Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ever Approaching Horizons

One year ago at this very moment I was sitting at an internet kiosk at the Ayers Rock Campground. Of course, this moment was early in the morning of the 28th in Oz while it was late in the afternoon of the 27th back in the states. I was doing a little blogging before we had to get ready for our flight to Sydney and I got a bit introspective. I didn't quite end up having the religious experience I had hoped for when I came face to face with Uluru, but it was close. I clearly remember standing there on top of a dune with Inky and realizing that this huge hunk of rock has been there hundreds of thousands of years before me, and would still be there for eons after me. All of this cosmic context made me feel small, and made me want to grab the rudder of my life and start steering, or as I said it then:
I need to get busy living on my own terms, which is an easy impulse to have when you haven't punched a time clock for three weeks and have been living in vacation mode. I don't understand how it is we are supposed to balance the requirements of life with the things we actually enjoy, but I swear that I'm going to do more to find out.
Sadly, yet predictably, I didn't do any of that. In fact, after we got home I settled right back into my regular life, which isn't bad, mind you, it just isn't all I would hope for.

When it comes to my everyday existence, I feel like my life is just happening to me. It's almost as if I've spent the last 15 years or so of my life just taking steps because they were there. I went to college because I was supposed to and after that I took jobs because they seemed right, not because they fulfilled me in any way. It was all too easy and with that ease came a real lack of satisfaction. I really don't like to complain about my life, mind you. I am lucky enough to have the companionship of the woman I love, and in the end that is all I could ever really ask for. To top that off, I am a free, middle class American who hasn't faced real hatred, bigotry or discrimination in my life. So, I should feel a lot more lucky then I do.

But I don't.

I find myself not only lacking the ability to achieve my life's goals, but lacking any real goals. I don't know what I want to be when I grow up, and I don't really have a "dream job" to speak of. I don't know what is worse: not being able to achieve what you really want, or the realization that there is no job out there that you'd give anything to do.

What does compound this issue for me is the ever present ticking of my clock. It's not a biological clock that I hear, it's the countdown to death. I know this is terribly morbid, but it's something I'm used to. I've had a very strong sense of the end since I grappled with death and my faith as a young boy. After my baby brother died, I moved into his room and I started having terrible dreams about death. I was 12. Two years later I went off to the Seminary and rather than strengthening my faith in an afterlife, it was weakened. About a decade later, my father died and I was truly lost.

He was 58 years, 289 days old and he was gone. His father had died in his late 40's and his grandfather had died in his late 30's. It seemed the best I could hope for was my 60's and in my mind all that was left after that was eternal nothingness. It keeps me up at night. At the time that basically meant 40 more years for me, but rather than spurring me on to do more, to see more, to experience more, it actually gave me a feeling of time. Like knowing you have a term paper due at the end of the semester. While some do it right away, I always said "I still have more time" and then scrambled to do it at the last minute.

But you can't scramble to live your life to the utmost at the end of life's semester. I was well aware of that while standing on top of that dune in the outback a year ago, and I swore that I'd come home and find something to do with my life that made me happier. Of course, I didn't. I kept letting my life happen to me and I got one year closer to the end in the process. And it would be so easy to keep doing that until March 12 of 2035.

On that day, I will be exactly the same age as my father was on the day he died. 58 years, 289 days old. If it ended for me on 3/12/35 that would mean that I have less than 26 years left to live, or 9419 days. That is not a lot of time. Not when I told the woman I love that I want to be with her forever. Of course, I could have more time, or less, but that we never get to know in advance. We don't get to know when the semester ends and so, unlike that term paper it is incumbent on us to get our assignments done right away and not put off till tomorrow, that which we can do today. And if a blazing sun set viewed from the top of a dune in the Outback wasn't enough to make me assert control over my life, I doubt sitting at desk in York Pennsylvania will do it.

Maybe, just maybe, a count down, no matter how unreliable, will get me to focus on what is most important. Maybe thinking about March 12th of 2035 as the place were my earth ultimately meets my sky will lead me to live more a purposeful existence. Maybe I just need to get drunk, high or slapped around. I don't know, but, I know there's got to be something to do differently.

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