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25 February, 2012

Westbound and...

Is it up?

East was supposedly down. So, then, is West up? Is North South? What is real?

I dreaded the trip home (as usual). But also, as usual, it was much better than expected, and I leave Boston wondering where I belong. Wondering "Where is home?" I felt a connection with family. Close family. Distant family. Old family. Young family. There are people who need me. There are people who just like me.

Pizza costs half as much... the roads are not straight... the accents are not neutered... your friends challenge you, but you don't need to worry if that means they won't like you anymore...

The East Coast, for all my fear around it, and all the heaviness of the past, and family, is still my home. And I talk about the East Coast as being so dark and nebulous, but the fact is, I have had my share of trauma, drama, and instability on the West Coast too. It's not been a walk down the primrose path.

The problem with the East Coast may be that it pulls at me. It makes me wonder what I am doing out here. It makes me question my priorities.

The allure of the West may be that it is safe... remote... disconnected. Can I be connected here?

Or is home where the heart is?

Fuck if I know...

22 February, 2012

Drinking in the rich history

There are so many questions unanswered. There are so many "I have always wondereds." I can carry the questions with me, as each of the keepers of the knowledge slowly makes their way to the grave, ultimately taking the very questions themselves to the grave with me. Or, I can take every opportunity to probe, explore, hunt, gather, sleuth, glean, extract, discover, and coax precious nuggets of history from those in my family that still hold the keys to this treasure.

Not everybody remembers everything. That's a fact. And not every bit of information lives in the minds of those alive to tell the tales. That's also a fact. But there is much still out there. And some people are as willing to talk as I am to listen.

I don't want to wish I had asked. That happened with my mother. I never got the chance. There are still people who can help piece together large chunks of the voids in my knowledge of her life. Her sisters... My dad...

Tonight we stood in my bedroom, which has become the "picture room" because the wall is adorned with dozens of photos of 4 generations of the two sides of my parents' family. And today, my father had stories to tell about every photo. And memories that were triggered by each. I learned things in a five-minute conversation at 1am that I had not learned in the 43 years prior.

The loss and grieving is sort of an opening of a window into hearts and minds.

I am not going to walk past this opening because it's exactly what I need. In fact, it may be exactly what we all need right now.

Eastbound and down

It's getting dark. Rapidly. Now it is dark. That fast. When you are traveling east, everything happens more quickly. Blue sky becomes sunset. Twilight becomes blackness.

Going home seems to always have some feeling of darkness associated with it. I ran away from home, in a way. Well, I actually drove away from home. But the effect was the same. I spent 30 years there, and I decided that was enough.

After my departure, little pieces of that world disintegrated bit by bit. I feel like I am looking at a photo of Marty McFly's family in the movie Back To The Future. First my mother disappears. Then my sister.

Okay, that's morbid. And perhaps a little over-dramatic.

Still, I do feel heaviness heading east, and lightness heading west. That is the way it is. West is safe. East is uncertain. West is my life. East is my past. West is where everything now is. East is a sense of vacancy.

More drama. Oh, but it's good drama, right? I'm not pitying myself, mind you.

I am just heading east again. And this is all part of the show.

Goodbye, Ronna Lou

Nobody actually ever called her that and, to be honest, she'd probably kill me for even typing that here. But, unfortunately, that's not possible.

My sister died yesterday. Now I am sitting in an airport, waiting for an airplane to be fixed so that I can go to Boston and do the family thing that must be done when people die. 

I don't think I know how to grieve. Or maybe I do. I am not sure if I am grieving or if I am numb. I am not sure if numbness is grieving. I don't know anything. When my mother died 4 years ago, I felt numb. I did not feel the uncontrollable urge to sob. I did not feel like I couldn't go on. In truth, I felt like all there was to do was to go on. So I did. And here I am again, feeling the same way. It's not that there are no emotions. I definitely have some emotions. Maybe it's got something to do with the fact that both my mother's and my sister's deaths were entirely expected. There was nothing sudden about them. In both cases, it was (to use a term that I don't usually use) a blessing for them both, that they went quickly, because life was not going to be worth living for either of them.

My sister found out that she had a neurological problem at a pretty young age. This diagnosis came as a result of a few episodes in her younger years. Nobody could say for sure if she was truly in imminent danger from this vascular abnormality in her brain. But it was always this thing lurking there, sort of like a time-bomb. Everyone in the family worried about it. There were periodic tests over the course of decades. I cannot even imagine the stress she must have experienced, knowing all those years that this was in her head, and pretty much nothing could be done about it other than to hope it didn't cause more problems.

In the end, the time-bomb didn't actually "explode," but it worked like a slow-release of destruction, always wreaking anxiety and depression in my sister's life and, ultimately, causing her to slowly disappear over the course of the last few years. The Ronna that I knew wasn't gone yesterday; she was gone a long time ago.

Because I moved to Seattle, my relationships with everyone have been spotty. I have only visited about once a year, since 1999, if that. There were periods of time where I was in frequent, daily communication with my sister. She knew everything that was going on in my life. She was my friend, my confidante. Then, there would be periods where the relationship went dark, and we didn't communicate for months. Toward the end, I did not answer her phone calls, because it was too painful. I expect there is some regret to be felt in that. I don't know. It just got so hard, because she knew how to dial my number, but when I answered, the conversation was too difficult. It was dementia. Perhaps you can imagine. Perhaps not. 

Because it deteriorated over time, and I am out here in Seattle, it was easy to almost forget how close we'd been. We did not always see eye to eye, and she did not share all the same values with me, but she loved me, and she thought I was her really cool little brother. Even though we barely grew up in the same house, due to the age difference, there was some special bond, that defied the generation gap. We were probably closer than any two people in my entire family. We had our own unique sense of humor. Things were funny to us that were funny to nobody else. We were irreverent together. 

Ronna was wacky, sarcastic, clever. She was also shy, anxious, alone. I feel like I was always on the inside. There was an outer shell around her that was all those negative energies, but I was comfortably inside that wall, enjoying the relationship with "The Real Ronna." Not many people got to see that. A few of her friends. Her daughter. Her husband. 

Seeing our parents die starts to make us realize that nothing is forever. Seeing our siblings die starts to make us think about our own inevitable mortality. I'm not a big fan of that concept. I've been fortunate, especially compared to some of my friends, in that I have not lost many people who are close to me. I realize you can't outrun that forever. 

When I do think about my own death, it is terrifying to me. I don't believe there's anything else out there. I believe that the end is the end. That all we leave behind are memories. I hope that I can at least make those memories be good ones.

11 February, 2012

Long... long... short... long...

Today finds me shunted to a new track. with no destination. just always on the track. moving forward, and eating up the miles. occasionally stopping in a station, and blowing the loud loud horn, with the pattern.. long... long.. short... looooong, just like the many trains that pull me into the moment day and night in my home in downtown Seattle.

Another of those blog entries from the past where I can't even tell you what I was thinking. I don't even know what my struggle was. I guess it was probably 2008. So I guess I know what influence I was under. In fact, it sheds a little light on the regret blog as well. 2008. Not a good year. If I were a winemaker, I would have burned the grapes from that year, because the memories didn't age well. Okay, I'm being melodramatic. I actually have come to terms with most of what happened in that year.

2008 was the year my mom died. I was likely lamenting the revolving door of relationships that I had during that period of time. I had likely just exited one of those doors, and was feeling adrift. It was also the year I joined the band. I might have been in a phase where I was drinking more alcohol than I typically would ever consume. There was a little window of time where I was slightly more "dark" for lack of a better word.

I felt lost in 2008. I felt lost in 2009. It was two solid years of being lost. And I never attributed it to anything. Well, that's not really true. I definitely experienced a lot of rough times, and I certainly attributed them to all kinds of things. But I never realized that there was a big continuous window of being lost, except perhaps in fleeting moments that might have been captured in some journal entry, but were eventually forgotten. I think I was actually getting lost before that, and remained lost after that.

For my first two years here, I could not help but hear the sounds of the trains. Some people love the sound. But I found it to be irritating. I know what they're doing, and why they're doing it. I know what long... long... short... loooooooong means:

"Wherever feasible, train horns must be sounded in a standardized pattern of 2 long, 1 short and 1 long.  The horn must continue to sound until the lead locomotive or train car occupies the grade crossing."

But I still believed that the horns were there to vex me, and that they were largely unnecessary, driving back and forth, unloading their cars, in a purely industrialized neighborhood. Surely, there could be no need to iterate this call endlessly. Why?

And over time, I've stopped hearing it. It is still happening, I'm sure. And if I try to listen, I will hear it. But my brain finally decided that it wasn't an important stimulus.

I didn't feel lost in 2011. I am on a new track. I don't know what the destination is, for certain. But I know that there is one. I am moving forward, but not merely eating miles. I am going somewhere.

No regret

"I will always regret so many things regarding us." That's what she said. I won't tell you who she is. And I won't tell you when she said it. And I won't tell you why she said it. But for all of the possible explanations for such a statement, from all possible sources, at all possible times, I will respond with the same assertion of certainty:


There is no regret.


Things happen, and we accept them. No matter which side of the action we are standing. If we cause pain, we must accept that we did it, and try to understand why we did it. And learn from it. And try to hold ourselves to a higher standard the next time. If we are the recipient of this pain, then we need to accept that we steered our lives along a path.


Again, I find words from the past. And I do not even know who they were about. It's strange to me that things from only a few years ago can have blended into some sort of mosaic of memories such that the same words could be true about many people. I guess the common theme among all possible subjects of the above was none other than me. I guess it shouldn't be surprising that I was struggling with regret.

There have been a few times in my life where regret has become a major factor. These days, I try to see things as: "If I am happy with where I am right now, then how can I possibly regret anything that has led me to this point?" And that's a cute little romantic view of the world. Basically, I am glad to be where I am right now. And I know that some of the things that I went through that triggered the greatest regret at various times are also some of the principal catalysts for the major choices I've made that landed me where I am.

But still, it troubles me... "I will always regret so many things regarding us..." What troubles me about it is just how many people it could have been who might have said that. How should I feel about being attached to that much regret? Maybe this is just the way love goes; the way life goes. We try things. And sometimes (usually) they don't work. And people regret. At least for a while.

Can I look back with no regret?

Can you?

Things you don't see anymore, or someday soon won't

A cord between the part of the phone that you hold in your hand ("the receiver"), and the part of the phone that attaches to the wall (I don't know what the hell that was ever called).

The expression "leaving the phone off the hook".

Gas pumps with mechanical numbers that flip over to indicate how many dollars you spent.

Postage stamps (okay, I am an oddball here, because I already don't ever purchase these anymore - but someday, no one will use them).

Film.

Unattractive middle-aged commercially successful pop/rock musicians with talent, who actually write and perform their own material.

Cathode ray tube televisions or computer screens.

Local banks.

Video stores.

News.

Television programming that involves professional actors.

Trivia questions that cannot be immediately answered.

Things that are paid for by taxes.

Phone books (we can only hope).

Libraries (sadly).

Fair elections.

Cassette tapes.

CDs.

Saber-tooth tigers.






Fear of mediocrity

I wonder if it's better to never really try at anything at all, than to go all in on something, and never be great at it.

In my newly found strategy of completing old blog entries that were sitting in "draft" mode, I come across this entry. There was nothing but the title, and the first characters above that you see in red. So, I am left to pick up where the story left off, little story that there was, and take it in a direction that means something to me now.

Truth be told, I do not even know what I was talking about. I do not know if I had been discussing music, or if I was just in a phase of self-deprecation, where everything seemed bleak and pointless.

But how is this true today?

I can say for sure that it is not better to never really try at anything. But I do experience fear about trying and being mediocre. That's something that is incredibly important to me. I want to be good at everything I do, which means that I either have to work really hard, or choose really carefully.

Lately, I started exploring "art." I have never thought of myself as an "artist." In fact, even when I look back at the things that I did as a child, I have to say that there is little evidence of a budding creative genius. I could start telling you about how maybe it's because my mother never let me play with the Play-Doh because it would make a mess, but that is probably best left for a different blog entry.

The art interest started when I dated Denise, her being an artist and all. I had always known what I liked when I saw it, and had fairly strong preferences in particular directions. I was not what you'd call an art appreciator, but I definitely enjoyed Art Walk when someone would invite me to attend one. Dating an artist, I became attached to a collection and a style, and took an interest in what was involved in creating these works. I appreciated not just the work itself, but the fact that a person could have a vision in their mind, and then just set out and CREATE something. Seeing Denise walk up and down the aisles of an art store, sometimes briskly, sometimes in a pensive meandering way, I could tell that she already had an idea in her mind of what something was going to be, and it was just a question of finding the ingredients; almost like cooking. During our relationship, I had the luxury of having all of her "art overstock" hung on the walls of my place. The walls would have been barren, since I owned not a single piece of art, but instead they were filled with at least a dozen, maybe more, paintings of hers. It made my place look like someone lived here. Of course, after we split, most of the art went back to her, except for the few pieces that had been gifted to me.

But I think that planted the seed in my head about liking art.

Then, in the past couple of years, I finally decided "I am going to buy art." I am not sure what triggered it. I was in a new relationship, with Melissa, and we had gone somewhere that there was art, either to a cafe with things hanging, or a gallery, and I saw something that I really liked. Actually, it might have been that she was buying a gift for a friend of hers, and she wanted to get a small painting. Seeing that she was buying art made me think "Well, maybe I should too." There has always been this feeling that, if I have no art, then the first thing I buy somehow says everything about me. And it felt like that was a lot to say about myself, and I never bought anything. But on this particular day, in this particular mood, I decided it didn't matter if these were the first things I had ever bought. I am now not even sure I'm correctly remembering this, but I believe the first pieces I bought were tiny landscapes by Jennifer Phillips. They looked a lot like what's on this page. I saw them, and I could afford them (truth is, I could afford most art that I see, but these were only $60 or so, and it felt "safe" to dip my feet in the arty waters with a small purchase rather than a big one). And most of all, I liked them. I felt comfortable with the idea that, even if someone might think I'm defining myself, that these are pieces that defined me.

And that broke the ice. I have purchased a fair amount of art since then. Some of my favorite local artists, whose work I own, include Deborah Stachowic, Jacqui Beck, and Kelly Rae Cunningham. While there are several different styles and media among the pieces I own, I have a bit of an inclination toward encaustic. I didn't mean to buy like ten pieces of encaustic, but it just happened. I'm attracted to the texture of it, and the bright colors, and the crispness of the lines that the colors create.

So... all that brings us to the original topic, which was fear of mediocrity. I decided that I'd like to learn to do some art (this long story will become rather short at this point). A couple of months ago, I took a mosaics class with Melissa and her coworkers. I felt like the piece that I made was nothing special. I felt like it could have been done by a third grader. I felt like anything anyone said about it that was positive was probably just some platitude to make me feel good about myself. But, after letting it be for a while, I decided that maybe it wasn't that bad after all.


So, now I am taking an encaustic class (actually, with Deborah Stachowic). I've had the opportunity to make a few pieces during a 4-week class. Again, I don't really know if what I'm doing is mediocre, good, great, or what. I will post those pieces when I get them back. I learned some things, and I know some of the mistakes I made. I had some struggles, which I wrote about in my other blog. But I also had the experience of coming in with an idea, and having it become something completely different, and better. I took something that was originally going to be closer to imitation, and transformed into creation. I guess I feel good about that.

I do fear mediocrity. But I also realize that sitting around and doing nothing because I don't want to fail would be a miserable way to live.

Aloneness

I don't like to be alone.


I am an extrovert. No matter how much socializing I do, there always seems to be room for more. That's true. But the type of aloneness I am talking about here is more about the "being with myself" variety. I do my best to avoid it. And I am not entirely sure why.

I wrote that first couple of sentences probably at least a year ago. And over the past year, I have oddly seen myself making a turn inward. Case in point, it's Saturday night, and I am home alone, with no plan. It's not for having tried and failed. I never had a plan. Never considered making one, except perhaps passingly, I might have considered reaching out to this or that person. But here I am, completing a blog entry from years ago, about Aloneness, in a rather ironic twist, because I know where I was going with it, and it seems to be less and less relevant to me than it ever was before.

I am not sure what it means. Am I becoming better with "being with myself," as I commented above? I don't know. Am I becoming an introvert? I don't know.

There are fragmented thoughts and connections here. I recall my mother speaking of my father. She would occasionally say to me "When your father and I first got married, we had so many friends. We would get together with them regularly. But over the years, one by one, he decided that they weren't good enough, and didn't want to be friends with them anymore."

First of all, I would not under any circumstances take my mother's assessment of my father's actions as a reflection of reality or underlying intent. I think she only observed that he became less inclined to get together with others, more okay with isolating, and she overlaid her resentment, and decided that it must have been because he felt they weren't good enough. But maybe it was something completely different? Maybe he decided that he wasn't good enough? Maybe he went through changes internally that just caused him to feel less connected with people? He's still alive. I could ask him. But I suspect that he would tell me that he doesn't recall. I should probably try to ask him.

I'm not sure any of my father's experience is necessarily relevant to mine. But I do see that I went from frantically scrambling to never not have something to do, to now being completely content to have nothing to do.

What's different with me? Have I decided that people aren't good enough? Have I decided that I am not good enough? Am I just cherishing the time alone? Am I in limbo deciding what connections I want to maintain? Am I creating space for new things that have not yet arrived?

I don't know.

it's the music that matters (part 1)

I've been playing guitar since I was twelve or thirteen years old. The first songs I learned were Rolling Stones and Kiss tunes, and I figured them out by ear, badly, but by myself. Never had one lesson. Well, that's not entirely true, but it was probably only about three lessons after I had already been playing guitar for four or five years. I didn't have the patience to properly learn technique when all I really wanted to do was play songs, which I was already doing on my own. Much like so many other things, I was content to be "pretty good" at something with no effort, rather than busting my ass to become "very good" at it.

I wrote many songs during my teens, but they were all rather trivial, derivative in obvious ways, of all my favorite bands. I never shared any of those songs with anyone. Just wrote them on a notepad, or typed them on a bad typewriter, and played them for myself. The first song I recall "sharing" was a song that I wrote for a girl whom I liked from the next town over. She wouldn't date me, after the initial flirtation, because I was "too young" for her (one year behind her in school - funny how much a year mattered back then). So, in my state of unrequited love, I wrote a song called "Pain After Pain." I would not be surprised if I still have the original of this in a box somewhere in my garage. I do not plan on recording it! It was rather insipid and predictable. But when I shared it with her, I think it almost made her want to give me a chance. But not quite.

I could ramble in more detail about this in future entries, but I should probably not do my usual "tangent thing," and get to the point, so this will be readable.

So, first time "performing" for an audience of one was probably at the age of sixteen. In college, I played music with friends occasionally, but was a little bit shy about performing. The next noteworthy performance (again for an audience of one) was a song titled "I Can See It In Your Eyes" (rip-off of a Men At Work title, which may have come out before my song, if I remember correctly). This time, the performance actually won me the girl! She'd been taunting and teasing me for many months, and when she realized that I actually wrote a song for her, that was enough to melt her heart. We dated for almost three years, and eventually we both saw in each others' eyes that it wasn't going to work.

Straight through college, I'd never played in a band. Not sure why. I knew how to play almost every song by every band that I liked. AC/DC, The Cars, The Police, Devo, Pat Benatar, Huey Lewis, The Kinks, Aerosmith, Van Halen, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, etc. If I could hear it, I could play it. But it was mostly for my own entertainment. In fact, usually if people said "Bob! Play something!" I would just respond with a polite decline.

In graduate school, I became friends with some guys in a band, and became obsessed with them. I don't mean in a bad way, like "Mel" from "Flight of the Conchords." But they inspired me, and they were my best friends. And watching them made me want to perform. I had hoped I would have an opportunity to become a member of their band but, for many reasons, that was never to be. After leaving graduate school, I finally started responding to advertisements in a local magazine (I think it was called the Boston Phoenix), and found some musicians who were starting a band. They called themselves "Phantom Roommate," which was a rather tragic band name, but we saw little enough light of day that the band name didn't matter very much.

My first-ever live show was at a party at someone's house - I think it was one of the band members. There were a lot of people there. We played five or six songs, including "Can't Get There From Here" by R.E.M. We also played a song that I'd written, titled "Seduction." I wrote that a couple of years earlier. It was very much a Kiss-inspired song. It was a little bit cheesy, but not bad as a straight-ahead blues rocker. That was my first show. And it was fine. Ironically, my guitar and amplifier were almost stolen out of the back of a pickup truck when we were loading our gear out after the party. We were carrying things out of the house, and a stranger tried to run off with them. The amplifier was very heavy and the guy ended up having to drop everything to jump over a fence and escape. My friend, Jeff, managed to salvage my gear for me, unharmed, by providing adequate chase to the would-be thief.

mess with my sister

you mess with my sister
you mess with me

i gave you forty feet on that leash
and you gnawed through the links
when no one was looking

i trusted you on word-of-mouth
and little else
and this is the thanks i get?

at least show some elegance
at least show some style
at least show some class
something that goes beyond the woefully superficial

you turned out to be a timed-release letdown
a book best judged by its cover

they say you can tell a lot
by how one regards children, pets, wait-staff
i guess we had all the evidence we needed

so stay away from my sister
and stay the fuck away from me

04 February, 2012

Revisiting influences from the distant past

I'm on my way to Chicago right now.

Actually I am not. I started this blog over a year ago, but it lingered, incomplete. But now I find myself inspired to finish pieces started previously, so let's just pretend.

It is "work travel," but there will be a very special non-work-related aspect to this trip. I'll be meeting with one of the people who had the greatest influence in my early-adult life. My first graduate school advisor, whom I have not seen since 1993, lives in Chicago. We're going to meet this evening. And I am nervous about it. Not sure why. We've had sporadic contact over the span of the 17 years that have passed. A few recommendations, a few emails, a Linked-In invitation, and some occasional comments about Microsoft Office, once he learned that I was a part of the development of that product.

The first thing that's weird about the transition of a mentor from youth into an acquaintance in adulthood is the change in nomenclature. When I was his student, he was always "Professor X" even though he is only 11 years older than I am, and he would have been perfectly okay with me calling him "Nick." But now, he's Nick, of course. I still feel like I should show him some more respect than that. But it's just a leftover.

We met at The Cheesecake Factory, in Downtown Chicago, which is not a place I would ever have chosen since I try to avoid major chains, and would prefer to go someplace with local flavor, and character. But that was his recommendation, and I was not going to reject it.

When I first saw him, it triggered strong emotions, because of how important he was in my life. In some ways, I feel like Nick contributed significantly to my general outlook on life, and he may have impacted subsequent choices that I have made. He looked much the same. His hair was a little thinner, he had gained a little bit of a belly from the years (he was 34 when he advised me, and now he is 52). And he no longer had the thick mustache that was one of his defining characteristics back then. But he's still the same Nick. Outspoken, opinionated, passionate, animated, and truly from the heart.

Our dinner conversation reminded me of everything that was great about him. We talked about his new business that he started, after leaving a major corporation where he'd led a research division for many years. We talked about the projects I was working on at my company. It turns out, there was a fair degree of overlap in the disciplines that we were both in, even though I had changed careers pretty far afield from what I studied with him. And we talked about the philosophy of science and life. I think this is the area where he influenced me the most.

At dinner, we were talking about making big decisions in life, and how to navigate the details and negotiations, particularly when they involve financial factors. He shared with me some advice that his father had given him. His father is a Greek man, still living in Greece, whereas Nick has been in the states since at least the mid-1980s.

His father had said "If it's worth buying for ten dollars, it's worth buying for eleven dollars."

I think it may be some sort of Greek proverb, but who knows. I keep getting words of wisdom from Greek people.

The point, of course, of this wisdom is that we should never make big decisions about our lives based on small differences in some tangible factor. Because, years from now, we will never remember that small difference, but the magnitude of the intangibles that we wanted will probably far outlast.

And it was a joy to have this connection straightaway with Nick. It was also a joy for me, and I must confess, a moment of pride, to know that he viewed my life as having turned out okay. He was proud of me, and he felt that my life is interesting, and that I've done well for myself. He is not the kind of person who would look at me and think "If only he'd stayed in his discipline, and become a professor." He was happy to see me happy, and he was happy to see me. That was almost a parental kind of validation.

Nick had shared many words of wisdom with me when I was his student, but two of those things stuck with me all these years, and have been formative in the choices that I have made in my life, and things that I have often called upon when trying to get through hard times.

First, he had said to me "If you want to get a PhD, the biggest thing is that you have to be willing to make sacrifices." He explained that you have to be willing to not have some things that you want to have in your life, whether it be money, or relationships, or free time to pursue your hobbies. At the time, I was about 24 years old, and I realized that I was not ready to make those sacrifices. I wanted to have money, and life, and things. And my passion for the degree was in no way solid enough to weather the absence of those things which I had never yet had. Years later, after working in industry, I went back and pursued a PhD in a different field. Although it was a long road (over 6 years), I did finish the degree. And what I realized were two things: First, he was right about the sacrifice. The hardest part of being a graduate student was just sticking with it, and being in that state of not really being anywhere, long enough to do the work and finish the degree. It was about patience and, I guess you could say, "delayed gratification." Of course, I spent a fair chunk of my graduate years obsessed with World of Warcraft, so I am not sure you could say that I was the picture of delaying of gratification. The second thing I realized was that the hardest part of graduate school was not the research itself. It was just the idea of not giving up and getting tired of being there.

Another thing he had said, when I had expressed some concerns and worries about security in life, was the following: "There is nothing more evil, more limiting, and more at odds with getting where you want to go in life than the notion of security." I'm paraphrasing, but it was a long rant, and I remember it vividly. I even remember being in his office for the conversation. He sounded like a wild man to me! It was the antithesis of my father. It was the antithesis of everything I'd ever been taught to believe. But it stuck with me. I never forgot it. And I realized, more and more, through my late twenties, and onward, that he was absolutely correct. Security is the antithesis of growth, self-exploration, evolution. If we only strive to maintain security, avoiding all risk, then we can't ever do something new. We can't ever become something new. We are limited. The first big risk I took was to leave my career on the East Coast, and move to Seattle. And to give up the stability of a well-paying job for the pauper-like state of graduate school once again. I remember my father saying "I support and trust whatever decision you make, but I can't help but ask you if it's really necessary that you make such an extreme change?" And the answer was "YES!" It was necessary. that move, that change, leaving all that was secure, opened me up to the idea that I could do anything, I could succeed, and I could grow. I could decide what I wanted my life to look like, and it didn't need to look anything like I had thought, or anything like anyone else thought it would look.

There's a sign on the wall at our yoga studio. It says "The best way to predict the future is to create it." And to me, this rings incredibly true. I still battle with the choice between security versus new possibilities. But, when push comes to shove, I always tend to go the path of the new. It is not just because I don't want to live the life my family led, though that is probably a part of it. It's because I don't want to have regret. And in this case, I think I can quote one of my mother's favorite quotes that she always used to say: "You will never regret the things you did in life. You'll regret the things you didn't do." Actually, that seems pretty ironic, because my mother didn't do a whole lot. But she was good at providing a Readers' Digest "Quotable Quote." That one probably came from someone like Erma Bombeck or Oprah Winfrey.

Anyway, this has gone on a sideways tangent.

It was good to see Nick. I do hope I'll have the opportunity to see him again, as he continues to be in my mind, and remain an influence and inspiration to me.

Cross pollination and promotion of all things feeble

So, I've been a bit absent from here, but I have actually been writing.

I started a "Yoga Blog" which is intended to track my progress, internally and externally, in my new yoga practice. I've only been practicing yoga for about 4 months, and I decided about a month ago to start tracking it in a journal. This was partly to get me out of a rut, by giving myself a concrete topic to focus my writing. But it is also so that I can monitor the changes and growth that I am experiencing.

The blog is called The Feeble Yogi.

I intend to keep both blogs going, and I am starting to feel like ideas are flowing that fall into this blog's subject matter. But in case you've been wondering what I've been doing, you can check that one out as well.

Truth be told, I've got all kinds of blogs that are either semi-dormant, dead, or disabled.

There are many things to be written.