One of the weirdest, and saddest, things about my elderly father's descent into the strange and bizarre world of frontal-lobe dementia is his repeated theme that tonight -- it's always *tonight* -- he is getting some type of award. It could be for work, for civic/charitable activity, whatever. But, apparently -- and I always sort of got this impression from him back in the sane(r) days as well, but now it's overwhelming -- he is fairly consumed by the notion that he never quite got his due, not in money, mind you, but in accolades.
Man... what a way to live.
I have seen the mantra written hundreds of times: dwelling in the past leads to regret; dwelling in the future leads to anxiety. Only by focusing on the here and now will you avoid regret and anxiety and just enjoy yourself.
Sounds pretty basic, but I started wondering about it terms of a word you hear all the time: ambition.
And I realized that, at this point of my life, I think I don't have any. And I think it's better that way.
When I say "ambition," I don't mean just "plans." We all have plans. Mine usually involve vacations and traveling, or hiking or music or whatever makes me happy. No, ambition is something bigger; it's driven by a feeling that you haven't achieved what you think you should (or want), and you are striving to get that thing.
And it's not necessarily bad, but, wow, as the old man reminds me every time that I see him ("Tonight!"), it can lead to either anxiety or regret if things don't work out.
My day job involves a very large employer and someone, it seems, is always retiring. So a common thread in group conversation among those of us for whom retirement is something on the near, rather than the far, horizon is a sort of "then what?" focus.
Invariably, someone will ask me what my own "plan" is: "Uhhhhh, trying to stay really happy?"
"What the fuck does that mean?" is usually the next line, often from a preposterously unhappy person.
I just want to be happy. And I usually am. I have done everything "big" in life that I ever wanted to do. I have traveled a lot, played music with talented people in great bands, met wonderful people, done some pretty fucking spectacular work in said day job (if I do say so myself, and, no, we aren't going to talk about that any more than that), married an amazing woman, had a couple of great kids and even tried put them as best I could on the path to being happy as well.
And that's about all the specific ambition I have: to keep on keeping on, and that mostly means doing things that make me happy. And don't think for a second that that is a small order. But it really is a pretty simple one. Exercise, good food, good friends, a great family and an emphasis on one word: fun. Anything more specific than that, and it could lead me to regret or anxiety.
And I am really really against both of those.
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