Letter to Me, Aged 83

8/365 Matryoshka

Maybe I should be writing all this in bold caps for you my dear, since if you have managed to live this long I’m sure you’re mostly blind and completely deaf by now.  But I’m also certain you have the technology to enlarge my words and project them on to thin air 50 meters high, or convert them into shouting through implanted head phones or some such helpful communication device, all with the touch of your gnarled old fingers, in the year 2032.

Because if you haven’t changed too drastically I know you will have all the latest pads and pods and readers and gadgets at your fingertips, especially if your children and grandchildren still care enough to keep an old lady up to date.  And great-grandchildren.  Wow. Your self from way back here twenty years ago is having a hard time wrapping her head around that one.

So what can I tell you, now that you are a couple of decades older and wiser than you were in 2012?  This is very different from talking to my fourteen year old self (although I’m sure you’re not listening either) because I can’t give you any advice that wouldn’t be hopelessly old-fashioned by now.  All I can do is let you know what I hope in my heart you have become.

1.  Happy.  Please tell me you are happy with the things you’ve done and the places you’ve been and the people you’ve met in this lifetime.  If you’re not, shame on you, and there’s probably some great pills you should be taking for that, you grouchy old bag.

2.  Healthy.  You know, relatively speaking.  I hope your health issues are manageable and you’re not moaning and groaning and complaining all the time.  And I especially hope your main topic of conversation is not a long list of the people you know who died this week.

3.  Independent.  This one is a stretch when you’re in your eighties, but what I mean is that I sincerely hope you can still do many things for yourself on your own.  There is a fine balance here, because you also can’t be too proud to ask for help when you need it.  Just don’t be a burden.  And don’t climb up on the roof simply because you think you can get away with it.  Things like that could put you at the top of somebodys list of people who died this week.

4.  With it and Wise.  Yes, I know you’ve never really been either one of those things, but it’s never too late to try, is it?  If you’re not convinced that what you’re about to say makes sense, just sit there and say nothing.  People will mistake your silence for deep thought.  And I think it’s time you gave up the phrase “life is too short to….” because obviously some lives are not that short after all.

5.  Generous.  You can’t take it with you, whatever it is you’re clinging to, or whatever it is you’ve got in the bank or on paper or cluttering up your house.  If there are people around you who need it more than you do, give it away.  If they throw it in the trash once they’re out of sight, that’s okay too.  What you don’t know can’t hurt you.  And what you no longer have you also no longer have to dust.

6.  Kind and Loving.  Don’t ever stop loving your family and being there for them, no matter how extended or far-flung.  They’re the ones who will carry your memory with them after you’re gone, and it would be nice if those memories could be good and beautiful ones, not the kind that make them shake their heads and roll their eyes and pray they didn’t inherit any of your cantankerous disagreeable old genes.

7. At Peace with the World.   Stop fighting and accept the things you cannot change.  Let all those annoying young people you’re now surrounded by take over.  They have way more time and energy for all this nonsense than you do at this stage in your life.  Take a long nap.  You’ve earned it.

8. Unafraid.  Fear is such a waste of time and energy.  If you’ve been paying attention, you will have deduced from number seven that you don’t have huge amounts of either one of these things to spare. Don’t distress yourself with dark visions of doom.  You know what I’m talking about.  But if you’ve forgotten, never mind, that’s great, forget I mentioned it.  However, you should NOT give up your fear of stairs.  That’s a healthy one.

9. Tolerant, Understanding, Unbiased.  I hope you keep an open mind, even if you’re losing it. Never stop listening.  Never stop learning.

10. At Peace with your Soul.  Never regret who you were and who you are and whatever dumb and stupid things you did with your life.  You did a lot of good things too.  You deserve to be the happy, peaceful, loving soul of your dreams.  If what the psychic told you all those years ago is true, you have eleven more years to go.  I hope you enjoy every single minute of it.

Thirteen Lucky Fortune Cookies

Fortune cookies

Fortune cookies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1.  A merry heart does good like a medicine.

2.  You have an unusual equipment for success.  Use it properly.

3.  Truth is an unpopular subject because it is unquestionably correct.

4.  Land is always in the mind of the flying birds.

5.  Not all closed eye is sleeping, nor open eye is seeing.

6.  It’s a good thing that life is not as serious as it seems to the waiter.

7.  If you eat a box of fortune cookies, anything is possible.

8.  You are not a ghost.

9.  You are thinking about doing something.  Don’t do it.  It won’t help.

10.  The quotes that you do not understand are not meant for you.

11.  Do not upset the penguin today.

12.  People who are late are often happier than those who have to wait for them.

13.  Only a fool seeks wisdom in dessert.

It’s A Heat Wave (Just Jazzy 1)

It’s so scorching hot we’re breaking records.  But it is summer, right?  And that’s what’s to be expected so we might as well grin (while drinking things that contain lots of ice) and bear it.

Or bare it, as the case may be.

Jazzy is a name that came up in some book or other that I read awhile ago, and the name has been in my head ever since.  Then this little character turned up in a doodle.  They seemed right for each other somehow.

She has great hair and likes wine.  She steals wisdom from the tarot deck and the stars and shares it, trying not to be preachy and failing miserably.

But she’s cute, so I expect she’ll get away with it.

And besides all that, my brain is cooked and can’t come up with anything else.  Work with air conditioning (and a dairy aisle in the grocery section that could give you frost bite) is where I’m happily headed today and tomorrow.  And then the temperature is supposed to go down a degree or two.  Enjoying the sizzling moments until then.

Heroes on a Holiday Monday

Happy Victoria Day Weekend!  I’ve worked the Saturday and the Sunday of it, so it’s hard to get overly excited about a Monday off, although any day off work is worth celebrating.

For the past week or so I’ve been watching the tv show “Heroes” on Netflix.  At first my intention was to view only season four, which I never watched the first time around.  Then I thought it might be a good idea to watch it all from the beginning, so that season four would make sense.  THEN I got completely hooked on watching every single episode, and ‘just one more’ before doing whatever else needed doing and should have been a priority.  Like going to sleep, for example.

Today at last I’m going to get into the fourth season.  Even though my brain is now completely overloaded with villians and heroes and time travel.  And people who die a violent death in one episode and then come back for a do-over in the next.  And change the future and save the world so many times that you begin to wonder why they persist.

I think I’ve discovered the reason why I’m still kind of hopelessly drawn to the whole thing and need to see it out to the bitter end.  It’s because of Mohinder Suresh and his wonderful voice-overs.  The fact that he’s easy to look at doesn’t hurt either.  I tried to keep the list short, but decided that’s impossible.  So here they are.

Where does it come from? This quest, this need to solve life’s mysteries when the simplest of questions can never be answered. Why are we here? What is the soul? Why do we dream? Perhaps we’d be better off not looking at all. Not delving, not yearning. That’s not human nature. Not the human heart. That is not why we are here. Yet still we struggle to make a difference. To change the world. To dream of hope. Never knowing for certain who we’ll meet along the way. Who, among the world of strangers, will hold our hand. Touch our hearts. And share the pain of trying.

We all imagine ourselves the agents of our destiny, capable of determining our own fate. But have we truly any choice in when we rise? Or when we fall? Or does a force larger than ourselves bid us our direction? Is it evolution that takes us by the hand? Does science point our way? Or is it God who intervenes, keeping us safe?

For all his bluster, it is the sad province of man that he cannot choose his triumph. He can only choose how he will stand when the call of destiny comes, hoping he will have the courage to answer.

When a change comes, some species feel the urge to migrate, they call it zugunruhe. “A pull of the soul to a far off place,” following a scent in the wind, a star in the sky. The ancient message comes calling the kindred to take flight and gather together. Only then can they hope to survive the cruel season to come.

Evolution is imperfect and often a violent process. A battle between what exists and what is yet to be born. Amidst these birth pains, morality loses its meaning, the question of good and evil reduced to one simple choice: survive or perish.

You do not choose your destiny, it chooses you. And those that knew you before Fate took you by the hand cannot understand the depth of the changes inside. They cannot fathom how much you stand to lose in failure…that you are the instrument of flawless Design. And all of life may hang in the balance. The hero learns quickly who can comprehend and who merely stands in your way.

The Earth is large. Large enough that you think you can hide from anything. From Fate. From God. If only you found a place far enough away. So you run. To the edge of the Earth. Where all is safe again. Quiet, and warm. The solace of salt air. The peace of danger left behind. The luxury of grief. And maybe, for a moment, you believe you have escaped.

You can run far, you can take your small precautions. But have you really gotten away? Can you ever escape? Or is it the truth that you did not have the strength or cunning to hide from destiny? That the world is not small. you are. And, fate can find you anywhere.

In the beginning there was discovery. A confusion of elements. The first snowfall of impossible change. Old lives undone, left behind. Strange faces, made familiar. New nightmares, to challenge sleep. New friends, to feel safe with. Only then comes control. The need to impose order unto chaos, through determination, through study, through struggle. All in defiance of a thundering truth. They’re here, and the earth shudders underfoot.

When we embrace what lies within, our potential knows no limit. The future is filled with promise. The present, rife with expectation. But when we deny our instinct, and struggle against our deepest urges… Uncertainty begins. Where does this path lead? When will the changes end? Is this transformation a gift… or a curse? And for those that fear what lies ahead… The most important question of all… Can we really change what we are?

To survive in this world, we hold close to us those on whom we depend. We trust in them our hopes, our fears… But what happens when trust is lost? Where do we run, when things we believe in vanish before our eyes? When all seems lost, the future unknowable, our very existence in peril… All we can do is run.

The sun rises on a new dawn. Yet few of us realize the debt we owe to those responsible for this. To those who dwell among us. Anonymous, seemingly ordinary, whom destiny brought together to heal, to save us, from ourselves.

It is man’s ability to remember that sets us apart. We are the only species that is concerned with the past. How memories give us voice. And to bear witness to history so that others might learn. So that they might celebrate our triumphs and be warned by our failures.

There is a moment in every war where everything changes. A moment when the road bends. Alliances and battle lines shift. And the rules of engagement are rewritten. Moments like these can change the nature of the battle, and turn the tide for either side. So we do what we can to understand them. To be ready for change, we steady our hearts, curb our fears, muster our forces, and look for signs in the stars. But these moments, these game changers, remain a mystery. Destiny’s invisible hand, moving pieces on a chessboard. No matter how much we prepare for them – how much we resist the change, anticipate the moment, fight the inevitable outcome – in the end, we are never truly ready when it strikes.

There is good, and there is evil. Right, and wrong. Heroes and villains. And if we are blessed with wisdom, then there are glimpses between the cracks of each where light streams through. We wait in silence for these times, when sense can be made. When meaningless existence comes into focus, and our purpose presents itself. And if we have the strength to be honest,  what we find there, staring back at us, is our own reflection. Bearing witness to the duality of life. And each one of us is capable of both the dark, and the light.. the good and evil, of either, of all. And destiny, while marching ever in our direction can be rerouted by the choices we make. By the love we hold on to, and the promises we keep.

Generations unfold — father to son, mother to daughter. Where one leaves off, the other follows, destined to repeat each other’s mistakes, each other’s triumphs. For how do we see the world if not through their lens? The same fears, the same desires? Do we see them as an example to follow, or as a warning of what to avoid? Choosing to live as they have, simply because it’s what we know, or driven to create one’s own identity? And what happens when we find them to be a disappointment? Can we replace them? Our mothers, our fathers? Or will destiny find a way to drive us back? Back to the familiar comforts of home?

It is our nature to protect our children. For each generation to pass on their cautionary tales to the next. So it is with the myth of Icarus, the legend of a boy who fashioned wings from feathers and wax, daring to fly into the heavens. His father was fearful and warned Icarus to be careful, begging him not to tempt fate by flying too close to the sun. But in the end, the boy couldn’t resist. His waxen wings melted from the sun’s rays. And he plunged to his death.

For every being cursed with self awareness, there remains the unanswerable question, “Who am I?” We struggle to find meaningful connections to one another. We are the caring friend, the loving father, the doting mother, the protected child. We fight and we love in the hope that somehow, together, we can understand our significance in the universe. But in the end, no one can share our burden. Each of us alone, must ask the question, “Who am I? What does it mean to be alive? And in the vast infinity of time, how do I matter?”

There are nearly seven billion people on this planet. Each one unique. Different. What are the chances of that? And why? Is it simply biology, physiology that determines this diversity? A collection of thoughts, memories, experiences that carves out our own special place? Or is it something more than this? Perhaps there’s a master plan that drives the randomness of creation. Something unknowable that dwells in the soul, and presents each one of us with a unique set of challenges that will help us discover who we really are.

We are all connected. Joined together by an invisible thread, infinite in its potential and fragile in its design. Yet while connected, we are also merely individuals. Empty vessels to be filled with infinite possibilities. An assortment of thoughts, beliefs. A collection of disjointed memories and experiences. Can I be me without this? Can you be you? And if this invisible thread that holds us together were to sever, to cease, what then? What would become of billions of lone, disconnected souls? Therein lies the great quest of our lives. To find. To connect. To hold on. For when our hearts are pure, and our thoughts in line, we are all truly one. Capable of repairing our fragile world, and creating a universe of infinite possibilities.

There are many ways to define our fragile existence, many ways to give it meaning. But it is our memories that shapes its purpose and give it context. The private collection of images, fears, loves, regrets… we choose the importance of each. Building our own unique histories, one memory at a time. Hoping the ones we chose to remember don’t betray us or trap us. For it is the cruel irony of life that we are destined to hold the dark with the light, the good with the evil. This is what separates us, what makes us human. And at the end, we must fight to hold on.

HEROES
HEROES (Photo credit: Keng Susumpow)

If you read all of that, wow – good for you.  You must have almost as much time on your hands today as I do!  But all this philosophical meandering is what sets this series apart and makes it worth watching, despite all the blood and violence.  It’s not so much about heroes and villians and black and white, but about the myriad of traits mixed up inside every one of us and the things we ultimately do for whatever misguided reasons.  Who is right and who is wrong?  Who really knows.

Travel Lessons

My number one best travel lesson for everyone is: don’t go anywhere. If you take that advice seriously, there’s really no reason for you to read the rest of this.

However, if you find you MUST get on a plane or take to the road or cross a perilous big ocean, I’ve got words of wisdom for when such circumstances cannot be avoided. Or for those times when you temporarily lose your sanity and choose to take a trip on purpose.

Glue your passport to a body part. It’s the only completely sure way there is of knowing where to find it at all times. Make a check list of everything you will be upset about if you forget to take it. Have some kind of an itinerary. But be fully prepared to suddenly not want to pay the slightest bit of attention to that. It’s your holiday; you can do whatever you want.

Keep things simple. Pack light. Slow down.

Relax and pay attention to what’s happening right now, right before your eyes. Be where you are. Stop stressing over some distant destination. After a few days of rushing around trying to take in every recommended tourist attraction, you’ll be more than ready to throw that guidebook in the garbage.

Take a dependable camera that isn’t likely to die on the trip before you do.

If you’re very lucky, you will have a travelling companion who doesn’t annoy the hell out of you; if that isn’t possible, go it alone. Just remember that wherever you are and whoever you meet along the way, kindness is universal. There is joy to be found in the simplest places and in the simplest moments.

There is always a good reason to come home, otherwise we’d all be nomads with credit cards living in hotels. Top on this list is probably that you spent way more than you thought you would, and now you’re out of money and must get back to making more of it so you can blow it all on your next excursion.

You may forget about half of the things you saw, but you won’t forget the people you met and the things you learned about how they live their lives.

And this is a hard and bitter truth to accept, but the fact is, not everyone back home is going to pay rapt attention to the 1,556 photos in your travel album no matter how enthusiastic you are about explaining each and every one of them in minute detail.

Embrace the silence and the stillness and the peace you didn’t appreciate until you took off on your wild adventure. Enjoy the memories.

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