Life living

September 15, 2008

My dear friend Michael has brought to my attention words that I had written some time back and with the revisit I can feel the bubbles of lifeexpansionfreedom well up inside of me.  I am in my last semester of graduate school and feel the closing of an era that began with a plunge into the standardized test of the GRE and will now finish with the search for that first job at the professional level of librarianship.  I feel unsatisfied.  I have projected a life path that includes the safety of government work and am close to acquiring a degree that will strengthen my ties to career that has moments of satisfaction but still leaves me yearning for more.  I’m sure that I am the first human being to ever be in this predicament (Ha!).

In that first post written a year and a half ago (referenced above) I was struck dumb by the words of a YA author who let go of the known and plunged into the churning rapids of the yet-to-be-determined.  In his story I saw my own life and eventual future of chances not taken, fields left unexplored.  So I mustered up enough gumption to write my blog post to the world and then dutifully returned to the writing of a paper dictated to me by an educational system that encourages well-thought-out passive responses to pre-fab questioning.  And I received an ‘A’ on that paper which made me feel quite good about myself, like I actually accomplished something substantial rather than demonstrating what a nice obedient puppy I truly am.  I’m a smart doggie.

Zoom to this moment and my dogness (no offense to you canines out there, I appreciate a good fetch session) has become even more ingrained as I take the next step of holding up that piece of parchment that proclaims to the world, “Yes I am ready to join the working ranks of those that have chosen security over risk.  Please welcome me with open arms, um, how many years until retirement?”

I admit that I’m allowing drama to infuse this post but I know that there is a ripe kernal of truth at the heart of these frolicking words.  I’m already looking ahead, glazing over the process inherent in the now, trying to find that job description that I can match to my perception of me.  There is a certain thrill there, the chase of that elusive next job that overshadows a deeper longing for a life purpose that will remain unfulfilled if all of my days are restricted to the library field.  I know this to be true.  And yet one must work and financially it makes sense to try and move up the career ladder.  Blah.

The difficulty of my situation is that my dreams are cloudy unformed things that are elusive and cause me to shrink back into other more comfortable arenas.  I consider writing for a bit and then sit down with a book.  Or watch a movie.  I’m fascinated by the creative process and then abandon it personally to become one of the audience.  I read about the lives of authors and calculate their life trajectory with my own.  At time I’m a pathetic silly man surrounded by books yearning to be on the other side of the words.  But to this point the insistence of the dream comes in spurts and I can placidly go about my life for weeks at a time with only a faint recollection of what it is I truly should be doing (At least that’s what I suppose, I am welcome to life injecting an alternative purpose).  The beauty of modern life is that everything is so busy and one can easily be submerged into the flux and forget what it is one ought to be doing.  My yearnings get caught up in this flow and the cloudy dreams easily disperse to reform in a different day’s sky.  I’m conflicted and know it and these words attest to that fact.

Yumminess

June 18, 2008

I’m holding my hugs for a second longer looking at bewildered eyes as the embrace loosens.  My smile comes quickly when approaching a stranger the beauty of changed expression alight on their face.  I scan for bright flowers while walking the neighborhood, look at that purple, orange or pink!  I’ve noticed that this thing called life is at once immense and at times intmate enough to feel the light breeze upon my eyelashes or hear the soft coo of a babe resting in arms.  Marvel.

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You are what I am sensing within myself at this moment and I am that to you as we shadow dance in mirrored reflection.  I want to help and know that the only way is to be a better light by examining my own wiring.  My hurdles are intertwined with yours though our roles may play out differently.  We are both, together, moving towards understanding but these words I use are only pointers towards something I find difficult to describe.  Youmeness.  Yumminess.

Italy updated

December 21, 2007

This is an approximation of the email I sent to Florence today. A follow-up to this earlier post.

Dear Ms. ____,

I did not want to have to write this letter to you. When I told you two weeks ago that I was still interested in the position I had the sense that any obstacles that came up could be overcome through either will or grace. Today I have given up my quest and must withdraw my acceptance of the internship.

When I applied for this post back in August I had no idea the difficulty in securing visas for family members. I thought that Europe would be fine with wife and child and we could just go about our business for a year in Florence and then come back home. They can come with me but they cannot stay. Three months on and then three months off.

For a short time I entertained the idea of going it alone, leaving wife and child for eleven months while planning short visits home for me and to Italy for G and babe. I imagined back to a time when an opportunity like this would be cause for the dropping of all responsibilities. I thought back to more care-free days when I could be ready for this trip within days. But I have changed and so too has my life situation. I could not imagine leaving at this crucial time when the family adds a member and moments return to immediacy.

My wife, darling that she is, allowed me to mull over the possibilities and did not try to sway me into making a quick decision. She knows of my fading regret of not going abroad during my undergraduate study.

So what is left? I have these words to thank you for the consideration. I hope that you find a new candidate who can make this commitment and find a way to work it all out.

Sincerely,

Matthew

**I know its kind of a bummer but I’m so lucky to have the life I lead now. When it comes down to it there really was no chance of me going unless the whole family could take part in the experience.

Carry to the Med

November 16, 2007

A few years before my extended hike on the Appalachian Trail I happened upon a different hiking trail in southern France. Called the GR-10 (I know, romantic) this footpath stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea covering the length of the Pyrenees Mountains. Leading up to my hike I had been staying with a family in a small town near Toulouse. One night I met a British gentleman who told me about his dream to hike for a week each year and eventually finish walking the GR-10. He was about halfway through. I spent the rest of the night picking his brain about the specifics of life on that trail and by the next morning had hatched a plan. I would make my way south until I found the trail, take a left and walk towards the Mediterranean. Here are some of the things I either carried or wish I had carried on this foray into the French Wilderness:

Carried

  • Heavy wrinkled corduroy pants that weighed me down and kept me warm on cool fall mornings
  • A belief that I had enough stamina and good luck to navigate and last until I touched my toes into blue water
  • The essentials of backpack, tent and sleeping bag–my holy trinity of backwoods essentials
  • A trust in the spontaneity of life that put me on the trail

Wish I had carried

  • More socks for those poor toes that suffered the fire-burn of neglect
  • Another disposable camera–one does not cut it when every day is glorious
  • Gifts for the kind souls that forgave my butchering of the French language and helped me along my way
  • Everyone I knew to share in the reality of being wide awake within a dream

More Scribblings here.

The end of the smoothie

September 1, 2007

banana mango smoothie

Bananas are peeled and broken into chunks, nestling down into the bottom of the blender. Blueberries retrieved from the freezer clinking playfully against the glass filling in the spaces between the bananas. Flax seed golden and brown turns to powder in a few rotations of the grinder. This seed dust glitters down on top of the fruit creating fibrous mounds here and there. Vanilla soymilk cascades into the melange slicing through and filling the space between. Water sloshes in cutting the creaminess and bringing the liquid line up to the top. Blender cover securely in place.

With the turning of the dial electricity surges into the powerful blades that quickly and deftly turn all to a thick purplish liquid. Cap uncovered, glasses in place to receive the morning ambrosia.

Beverages in hand we repose in the front room, the world waking up to us. First touch of purple liquid to tongue sends a jolt of recognition through the body, the fast is over and digestion can commence. Slow gulps and moments of staring, the nectar disappears into a satiated stomach and wistful eye.

Glasses returned to sink, remnants of fruit washed down the drain, a morning ritual comes to a close. Yes this is the end of the smoothie for today and with luck there will be another tomorrow. Perhaps then we’ll use strawberries and drink the pink.

Why we are here

August 29, 2007

gorgeous flower

I’ve got a good friend who I recently discovered has a blog of his own. Please take a look…go ahead. Anyway I read a post there last week that made me think about why I do the things that I do. Being a human being involves certain complexities and often one is swayed to behave in a certain way according to rewards and/or punishments. You do one thing to get another, looking ahead you feel as if you can barely keep afloat as life keeps handing you new obstacles to overcome. And there are times when life is simply good, friends remember your birthday, the boss gives a word of encouragement, the dishes are done when you get home! The movement of being human can take one across the gamut of experiences.

Thrust into this stream one might wonder on occasion, “why am I here?” Fortunately there is no easy answer to this question and depends on the individual to begin to broach the question. Inspired by Rob’s post (sorry I can’t find the exact one) I’ve got an example from my own life on how to begin to find a meaning to this existence.

Since I spend so much of my waking life at work this has become the perfect playground for experimentation. In the library I can be found behind a desk and in a typical day I can come into contact with hundreds of people (both staff and patrons). My role is to provide assistance in filling a need. Someone may want to know how to get online, or where the books for ancient Egypt may be found. Underlying these interactions however is simple human connection. This is where I like to play.

It goes like this: patron approaches the desk where I am sitting to ask a question. I turn my full attention to this being and let the communication flow between us. I practice the fine arts of listening and observing all while providing eye contact and sound cues to display my interest and understanding. I don’t know if I can answer their question but I can be present with them in that moment as another human being. In ways subtle and non-verbal I assure them that I too am another being in this human experience. The question is answered (or not) and we part ways.

Here’s the amazing part: the lightness that comes into my heart with the meeting, the knowing that the connection was felt on both sides and understood at a level that may not be conscious. The two of us in a moment sharing a relationship and being there with each other. My work is done! And really all I had to do was completely show up.

Rising and sinking

August 26, 2007

Last night I had that sinking feeling.  It wasn’t necessarily sadness but the realizing of the temporality of existence.  For the length of the day, yesterday, I returned to one of my boyhood passions, volleyball, in a beach tournament with my brother.  I played all day! Even though I play volleyball throughout the year I don’t often get to play with my brother since he lives out of state and only returns to Virginia Beach sporadically.  We share a certain intuition when we are on the court that we honed during our youthful games under the summer sun long ago.  Being with him, playing, I was thrown back to earlier times, when we had days, weeks to just be boys.

During the tournament we persevered through 100 degrees celsius on court conditions and sand hot to the touch.  Muscles cramped and we soothed our bodies in the undulating waves of the ocean.  We started at 9AM and left the beach ten hours later the winners of our division, easy smiles on our faces and tentative walking back to the car.  We played and won and received the lucky gift of validation.

Returning to my sister’s house we were treated like champions and reveled in the sweetness of family support.  Surrounded by loved ones, playing a passion all day and reaping the rewards of success I found myself at the pinnacle of happiness.  Life!

And on the ride back home with my wife and nephew that sinking feeling found its way into my being.  A response to my great high, something was released inside of me to counteract and perhaps balance my day.  My mind took me to the eventualities of the ending of times such as these, when family is not there or the body cannot play like it once did.  I looked at my wife and felt a surge of love for her and the growing life within and immediately pictured my grandparents, my parents as young couples and their anticipation of their first child.

These mind wanderings were at times just emotions that brought forth blurry images and I could just watch them pass by.  Sometimes I would get caught up in these minor storms of thought and follow them through the circuitry of my brain.  And sometimes I felt like I was sinking and often I felt the rising above, a free floating that relishes both the ups and the downs.