This photo was taken almost 4 years ago, and although its true that memories fade, and although you can't see my face in the picture, I'm pretty sure I was smiling. The dirt alone was enough to make a person cry, for heaven's sake, never mind the blisters, but I was grinning from ear to ear. I took this picture of my feet on the second day of the Boston 3-Day For the Cure, a 60-mile walk aimed at raising money and awareness to combat breast cancer. This was the first weekend in August, 2007 and it was 104 degrees. I don't think anyone's feet were made to sweat that much - so, yup - we got blisters - and heat rash - and sun burn. But no one that I encountered over those three days - and there were about 2,000 of us - no one, was whining. Why? Because the people of "The 3-Day" are a rising tide that inspires and lifts us all. I had never before been around that many strong, selfless, gracious and determined human beings in one place. The spirit of The 3-Day is infectious and I hope this blog will continue its spread. Maybe by talking about what I go through to fundraise and train for a 3-Day event, I can help people stay motivated and committed. I am proud to be associated with this cause. I am grateful I have the strength to walk. And I'm filled with joy that I can do it with such a great group of people. So I'll buck up and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Feel free to join me. But remember; no whining allowed!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Essay on Illusions - Part III; "C" Again

An octave above or below.

Well it took me seven months, but I finally got moved into the big corner office that came with my promotion (don't be jealous, it's in the basement). A new desk accompanied it but then the question arose as to what should be done with the old one. "The old one" is a circa 1980, cheap metal, faux wood-veneered monstrosity with drawers that no longer close and little round ball feet that fall out every time it's jostled. No amount of potted plants or pretty pencil cups or fancy business card holders can conceal its tacky decrepitness. So it was determined it could be disposed of. Poor quality and deteriorated condition aside, that desk was with me through a lot of years and I thought it deserved better than some uneventful hauling away, fading out of view and out of mind with no farewell ritual to mark its transition. So I started dreaming of something a little more. . . . memorable. My initial vision was of some type of Northern-Exposure-style catapulting of it. Our family catapult isn't mammoth enough for the task and the desk is not exactly aero-dynamic. We could take it apart and fling the pieces, but where's the fun in that? The thrill would be in seeing it smashed to bits; not carefully unbolted and loaded methodically into the bucket and launched to the sky one component at a time. But then I got an offer to have it be used for target practice by the police out at the firing range. I'm still working out the details. . . . Will keep you posted.

The point is, some people who know me well have been a little taken aback at my newly voiced deconstructionist tendencies. Here I am, the preservationist; the "green" planner who encourages developers to "adaptively reuse" obsolete buildings before they consider demolishing them to start with a clean slate. I've spent the last 15 years not only making sure that things got constructed, but that they got built the right way, with as little disruption as possible to the existing landscape, infrastructure and architectural fabric. And in my personal life, I recycle everything. The kids' clothes get worn by half a dozen youngsters before they're through. Books I'll never read again go to the Free Library. The old toaster oven that browns unevenly and the ugly desk lamp go to Big Sisters and the Salvation Army gets the rest. Waste not, want not - that's how I was raised. But this thing, this vintage mid-20th century pencil-pusher's dream, this hideous desk with the crooked foot and faulty drawer - well, it has got to go. And the more shrapnel-strewn and shattered the scene, the better.

My co-workers think I'm coming unglued when I talk about this. I remind them I'm the quintessential Gemini - the Twins - the split personality. It makes more sense to them that way. I also remind them that it is the things we choose to experience along our life-path that will define us. And just this once, I'd like to choose obliteration.

"It's all going to be very controlled and limited, with professionals involved," I say, trying to sound like myself. But still, there is puzzlement among those who have shared work-space with me for all these years. They look at me like I've morphed into something unrecognizable. So the question becomes: Is the real illusion that we can ever really know another person at all? We surprise ourselves sometimes at the things we're capable of, in both good ways and bad. So it shouldn't be a shock to learn that others close to us can surprise us as well.

Maybe my entire personality is the paradox. My left brain and my right; my builder/creator and my destroyer. The contradictory parts of me are both equally pure and "true" - they are authentic and real and representative. And I believe they are both valuable. In fact, any success I've had in life is due to my meshing of the two pieces. I concede that while I continue to play an active role in building up a better world, there may occasionally be a need to tear something down. There are certainly those among us who see annihilation and invention as mutually exclusive. But I believe it's possible that more of us than care to admit it are the walking, talking, breathing dichotomy that I am. That thing that is divided in half. The person with two non-overlapping parts that appear to be in opposition to each other - yet they can comprise a singular, awe-inspiring whole.

And speaking of awe-inspiring, I referenced the old show Northern Exposure earlier. If you don't remember the show or have never seen it, I think it's still possible to see the connection here. In the relevant episode, the townspeople get together to catapult a piano out onto the Alaskan tundra. Part of the rationale behind the flinging is "to create a pure moment." That desire for a pure moment seems even more germane to today's dialogue than it was 16 years ago when they made that episode. It's ironic that with all our technological advances, we've gained the ability to be a more connected and interactive society than ever before. There are opportunities to link up and network with our fellow humans seemingly every moment of every day. But how many of those moments are pure? How many are an authentic and meaningful exchange? How many could be called real connections that penetrate below the surface? The illusion of our incessant intermingling is one that deserves to be stripped away so we can get back to really relating with one another.

In the meantime, let's take a hard look at ourselves. Some of us truly are one thing or another; distinct and constant as the day is long. Others of us are destined to don shades of gray; variable and inconsistent to the delight of some and the vexation of others. As for me, I know what I am. I don't need Dr. Phil to tell me that my whole persona is a series of square pegs and round holes. There's no smoke and mirrors in my self-assessment. I have days where I nearly choke on forms, deadlines, schedules and expectations; when I'd rather dance or draw or sing. At the same time, I know I'll be the Steady-Eddy to the end - the blissfully malcontented team-player, the reliable one, the one who's good with numbers and linear processes; the one who gets it done - regardless of how mind-numbingly tedious it might be. I'll even pat myself on the back when I'm through. Yup. I'm going to keep bringing home the bacon. And frying it up in a pan. Just don't expect me to serve it with the usual side dishes.

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