Friday, May 04, 2018

What I'm Doing

Peder Severin Krøyer, At the Victualler's When There Is No Fishing, 1882

I guess it's not entirely true that I don't know what I'm doing. When I come to a turning point, I tend to say "I don't know what I'm doing and I've never known what I'm doing!" but actually that's not true. It's been a giddy ride, with lots of swoops and steep banks and sudden plunges, but since I began this blog in 2003 (!) I actually have completed a number of projects important to me. In fact I've pretty much fixed my life. That counts as doing something, even if it's a very local and private something.

1) I established my fellow-traveler status with Buddhism. I did a lot of meditation and a lot of reading and a lot of contemplation, in the early oughts. This was work that absolutely had to happen. I got to watch my mind running itself off the rails again and again. I got to think through what I agreed with in Buddhism (no-self? Yes) and what I disagreed with (reincarnation? No) and what I was going to lay by (enlightenment? Maybe.) I saw my afflictions clearly, for the first time, as afflictions.

2) I quit the work that was intolerably stressing and unsatisfying -- doing software development at IBM -- and found work that was instead supportive and satisfying. I love working at the Library Foundation, and I love doing massage. This is work that gives me the affirmation and support that I crave (v. supra, afflictions) and yet gives me to time to address other things.

3) I make less than half the money I used to make, but my financial house is in better order. By the only marker that it actually makes any sense to steer by: I used to spend more than I made; now I save about 15% of it. I have my expenses under control and I can see my way to a comfortably funded retirement and final illness.

4) I played seriously with writing poetry, and published a book of it, and established to my own satisfaction that a) I could have made myself a minor poet of some local standing, had I wished, but that b) I did not have the kind of talent that obliges a person to give their life to its cultivation. 

5) And most recently, I lost the weight that has distressed me all my adult life, dropping from 222 to 160 lbs in the course of a year. I don't get to claim that victory until the year 2022, when I've kept it off for five years, but I'm pretty confident that I'll do it. I'm walking a couple miles a day, and working out three times a week. My blood pressure has dropped from perilously high to comfortably normal.

So that is all pretty wonderful and it's ridiculous to summarize it as "not knowing what I'm doing." I've known exactly what I was doing. I've accomplished what I meant to accomplish.

I don't have to say, "What the hell am I doing with my life?" I can say, "What do I want to undertake next?" And it's all right if it's some weeks before I know that answer to that.


kurt said...

Pretty inspiring, Dale. Well done. Or should that be not done?

Sabine said...

This is all good.

Pascale Parinda said...

Inspiring! Well done, friend.

Murr Brewster said...

Okay, we'll give you a month to think about it, but then you'd better have a plan.

Anonymous said...

There's something calm and true that I needed to hear about planning for one's "retirement and final illness." Dying is a project! Doing it well is a gift we give the people around us. I wish more people had this kind of anti-Plath, anti-Dylan Thomas ethic. Thank you!

marly youmans said...

That's a handful! I look forward to what it is you decide next.

alembic said...

It's been a pleasure and source of inspiration to follow your journey on the blog all these years! Can't wait to see what comes next.

Jeff said...

From across a continent, I'm especially grateful for #4. Opening the World is one of those rare poetry books that doesn't demand a particular mood beforehand. From time to time I just dive into it, and I'm always glad I did.