There are business leaders out there with books and mentoring classes that say that busyness is a lack of focus, and that it robs us of being attentive to what really matters.
Obviously they’ve never been a mother with children. Or a school teacher. Or an ER doctor. Or ants. Have you ever seen an ant soaking up the sun by itself on the sidewalk?
How about bees? We have a hive in the backyard and a day doesn’t go by that they’re not buzzing around flying in and out of the hive, making sure the queen is happy. That’s full-time work, with no vacation.
These gurus are probably in their 30’s, never been married, and order out every day of the week.
Their philosophy sounds so good, but it’s so wrong. Busyness is the nature of life, especially if you’re holding down a job, raising a family, and being a conscientious citizen.
And if you add in walking the dog at least twice a day, busyness doesn’t even come close. I’d love to stop all that, kick back on my couch with a good book or an addictive television series and ignore the needs around me. But then that would put me in a whole new category – that of being a narcissist.
Calvin says, “Two walks a day? Ha! I’m lucky you let me out in the backyard to chase squirrels for exercise.”
Have you noticed the changes that are happening on social media these days? It’s no longer a place to hang out with friends and family. It’s more like a shopping bazaar. Every other post is for leadership workshops, coaching lessons, weight loss programs, dog training.
Lately there are tons of courses for writing a book. It seems, according to the marketers, everybody should write a book. We have a story in all of us, they say, and it must come out. It’s the new therapy. Regurgitate your life on the page and press publish.
Except it’s boring. Have you noticed that? Read some memoirs. You can distill the essence to angst, depravity and survival. That seems to sell. Stories that are hilarious, unique or good for the soul people won’t read.
I can speculate why the negative sells. People like drama. The more hideous the better. Check out your favorite reality TV show. The human tendency to be brutal is inherent in all us.
But I prefer a good story that ends in laughter. It’s time to flood social media with those. Anyone want to join me?
Calvin says, “I will. I’ll write some scratch & sniff posts.”
Yesterday was a first for me. I was on the subway and nearing my stop. I got up from my seat a minute ahead, something I do all the time, walked to the door, and landed flat on my back. The ground gave way under me. More correctly, I gave way. My knees buckled and I went down. It happened so fast it took a few seconds to realize I was staring up at the ceiling. I must say I collapsed gracefully, as if I had practiced this maneuver all my life, like a ballerina on point. In actuality I came down like a ton of bricks.
Fortunately there weren’t many people on board so I had the floor to myself. And it was reasonably clean. The few passengers that saw me go down didn’t move, they just watched me collapse.
One man, who sat near the door, helped me get up, sort of. He helped me sit up and then I got to my feet on my own. I didn’t have any broken bones, head concussions or scrapes. I didn’t look wounded. I did not want to be one of those riders who got sick on the train and the whole subway system jams up while the paramedics and the police with their German Shepherds show up. I just got off at my stop and kept walking.
I made it to the office and gulped down my first cup of coffee.
A few hours later my lower back began complaining. That’s all, just a whine of self-pity in a minor key. I could live with that.
Calvin says, “You know, taking me for walks has limbered you up, otherwise you would have folded like a deck chair and stayed there.”
It’s been pouring for days. It’s my kind of weather except when it impacts the toilets in my house. That’s where I draw the line. The toilets, the shower, the bathtub and the garage sink went on strike all at once and filled up with water. Grey, dirty water.
That required immediate emergency measures. I called two plumbers who were asleep and couldn’t be bothered with my plight. It was Sunday after all, the day of rest, and crises would have to wait. The third plumber responded and came over in 45 minutes. Meanwhile Alf was filling buckets of water from the shower and dumping them in the backyard. I was pacing the kitchen trying to stay calm. The rain continued. Calvin was on guard with nose quivering.
Finally Juan showed up in an unmarked truck. That sent alarm bells off in my head. Calvin began howling. He introduced himself and smiled with a mouthful of braces and spoke in faltering English. The alarm bells were getting louder. Calvin was grunting. Juan unscrewed the cap to the main pipe to the house and a volcano of water erupted flooding the front lawn. I was convinced we had called a hack and I was ready to phone another plumber, and then the police, if I could find either who wasn’t taking a nap. Calvin was hissing and booing at Juan.
Alf decided to go with it. Juan pulled out a snake and a camera from his truck and did a diagnostic. Sure enough the roots of our bushes were strangling the outflow from the pipe and would need to be replaced. Juan called two buddies who appeared too quickly – were they waiting around the corner? – which confirmed we had hired a gang of thugs to fix our plumbing. This was not looking good. Calvin agreed. He was showing his pearly whites and howling.
The gang worked all day digging and snaking and digging some more. Calvin snarled along with them from the kitchen. The guys took a break to get tacos. We asked where they went and now we have a recommendation for a neighborhood taqueria. Calvin got a gleam in his eye.
The gang continued with the dig. It felt like an archaeological excavation in my front lawn. The chewed up pipe was finally unearthed, and I began to calm down. Maybe these guys knew their job after all. Calvin, exhausted from his protective detail, had curled up in his bed and gone to sleep.
By the end of the day the plumbers had unplugged the back-up, got the water flowing again, and I had my toilets back. They said they’d come back the next day to install the new pipe and eat more tacos.
Calvin says, “I’ve earned at least a dozen tacos. Let’s go!”
So much for global warming.
It’s been raining in Hawaii. The temperatures in the North West Coast are freezing, with so much snow people are inside for the duration of the winter.
Chicago is frozen, Lake Michigan has a layer of ice, and the famous Bean is wearing a blanket of frost.
As Thornton Wilder in his play, The Skin of Our Teeth said, “It’s so cold, the dogs are sticking to the sidewalk.”
Last I read, these types of deep weather fluctuations are normal for the planet. So why do we make such drama out of it? Is it because we don’t have the right wardrobe? Or the skiing ability? Maybe we don’t have the shovels for our driveways or we don’t know how to drive on icy roads?
We definitely don’t know how to drive, that’s for sure. Even with a bit of rain the traffic around here becomes paralyzed while drivers attempt going through the raindrops. California drivers aren’t used to rain or snow. They only know sunshine. Any other weather condition reduces them to frightened children behind the wheel.
The rain is my favorite kind of weather. Too many days of sun and clear skies depress me. There’s no drama. Give me dark skies, crackling lightning, a good thunderstorm that sounds like bowling balls crashing into each other, and pelting raindrops the size of figs. Now that’s real weather. It’s not for sissies.
Calvin says, “I’d never stick to the sidewalk. My nose maybe.”
“Welcome to Paradise,” said the girl behind the counter with an orchid pinned to her hair. A balmy breeze was ruffling my hair as I checked into the resort. It was early afternoon with the sun in full blaze in a cloudless sky. This was check-in Friday. There were so many people and kids coming and going they give you check-in days, like college.
She handed me a welcome packet about tours, restaurants, shopping and rainbow shaved ice treats. All at the resort. They don’t want you wandering off the property and spending money elsewhere. You want to grill your own meat? They have the latest grills, all ten bright and shiny ones, next to the lagoons. You want massages? Step this way. Brunhilde is waiting. How about hula lessons? Sign up for an all-exposure class on the lawn in front of the restaurant. You’re the entertainment while guests gobble fish tacos with pineapple salsa and garlic fries at double the price of anything on the mainline.
Alf and I noticed that most of the guests were our age with our same body shape. We felt right at home.
They sunbathed on chaise lounges by man-made lagoons, by periwinkle pools and under thatched trees made in Mexico. No one minded the artificial landscape except me. Why did it come to this? Was it a way to control and contain it? What was wrong with a more rugged look?
The koi in the pond were overweight by a few hundred kilos. It was because they had regular feeding hours like we did. Too many fish tacos.
The drinks tasted the same no matter where you were and what you ordered. They were all sugared up and splashed with ice and straws.
The big surprise for me was the pineapple. Never a big fan because of its tartness, the ones on the island turned me into an addict. They were sweet, juicy, crunchy and thirst quenching. I had to visit a plantation and see for myself how they were grown. This led us to the Dole plantation, which when we arrived was packed with visitors from around the world. It was more a souvenir shop with a few plants growing outside, but they were real. I also saw cocoa trees with pods. When I asked where the real plantations were, I was told, “Costa Rica.” I was buying and devouring Central American pineapples in Hawaii? I was in shock. What else were they not telling me?
Calvin says, “You don’t believe all beagle breeders come from England, do you? Remember, I was a Napa pup.”
Have you noticed the plethora of products being marketed to make you happy in the new year? Things that organize your life, journaling your mindfulness, grabbing for those goals that have eluded you all your life.
First of all, my life is a mess. No organizational planner, yours or mine, will clean me up. Only supernatural power can do that and the only person who is good at it is God. He proved it at the Red Sea. That’s what it would take to part with my clutter and disasters.
Second, since when is journaling a verb? It’s never been a verb, it’s always been a noun, as in keeping a journal or diary. Diary is the old fashion word, but it’s too close to dairy. Since people don’t read anymore, marketers made the switch and sent consumers into bookstores for theirs instead of dairy farms where the cows live chewing the cud.
Mindfulness. Now there’s a mouthful. To be mindful means to be observant, alert, cognizant. But now it’s been turned on its head and it’s a meditation technique with breathing exercises. Think mindless therapy.
And what makes us think we’ll nail those goals this year when we haven’t succeeded thus far? That’s crazy. Those ads and inspirational books and podcasts are meant to do one thing only – buy the course of course! Knowing full well you’ll fail. Like going to the gym. Two sweaty sessions and you’re out.
So what do we do? Try harder? Flog ourselves? Ignore the mounting evidence of sloth that has overtaken our homes and lives?
Being cognizant of the steep hill we must climb, we make a date to walk the dog, eat more fruits and green things, and enjoy the many times we fall off the wagon. That’s part of the fun.
What? You want perfect?
Calvin says, “I like walking the dog part. Stick with me. I’ll take you places that’ll expand you…I mean shrink you.”