Think, Remember, Ponder, Dwell, Imagine, Resign?

Sometimes I think.

Sometimes I remember, and consider what happened in the past, and what might happen in the future.

I’m not sure that is always the healthiest or the most reasonable thing to do.

Some people say: “Live in the now”

Of course, people say a lot of things.

The other day I was reminded of some things, and some aspects of life.  And I started wondering if those things were over and done with, never to happen again.

Now with some things, that would be a good thing. I mean who wants to get divorced again, or let go from a job again, or go through adolescence again.  Or any number of other things.  There are all sorts of things that happen in life that aren’t necessarily positive or enjoyable or something you want to repeat.

But, on the other hand, there are parts of life that are actually enjoyable, that make one smile, or feel a little warmth, or feel a little appreciated, or remind you that someone cares about you.

Some of those things are not too hard to come by, for many people. But some things are less common, more rare, and perhaps, alas, sometimes somewhat fleeting. And, of course, those are usually the things that are the most valuable.

Is it good to resign  yourself to the idea that some things might never come this way again? Could it possibly be healthy to keep holding out hope?

Or should I just concentrate on living in the now, cherishing what I have and the people around me, making the most of everything that comes my way, and enjoying each day as it comes?

Fuck that shit.

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Still More Echoes

Sometimes life moves quickly, sometimes it moves slowly, and sometimes, not at all.

Back in high school, or perhaps more likely, junior high, you could ask your friend to ask her friend if she likes you, or if she likes-likes you.

I think, as one gets older, that technique quickly becomes less and less appropriate. And once you’ve been married, separated, and divorced, I think you would likely get only derision if you tried that technique. Unless you were clearly only using it ironically and for entertainment value. Which might be a difficult sell.

So you, or more accurately, I, resort to careful listening and interpretation. Maybe not always, but sometimes. When the person in question (a woman in this case, as I’m a boring heterosexual man) is a friend, and (in the common world view) a less likely match, I want to step carefully.

So, I say “gee, I was thinking of doing this thing that you’re also interested in, want to join me?”, and I hear in return “I would love to, but I have to …”. And I think “how nice of her to be so thoughtful and polite, and let me down easily”.

But then later I hear “hey did you end up doing?”, and “let me know if you’re going to”, and I say “well, gosh, I was thinking of it, want to join me?”.

I don’t always use words like “gee” and “gosh”. But I will for literary effect (or affect – take your pick).

And a day or two later, hearing nothing back, thinking “uh, I guess not”, and so gently mention (just in case), get “I told a friend you and I were planning on going”. And so arrange tickets, and get “yay! can’t wait!”.

I’ve mentioned before how nice it is to be able to daydream of the far-fetched possibilities of what might be, or what it might mean.

It still is.

Of course, her friend that she mentioned our plans to (a mutual friend), is also coming to the show with us.

But I can still daydream of making nefarious plans to ditch the friend after the show (or ask the friend to feign a headache, or early morning plans of her own).

Not that I would. Oh no, never.

And yes, this is far too far-fetched for any reasonable person, or even for me.

But, as I’ve said before, hope is an essential part of living. And the hope of maybe, someday, someone, is a nice hope to have.

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Distant Echoes of a Possible Relationship

I am not old, but then again, I am no longer what one could call a young man. When I was younger, I was fortunate to spend time with some terrific women – intelligent, energetic, lovely to behold. I was lucky to marry the last one. Who eventually came out, and we separated about a decade ago, and later divorced. That was my last romantic relationship, though not through lack of trying. Some might say I am very particular about the people I choose to spend time with, and me, well, perhaps I am a bit of an “acquired taste”.

I am involved in amateur theatre – got back into it to keep me occupied, and to keep me somewhat socialized. It’s a nice and sometimes challenging contrast to my daytime work keeping computers running.

And there is a younger woman, who has been in, or part of several of the same shows I have been in, or around.

When I first met her a year or so ago, I noticed she was quite attractive, and seemed quite engaging. But she was younger than I, and in a committed relationship. So of her I thought only how glad I was that there were interesting women in this world.

Recently, however, her relationship has seemingly come to an end. We got to talking at the closing night party of a show, and she said she had always assumed I was a decade or so younger than I am. And I was reminded that I do enjoy the company of intelligent, interesting, and well, yeah, attractive women. And over the past week or two, she has said or done things that, had they come from a woman closer in age to my own, might reasonably be construed as “flirting”, or at least an “expression of interest”. She invited me for a drink last Saturday after I came to see the show she was in, and of course I accepted. It was really nice to sit and talk with her. I don’t have the opportunity to do that sort of thing as often as I would like to, and, in fact, it had been quite a while since the last time. And I quite enjoyed it.

Saying goodnight, there was again something that could be construed as an “expression of interest”. And, had I been younger, or at least, closer to her age, I certainly would have made sure that I clearly returned a similar expression.

But, and here’s the point: I have really been enjoying interpreting the things she has said as more than just the friendly conversation of someone with shared interests.

As I have examined life and myself since being single again, post-separation, I have learned, or perhaps concluded, that one of the things that people need is hope. I had the good fortune to have romantic relationships in the past, and that is something that I have missed in my life over the past decade, sometimes quite keenly.

So now, while I have the chance to continue to interpret, or more likely mis-interpret, her words and actions as “expressions of interest”, I have been revelling in the idea of the possibilities of a relationship. I have spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about spending time with her, perhaps holding hands, or even (gasp!) kissing.

I sometimes buy a lottery ticket. When I do, I delay checking the winning numbers just about as long as is possible. That gives me lots of time to think about all the good things that could be done with a win – get a modestly larger house, support some local arts groups, share some with my ex-wife and take my kids on a nice vacation. I absolutely make sure I get my money’s worth on that lottery ticket, by making the most of my daydreaming time. It’s not quite like “hope”, but it’s a way of thinking of what could happen, of the possibilities for good fortune in this world.

So, for the next week or so, while I can, I’m going to make the most out of daydreaming about spending more time with this interesting and appealing woman. To reinforce the idea that there really are interesting, attractive, and unattached women out there, and that maybe, just maybe, there might be one who might “acquire a taste” for someone like me.

Hope is important to help you keep moving forward. And even if hope is sometimes a delusion, and sometimes a willful and intentional delusion, you can still use it as a propellant.

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Looking Forwards

In order to survive, one must have some measure of hope for the future. Whether it’s hope for continued “success” (however one might define it), or hope for “success”, or hope for the future of (and for) one’s children, or simply hope (or perhaps belief) that the sun will rise tomorrow, and will bring with it the light and warmth that we need.

Some days I struggle to have any form of hope. Which sure makes it hard to keep on plugging.

Here’s the ridiculous thing: as I write this, the effects of the devasting earthquake of March 2011 continue to wreak havoc on the people of Japan. There are wars, there is poverty, there is pestilence. But not here, in my life, in Canada.

I struggle to keep things in perspective, and fail. I know, and can see, that I am fortunate in so many ways. But I constantly find it a struggle to live as if I actually believed that that is the case. I wake up in the morning with a day that is already a 95% good day, and as foolish as it is, it kills me that I can’t seem to get it together for that last 5% of daily perfection.

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Looking Backwards

I am in cottage country this week, near a small town.  In that town lives (I think, thanks to internet “research”) a woman I was once involved with (for a short time), and her husband and family.

I find myself thinking back to when I knew her, a long, long time ago, before she met her husband to be.  I was very smitten with her at the time – she was, and presumably still is, a terrific person.  We kept company for only a short time, and I had a very difficult time (at the time) letting go of what I thought might have been.  I think, some months later, that we ended up as distant friends.

I remember highlights of knowing her, and being in the excitement of a new relationship.  That particular relationship was likely doomed from the start – I was likely overly needy (want-y?), and it’s likely fair to say that the timing was complicated in several ways.

But there are a few memories of that short time with her that I hold close after all these years.

I find myself – especially while temporarily in presumed geographical proximity – wondering how she is, how life has treated her, who she is now.  Wondering if we would recognize each other if we bumped into each other on the street or in the grocery store – it is a small town after all.

There is part of me that is curious, but I have sometimes found that memories are sweeter when un-sullied by reality.  People live their lives, and over the years, they change a bit, in one way or another.  I am certainly older, greyer, and a few pounds heavier, and I’ve been affected by the life I’ve lived in the past almost quarter century. Sometimes, perhaps, enjoying the memory of the moment is the best alternative, leaving it unaffected by reality.

But still, perhaps, I wonder.  It is all affected, of course, by the gaps I perceive in my life, wanting, perhaps, to attempt to hold on to the highlights of my past that I think are currently missing, and that I worry will never return.

But still, perhaps, I wonder. About her and how life has proceeded for her.  But likely better to enjoy the memories of the past, than to distort them with reality.  But if I saw her at the grocery store, and recognized her, I think I would be unlikely to run off and hide in the baked goods section.

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Don’t Let It Slide

For some people, this will fall into the “well, duh” category.

Sometimes, when one has lost one’s optimism, it’s easy to let things slide – paperwork, housework, things you should do.

Don’t do that.

Because as time goes on, the weight of those “things not done” gets heavier and heavier.  Just looking around the house can become an exercise in depression, as you see the evidence of everything you really should have done.  And as you gather your motivation to start digging out of that hole you’ve dug for yourself (or the multiple holes that you’ve dug for yourself), it’s harder to measure the progress you’ve made.  If the distance to go is 20 miles, going 10 miles can seem like a good accomplishment.  If you’ve got 500 miles to go, it’s harder to see 10 miles as progress.

Don’t let it slide.  Throw yourself into it, keep at it, keep doing it.  Not only will you avoid the unpleasantness of things not done (people or government agencies calling you to task), you’ll enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done.  Which is a great way to fight off the blahs.

See, I told you it was probably a “well, duh” kind of thing.

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Not Who I Think I Am

I like to think that I’m analytical, that I have some depth of understanding, that I have some intellectual capacity that sometimes allows me to “rise above”.

Apparently, I’m not.

I continue to be surprised by how much external factors affect me. The weather. Bad news. Other people.

And I continue to be surprised when those simple-minded mind tricks (good posture leads to good attitude, tell yourself something good, and all those other things – see any of the hundreds of self-help books) work on me. And even while I know they work, I often feel compelled to reject them, and stay stuck.

Gray day, gray outlook.

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Harper: Just Say No

I’m Canadian.  Have been all my life. And I count myself very fortunate as a result.

Stephen Harper’s long term goal “is to make Conservatives the natural governing party of the country”. (Paul Wells, Maclean’s, September 17, 2008)

I would have thought that a better goal would be to do what’s best for Canada and Canadians.

If your party is more important than the country, you should be kept out of Ottawa.

Harper’s Conservatives: bad for the country, and bad for Canadians.

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Book Review: “Drive” by Tim Falconer

Through the good graces of Mini Book Expo For Bloggers and Penguin Group Canada I received a review copy of “DRIVE: A Road Trip Through Our Complicated Affair With the Automobile” by Tim Falconer.

The book is an examination of our collective love affair with cars, and the impact on our cities and infrastructure, told within the framework of the author’s nine and a half week road trip from Toronto to Los Angeles and back. (Most of the book (18 chapters) is part of the “way there”, and only one chapter covers the way back.)

I was reminded of Pirsig’s classic “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, though Falconer’s “sub-text” is much more obviously related to his road trip than Pirsig’s was.

As this is a non-fiction book, I wanted to see it start with an obvious “Introduction” i.e. that pre-chapter that is so often seen before “Chapter 1”.  “Drive” starts right in with Falconer (literally) in the driver’s seat, on a Friday afternoon mini-road trip to cottage country, with him, once past the worst of the traffic, cranking the tunes and stepping on the gas.  But quickly chapter 1 covers the basics of car culture, its effects on our neighbourhoods (Toronto’s Annex and the vanquished threat of the Spadina Expressway), pedestrians vs. drivers, and car as art.  I hit the end of the chapter and realized that Falconer had slipped one over on me: chapter 1 was the introduction, framed in the guise of a trip to the cottage.

Falconer lives in Toronto (which presumably is why his trip started here) and the book covers quite a few local issues, people, situations.  I enjoyed the somewhat “Toronto-centric” start to the book and the trip, but I’m not sure whether readers ouside the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) or outside Canada would enjoy it as much as I did. (Everyone hates Toronto, right?) Would non-Hogtowners enjoy Falconer’s chats with Cam Woolley of the OPP?

Once the road trip begins (with “Leaving Minivan Nation”), Falconer visits Detroit (and the car company museums), Indianapolis, St. Louis, the remainders (reminders?) of Route 66, Colorado, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and the fabulous Pacific Coast Highway before reaching Los Angeles.  Along the way he visits places, car clubs, people and points of interest, while discussing car culture, incorporating information he gathered before the trip in a seamless fashion.  The result is that the reader is drawn into the trip, and into the “conversations” along the way.

Falconer examines the impact of the car on our cities and our economies, and our love/hate relationships with our cars (is your car a work of art, or simply a transportation tool?).  He spends time with car clubs, looks for excitement in the downtowns of cities that have escaped to the suburbs, and looks at how different cities have succeeded or failed as a result of “car culture”.

I was left pondering the good and bad of the car, and with a reinforced impression of the quality and results of the past fifty or so years of professional “Urban Planning”. (Confession: I’m completely suburban, and rarely ride public transit.  I’m as guilty as anyone.)

I really enjoyed the book – it was a good read, informative and thought-provoking while still being entertaining. Recommended!

Please also read Katie Gennaro’s review of Drive.

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Some days I Like Technology

Some days I like technology, and some days technology doesn’t like me. Must it always be an either/or situation? Or are there ever days when technology is neither good nor bad? (I like VMware ESX, really I do. But it does seem to have its quirks from time to time.)

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