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Sunday, February 15, 2004

Transitional Meditation

Once again, I’ve pulled a month without posting—although this time it was unintentional. I could go on at length about the reasons for it—my latest round of struggles with blogging, as it were. But one of my New Years’ resolutions (remember them?) was to quit blogging about blogging. .

I’ve been preoccupied with other priorities, and I’m the type of person who has a hard time focusing on more than one project at a time. End of story.

What’s not end-of-story are my aches and pains. They seem to have taken a turn for the worse since the start of the new year, and to have become more omnipresent. I’m on the cusp of leaving my sixth decade behind (mathematical purists will point out that it’s actually seven--but never mind—when I say six, people know what I mean). The point is that I’m in danger of starting to buy into the numbers story by entertaining unhelpful, dark thoughts about what’s happening to my body, and what the next decade portends.

Ordinarily, when you start a new decade, you expect to be, do, and have more when it ends than when it began. But that’s only in effect up to a certain point. I’ve now reached that point in life where, for the first time, I’m facing the prospect of this customary ten-year expectation having expired. This is a frame of reference that I need to put into abeyance. It’s a daily wrestling match—one that threatens to bring my spirit crashing down if I don’t manage to create some new mindset in which to contain it.

One of the most vital lessons I’ve learned over these many years is that inspiration can come from truly anomalous, unexpected sources—if you keep yourself open to the possibility. A couple of days ago it was, of all things, an infomercial—some horseshit health product or other.

Per usual, I lunge for the remote to switch the channel when, at the last second, a testimonial begins which freezes my finger in mid-arc. Here’s this 80-year old surfer gliding onto the beach, nonchalantly throwing his surfboard over his shoulder, and striding triumphantly up to the camera. Probably an actor, but never mind, the words he begins uttering come straight into my space-of-listening like those old Bible cartoon books where the commands of the Almighty boom forth from the sky directly to the shaken, earth-bound figures below.

“I have a new outlook and it works!” he proclaims. “I don’t let myself worry anymore about my aches and pains and what they might signify. I just look at what I would enjoy doing and go out and do it. It’s like being a kid again except there’s no Mom saying no, or Dad saying it can’t be done.”

Of course, he attributes said new outlook to said horseshit health product, so now my finger completes its arc to the remote button. But the message of his words, carefully scripted, no doubt, lingers with me. It becomes a source of quasi-meditation that leads me to realize—and to accept, hopefully—that aches and pains are just the way it is, baby.

Welcome, Tom, to the new landscape. Get on with the business of living, or feel sorry for yourself. I’m beginning to learn that if my attention is on what I want to be doing instead of the aches and pains, guess what?--the object of focus is what predominates. I can have my aches and pains—and they don’t have to mean anything, or stand in the way of most things.

Not exactly the most profound of realizations, but it’s the kind of stuff about which you have to be hit on the side of the head from time to time. To close, I’ll allow myself one indulgence in blogging about blogging: blogging helps me make sense of my experience. That’s reason enough to not let myself quit.

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