I was driving to work on a greasy, snowy morning this week. Right
before I turned into the parking lot where I park, there, standing in the middle of the road, was a dog. He was confused and
scared, with two way traffic and two turning lanes.
So I pulled my truck up to block him at least from the direction
I was coming from. A cab driver got out of his cab and was trying to call the cur to the curb.
The dog would have none of it. He stood there and spun in circles
barking at everything around him. Him being a pit bull dog - the cabbie was reluctant to go up and grab his spiked collar.
Nothing against pit bull dogs, but there has to be some caution in caring.
Finally, the dog was so overwhelmed he just sat down in the middle
of the road and continued barking. I inched the truck closer and beeped, hoping to break him out of his catatonia. He was
still having none of it. I was thinking about getting out of my truck, when a car scooted around me not knowing the pit bull
dog was sitting on the pavement. The driver immediately hit his breaks and the loudest barking was the rubber trying to grab
This got the dog’s attention.
He got up and bolted. Not onto the sidewalk where the other cars
had blocked a way for him, but straight down the middle of the road barking his fool head off. About 100 yards up, he took
a left and disappeared behind a convenience store.
Later I thought to myself “wow – was that just my
last year?” Trying to figure out what 2009 meant to me has been my pre-occupation lately. What I did, I learn, what
did I lose, what was gained.
I was out of work for a year and a month – and in some ways
felt I went into a defensive stupor. Not that I wasn’t trying to find work, talking to folks about projects, but I stopped
planning. I just waited for whatever was next and gave up any illusion of being in control of what was going on in the economy
or my livelihood.
I kept thinking I got precious little done. Work stopped on my
house, although I did build some raised beds, where my tomatoes rotted this summer. And I beat myself up about not doing anything,
not writing everyday, not riding my bike etc…
A wasted year.
Each time I tried to write an update, it seemed it was outdated
and not a perspective on the next non-event.
But it slowly dawned on me, as most things do, that all the little
things I did add up to a full year and a year acceptance of my life.
In the spring I cut trees down with friends. In the summer I fed
dogs when people were away, carried a keg here or there to help out, moved furniture for people. I went to a wedding in Mid-state
NY. I almost killed 5 people, when my car was tossed up on a sidewalk in the middle of the day. We all got out ok. A tire
almost fell off on the way home. But I saw two great kids get hitched, had lunch with a love from 20 years ago and chased
some ghosts down Route 20 in Morrisville. AND DIDN”T KILL 5 PEOPLE ON A SIDEWALK. I still don’t know the meaning
This fall I helped gut a farm house, paint an addition, paint
some apts. - and had lunch and beers, and conversations with lots of people I know and care about. I even washed dishes in
I went to Martha’s Vineyard and felt the ghosts of my forefathers.
This winter, I went to dinners and watched football games with
people who go out of their way to include me.
I just reached a point where I was trying to focus on being in
the moment, because there was nothing else. I had a blast when I did.
People I have worked with on past assignments email me and call
and connect. Other friends stop, talk and stay. I have friend’s everywhere.
I didn’t lose my house to the economy. I ate very well.
That doesn’t add up to a wasted year.
French author Andre Gide writes “One doesn’t discover
new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time”.
A friend thought maybe I was given a clean slate to start over.
Good thought, but I don’t see it as a fresh start – just a better progression. I needed to step out of the stream
for a bit and watch it go by, not understanding what it meant for a very long time.
I don’t like using other’s words – I try to
put them together myself, but this was sent to me and it sums it all up:
"Meaning is not something you stumble across, the answer to a
riddle, or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build in to your life - out of your past, out of your affections
and loyalties, out of your own talent and understanding out of values for which your are willing to sacrifice something. You
are the only one who can put these ingredients together into the unique pattern that will be your life. Let it be one that
has dignity and meaning for you. If it does, then the particular balance of success, or failure is of less account."
- J. Gardner
My life has its own meaning. I am looking forward to this next
year with all of you. Because when life ultimately hits me in my snout with its grill, I will not be sitting on my *ss barking…
I will be running straight at it ;-)