Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Kick in the pants

The Universe offers opportunities every day. Most of the time I miss them because I'm focused on the wrong things. I get focused on my job and earning a living, occasionally rounding up the laundry spreading out of the basket and onto the floor, corralling books and even washing the dishes in the sink on a semi-annual basis. I get so focused I can't hear what the Universe is telling me . . . and then I get nudged. A big neon sign buzzes in my head, obliterating pleasant dreams of vacations and breakfast in bed and flying through the sky without benefit of airplanes. When even that fails to get my attention, the Universe resorts to replaying horror novels I've read, turning pleasant dreams into dark and dangerous places where nightmares shamble with murderous intentions. Even that doesn't work sometimes. The Universe, a patient and generous consciousness, eventually resorts to a kick in the pants when I ignored even the most horrific dreams.

I got a kick in the pants today and all I can say is, "Yes, I got the message."

Ever have that happen to you?

It's so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day debris that clutters our minds and our dreams, especially when just getting through another day without yelling at your kids or your spouse and not taking the Uzi out of the trunk when you get to work is all you can manage. All too often, we push aside our dreams and desires for right now and before we know it right now becomes two years or even a decade later. Dreams don't die, but they can lose their grip on the heart and mind when put on the back burner for too long.

We have become a society of waiters (and I don't mean the kind who serve food in restaurants), mortgaging the here and now for some day. (That's mañana to those who speak Spanish.) Problem is that mañana--or tomorrow--never come.

It's a strange thing to ponder, but tomorrow never does come. Yesterday is past. Can't do anything about that. Tomorrow is always coming but then becomes today. Thus, tomorrow is always out there--and unfulfilled promise, a blank slate, an idea whose time never comes. As soon as the clock strikes midnight plus one minute, tomorrow becomes today and tomorrow is still out there . . . a goal whose only end point is death.

When my father was diagnosed with terminal metastatic cancer, I knew he didn't have much time left. I read the reports. I didn't bow to my family's wishes and give my boss an ultimatum, jump on the first plane and fly home right then. I gambled that Dad would be around long enough for me to be able to go and see him. I had two choices. I could see and talk to him before he died or I could see his body in coffin at his funeral. I couldn't do both. I couldn't afford it. I banked on Dad being able to hang on long enough for a window of opportunity to open. I really didn't think he go so quickly. I thought he'd be around at least until summer. I was wrong. Luckily, he hung on until I got there so I could see him, tell him how much I loved him and say goodbye. As it turned out, he didn't have long. I gambled and won--in a sense. But what if my gamble hadn't paid off? I would have had to settle for saying goodbye to his corpse in front of a gathering of family and friends. I know what that's like. My grandfather died and I was over 2000 miles away. I didn't even get to say goodbye to his corpse. I couldn't afford it. I have always regretted that. I would have regretted it even more if he and Gram hadn't come to visit me six months before. It is some comfort knowing the last thing he talked about before he went to bed and didn't wake up again was that visit when he went to see Pearl (that's me).

I've been incredibly lucky in my life. I have managed to keep just a finger breadth out of harm's way. I have also been incredibly stupid. I have waited too long for some things and walked away because I got tired of waiting. Nothing happens without expending effort.

The Universe, that patient and generous consciousness, will give us everything we ask. All we need to do is ask. Wanting it is not enough. Wanting something, even when you want it more than anything else, is opening the door to perversity in a way. You want something? The Universe will let you want it. You chose the terms and the Universe generously complies.

I want (fill in the blank).

Guess what? The Universe gives you everything you ask. You will know want. You asked for that deep down ache in the pit of your soul. What you should have done is ask for the dream. Not, "I want . . .", but "I decide, I choose."

Confusing? It was to me, too. It's still a bit slippery when I work to pin it down.

It's all about the phrasing. Think Daniel Webster and the Devil. Think Roark and Fantasy Island. Think fairy gold. Now do it again.

Words have power and intent is everything. A man in the midst of a middle age crisis walks out into his back yard. His life is unhappy and all he can think to do is pull the trigger on the gun or drain the bottle of alcohol or the bottle of tranquilizers. Instead, he looks up into the night sky and calls out into the darkness, "I want a great love in my life." He goes back into the house and puts away the gun or alcohol or pills and he waits and waits and waits and waits . . . Nothing happens. He feels that deep down ache in the pit of his soul that comes with wanting something so much it hurts. He got what he asked--to WANT.

Take the same man with the same feeling of unhappiness as he considers ending his existence because he is unhappy and unfulfilled and drowning in depression and isolation and anger. He's tired of holding his tongue and muttering what he really feels under his breath. There aren't enough projects in the world to keep his mind off what he's missing and what he could have if he had the courage to step away from the dark abyss of his existence and take hold of what he's been offered. Instead, of waiting and wanting, he makes a decision. "I will have a great love in my life." He knows where love is and he knows how to get there and he's tired of wanting. The Universe responds and gives him what he creates in his mind and heart and soul. He gets his great love.

Or not.

The Universe may just kick him in the pants, like it kicked me today. I didn't ask for love. I asked for a sign, a purpose. It came. From all the errors and mistakes and frustrations today I got my answer. I checked something I take for granted and noticed a mistake. I helped to figure out the problem but fixing it would take time. I hadn't planned on taking time. I wanted to get in, get out and get back to the daily grind. I got a lesson instead. The mistakes led to another mistake that had to be fixed and more time. While I helped put everything back together again, the conversation took a different turn. I should have seen it a year ago. I didn't. I still didn't get the message at first. It rolled around in my head while I finished the job I thought would take about an hour and that took four hours. On the way home, bits of the conversation kept surfacing and replaying. The Universe quit kicking me. I finally got it. I went from wanting something to change to creating a change. Suddenly, it all made sense.

It means a lot of work but what will come out of that work will be worth the effort. For the first time in a very long time I'm not pushing Sisyphus's boulder up the hill only to have it roll back down on me. And I realized something else. I got what I asked for. I know what it is to want. No more. I don't want anything. Now I know how to create and how to make my dreams real. It's all about the words.

Imagine that. A writer whose life is in the words who couldn't figure out which words were the right ones. Live and learn. Still confused? Me, too, just a little. But I'm learning. I finally know how to get it. Ask.

That is all. Disperse.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Early spring cleaning

One of the hardest things to do is decide what you can and cannot live without. Sometimes it's a matter of getting rid of precious and valued items in order to continue living.

Colorado is my home. I have ties here and I doubt I could find anyone who would step up to the plate and take over editing the ham club's newsletter. It took them several years to find someone to replace the guy I replaced who couldn't get rid of it fast enough. People in the ham club knew I was the editor months before I did. I have produced the newsletter for a year now and at least some people like what I've done with it. It's colorful and informative, sometimes controversial, and always on time. As a writer and editor, I long ago learned the value of deadlines. There is always someone who thinks they can send things late and still get it in, but that doesn't work with me. I have relaxed the deadline for individuals on occasion, but it's not (I hope) common knowledge. I have also pushed my personal deadline to the edge but the newsletter has always gone to the printer and to the webmaster and membership officer by the first of every month, with one exception (when I was in Ohio to see my father). I understand people get busy and need a little more time, but if they don't tell me until after the deadline, my answer has to be, "It's too late." That's what I have to do this morning. I sent the newsletter to the printer, webmaster and membership officer last night. I can't call it back now. The email version of the newsletter has already gone out.

Now to the uncomfortably personal stuff.

The trip to Ohio cost me much more than I expected and now I'm juggling bills and falling behind. If I pay this bill (and I don't have a lot of bills) then I can't pay that bill. I had to catch up the rent last payday because fixing the car in Kansas in order to get home took all my money, leaving me with just enough for gas to get home and food for a week. (The meals were skimpy that week and continued my weight loss from being sick and having to deal with family for a week.) I'm still on a limited budget and if it weren't for a few regular writing gigs, I would be living on hope and air and lots and lots of water. It will take me two more weeks to catch up but the landlord expects to be paid on time. I understand. I like for my boss to pay me on time--even though that hasn't happened on a few occasions. That brings me to spring cleaning.

I brought back quite a few of my books and personal items, things I have missed since I left Columbus eight years ago. It was good to see them all again and to go back through and read some of the books I have had for years and enjoyed many times, always getting something new each time I read them. I'm not a materialistic person but books are something else altogether. They have been friend and comfort and even mentor on occasion, taking me to worlds and places to meet people that shared their troubles and adventures and made my life a little brighter and my troubles a little less dire. Many of the books are rare editions that have been out of print for decades (even a couple of centuries on a few) and some have been signed and inscribed by the author or someone who was important in my life.

I'm getting rid of them.

Yesterday, I spent a good part of the day going through all the books and pulling out those that were rare, out of print, signed first editions. I photographed them and put them up for sale on eBay. I don't have a choice. And it is so hard letting go of them. I don't have a choice. I also put up for sale my HW-9 ham radio rig in the custom built portable cabinet. I sacrificed a lot to buy it and it means more to me than all the books because the case was especially built for me. I hurt to put it out there but if I want to continue living here, I have to decide what is more important.

I'll still have my memories and at least I won't have to worry about what happens to my Andre Norton books after I'm gone, a subject that has been hotly debated since it was discovered I had them. Many of the books were from Andre's personal collection. She gave them to me when she found out my collection had been stolen. A box came in the mail one day and it was full of books, her books, many of which were signed first editions. She went through her personal library and gave me one of everything she had written to date. After that she sent me new books right after she received them and long before they were available on the shelf. When I visited her she led me through the library and told me to take whatever I wanted. I have several uncorrected proofs of her books and when they arrive, they will go up for sale, too. I think she would understand. She went through something similar . . . but for a very different reason.

She found out the woman she trusted and had planned to hand over the keys to her kingdom (her home and the library she built) didn't want them. She hated the library and wanted to dismantle it. She got her wish. After Andre had come home from the hospital (she had had abdominal surgery) she went out to her library and she and I went through all the books. Booksellers and collectors came from all over the country (and a few from outside the U.S.) to go through the books and buy what they wanted. Little by little, piece by piece, her dream died before her eyes. She told me she wished that she had offered me the keys instead of Rose, but it was too late.

Everything she collected, all her awards and so many of the items that sparked her dreams and grew into the stories that lightened my life and sparked my dreams . . . and the dreams of countless others. She had a lot more to give up than I do, but it hurts just as much. It's a choice: my home here or hitting the road. I choose home, my home.

That is all. Disperse.