Monday, January 5, 2015

I Have Heard What the Talkers Were Talking

When you listen to people talk about their dreams, you see one of two things:

There are the bright eyed ones who you just know, I mean know, will do it. They share their plans not for validation, or approval, but out of sheer bursting desire to talk about this excellent thing they have built inside themselves, this thing that powers them on down the road, that leads them into often uncertain paths. The physical presence of their commitment is so much that, as they talk of their plan and the next move, you almost feel as though it were a partner, a flesh and blood person sitting next to them, nodding and murmuring along. It feels real, like a happiness you can clasp to yourself and admire before handing it back to them and saying good luck, you'll be great. The other side is the storyteller- the territory of the tentative, a squinty maybe. It's a well told, cold statement with no blood in it; you get the feeling it's been said a lot, the way it rolls off the tongue. And that's the problem. It's been said a lot. Said. Talked about. Mentioned. Brought up at random intervals. But talking isn't doing. The practiced art of the story of the idea, that's the hint, that's the clue- it's never, ever going to happen. They will be telling that story, that future "someday I will..." potential plan until they get too old to do it. And then they will never tell that story again, because they will be too filled with regret to be able to talk about the time when they were young and free and healthy, and had This Thing they Wanted to Do, but they never did it. So it wasn't done. And it never would be.

It's no impossibility, you and I and they can make these stories real, but that's the point- you have to make them real. That's the jump, and it's where most people, absolutely myself included, stay standing on the shore, content to tell the story, to trot it out as small talk introductory fodder at parties, or with friends when they get drunk and want to talk about dreams, or as an imaginary fallback they can grasp for security, an empty threat to shout into the wind when things get almost hard enough to motivate them to do it. It's not doing them any favors. It's never done me any favors. It's a lie you tell yourself about some future shining day when This Thing you want to do will be Done. But why do you want it, and will you ever do it? I am asking myself the same questions, trust me. My own frustration with my choices is at the base of this.

I've realized that I have to unilaterally, unabashedly, and without regret give up on what I'm not going to do. I'm not going to waste my time stroking a story of a dream that will never be real. Life is short and the world is large. There are things I wanted to do that I haven't done yet and now I won't be able to do them. Oh well. I can't do them, but I can do something else. As long as I am actually doing something, I'll be fine. My God, but regret is heavy. I can put it down. I don't have to make a mistake twice. I don't need to tell ghost stories about dead things- it's not going to happen. Let it go.

This trip, maybe more than any other so far, changed me. I can't say why:  it wasn't terribly earth shattering culturally, I didn't go far, I've backpacked far longer in far more remote places, Thailand is a familiar neighbor at this point. But something about this time in Thailand shook me up. I've been complacent here in Laos. It's been good for me, but I feel it in my bones, in every bit of me, that it is time to roll on down the track. Security, stability, contentment- I have that here. But I've grown dependent on it to the detriment of other aspects of my life, and myself.

I gave a lot of advice on this trip. All of it boomeranged right back to me and hit me in the chest with an accusatory "And what about YOU?" It's hard truth and it's undeniable. I've checked out a bit the last two years, licking wounds and swimming in grief and doubting what I was doing. Life was harder than I thought my life would ever be, so I took easier paths than I ever would have before. I fucked up easy things. I neglected important things. I made bad decisions and terrible mistakes. It was all necessary and I own it all without shame. I went through it; I came out the other side with pieces missing, with things in my possession I didn't want. I'm sifting through that now, and it's a long job. I'm thankful to all the people I've met along the way who laid the groundwork to get me to these realizations.

I don't know exactly what I want to do next, but I know what I don't want to be doing, and that's as good as the former being certain. I am ready for whatever happens next. I am okay not knowing what that is. I'd rather say I don't know than tell a sweet story that will never be real.

I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the
     beginning and the end,
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.

There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now,
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.

Walt Whitman

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