent about being human and specifically the desirability of our continued survival. But life, LIFE. Life is amazing and it is so overwhelmingly apparent that life is being created moment by moment when you watch a gaggle of children interact and impact each other. And I will not be creating life, by choice.  It is to some extent just another choice, but really it is the odd choice. Who chooses to not create LIFE if given the opportunity? I did and even after all of this time and discernment about that decision, which I feel strongly is the right decision for me, I can't really answer why I choose not to create life.

Monday, December 10, 2012

It's the holidays, and that's a good thing

Hah, I just realized that I quoted from this very speech in a previous holiday post.  Terrible to think how long it takes for a change in life to sink in, but poignant just the same.
[T]he real value of a real education [has] almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:
‘This is water.’
‘This is water.’
It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out. Which means yet another grand cliché turns out to be true: your education really IS the job of a lifetime.

-David Foster Wallace
 I noticed this morning that I was enjoying the holidays.  It had been a truism for a long time that the holidays were something to be survived, never enjoyed.  I am mostly posting to acknowledge the work that went into getting to a place where I can enjoy the holidays. The boundaries that were established, the rules of engagement that had to be articulated and fought for and the awareness to say, "I don't want to fear the holidays anymore."  It took me a long time to embrace as true that internal work that accomplishes nothing but bettering my experience in life is worth the time and effort and is worth prioritizing.  No one will notice that this has changed but me and that is enough.

 Honestly, even writing that sentence, a nagging voice of doubt pops up, "Was it really worth all that work?"  Life is mostly work, struggle and frustration. The moments of transcendence are rare and fleeting. So yes, if there will always be work, then working on breaking down the distortions of my mind, my fears and biases is worth the effort.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

samsara-the riptide

This past year has been a difficult one. It is really hard for me to acknowledge that. I tend to participate, against my better judgement, in the Olympics of oppression. In the pantheon of suffering, this past year doesn't register at all. I have far more to be grateful about than I have to be upset about. I live a life of incredible fortune, friendship and opportunity, but I have suffered badly this year. More than I have in awhile. There has been tremendous, nearly overwhelming sorrow. death. grief. close encounters of the impermanence of everything and the incredible discomfort that truth causes me. So I came to Kripalu to try to readjust or reset or do something to change the feeling of sorrow and grief.

 I just went to a great workshop on the meaning of yoga. Several things pinged me deeply.

You are what you came from. Begin again. See the beauty. Yoga is the practice of tolerating the consequences of being you. Begin again. Act in ways that make you feel more alive. Surrender to the mystery. Begin again.

 It occurred to me at some point in the past 5 years that I was accomplishing things that I thought I would spend the largest chunk of my life trying to accomplish. I thought achieving power would be this tremendous and fraught journey that would culminate in me getting a glimpse into the heart of what makes the world tick. Instead I ended up an observer in the room and felt mostly disappointment with how people wielded power when they had it. I possessed it in moments of crisis because of a role and power felt cold, not intoxicating. I traveled and I took a path that I tried to write as it came. And still I end up back on the beach, watching the waves and feel afraid. I have to begin again, knowing what I know now and with a new understanding of just how much I don't know and will never know. I have to let go of the idea that knowing will protect me and walk on anyway. I have to accept this sorrow, stop comparing it to other people's. Accept that it is real to me and that I have something to learn from it. Begin again.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Sifting through the ether

Sometimes I come upon a paragraph like this and want to jump into another person's brain for a little while so I can feel what it feels like to think a sentence like the first one.

Fortuna's Wheel, it seems, is a chaos-proliferate fractal of perpetual hurt. The fate of others (and ourselves) is providentially unknowable. The present moment opens before us " so astounding to behold that we feel we can go on forever, held in beauty " emboldened by evanescent grace. 
There is birdsong that enswathes the air of the graveyard. " Joined with the chorus of the dead, it pierces the heart with more precision than prophesy. This song " of the living's eloquence and the deads' abandon " carries us towards evening. 
Its melody wends through Time, through Fate's indifferent landscape. No mathematician can map its course nor calculate by statistical prediction its destination.
             -Phil Rockstroh

Monday, June 04, 2012


    I have mostly finished moving into a place I intend to live in for a decade.  I am not good at the idea of permanence. I like to plan for all possible options and outcomes and not commit to any.  So now I sit in a house I have a mortgage on and wait for it to feel like something.  It was an enormous and exhausting effort to find and buy the place, so I expected it to feel like something when I moved in or shortly thereafter, but it does not. It feels no more permanent than any other place I've ever stayed.  It is possible that it doesn't feel more permanent because I am incapable of relying on anything to be more than a temporary state. Or maybe it is something that takes the time passed to sink in.

   Nearly simultaneously, I became aware that my sense of time passing has shifted significantly. The time is near for there to be more history behind me than there is in front of me and the need to do accounting on what my life is and what it could still be seems to both more urgent and harder to focus on.  I appreciate that the absence of children means that I don't get to see time pass slowly on a daily basis the way parents do, so markers of progress or change are inherently less visible for me.

   So while I want to notice the moments and I know the power of being mindful in my life, it seems that the dissonance between moving and everything being in flux with the intent of creating stability is causing me to exist outside of myself for the time being.  Wherever you go, there you are seems true and yet impossible.