Crossing Paths with Futures Past

Have you ever run into someone you once thought you’d have a bright future with, but it didn’t work out? It’s a very disconcerting feeling. You are standing there in your present, getting a glimpse of a life you could have had. You’re peeking down a parallel timeline.

It’s a very bittersweet feeling. It reminds me of that scene in The Way We Were when Barbra Streisand runs into Robert Redford with his new love and says to him, “Your girl is lovely, Hubbell.” That movie always makes me cry. Memories…

But such encounters can also be a stark reality check. On more than one occasion I’ve come away from them thinking, “Whew! I dodged that bullet!” Because it’s blatantly obvious that the person in question is not in a place where I’d want to be. Perhaps their health has deteriorated, or they’re now abusing a substance, or they’ve moved to a hellish location, or they’ve become inexplicably obsessed with collecting traffic cones. No thanks.

If you’ve been pining away for that person, absorbing this new reality into your worldview might take some time. But what a relief to no longer pine. Pining takes a lot of energy. (That, and the sap is hard to get out of your hair.)

I suggest that when confronted with loves past, you take that opportunity to assess, and hopefully appreciate, where you are now. Now is your reality, and hopefully it is your gift. Your life could have unfolded in a multitude of ways, but here you are.

Having done that, resist the urge to tell that person, “This happiness could have been yours, you big dummy.” It might be satisfying, but in the end, it doesn’t do anyone any good. Life has a funny way of going on. (And for all you know, he or she is thinking the same thing.)

Most of all, crossing paths with futures past should make you aware of how many options you have. You can’t control other people, of course, but you have a multitude of opportunities to write your story in the best possible way, even if it isn’t going the way you once predicted that it would.

Good luck, dear reader!

The Way We Were

A book about gratitude is a gift that keeps on giving! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

News Flash: You’re Not Bored

“I’m so bored,” a friend said.

“How about guest writing a post for my daily blog? Give me a day off. Please. I’m begging you.”

“I don’t think I’d be compatible with your viewing audience,” was his reply.

That instantly gave me a flashback to my childhood.

“Ma… I’m so bored!” I used to say when I was little. (Especially during the Watergate Hearings. I thought I’d lose my mind.)

“Read a book,” she’d say, “Or go ride your bike. Or write a letter.” Or any of a million other valid suggestions, up to and including, “Clean your room.”

But I usually didn’t want to do those things.

Well, congratulations to my friend, and to the me of my childhood. That means you’re not bored after all. Because if you are truly bored, then you’d jump at the chance to do just about anything. Boredom is for people with no options.

No. What you are is a person who wants to be entertained. That’s a completely different animal. Entertain me! I want it NOW!

What did I expect my mother to say? “Oh, you’re bored? I’m so sorry! Let’s run out and buy you a pony!”

When did we become so eaten up by our own sense of exceptionalism? What makes us so special, that we expect to be entertained every waking minute? Is it because entertainment is usually so readily available these days?

I fear that in this world of instant gratification, we are losing our ability to use our imaginations. While traveling in some of the poorer parts of Turkey, I watched the children there amuse themselves with soda straws and bottle caps, for crying out loud. Can you imagine an American child doing that?

I think we should read more books, write more letters, and ride more bikes. Maybe if we had a chance to experience true boredom, we’d do those things. Maybe we should lock ourselves in empty rooms with a soda straw and a bottle cap, and see what we come up with. It might do us good.

And for the love of GOD, if you have an idea for a guest post, or even just a topic, for this blog, speak up. You’d be amazed at how open I’d be to that idea. I’m not bored. I’m overwhelmed.

Calvin Boring

Read any good books lately? Try mine! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Shaping Your Life

Until very recently, I thought of my life as being linear. Birth, growth, death… aren’t we all on that inevitable path? But that makes life sound way too much like a treadmill. (All you’d have to do is look at me once and you’d know that I hate treadmills.)

Now I think of life as being three dimensional. That allows room for a lot more options. It more accurately reflects the diversity of the thousands of lives being lived on this planet. We each shape our lives. We are architects. We are sculptors.

We can be smooth and calm and uniform. We can be rigid and boxy and rough. We can zig and zag and branch off in wild directions. We can embrace. We can repel. We can circle back upon ourselves, or we can shoot forward like an arrow. We can take inspiration from others, or we can set out on our own. We can be steady and solid, or we can wobble unpredictably.

Don’t restrict yourself to a linear life, unless that’s what you truly want in your heart of hearts. Create something beautiful. Only allow others to influence that creation if you can look upon them and see the beauty within. (And don’t forget to thank those who help you shape your life in a positive way.)

When all is said and done, your life will be what you make of it. So make it special.

geometric

Portable gratitude. Inspiring pictures. Claim your copy of my first collection of favorite posts! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

 

The Choices We Can’t See

“So, why didn’t you do it like this?” She asked.

“Because it never occurred to me,” I replied.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve had a similar conversation, both as the inquisitor and as the embarrassed person who failed to find the obvious solution. It makes you wonder how many choices are out there that you just never see.

That’s why I always find it so helpful to discuss issues with third parties. Inevitably, they bring a unique perspective to the table. Not that I always take their advice, but it is always good to have alternatives.

It’s almost as if the fifth dimension (rather than being a band that sings about the Age of Aquarius), is a land of invisible options. It’s a place that we sense, but can’t seem to access, try as hard as we might.

“Why didn’t I think of that?” I ask, while pressing my nose against the window of that quirky dimension.

I suppose that if we always got things right, there would be no challenges in this world. There would be no room for improvement, and nothing to strive for. It would certainly squelch all creativity and innovation. What would be the point?

I like the concept that there are choices out there that we don’t see. I like unlimited possibilities. I only hope that we figure things out at the most critical junctures, because much hangs in the balance. But it kind of makes me wonder if it’s ever possible to get something completely “right”.

L0027293 The gyri of the thinker's brain as a maze of choices in biom

Like the way my weird mind works? Then you’ll enjoy my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Don’t Fence Me In

I had been shopping at this grocery store for decades with no complaints. Then one day at the check-out line, the bag boy started walking with me to my car. I glanced down at my two bags and said, “Never mind, I can handle it.” He looked mortified. He said it was now policy that they had to escort every customer to his or her car and put the groceries in for them.

Seriously? Am I three years old now? Do you have to hold my hand while I cross the street as well? If I need help, I’ll ask for it. Sometimes I do, but mostly I don’t. This made for an awkward few minutes as he did his job. I wasn’t irritated with him. He was only doing what he was told. I was irritated at some white guy in a suit in some corporate ivory tower for thinking he knows better than I do what I want or need.

This went on for several weeks, until enough of us threatened to go to another grocery store if they didn’t stop this stupidity. Then, glory hallelujah, things went back to normal. I don’t know who was happier, the bag boys or the customers.

Similarly, I used to go to a pharmacy that suddenly implemented a mandatory automatic refill policy. Whether you liked it or not, they would refill your meds in a month’s time, and then start harassing you with automated phone calls to come pick them up. Well, sometimes I skip doses to stretch out my prescriptions, because I can’t afford the refills. When I want a refill, I’ll ask for it. I no longer do business with them.

It’s one thing to give a customer options. Some may want an automatic refill or assistance with their groceries. Others may not. It’s great customer service to give people choices.

But when you start limiting their possibilities, when you start thinking that you know best, that’s when you alienate people. That’s when you lose customers. That’s when people vote with their feet. I’m not going to be told what to do and give you my money for the privilege. Honestly.

superiority

Contemplating Suicide? What I’d Say to a Jumper

Recently someone I love very much told me that she had attempted suicide a couple of times in the past year. This broke my heart because I had no idea she was suffering in silence. Having struggled with depression my whole life, I know what it’s like to want to throw off that thick blanket of despair, and I know that sometimes it seems like there is only one irreversible way to do so. But that’s the thing. Once you’ve made that choice, you can never make any other choices, ever. How can you be sure there aren’t better times just around the corner?

I can also speak with a little bit of authority on this subject because as a bridgetender I cross paths with people attempting suicide several times a year. I’ve never actually spoken to one of these people. Either the police rescue them before they jump or they make good on their attempt.

I’ve often thought about what I’d say if I came upon a jumper on my bridge and no one else was there. I’m not trained in any way so I’m probably the last person that should be thrust into that situation, and I’d avoid it if I could, but if I had no other choice, what would I do to try to convince them not to take that last irreversible step?

First I’d introduce myself and ask for his or her name. Then I would say, “I don’t know why you’re here, and I don’t know why you want to jump. I’m sure you have your reasons, and they’re none of my business. But I’d like to tell you that this is probably the most important conversation I’ve ever had in my life, because I think you are important in this world. I think you have value. I really believe that every day you impact and influence people and you probably don’t even realize it. Some day, a month, a year, a decade from now, someone will cross your path who will need your influence. If you’re not there to do so, that person may never have the future he or she deserves.”

“I also think that things can change on a dime. You never know what tomorrow will bring. But if you jump, you’ll never get to find out. One thing tomorrow can bring for you is help. Someone to talk to. People who will take you seriously. And they are out there. I promise. We’ll make sure you get a chance to talk to those people, if only you stick around to do so.

“The fact that you’re still listening to me means that you are having second thoughts. That’s good. That means you still have choices. You can still not jump, and then you have a whole world of possibilities. I can tell you this. Every single jumper, without exception, screams on the way down. That means they regret their decision the minute they step into thin air. But by then it’s too late. And that sentiment has been universally confirmed by the rare people who survive jumping off a bridge. They say they wish they had never done it. Can you imagine that feeling of terror? Wanting desperately to take something back but not being able to do so? Would you want that to be the last feeling you have? I don’t want that for you.

“I can also tell you that it’s not as easy a way to go as you might think. See that concrete and wooden fender system down there? I’ve heard jumpers hit that thing, and you can hear their bones break all the way up here. That sound will haunt me for the rest of my life, and now that I know your name, it would be even worse. But even if you miss the fender system it’s bad. Your organs are lighter than your skeleton, so when you hit the water, your skeleton rushes past your organs, forcing them all to move up into your chest cavity. I can’t imagine that type of pain. It’s a horrible, horrible way to go.

“I don’t have all the answers. In fact, my life is pretty messed up. But I really do believe there’s more out there for you than this. You wouldn’t be feeling so hurt or scared or depressed or angry about your situation if you didn’t believe you deserved more, too. Don’t take away your chance to find out what’s out there. Right now you can go in any direction you want. Left, right, forward, backward, up or down. If you jump, all you’ll be left with is down. If you feel like you have no hope now, imagine how you’ll feel when you’ve only got one direction left to go.”

I don’t know. Maybe that would be the wrong thing to say to a jumper. Maybe it would do no good. But that’s what I’d want to say.

looking down

A Work in Progress

Whether it’s childbirth, terrible twos, adolescence and puberty, going off to college, marriage, midlife crisis, divorce, job change, relocation, illness, death or some twisted combination of any of the above, transitions are going to happen in your life, and they’re usually stressful. In actual fact, midway through a transition, life generally sucks. I know because I’m right there in the thick of it even as we speak.

The scariest part of a transition is that moment when you have multiple options. If you’re like me, you’ll agonize and second-guess yourself within an inch of your life before finally settling in and adapting to your new circumstances.

We are all works in progress. When I was young I thought there would be this point, some magical moment in the future, when I’d be “done”, and all my problems would be solved, sort of like an existential graduation. With maturity I realize that life tends to be cyclical, and these transitions will come and go. Somehow, though, rather than depressing me, I actually find comfort in this insight. The more rough patches I survive, the more I learn that they’re survivable, and that gives me confidence.

So pardon my dust. I’m under renovation. It’s only temporary. I’m looking forward to being new and improved. I just wish, for the love of GOD, that this current project would hurry up and reach completion.

Life underconstruction.