My sister said an odd thing to me the other day. “Things just seem to work out for you.” I didn’t say anything in the moment, but I thought about that for a long time afterward, because something about it felt wrong. Do things work out for me? Sure, but I don’t think I’m unique in that respect.
When you start a job, they give you a black box, metaphorically, not a literal black box. Manuals, policies, procedures, spreadsheets, and templates shape your role. The box defines your job, which is to turn the crank on the box and produce reports, or widgets, or sales, or brochures, and hopefully a little profit.
On the second day I say, “Super excited to be here. I’ve been thinking about that black box. You fellas ever try it with rounded corners?”
My first experience with a Therapist wasn’t a good one. I didn’t go back for 20 years. Yet it’s now something I do regularly and it’s surprising how often I recommend the process to others. There has been a rash of people close to me experiencing heartache and trauma recently. It seemed a good reason to write to an audience again.
My Grandfather went to the the hospital. I booked a flight to go see him, but he died before I arrived. My Dad phoned to tell me the news, and then he phoned back to ask if I’d do the eulogy. I said, Yes, of course, but I immediately felt overwhelmed by the idea. So I took my notebook and went seeking solace and inspiration in my Irish heritage. I got blind drunk.
I met some Spanish gentlemen and took an education in sipping tequila. We talked of death, amongst other things. I awoke to find Juan’s phone number in my book, along with this scrawled epiphany, “Mexicans are very spiritual people”. Which might be true, but wasn’t much help in the eulogy.
We’ve taken our names off the adoption list. A decision we struggled with for months. It feels good to have it resolved, to reach closure.
Have you ever taken a side trip, or an adventure everyone raves about, but it doesn’t live up to the hype? The good hotels are booked up, but you go anyway, with plans and expectations. But for you it’s just a series of misadventures punctuated by shitty weather and worse food. You know? We’re disappointed, but also, sort of over it. Life is what happens while you’re making plans. I’ve always liked that saying.
We’ll have to combat our disappointment with early retirement and lazy Sundays enjoying each others company doing whatever it is we want. Then interrupt that difficult routine with lavish adventures bought with our imaginary kid’s college fund. I say this not to dismiss the feelings of loss associated with abandoning our arduous five year pursuit of a child, but to make the point that giving up on the baby idea is sad, no doubt, but it’s not tragic. An entirely new set of possibilities is now open for the next twenty years. That’s exciting.
This is the story I tell when a friend shares a story in which they, or someone they love, has totally experienced something super-natural. I think it’s a fun story, and it’s more polite than saying, “Ya, that didn’t happen.”
Google recently got a licence to operate automated driverless vehicles on public roads. This begins the transition from manually controlled vehicles to automated robots. We will continue to share the road as we move toward automated traffic, but robots will quickly dominate.
Studies of flocks of Starlings show that each bird pays attention to the seven birds around them. The flock votes many times a second on direction of travel. The birds make simple decisions based on limited information, and complex patterns emerge. The birds are able to travel in tight coordinated formations. Schools of fish are the same idea. They travel, find food, and avoid predators in elegant unison, as a team, and none of the individuals make difficult decisions or perform complicated actions.
The Canadian Prairies are a neat grid of roadways. Numbered streets, avenues, and roads meet at ninety degrees. It’s the ideal system if you’re an Engineer, you’re living on graph paper.
Europe is more inventive. When I arrive in Prague, I get lost. Not surprising. I eventually find my way, and I’m releived to look up and see I’m on the right street. I can see my hostel just up ahead.
A quick movement flashes on my right and something hits the sidewalk a few feet in front of me with a wet thud. It’s a cat. A soft, well cared for, pretty looking, white and brown cat. It fell from the building and it’s tragically injured. It doesn’t look bad, a little blood coming from it’s mouth, but there are clearly fatal wounds inside. The sound it made was enough for me to know, it won’t survive.
If you were designing a computer program to organize something… No wait, don’t walk away! You asked me to explain why I kick my shoes into the closet. I’m trying to tell you.
Let’s say you have a large library to organize. You need a system to help you. You can’t have tens of thousands of books in random piles, it would take you days to find anything. So you categorize things, itemize them, sort into groups, bust out Dewey Decimal. You buy a good label gun and you get your shit together. This systematic organization takes time and effort, but it’s worth it, and you don’t have another practical choice.
However, if you only have a handful of books, simply stacking them in a pile is a great system. First, it takes no effort. You can quickly scan them to select what you want, and toss it back on top of the pile when you are done. Second, it’s self organizing. The books you refer to most often are more likely to be towards the top of the stack. For a small group, it’s an efficient system.
That, my love, is why I kick my shoes into the closet. What appears to be a random mess to the woman who sorts everything by colour and category, is actually the most effective way to organize and store a small set. Your system puts a priority on the aesthetic value of the result, mine maximizes efficiency. It makes perfect sense, just not to you.
Some people get terribly bothered when the word ‘literally’ is misused. If you know enough to know the difference, then you know what they intended to say, stop feeling so intellectually superior. Me, I get twitchy when well fed people refer to themselves as, ‘starving’.
I dislike hyperbole as the norm. It distorts perspective. Which generates entitlement.
If you become Mrs/Ms/Mr Grumpy Pants when your blood sugar falls a little, take responsibility for yourself, carry a granola bar, like an adult. Ten pounds overweight, and you skipped lunch, that’s a poor excuse for being a jerk. You’re not starving, you’re hungry, and that’s not a life threatening condition, behave accordingly.