My dog can plop down anywhere and take a nap. There is rarely much pomp and circumstance before her many impromptu naps. However, when she really wants to settle in for a long and intentional slumber, she turns around three times, plopping down after that final third spin, settling her silhouette into the cushion of whichever of her many bedding options she has chosen. Then, almost like clockwork, she lets out a deep and rumbling sigh, licks her nose ever so slightly, and gets comfortable for the foreseeable future.
As I embark on the upcoming year, will it be my “third spin” before settling in?
I’m about to embark upon my third year in my adopted hometown (of which I’ve had many over the years). And while this might not seem all that important of a detail, I must point out that I haven’t lived for more than three years in a row in any location in close to 20 years. So, recent history as a guide suggests that after this year I’m due to move on. While I have no real aspirations to do so, in part because I like what I’m doing – not to mention that I’m getting older and sick of being nomadic – I have to wonder if something will transpire over the course of the next year that will push me away. Maybe I get restless easily. Those places where I’ve spent no more than three years in a row, when did I get tired enough of them to move on? In some instances I can trace that moment back to the arrival at said spot; in others it was more of a straw and camel situation. And those places I’ve spent even less time in? Well, those were either bad decisions out of the gate or limited engagements for one reason or another. The point is, I move on, a lot.
Have you ever really liked a place even in spite of everything working against you (even if brought on by yourself)? Without being too vague, what I mean by that is, for many of us we amble through life but hit an extended losing streak (which no doubt involves, at least in part, an accumulation of our own bad decisions, lacks of effort, and/or apathy/stubbornness), and while we’re held down for a while, we still see some glimmer of hope, even if it stays out of reach. And even if we leave, moving onto greener pastures (browner, sometimes), we still reflect fondly on certain places, maybe idealistically, maybe in some form of a revisionist way, or maybe because we know we could do that place better if circumstances had been different. Sometimes those aspects of a place that stick with us only highlight what we should seek elsewhere; maybe that place is the gateway to where we really should be, an educational refinery of experiences helping us to cultivate our whims and desires in the ongoing search for happiness.
I think the “good book” said something about putting away childish things, meaning eventually we need to grow up and be adults. Whether or not that is good advice is as subjective as anything, but I guess to prepare for our future and comfort, we do have to be a little more committed to providing the necessities for now and later. But if everything aligned except the place, could you ever be truly happy? Truly settled? You might have a great job, a great house, a great spouse, great friends, and enough money to live comfortably, but if you lived in a desolate wasteland with no amenities, no natural beauty, and no outlets for recreation and socialization, I somehow doubt it’d be a great life. Just the opposite: you could live in an idyllic oasis but not have the money to live well or the friends to live meaningfully; life would be less than grand. More often than not it is some mixture of the two. The point is, if there is one, that sometimes we’re close, but still not completely aligned. This may require some sacrifice or compromise, or perhaps an attitude adjustment to recalibrate and be realistic based on all the variables involved. But, if you’re like me, then it may just rely on aspects outside of your control and a never-ending wanderlust and desire for what has been idealized in the mind. Wishful thinking, perhaps.
Sometimes in places where I don’t live, but am visiting, I get wrapped up in the romanticism of it, and sometimes, that romanticism signals my true place connection. This is always based on abundant natural beauty coupled with as little direct societal intrusion as possible (i.e., people and their ways of ruining everything). So, as I embark upon my third year, am I in a place that is abundantly beautiful? No. Am I in a place where people don’t overrun everything and generally intrude on my serenity? No. Uh-oh, that doesn’t bode well for year four, does it?
But, since I claim I’m becoming more realistic as I age, more diplomatic, and hopefully a little smarter, I’ve started to consider my options as two necessary halves of my whole: what I need to do and what I want to do. The former, what I need to do, leaves me just where I am, doing just what I’m doing, for as long as humanly possible – accepting that not all is perfect, nor will it ever be in that place, but that it provides me great opportunity to do the latter: what I want to do (within reason) – though this, too, also requires sacrifice. I can only sample “what I want to do” for a little while; hopefully eventually I can revel in it…
The dog seems to be happy just about anywhere, as long as she gets lots of love, attention and exercise, and good food and treats – oh, and several nice options for bedding. I’m pretty sure she likes certain places more than others, that is evidenced in a number of ways, but she always seems to make the best of where she is; a lesson I’m slowly trying to learn and embrace. So maybe this time next year I’ll be able to admit that I’m settling in for a longer stay; in fact, that’s what I hope I’m able to say. I also hope to tell you that the “what I want to do” part is starting to come into clearer focus. For that to be requires me to settle in where I am; Catch-22, I guess.
You can learn a lot from a dog, they may be our best teachers. Make the best of where you are, enjoy it as much you can, have your puppy dreams of those other places you want to go and be, chase your squirrels, chew your bones, etc.; just always be ready to get in the backseat for a little adventure when it comes around, and use that adventure to tide you over until the next one – which hopefully will be a little longer and a little sooner.