What Do You Want out of Life?

Access to pizza delivery is right up there for me.

For the bulk of my life, when someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I wasn’t able to give a definitive answer. There are just too many possibilities. I found this question particularly stressful when I was between the ages of 15 and 29. I remember feeling as if I were at this great crossroads, and there were so many directions I could turn that I had absolutely no idea which way I should go.

Jeez. No pressure there.

It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized that I shouldn’t be focused on what I wanted to turn myself into. Instead, I should focus on what I wanted out of life. What do I need to be happy? Once I knew that, I could then formulate a plan to achieve these things. My becoming would be a natural outgrowth of my desires.

I’m not talking about material things, here. That’s not high on my list of priorities. Not that there is any right or wrong answer to the big question. If things are what you want out of life, you will take a very different journey than I will, and that’s okay.

What follows are the things I want out of life.

  • Serenity.

  • Contentment.

  • To love and be loved.

  • At least one decent travel opportunity per year.

  • Producing something that will last. A legacy, of sorts.

  • Leaving the planet ever so slightly better than I found it.

  • The opportunity to learn and grow as well as teach.

  • Peace and quiet.

  • A good night’s sleep more often than not.

  • A good hard laugh every once in a while.

  • Self-expression.

  • Access to pizza delivery.

So, dear reader, what do you want?


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We Are Five…

Things are getting complex.

The other day I said to my husband, “Do you think we’ll ever settle down to a nice, quiet routine, or do you think we’ll always be in a state of barely controlled chaos?”

His response was, “Well, we are five…”

Indeed we are. Two adults, three dogs, all with different needs and desires. And while having dogs may not be as complex as having children, they do make an impact.

There are things we do because I’m suffering from a bad cold. There are things we do because our car was recently totaled. There are things we do because one dog is deaf and going blind. There are things we do because one dog is prone to biting and generally showing his a**. There are things we do because one dog is easily frightened.

We are still working on transferring my possessions from one location to another. We’re learning everybody’s sleep habits. We’re adjusting to various energy levels. There are work schedules to consider, and doctor/vet appointments, and errands. There are birthdays and anniversaries and relatives and friends. There are walks to be taken and cars to be repaired and a never-ending pile of clothes to be washed. There are meals to plan and prepare and eat.

When I was single, I could blow a lot of this stuff off. But now we are five, and things are exponentially more complex, chaotic… and delightful.


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Dream Crushing

I used to know someone who seemed to delight in crushing others’ dreams. When I was young, she approached my mother, all concerned, because I talked about wanting to be a teacher, when the week before I wanted to be something else. My mother responded, “She’s a kid. She’s supposed to try different ideas on for size. Let her be.” (That was probably one of my mother’s finest moments. Thanks, Ma.)

This person went on to have children of her own, and it broke my heart the way she used to deprive them of all hope. When one of her kids said she wanted to be a singer, she was told that you’re more likely to be struck by lightning than become famous.

While that may be true, the message she was sending was, “Why even try? You won’t be good enough.” Because of that, that girl grew up and singing isn’t a part of her life. She might have been famous. Or she might have sung in the church choir and made lifelong friends that way. Or she might have become a music teacher. So many paths were cut off from her life thanks to her mudslide of a mother.

When another one of her kids showed aptitude in one area above all others, she tried her best to discourage him, because it wouldn’t be an easy career. But he lived and breathed it. He did manage to get halfway into it, but never went the distance. I often wonder where he’d be if he had gotten just the tiniest bit of encouragement from the woman he admired most.

It’s so much easier to crush someone than to lift that person up. When you crush, gravity is on your side. But I hope you’ll resist the urge.

Watching people fly, even if it’s away from you,  even if the destination remains just out of reach for them, is much more satisfying than having to scrape them off the sole of your shoe.


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A Thousand Origami Cranes

Many years ago I helped a friend fold a thousand origami cranes for someone who had a brain tumor. I’ve always found the Japanese legend of the thousand origami cranes to be delightful. Some say that they will bring you good luck, or a long life, or restored health. Most believe that you must fold them yourself, and complete them within one year, but I often see people making them for others. Fathers will give them as a wedding gift to their children, or they can be given to a baby for long life and good luck. They are also given to certain temples as a prayer for peace.

What I enjoy most about this tradition is that it’s sort of the physical manifestation of a prayer. I’m not one who prays. The only time I even think about doing so is when I feel helpless. Either I’m in a bad situation or someone I love is. Then I think about praying, but am fairly confident that it won’t do any good. So when feeling helpless like that, it would be comforting to be doing something. It would be good to at least live for a while in the illusion that I have some control. Folding cranes will do nicely.

Also, I do believe that it never hurts to make your positive desires visible to those around you. Saying that you wish someone well is a wonderful thing to do, but origami cranes last longer, take more effort and therefore demonstrate your sincerity, and hey, they’re pretty.

Ironically, after I had already written this entry, I came across this statue for the first time in Seattle’s Peace Park, not far from where I work. I have no idea how I overlooked it all this time.

[Image credit: historylink.org]

If you’d like to learn how to make an origami crane, check out this nifty tutorial:


And if you Google Origami Crane Kits, you’ll find all the supplies you need. Best wishes to you.


Applying for Friendship

I was sitting in a crowded little theater, waiting for a friend to do his one man show, and I was chatting with another friend. Someone asked us how we met, and my friend said, “She was advertising for friends, so I applied.”

It’s true. During my first storytelling experience, in front of a crowd of 150 people, I explained what brought me to Seattle, and at the end I mentioned that with my weird work schedule, I had yet to make many friends here, so if anyone had room in their heart for me, there I was.

Afterward she came up to me and said, “I’ll be your friend.” And she has been, ever since. A lot of really fun experiences with her would never have happened if I hadn’t spoken up. How lucky am I?

Sometimes, even if you think it should be blatantly obvious, you just have to put your intentions or desires right out there for all the world to see. “I’m looking for friends.” “I want to be in a relationship.” “I vont to be alone.” “I need help.” Whatever it is that you want, need, or plan to do, spread the word.

People cannot read your mind. I sincerely believe that the majority of misunderstandings stem from the fact that we often forget that simple point. We are so used to hearing the thoughts inside our heads that on some level we overlook that no one else can.

So my advice for the day is, SPEAK UP!!!

Don't worry. I couldn't read your mind even BEFORE you put on the tinfoil hat.
Don’t worry. I couldn’t read your mind even BEFORE you put on the tinfoil hat.

Follow Your Dreams?

I was thinking about this on the drive to work today. In America, we tend to encourage people to pursue their dreams, but what if everybody did that? This country would be full of rock stars and football heroes and presidents. I suppose that wouldn’t be a bad thing entirely, but the competition would get rather heated, especially in the political arena.

Here’s the real question: If we all went gallivanting off to grasp that brass ring, who would be around to scrub the toilets? Seriously, there are tons of jobs out there that are no one’s idea of a dream. Would you want to work in a slaughter house? Has it occurred to you that some poor schmuck has to inspect and maintain our sewerage systems? Somebody has to clean the blood off of crime scenes. Our garbage doesn’t handle itself.

All of these nasty, ugly jobs that keep society going are not filled by people who are listing job satisfaction as one of their principal joys in life. We’d be lost without every single one of these people. We owe our health, safety and stability to them. They are the ones that make rock stars and football heroes possible. It would be hard to entertain an arena full of screaming fans if you had to shovel your own shit.

Yes, it’s quite romantic to think of the US as the land of opportunity where, with a little hard work and determination, you can be anything you want in life. But the fact is we all need to be pretty darned grateful that the majority of us don’t quite get around to fulfilling our wildest desires. We really need to alter our cultural  mindset to allow people in these jobs to take pride in what they do instead of feeling like they’ve somehow failed in life. Because when all is said and done, somebody has to make the sausage.


[Image credit: en.wikipedia.org]

A Living, Breathing Bucket List

One of the many perks of being a bridgetender is that you get to watch a lot of movies when things are slow on the river. Tonight I watched the Bucket List with two of my favorite actors, Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. For the uninitiated, it’s all about writing a list of things you want to do before you “kick the bucket”.

Since I’ve been pondering the passage of time a great deal lately, this movie started me thinking about how my personal bucket list would evolve over time. I don’t want the same things I did when I was 10 years old, or 19, or 29, and I’m sure that the things I’ll want when I’m 80, if I have the good fortune to still be on the planet, will be very different than the things I want now.

I think it would be a very interesting exercise to maintain a living, breathing bucket list. Not just a single record of my desires at a certain point in time, but a continually evolving inventory. Some items would be added with age, some removed, either because they had been achieved or because I no longer have that particular desire. I believe I’d learn a lot about myself by seeing these changes. I also think the items that remain constant would be very telling. For example, even at age 10 I wanted to travel. I can’t imagine a time when I won’t want to do so. Travel is at the very core of my being, even if my destinations may change.

My personal list will be slightly different than the one in the movie, in that I realize that the vast majority of the items on my list will most likely be out of my reach, but that’s not going to stop me from dreaming big, because this is an exercise in self-discovery more than anything else. And that is a goal that can be achieved by anyone willing to make the effort. And who knows? Maybe the act of formulating these desires and writing them down will give me the kick in the pants that I need to reach the finish line before I, myself, am finished.

So I’m going to write my list and then mark my calendar to update it every three months. Here goes.  1) Touch a tiger…