Friday, January 31, 2014

Transformation in Progress

Life is changing fast for me. I've acquired a new outlook, a new goal on how I want to live, and it's changing the way I look at a lot of things. I focus less on things and more on self reliance. I cook a lot and am quickly becoming a DIY enthusiast. Mostly, I enjoy looking for ways to improvise with what I have as opposed to throwing money at every day needs.

I like living like this. My new outlook challenges me, and brings excitement when I think about the possibilities.

I admit though, that it's not a total transformation. I still covet some things, like a beautiful long suede fleece lined coat I saw. It was just the right shade of deep teal with a lovely hood. I had to remind myself that I currently have three appropriate coats for Canadian winter, and no real need for this beautiful garment. So I let it go.

I also resolved to use my car until it dies. It's cheaper to repair something here and there than to have a car payment. And not having a car payment will ultimately allow me to put money back for when it is time to buy a new vehicle. So for now, and for the foreseeable future, it's gonna be me and Petey, which is what I named my 2004 VW Beetle. He got the name when I had to create a make shift headlamp lens that is now duck taped on. It makes him look like the dog from the Little Rascals.

As I think about it, a lot of this isn't really a change for me. It's simply more of a reflection of my inner most values. Maybe until now I was afraid to of this life style, or perhaps I was distracted from it. Whatever the delay, I'm glad to embrace it now. I'm looking forward to whatever comes next, and I am no longer scared of what I don't have.

Thursday, January 23, 2014


When I was a younger version of me, I worked in a series of restaurants. My first job was in a restaurant. It was First Street Foods in Benicia, California. I started out as kitchen help. I cleaned, made sandwiches, washed lettuce, peeled garlic and the like. But, most importantly, I paid attention. I watched vegetables in a sauté pan become soup with the addition of stock and wine. I saw dough become pasta through a hand cranked pasta roller. I watched chocolate pellets melted down to become the most delectable brownies in my memory. After a while, I was trusted to do more. I rolled the pasta, made salad mixes, and monitored the stock pot.  Although I only worked four days a week, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I never dreaded work, and always came away feeling like I had done something. 

There's something special about working in a good kitchen. There's a give and take between the staff, and everyone contributes in their own way. In a good kitchen failure to do so, means failure of service, failure of creating something that can ultimately change a person's day. 

I enjoy making good food because good food makes people happy. These thoughts have come back to me as I continue a personal renaissance. I very well may have the opportunity to do this kind of work again, and if I do, I will be sure to relish it. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Simpler Life

I blame it on Laura Ingles Wilder. As a kid, and again as a young adult, I poured over her books about    Prairie life based in subsistence living. Something deep inside of me longed to have that kind of existence, where one's belongings could be carted up in a quest for a new life.

At that age, I didn't understand the political implications of invading the land of others. My ignorance allowed for childish romanticism. I loved the idea of baking daily bread, visiting over sponge cake, and gingham dresses. Those notions were soon forgotten as I became part of the working world where I made a salary that provided me with the trappings of modern life: clothing, things, car loans and travel.

But now, almost ironically, here I am, living on the prairies of Saskatchewan, once again imagining a simpler life. It started with some purging. I had way too much stuff in my closet. So once a month, I filled a bag to take to Goodwill. This went on for months until I managed to get my essential wardrobe small enough to fit into one check bag and a carry-on. I still have too much, but I allowed myself an extra allowance for Burning Man clothes.

Then, as I realized my life would be changing, I accepted that I might have to give up the homeowner lifestyle. It forced me to consider what bare essentials I would need if that were the case. As I thought about this I concluded that I can do without a lot and still be reasonably happy. Even without having to fully implement my musings about such a life, the excersize led me to yet another avenue of thought.

Up until this point I only thought of a simpler life in terms of possessions, but having less possessions wouldn't necessarily take the clutter out of my life. To really enjoy a simpler life, I would need to take out unnecessary pressure and stress that usually comes with a well paid job. I think of it as modified subsistence living.

I'll admit, that giving up the quest for a success is hard, especially for someone like me. I am driven with ambition to do more and always achieve. But, I managed to turn that notion on it's head, making my simpler life the new goal.

I can't say that I'm all in with this plan yet. There are still times when I want things I can do without. But I don't miss the pursuit of things or success. I don't need them the way I use to. In fact, my bare essentials list is changing.  I can get by with so much less as long as I have love and respect from friends and those I care about most.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Serendipity Is My Friend

When I was in grad school, we did a lot of work with the Franfurt School realists. These were a group of Marxist philosophers that included the likes of Hanna Arendt, Kant and Walter Benjamin. IMHO, they were a mournful lot. I don't mean to dismiss the value of their work, I get it now. They were crushed by the failure of a utopian promise when the nature of man could not produce Marx's ideal. So, yes, they were sorrowful for that lost hope, and it is reflective in their writings where everything sucks, and the intent of man has little more to offer than a puss filled blister.

The realists seemed to lament their loss on epic levels, wallowing in a living stasis of regret for allowing hope to even enter their minds. These were the underlying themes I perceived when reading their works.

I've known people who embrace this sort of sorrow. It's a deep dark wound that defines who they are. I've seen the self loathing that comes from daring to believe in an ideal that is actually an abstract, something that is only real in theory. The mourning spawned from that kind of realization can be all-consuming, and thus ultimately defining of a persons perspective. Any other expectation in life becomes suspect, and hope seems but a fanciful illusion. For me, it's not a preferred way to live.

I like to hope. I like to dream. I like to visualize ideals even if they don't come true. I do these things because they provide me with a path, a general direction showing me where I ultimately want to go. And, it may sound touchy-feely, but I think that daring to hope, dream and visualize are the things that lead to serendipity, because subconsciously I am looking for those opportunities, and will be drawn to them even if I don't recognize them at the time.

I entitled this post, Serendipity Is My Friend, because I needed a reminder of  why hope is such a big part of who I am.  By working out the role of hope in my own life, I can see how it leads to my paths of fancy. I've often marveled at the serendipitous phenomena in my life. It would be wise to remember the notions that lead me to those events.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Daring To Hope

I had a sorrowful day. It was preceded by a fretful night of dreams that woke me up screaming in one incidence and jolting straight up in another. After several hours of restless sleep, I finally gave into wakening but not real consciousness. For several hours I felt trapped somewhere between the terrors of my mind and my current self.

When I was finally fully awake, I felt wretched, like I had just failed miserably at something that was really important. And, although I couldn't fully remember my dreams, I guess, I knew deep down that that's what the dreams were about: failure.

As someone who was has been led by ambition for most of my adult life, it seemed that my ultimate fear has always been failure. It's what I dread. But, somehow, even when my endeavors didn't entirely work out, or when they reached an expiration date, I was always able to reemerge, a little stronger, a little wiser, and a little further along a path I had only secretly set out upon. I say secretly because these were desires I all but kept from even myself. They were things I scarcely dared to wish for, but knew I truly wanted, and often, always to my surprise, these secret wishes would come true.

I spent most of my sorrowful day in my flannel pajamas, trying to make sense of what had shaken me so badly. Unanswered questions left me confused until finally they were replaced with unrelenting tears. I just couldn't stop them from coming. I cried in mourning for something I had lost. Even when I could compose myself, I could still feel the loss like a gaping hole in my chest. It was physically painful to hold in the sobs, so I let myself cry some more. I cried almost all the tears I had.

I slept that night, and woke up feeling refreshed the next morning. I guess the sorrow just had to escape so real thought could tell me the answers I was looking for. It was like hearing my inner voice for the first time in a very great while. It seemed what I really lost, was myself, and that was the failure that haunted me the most.

Sometimes it's easy to forget what we are about, especially when we concede to the judgement of others. It's easy to become lost in that perceived version of who We are. But being lost has a benefit too. It reminds us to appreciate the familiar ground that is closer to a truer self, the self that dares to hope for secret dreams.