For my whole life, one of my primary desires was to have fun. My nature has always leaned toward a childish, playful immaturity that seemed to simultaneously attract some people while repelling others. Being a self-indulgent only child, I have always been intent on satisfying my own desires and needs, which turned out to be seeking out fun stuff while finding, and indulging my passions.
See, I never really grew up, or became mature. Oh, I did for the 18-year period that my son grew up. When I finally got married, that was one thing. Becoming a dad? That changed everything! All my “want to do’s” became “need to do’s” and “have to do’s.” During that period I got fairly serious and less selfish. Out of my element, being forced (by a sense of parental responsibility) to finally grow up and accept those responsibilities that come with marriage and parenthood, I became a somewhat different person. It was hard for me, and to this day I’m still not sure how well or poorly I did. When my son went on to college, the marriage collapsed, my music career had slowly tubed, and in that painfully dead end scenario, I moved on.
All that to tell you when I moved on into my new life beyond family responsibility, I was somewhat changed. Those 18 years gave me so much… the experience of unconditional love, the personal sacrifices that led to a new understanding of the beauty of selflessness, and the new understanding of how important, and unimportant I was to other’s lives. Eye-opening? Oh yeah!
Back on my own, back at my first home in Montana, I was once again free to be the dreamy, self-indulgent person I was in the earlier life. But there was a definite difference now. For one thing, I was fine with spending big chunks of time alone, having learned the difference between alone and lonely. I had learned to understand myself over the years… the weaknesses and strengths, and became finally able to be comfortable in being a somewhat responsible person who found he still liked to have fun and follow his passions. Somewhere, between the solitude of “alone” time and new outdoor activities with friends, I found a new passion… a passion for daily living, that no longer included music.
It was easy, changing from who and what I was for over 40 years. My circumstances helped a bunch… moving from a city of several million to a little town of 150. Oh yeah, there was definitely some culture shock for that first year, until I got into the swing of it all, and remembered how it was to grow up there, and how life was in the Montana mountains. The people who lived in Montana now were different, sure, but they still had that slightly rough Montana pioneer edge I was used to. There were more people in the towns, but the land was still basically the same. There were more fences now, more gates and less access to the once wide-open public lands. But it was still there, the strength, the vastness, the beauty and the abiding peace along the rivers and up in the deep woods. Now I was growing a new appreciation for it all.
It quickly became evident that I needed a passion in my life, some love for something, something to pursue and make a part of my daily existence. Beginning to understand what an important part “passion” had played in my life, I began doing what had worked for me in the past… I basically sat back and waited for a new passion to show itself. It didn’t take long, and when it did, it was surprising, for it came in several forms, both diverse and unlike anything I’d pursued with my heart before. They were writing, time spent alone in the mountains, and… snowmobiling!
I know, who would have thunk it? A guy, 62 years old, with a still-fresh trail of success and failure in the big city close behind him; a trail trying to blur the view of the road ahead, trying to stay more important to him than where he wanted to go next. It was a struggle at first, sure, but strangely enough, his three new passions all worked in tandem to slide his past onto the back burner. Slowly the painful aspects of his memory boiled off, leaving the good and the happy to be the only baggage he would tote into his future.
That metamorphosis was really simple, in retrospect. He wrote several books about his past life, very cathartic; he began spending a lot of time on the rivers, fishing, and up in the high country, cutting and gathering wood… also cathartic. And the snowmobiling? Ah, at first difficult, challenging on several levels, but incredibly fun! Put those three cathartic activities together and you have a newly-christened happy man!
I’ve always thought that once a person experiences fulfillment, satisfaction, peace and contentment, he will begin striving for that feeling, to hold onto it, even live in it. True for me for awhile, until I learned that chasing that feeling would lose it… that simply living in that feeling of fulfillment and peace was the way to hold on to them. But what is true for me is not true for you, necessarily. I have thought that things like abiding peace, a love of music… things like that, those things could be, and sometimes were addictive. Yeah, well… again not true for everyone. For me? Sure, I was addicted to them, I guess. but one comes to realize there is also a world of folk out there who thrive on contention, anxiety, an almost continual adrenaline rush that is, for them, exciting, motivating, perhaps even self-defining. For we are all so different, in so many ways.
I understand the adrenaline thing to a degree. The snowmobiling was definitely a rush for me, a nearly constant challenge to ride my sled where my more experienced pals were gleefully going… crazy places, dangerous places sometimes. On almost every cruise with them there were several places and situations that brought on the “pucker factor” for me. As with life, most of the time I succeeded, only occasionally got stuck. I had a few wrecks, tore up my first sled pretty well. Then I bought a Ski-Doo with some serious juice to it and for the last two years had an absolute blast with it and with my pals. So yeah, I know the positive effects of the adrenalin-driven life. And I never outgrew it or outlived it, I simply got too old and weak to ride safely.
And what about daily anxiety? Yes, there’s been plenty of that, mostly from the politics of our current situation. And even that anxiety has taught me how important my Buddhist teachings have become in my life. They quietly gifted me with an overview of the importance of every person’s life, and it has become invaluable. I am now over anxiety, adrenalin rushes and nearly any form of confrontation.
Having given all I was able to contribute to the larger world, I have finally let that larger world go, opting for turning my attention and energies to my small circle of friends and loved ones. Therein lies, for me anyway, the continued sense of peace and fulfillment. My passion for most things has now gone out to pasture, to graze, watch the clouds float by, and bask in a world of contentment. Memories are still good, to be sure, and my approaching senility is still able to kick up enough sweet memories in the evening, in front of the fire, with my brandy. The Buddhists have got it so right… that when one spends the bulk of her time and energy on her loved ones, love and contentment come rolling back to her in spades. That’s simply how it works.
Probably you are finding, as Betty and I have, that the world outside our doorstep has gone berserk. Inside, however, we have quiet jazz playing; our pup, Hemingway, is running in the living room, playing with his toys. We eat very well, enjoy sports on tv, and stay in touch with family and a few close friends. We know what’s going on outside, through the news and the internet. We also know that there’s not a damn thing we can do about any of it. Inside our cottage is a different world, a world of love, respect, helpfulness and gratitude. We are not, nor will we ever be, awesome, dope, fire, lit… no, we might occasionally try for cool, but even that’s a stretch. And without any discernible concern for the outside world, we are free of anxiety, worry and fear. What is left, then, what is always left when we finally let go of all that other junk, is an abiding peace, and love. “Two cats in the yard,” right? Anyway, I hope you find it, and live in it. I wish for everyone to find it… because ultimately that’s all that’s needed, all that really matters.
If we’re not really happy and contented with our life right now, then when? How? Trying to over-think our earthly existence can be a dangerous game. I know, I played it once, only to find (for exammple) that my two all-time favorite jazz geniuses, Chick Corea and Lyle Mays, were both younger than I, were both now dead, while I, at 80, am still tooling around our island in my new ’07 Mustang GT, happy as a clam. Now you tell me, what cosmic sense does that make?!
So I’ve ceased looking for any logic in this life, beyond the simple beauty of our puppy’s peaceful breathing while sleeping on our lap after dinner. Our Hemmie’s little life is all about eating, playing, loving and being loved. I swear, I think he’s got it figured out.