I’m not that mysterious. There are constants in my life that serve as a cement foundation to my predictable Sturm und Drang (a fancy German term for “storm and stress” that I love and lifted from writer Keph Senett as she also contemplated her annual autumn Sturm).
This afternoon I sat at the The Starving Artist on Landsdowne Sturm und Dranging with a Labatt 50, because, sometimes, a Labatt 50 is the perfect balm for such epic thinking. And, it seemed to pair nicely with my bacon, chive and cheddar studded waffles. I was reading the latest Zoomer magazine, which, yes, has a masthead that indicates “For 40s 50s 60s 70s 80s PLUS.” My mom usually gives me the back issues and I am totally absorbed in the pages (like a tween with the Twilight series) and gladly trade her for my Toronto Life mags. (Disclaimer: I actually stole this copy from Jimmy’s Coffee, but surely a hundred drip coffees qualifies this steal?)
As I read about Jeff Bridges and his second career as a musician, and a west coast 60-something couple that picked up and moved to Cairo, I realized the appeal in Zoomer. The articles are entirely about pursuing arrested passions. The sun-soaked ads for turqouise beaches target the about-to-retire, Freedom 55-ers and lucky snowbirds with perma-Bob Barker tans, 4pm happy hours and a schedule that accomodates reserved dreams. The focus is on transition and how everything familiar evolves and resolves. It’s comforting and hopeful. It’s 24-7 philanthropy. Chicken Soup for the Retired Soul.
I dog-ear the spoils of the lavish Armani Hotel in Dubai where guests are appointed their very own “Lifestyle Manager” for the duration of their stay. I read about weekend jaunts to Vienna for the sole purpose of eating: Andalusian Jabugo ham, mustard-rubbed organic roast beef, veal scallops fried in bread crumbs and warm chocolate souffles. There are endless pages devoted to career reinvention. I want to retire and reinvent! Retired people, Zoomers, do all the things I love most–they travel with itineraries that involve finding the best souffles and riojas. They fly for nearly a day to maybe spot the fabled Double-Watted Cassowary in Queensland, Australia. They move to Cairo and establish shelters for dying women and their soon-to-be orphaned children. But why not do this sooner?
My fulfillment doesn’t necessarily come from my paid work as a massage therapist, it sneaks in right here. It is deeply rooted in one of my constants, writing. And, so, tonite, after waffles and waffling, I enrolled in a writing course through a new media school for travellers called Matador U. Because, it’s not so much that I want to retire, it’s more that I don’t want to put my bleeding passions on hold much longer. I don’t want to wait another 20 years to do what makes me truly stretch my mind and soul.
I wasn’t actively looking for signs to take this course of action. In fact, I was mindlessly sweeping to Buffy Sainte Marie and paused in front of my bookshelf to see if I could get rid of a few titles to make room for my latest. I pulled out How To Live on Nothing, not because it was ready for the discard pile, but because it makes me smile. My mom gave it to me when I was 17 or so. When she thought for sure I was going to live on some commune, plant trees with eccentrics named Ladyslipper and Sparrow and make clothes out of feathers and shells. Really. I leaned the broom against the wall (this is why it takes me an hour to sweep 700-square feet) and randomly opened the book to “How to Vacation on Pennies.”
See? A sign. Although we spent a lot of pennies on three weeks rounding Egypt in September, I would do it all over again. But, not in Egypt (see previous post). The How To Live on Nothing author’s advice was more in the vein of, you can have an adventure in your own neighbourhood. You can discover pseudo vacation thrills a mere subway ride away. And this is true, which is why I went west of Bathurst (which, as everyone knows, always gives me a nosebleed. What? I can’t see the CN Tower. I’m still in Toronto?).
I made a field trip out of The Starving Artist just to try their much-raved about bacon dipped in waffle batter. Perfect time to have an epiphany. Plus, cheaper than the trip to Vienna and that Andalusian Jabugo ham.
I know what I want but am really gifted in avoidance. Of course I want to write travel guides and be sent to Belize to interview a toucan expert on mating rituals. I’d be equally happy to write about the banana chocolate chip muffins at Jimmy’s that are nearly Mom-like. I’d jump at the chance to document Peregrine falcons nesting in the “a” of a Wal-mart sign in Ancaster. I want to write more but I only seem to want to start things on Mondays and every Monday passes until it’s another year of Mondays missed. I blog and blab and blow my energies on attempted witty Facebook status updates, and when I don’t write at length, wow, I am disjointed and disenchanted in every way. Like I said, not very mysterious at all.
I have kept an anonymous quote that was probably an epiphany on another sunnier day. Maybe I came up with it, I can’t remember. “Stop thinking about what you think you could do and start doing what you know you can do.” My brain server threatens to crash with all the electrical activity I generate when I think of the hope injected in this statement. I am overloaded with possibility and it makes me pant and pace and drink Malbec like I am already celebrating. I write entire books in my head while I massage and run.
But then I re-read another quote I squirreled from somewhere and it sounds tres Oprah-ish. It may have originated from an inspirational poster in some dental office with a serene country landscape backdrop with horses and such–”Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” (Lau Tzu). So then, thanks to Tzu, I’m content and rejoicing. And still drinking Malbec. And celebrating how I am lacking nothing.
I am want for nothing. I say this all the time. Somehow I work more and make less every year, so this is a good thing. What I know for sure? I like vacation versus vocation. My work-life balance tips towards life, always.
A few nights ago Kim asked what I would do with $350,000. We were talking about housing prices and how $350,000 basically buys you a crackhouse without a roof or plumbing in Etobicoke or a condo more suitable for a chihuahua than a human. I imediately thought of a share in a winery (Argentinian), owning a bookstore with an extreme blood red espresso machine and a hunky guy named Joel (with an South African accent) doing the latte art, a trip to Bora Bora with very idle days just staring at the water and each other…and maybe a donkey sanctuary with room for retired llamas and Plymouth Rock Barred cockerals.
With Kim’s imaginary $350,000, she opted for a LandRover (so she could drop me off at the sanctuary) and would donate the rest to the vet bills of the donkey sanctuary. This is why I love her so immensely.
But really? What are we all working for? What do you want? Why not do it now?
What do I want?
I often wait until decisions are made for me. But sometimes, as rare as the Double-wattled Cassowary, I jump-start my writing bones again. It is Monday. Or it was 42 minutes ago. It’s 12:42 and I’m 37 and not a Zoomer, but realizing in this very not-so-profound moment, that I want and need to write more. And when you say things out loud, they get bigger. Or, you say to yourself, “shit, I said that in a blog, now I better put out.”
The rest will follow.
It always has.
Check out the writing wizardry KAPOW! of Keph Senett: http://www.abuscalledforward.com/
Check out The Starving Artist Waffle Espresso Bar: http://www.starvingartistbar.com/SA_SITE/Welcome.html