Its one of those full full full moments. I never write in these, because the threads don’t seem to untangle themselves. But I want to now.
A friend’s father is dying and I stood with her today, October sunlight streaming in across her face as she told how much dying was like being born. The messy-ness. The dependence. That we focus on the positive of birth and the negative of death but it really isn’t so cut and dry really. It is all nature.
Today I am more interested in the tangles. Driving in that same sunshine I feel the poignancy of the leaves clinging to the trees. This is Vermont…they are doomed. But beautiful in their finite-ness. I have seen these leaves every day all season. I watched them unfurling in the spring. Today is different. I see each leaf. Some of you live without seasons. I like them. Measuring time through cyclic change, and how each stage makes the other more meaningful. Grey makes sunshine brighter. Heat makes cold colder. You get it. Today I am primed to feel it. The almost gone leaves, waiting for whats next, but still feeling what is here RIGHT NOW.
A few days ago the first ever boy that I loved messaged me on Facebook. I hear that this happens. I hear that it can be fun, creepy, or destructive to marriages. So far this has been none of those things. But it has still taken me back.
He said. “I just can’t take it anymore…I have to say hi.” What a big build up… Hi. Hello. I remember him. The only red head I have ever spent time with. Bigger nose than mine. More acne than me. Funnier, more confident, and much much more musical. That mattered a lot at camp Encore/Coda folks. I really do think I loved him. I can’t remember a single conversation. I do remember that with him sitting on the “beach” was the first time I ever felt like me. It was the first time I left myself and really tried to see me through another person’s eyes, and what I imagined he saw and what I felt about myself lined up. It would have been faster to say I felt like myself with him. But it was more than that. I felt like I knew myself with him.
Can you believe it has been 25 years he asked. Fuck no.
We are old. I wrote back. We are and we aren’t of course. To have memories that are 25 years old is the sort of thing that happens to older people. People who have lived some of their lives.
Last month. Or this month. Lets say last month. I traveled to PA to give a speak at a conference. It was on what used to be my most expert topic: my father and his rock collection. It has been a decade since I spoke about him publicly, and in his honor I did not plan. I made some slides and said what came to mind as I looked at them. I was a breathe away from calling him an asshole on stage. I called him a provocateur instead, but I’m pretty sure the audience was able to crack that code. He was alive to me again.
Really how did he do it? He dropped out of the only high school that didn’t kick him out and was virtually illiterate. He trusted his own views so strongly, so intensively that he resurrected an art form from across the world. He convinced scholars to study them and the greatest museums to display them. He was so mono focused and borderline megalomaniacal that he began sculpting these ancient pieces himself. Pretty sure that his hand would add value.
One of the many questions that occurs to me repeatedly without resolution is something about doggedness. But beyond doggedness it is about believing in yourself or your mission so strongly that you ignore context and proportion. Here is an example. I worked for a small non profit. This was SMALL. I was the only employee (executive director, directing no one). One day the founder read of a million dollar local gift to the ECHO center. A non profit which houses an aquarium and research facilities for Lake Champlain. I can look up the stats but I won’t, just trust me. In every measurable way it was hundreds of times larger than our 501c3. The founder read the little article out loud to me. I began to distractedly celebrate the gift to ECHO when I saw her wrinkled brow. “Why didn’t we get that gift?” she asked me. And she meant it.
Is that the attitude that gets incredible things done? Or is it dangerous? I don’t have a final answer. I ask it all the time. I think it can be one, the other or both. Like most things it depends on context and timing.
Meeting with a start up the other day I was pushy. I wanted that founder to suffer for his product. The other, more level headed advisor at the table talked us down. It doesn’t matter what your line is, he said. Just that you know what it is. Second mortgage? Family relocation? Getting money from mom? Whatever the line. Draw it. As an investor I want that line to be one step from the grave. But is that attitude the one that builds healthy companies? Certainly not always. I’m at the stage in my angel investing when companies are starting to show their stripes. Some winding down, some ramping up. Many repositioning, responding to the market. I used to think it was crazy that corporation merited near personhood status in the eyes of the law. Now I understand. They are born, they grow, they die. The teenagers talk back.
I used to imagine that the story of the rocks was the story I would tell. He made them magical. It is not. They speak more softly to me now. I have begun to see the physical objects as clutter, and my connection to them is about a shared history with my father, not the objects themselves.
Walking down the school hallway after reading with each of my son’s classes I felt so lucky. The light, the fact that the panes of glass stretched from one post edge to another, so I could see from the hallway right out to the school garden. What great glass. How much better than a window. I am inside and outside. My body warm. My mind able to travel. Go architecture. Go school board for building the not cheapest possible hallway. Go me for noticing. How lucky to be in this hall, and have my kids in this school, and have my kids, and be alive.
What a day today was.
Reading with kids, working on my own schedule, watching the film shorts at the Firehouse Gallery, arguing with a startup founder, Really caring where to put the carpet seams. This is it. I am not in Somalia fishing without a net. I am not in a hospital room waiting for whatever is next. I am here getting to live it. Whatever it is.