A happy family

I just had the pleasure of visiting an old school friend, which led to the unexpected (and unusual) experience of spending time with that rarest of modern social units, a happy family. This particular family is firmly based on the traditional, nuclear family — a model i’ve long assumed dead, or at least passé, in these days of broken marriages and mandatory two-job families. It was surprising to see the traditional model working, and working so well.

I won’t breach anybody’s privacy here, but the arrangement is pretty much what you’d imagine from your Leave it to Beaver viewing : WIFE is a full-time homemaker, HUSBAND works in an office to bring home the bacon, DAUGHTER and SON are both doing well in university. Continue reading

We suck!

Five toga-clad revellers pulled off a coup that stunned even themselves in the Oyster Slurping Contest at last Friday’s Mermaid’s Ball. — the costume-party element of the (in)famous annual Clayoquot Oyster Festival.

Left to right in the pic (which is one of the least scandalous of our slurp posted on Facebook by Ed Henley) are winning team members Kim, Josie, me, Katie and Lyndsey.

Josie was the organizational brain behind this … triumph? Spectacle? Debacle? Whichever, i’m sure we all take great pride in the victory, and comfort in knowing that what happened at the Mermaid’s Ball … stays at the Mermaid’s Ball. Right, townsfolk?

For those at the raucous event who did not hear Cameron reading our  explanatory speech (i.e. everybody), here’s the text:

Friends, Tofitians, countrymen … Centuries ago, the ancient Greeks instituted a festival of sport.

YEA, in the very shadow of noble Mount Olympus, home of the GODS, they held a yearly contest of physical prowess FREE of cheesy corporate sponsorship and obscene insider profit at taxpayer expense.

This ancient, shining civilization — the very birthplace of democracy itself — NEVER compromised its citizens’ civil rights as they enjoyed their traditional sports of naked wrestling and WOMEN’S SKI JUMPING.

NOW, in a tribute to their TRUE spirit, we present the long lost opening event to those ancient Games … the OLYMPIC OYSTER RELAY.

And the sign that Josie held up at the end read:

This Olympic relay cost taxpayers $0!

In a lovely touch, it was printed in the Coca-Cola font. We rest our case.

A burden on my friends

Gads, i believe i am becoming a burden upon my friends — the ones, especially, with whom i stay during my frequent perambulations through the geography of no-fixed-addressedness.

H. and R. (in Vancouver and Victoria) bear the brunt of it. Strangely, it seems that what is most obnoxious about my presence in their lives is less that i’m sleeping on their floors for so many nights running. (I try, at least, to be helpful around the apartment and maintain a low profile.) Rather, it’s that i am (gasp) not working. I can sleep in when they head off in the mornings (though out of practicality and respect i try not to); i can head off to indulge my curiosities during the day; i have energy left most nights to do (cheap) things that they may not have. Hell, i’d be pissed off if i bunked with myself for more than three days.

It seems the seductions of the self-unemployed life are rather a taunt to those who choose to, or have to, head off to work five days a week.This may be a demon that will come home to roost eventually (a la parable of the grasshopper and the ant). We shall see.

I take it more as a reflection on what work has become: a burden that many (most?) people would prefer to escape, or at least lighten.

Any way i cut the cheese, it’s a burden coming my way sometime soon!

Hello again, darlings

Here i is, back with (a) a reliable Internet connection, combined with a comfortable office setting at the house-sit i’m currently house-sitting at, and (b) an iota of will to update the world on my insignificant wanderings and maunderings.

It has been several months of couch-surfing in Vancouver and Victoria (thank you, Robert and Heather, respectively, for putting up with me) and expansive reading, and i must say i think i am making some progress in my aimless quest for, ah, wisdom — by which i mean the ability to function effectively and lead some semblance of a good life in a world that often seems hostile to that modest ambition.

It was … illuminating to spend that much contiguous time in cities, something i haven’t done for well over a decade. It has its strong points, urbanity does, but peace and quiet is not one of them. Hard to think clearly amid the sirens and traffic and endless, ubiquitous distractions. I did, however, thanks to Pure Hel, stumble across a hot damn study group called D.I.Y Dharma“a peer-led community of freaks, geeks, queers, rebels, outcasts, stream-enterers and their friends, who meditate together in the Buddhist tradition” — and get to one of their gatherings. I wished i could attend a whole lot more. Kind of makes religion FUN again, you know?

I have not worked (in the usual sense) an hour in those months, apart from writing a piece or two for Tofino Time, and i have become convinced that escaping, at least part-time, the treadmill of labour is absolutely essential to finding peace of mind in this life.

And i’m getting there, dammit. I’m getting there.

Details at seven.

Emails on purpose

Correspondence with an old friend, triggered by a post i came across on Tony Tjan’s Harvard Business blog:

Dear R–

When i read this i thought of you and me. It’s off some website for venture capitalists, of all things, but the five questions made a lot of sense to me:

These five questions, when asked in the order presented, form an effective diagnostic tool that can provide better guidance to mentees, employees, or generally anyone with whom you are playing the role of a counsellor. Additionally, they can serve as a self-diagnosis of one’s own capabilities and opportunities.

Here are the questions:

1. What is it that you really want to be and do?
2. What are you doing really well that is helping you get there?
3. What are you not doing well that is preventing you from getting there?
4. What will you do differently tomorrow to meet those challenges?
5. How can I help / where do you need the most help?

I hope this morning’s cafe is suitably stocked with beans and babes.
~groggy

Dear Groggy,
Lots to think about there. Symptom: I’m avoiding thinking about [it]. Hmm, no, not entirely true. That’s what I come to the cafe for. Enlightenment.

I think things are exactly the way they should be. You and I and the world are just as they should be according to everything that’s happened up to this minute. The issue (for me) is change. How to change?

Case in point: I read the five questions first trying to figure what I want to do, be, etc. Struggling. “Gee is that what I really want? Is that going to work? A painter? Do I still, deep down, want to be a drummer in a rock band…?” I can probably do fine without being a drummer at all. But then, what to get passionate about? …

A few minutes later I reread [the questions]. This time I plugged in my life as it is. All my “problems,” difficulties, and weaknesses…. Substitute the first question with “Who is it that you really are?” Then the rest of the questions answer themselves. The first thing that came to mind after that was something that a self-help guru said. I paraphrase: It’s no more difficult to do it the right way than it is to do it the wrong way.

Okay — change the answer to the first question. My impulse, no, need, is to answer with that magical something that will be passionate and wonderful and drive me for the rest of my long and wonderful life. (Which is kind of a cop-out, when you think about it. If something drives me [then] I don’t have to drive myself.) But hey, didn’t we just [make a mutual bet] based on the premise that working hard drives your ass (once you get going), and the inspiration follows. When asked if he only wrote when in the mood or if he really had to work at it, Somerset Maugham responded that he only wrote when inspired. “Fortunately,” he added, “inspiration strikes me at exactly nine a.m. every morning.”)

So the thing is, then, to choose. Chocolate or vanilla? Vanilla or chocolate? It doesn’t really matter. Choose one and go with it. I think choosing = changing. Kinda like my grandma telling me to put a smile on my face. Some work to get it on, but once there it’s awfully hard to ignore. Passion.

–R

Whew — holy tangled web, Batman! I can relate, though; boy, can i relate. For me it all stems from the first question, What is it that you really want to be and do? Once that’s answered, the rest of the questions are just practicalities.

But that first one’s a problematic bastard. First off, it presupposes that there is something you “really want to be and do” — a premise that would not stand up to much historical scrutiny, methinks. It’s a notion that would have arisen along with the Enlightenment and the age of the individual, and individual purpose.

Counter to that, though, is the loose, Zennish notion that we, all of us, already know what we really want to be and do, because it’s built into our bodies. It’s all those things we really get into, where time disappears for us, that we do not because we’re supposed to but for fun, for compulsion, for … just for the doing. (For me, sometimes it’s playing the frame drum; i can go for hours, just lost in it. Sometimes it’s proofreading other people’s writing, which i can get deliciously obsessive about.)

Trouble is, few of those things slot into the professional categories we automatically invoke when thinking of being and doing: We immediately lapse into “job mode,” and then are stymied. The question becomes What job would you like to do?, with the subtext “happily and every day for the rest of your life.” Then suddenly we don’t know anymore. We might be sitting in a puddle making mud pies, perfectly content. Then someone asks the question, and we think, “This is ridiculous. I can’t sit around making mud pies forever. What do i really want to be and do?” Bingo — disconnect! Welcome to the age of bone-deep anxiety and confusion.

~gruggy