One of the loudest nights I ever spent was in one of the quietest places I’ve ever been.
Many years ago, when dinosaurs walked the Earth and I lived on the Upper West Side, I found myself with an unexpected week off from work. I decided to take advantage of the time and visit my mom up in Maine. Now, when I say up in Maine, I mean we drove for fifteen minutes one night to go to dinner….in Canada! What was more shocking than that however was just how loud it was when I tried going to sleep the first night I was there.
People have this expectation of NYC being super noisy 24/7, and I suppose that might be true in certain places like Times Square, but I had never experienced anything like I did in Maine. It seemed like once the sun went down every insect, amphibian, moose and muskrat started singing their love songs. It was an all encompassing sound that never seemed to stop, one that was as unnerving as it was complete.
Conversely I’ve spent some of the quietest nights very recently in my life, here in my apartment. Typically it seems like there is always some noise in the background – the heating pipes coughing to life, some traffic on the streets, stuff like that – but every so often I realize I can’t hear anything. It happens late at night, after I’ve gone to bed but before my mind has finally stopped racing. All of a sudden I’ll notice that there is pure silence, nothing to listen to, nothing to hear, and once again it is as unnerving as it is complete.
Quiet nights in the darkness are not always good for me, and the one I had recently was particularly interesting. (I use “interesting” because it is a far less depressing term than some that might be more accurate.) Without mentioning all of the stops the thought train took, I’ll jump ahead to the final station.
I recognized that although I may talk about and think about long term goals, I very rarely do anything to pursue them. Even short term goals seem to be beyond my reach often times. If no-term goals exist, I excel at them. Years ago I thought about the difference between living “in the moment” and “for the moment.” The first recognizes being aware of, and fully participating in, the present, being prepared for where you are right now. The second to me refers more towards living only for right now and not worrying about (or even considering) the consequences of your choices and actions. I tried to convince myself that I was much more about being “in the moment” than “for the moment” but that was about as effective as trying to tell myself I lost weight by buying smaller clothes, even though I knew they didn’t fit.
A friend of mine told me recently that if a person really wants something, doesn’t just pay lip service to it but truly means it, they will want to get up and do something to make that happen. I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately, and after I finally fell asleep and woke the next day, still pondering the thoughts from my eerily quiet night, I understood that part of what it would take to make that happen is to pay more attention to what I wanted in the long term, and how my short term (and even immediate) actions would affect that. Simply put, I need to stop and ask myself before doing most anything that requires a choice “Is this good for where I want to be headed?” I don’t always like the answer I come up with, mostly because almost universally the answer is no, and that smacks in the face of the instant gratification lifestyle I have perfected, but it has also taught me to look at the decisions I’m making in a different way. Instead of focusing on what I might be losing now, I instead try to focus on what I might be gaining in the future.
It’s not an easy process to be sure, and part of me feels like I’m making it even harder by talking about it. Many people feel that if they put something out there in the open so other people can know about it, it forces them to be more accountable. Instead of just doing it for themselves they are also doing it for other people, and they do not want to let them down. Me, I’m kind of the opposite. Thanks to the dark recesses of my mind I feel so accustomed to letting people down that this just gives me a better opportunity to do disappoint more people at the same time. (For the record, this is why I’ve never been hired to write inspirational posters.)
So if this is the case, why am I doing this? Self fulfilling prophecy? I certainly ope not. Turning over a new leaf? That would be nice. Something in the middle? Most likely. It’s been a heady few weeks for me, getting the novel finalized and out there, and will continue to be, between my friend’s wedding in Key West, the book signing event I’m putting together for while I’m down there, and the uncertainly of my living situation, and I think that this blog, this thought process, this whatever is important because it helps to give me some sort of grounding in the middle of it all. Who knows.
The truth is it’s all a process, every step of the way, and each accomplishment only brings about the next aspect of the journey. I used to joke about going to Buffett tailgates when people would say it’s a marathon and not a sprint by responding “No. It’s a sprint, a nap and a sprint.” Maybe it’s just (finally) time I realized I need to put away my running shoes and put on my walking shoes.
Bonus track. Until I wrote the last line I had no idea what song to listen to. This is what that line inspired.