In the Box

Son and I were sitting at the dining room table having a philosophical discussion about how most people spend their lives operating in one box. He illustrated his meaning by pointing to one square on the table as representative of where most people live and then pointing to another box at the far end where few people venture.

It doesn’t matter whether the “other” box represents geography (i.e., living in another place) or a career change. The point is to get out of the mundane and take a chance. This conversation came about because I contend there are ways to live in both boxes or to merge the boxes. For example, if one wants to travel, then that could be accomplished by taking a job that includes travel or if one wants adventure, then it can be found either through work or hobbies.

As I think about my missed opportunity to go back to the UAE, I find myself examining the attraction. Why did I want to jump into that box? It was a combination of things. An opportunity to do a different kind of work – quality and accreditation. It was life in an Arab and Muslim culture. It was living with other expats. But, most of all, it was the constant, day-to-day challenges and experiences of ordinary life in a foreign country. I was frequently converting money (dirhams to dollars) and temperatures (centigrade to Fahrenheit) and remembering to say Shukriyaa (thank you) to Indians, Sukran to Arabs, and Salamat to Philipinos. These “ordinary” things kept me alert.

Here in the US, I find myself falling back into routine, but most alarmingly into inattentiveness. I recently had the experience that many of us have from time to time while driving and realizing that I had been daydreaming, went into automatic, and missed the last few minutes of the drive. This is a classic example of what happens when one spends too much time in the same box.

So I pledge (to myself) that I will begin to bring the extraordinary (or something different) into the ordinary.

Stay tuned,

Been There, Done That, Still More To Do

Listening to opera play at Bernie’s memorial service with so many thoughts going through my mind. Wish I could have recorded my thoughts on my Notepad at the time, but there are still some things that are rude even in this electronic age.

Thought about the fact that one day my husband or I will leave the other… Ugh. Thought about how I’ve entered the time of life when each year I will now be attending the funeral of a friend…Ugh…Ugh. Thought about how Bernie received a parting gift that most of us don’t get… a year to prepare and work on his bucket list.

Asked myself what I would do if I had a year to prepare. I could stop worrying about the mundane stuff of life. I could relax. I could eat anything I wanted without fear of getting fat for who would care? People would probably think I looked healthy because I was getting fatter. For the same reason, I wouldn’t need to exercise.

I could say anything I wanted to anyone, especially my daughter, because who would get angry with a dying woman.

I’d have to prepare my bucket list, but I never really wanted a lot of things and didn’t want to do much out of the ordinary. In fact, I’ve done and had most of the things I wanted. The only thing I would ask for is to live in a nice house on the water in Old Town Alexandria where I could walk to restaurants, theaters, and shops and have my friends and family visit.

I’ll still get sad at funerals and I’ll still lament the loss of those who leave and grieve with those left behind. But… there’s a lot of living left to do so I’m getting to work on my bucket list.

Stay tuned.

LeBron James Decision

Woke up this morning to the news that Lebron James is going to the Heat, which helped put my decision in perspective. Apparently, his Cleveland fans are up in arms about his abandonment and someone actually burned a jersey bearing his number. The Cav’s Coach Gilbert, said that James had made a “cowardly decision”.

This kinda makes my “go/no go decision” regarding a job in the UAE a lot simpler. The only people who will be disappointed are those who made the offer to me, and I don’t think they will burn me in effigy. In fact, they will just make an offer to the next person on the list. A few friends and family will be disappointed and some will be happy, but like LeBron, at the end of the day, I’m the one who has to live with the decision.

The out-of-country move was already a tough decision, because I was going to go alone and hope that Clay would get a job and follow in a few months. As fate would have it, last week he received a job notice that was perfect for him, and he is already in training. So, the last week has been filled with angst (seldom get to use that word, but is totally appropriate now.)

Being the perfect husband (most of the time), he made it clear that he did not like the idea of a long term separation, but that the decision had to be mine because he did not want me to blame him for a missed opportunity. Had a younger person asked me what to do in a similar situation, I would have expounded on “opportunities”, and how they can come again but probably in a different form, but… ponder long and hard before turning it down.

Last night, we came in from a late night movie, and I saw my neighbor sitting on her porch resting after making funeral arrangements for her husband of thirty-plus years. Not to sound maudlin, but this kind of stuff gets your attention. It’s part of what makes us cry at funerals (especially when the person is part of your peer group). We are faced with the reality that one day our friends and families will gather at our funerals. So after much long and hard pondering, I realized that, unlike a young person, my biggest opportunity is the precious time that I have with the love of my life.

Unlike LeBron, I will not walk away with a large paycheck, but I will have something infinitely more important…a good life and a perfect man to share it with for as long as we have.

A new adventure begins.

I Am a Snob: And It’s Okay

I can’t help it. I cringe when someone uses a word incorrectly. I prefer avoiding the hoi polloi in discount stores and the economy sections of airplanes, and I look down on Jerry Springer fans. Apparently these attitudes define me as a snob.

At first, I felt bad about this before I realized there is the antithesis to snobs. Those who turn their noses up at others who enjoy classical music, first-class seating for a higher price, and shopping at Harris-Teeters, when food is cheaper at Shoppers Food Mart.

So how come no ever speaks with disdain about the anti-snob? Aren’t they just as bad? Of course they are!

Now you may ask why I am ranting about this. It’s because I spent the past four days on vacation with “people unlike me (my family)”. The living room TV was tuned to programs that I only ever saw when quickly passing through with the remote. I saw an obese woman disrobe on national TV in preparation for fighting on the Jerry Springer show. I found myself saying things like “I can’t believe people actually watch this stuff”, and then I realized the people around me (my family) were not only watching the show but were very familiar with it. OMG… am I part of this gene pool!!

Then I began to realize that if I’m a snob, then they are the antithesis of snobs, because they can’t understand how I can watch the history channel, Frazier, and other similar fare. So, I guess that means we’re all snobs!

But, wait a minute, when living outside of the US, I became very aware of the obvious…. We’re all basically the same no matter race, gender, ethnicity, education, or cultural background. And, no matter what, we are family with different experiences, and though we may fight and argue, at the end of the day… we still love one another and in a pinch we’ll be there for one another. So, if I’m ever in the hospital and my family comes to visit, I’ll just turn on Jerry Springer and be glad they came.

Stay tuned.

Grounded

Just finished reading Grounded by Seth Stevenson. It is classified as a travel book, but it could be considered philosophical (depending on your state of mind). He and his girlfriend, Rebecca quit their very good jobs and decide to circumnavigate the globe in 6 months. This is the kind of book that gets you thinking about your day-to-day lives. It makes you think “what if” I did something as outrageous as quitting my job; taking my savings; and, traveling around the world. What if… I quit my job and spent my savings on getting a new degree to start a new career. What if… I [ fill in the blank].

The last time I read a book like this was probably thirty years ago and it was A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, which was a best seller at the time and is still being sold. Both of these authors do things that the average mortal only dreams about. From time to time, most of us fantasize about doing something totally out of the box, but then we wake up and go about our daily, ordinary lives. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with ordinary, but a friend just reminded me that it’s okay to want to live an extraordinary life. Extraordinary comes with risks and I guess that’s part of the excitement. In Seth’s final chapter, when he is recounting their return to the US, he says “We’re back in America, and there’s not a ton of mystery or  challenge left.”

That’s what I feel in my day-to-day… no mystery or challenge, and that feeling makes me uncomfortable. I should be ecstatic to have an easy, uncomplicated, predictable life without stress or strain. I have an incredible husband that women would die for. We have a comfortable home, nice cars and all the accoutrements. Then Seth said something that struck home. He categorized travelers into three groups, and I would fit into the category of the “restless wanderer” with a gossamer tether to home.  

It turns out that the title of his book represents what I am feeling… Grounded. Unlike Seth and Rebecca, I can’t just settle back down now after tasting the travel bug, because my time is limited (i.e., I’m a bit older… quite a bit). On the other hand, maybe I’ll create mystery and challenge in my current day-to-day.

Stay tuned….