November 20, 2005

Living Variously

The great affair, the love affair with life,
is to live as variously as possible,
to groom one's curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred,
climb aboard, and gallop over the thick, sun-struck hills every day.

Where there is no risk, the emotional terrain is flat and unyielding,
and, despite all its dimensions, valleys, pinnacles, and detours,
life will seem to have none of its magnificent geography, only a length.

It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery,

but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.

~ Diane Ackerman ~

("found poetry" from A Natural History of the Senses)

I sat sleepily in front of the computer screen deleting the spam in an early morning fog. How many Rolexes and doses of Cialis and Viagara does one need? How many times can I lower my mortgage rate? While acting as my own anti-spam agent, I almost deleted the daily poem that comes to me from someone named Joe Riley whom I do not know. Sometimes I read them but often they seem like an imposition on my busy day. It is not so much that I am really busy, but I just like to hurry. Hurrying makes me feel important. So I often delete these poems, these bits of fluff that are meant to uplift but most often do the opposite, before they ever see the light of day.

I must have been in an expansive mood that morning. I must have felt like my little world could possibly take something in and learn from it. Or maybe it was the title of the email: “The great affair.” “Affair” is always a promising word. So I clicked on the email and opened up to this poem.

“Yes!” I shouted to no one. I knew what this poem was talking about. It was not an “Eureka!” moment when you figure out the answer that you have been searching for. It was more of a confirmation of a lesson that I have been learning over the last six months. It was a concept that I had stumbled on through experience, not through books or words. I had been trying to put the right words to the experience, but I had not been doing it well. Here, in the poem, were the words.

Six months ago I started my RV adventure. It took me to many places and experiences and added energy and vigor to my life. In some ways it made no sense. Before that time I would have told you that I did not like to travel and that I did not like to drive. Both statements were true. And then all of a sudden I was off on these adventures and I did not know why. I just knew that I had to go. And the result was a very jazzed life that I loved.

And here in this poem were the words for it. I was living “as variously as possible.” What a great phrase! The key to what I was doing was not the content. It was the variety. As the poem says, I was grooming my curiosity. I was excited about all kinds of things. I was happy.

I have spent many years looking for the key to happiness. I always thought that if I found just the right combination of activities, then I would just repeat them and I would be happy forever. I must boast about my success in this venture. Over and over I found a set of activities to make me happy – to make me want to get up in the morning. So I would repeat them, but quickly the bloom would die. And I would stagnate. I would be left unhappy, bored and eventually depressed. At some point I would be off looking for a new set of activities, but the result would always be the same. Each time my success was short lived.

I am now living in one of those bored and stuck places again. As the cold weather has settled in, the RV season has ended. Campgrounds in the Northeast have closed, so my RV is shut down and I have shut down with it. But this poem has reminded me of the new lesson that I have learned. It is not about the activities themselves. It is about the process. For me it is about grooming my curiosity which had lay dormant for so many years. It is about following new paths to new adventures. But it is not about either the paths or the adventures. It is about the “following,” the moving, the flow, and the newness.

To live “variously.” That is my challenge. I found a way to do that through my RV. Now I must find a way to do it beyond the RV. I have no idea where it will take me. Wish me luck.