Loss of Possibilities

I’ve been trying to start writing more, again, although most of it has been letters to family that I’ve fallen out of touch with. Fortunately family, to some extent, transcends the time that causes most relationships to fade. I suppose a decent definition of family would be the people in your life that are always happy to hear from you even after a huge amount of time has passed. I tend to be fairly friendly, and I have been blessed with better friends and family than I probably deserve.

Back to the writing though. I always enjoy writing, and I don’t publish most of what I write on my site. A lot of it is more of just processing my thoughts at the time. Putting it down on paper (or the screen, as the case may be) helps me articulate how I’m feeling about things. I’ve loved writing for a very long time, and used to do it almost constantly. I had notebooks full of bad poetry and terrible short stories. I hope they were all destroyed, but I’m probably not lucky enough for that. When I was first going to college I had to decide between writing and music. I ended up deciding on pursuing music as a career, which didn’t work out perfectly, but I don’t play much music these days and I still try to write when I can.

I was just catching up on my mother’s blog, which she still thinks is just because it’s hers, and not because I like it. I do highly recommend it to anyone who like thoughtful commentary on life with a Buddhist focus (Beginner’s Heart although she just switched blogs since I wrote this Tea and Breath is the new one). She was talking about how she was going to miss me as I went off and about again. I was struck with how much some people writing sounds like the way they think, not necessarily the way they talk, but that informs it. When I read my mother’s writing I can almost hear her in my head. Gentle, carefully reasoned, trying not to make anybody feel bad or upset, but in no way pulling punches or weak.

She is one of the most prolific personal bloggers I’ve ever seen, and by personal I mean not with any industry affiliation. I suppose some news bloggers might be more prolific, but I don’t read a whole lot of news these days. As I read her post on missing me and trying to remember that it’s bad Buddhist practice to be overly attached to things I thought about how much we rely on possibilities. I was living in Portland OR, and my parents lived in Tulsa OK. They rarely came out to visit. Once a year maybe, and the whole family would usually meet up for Christmas. We also tried to do 4th of July together. My point is that my parent’s wouldn’t come out super often. However what I think my mother was reacting to was the loss of the possibility of coming out.

This is the feeling that we have when we realise that a very old friend unfriended us on FaceBook, if you’re the type to pay attention to such things. It makes us realise that they weren’t our friend for years, but our friend years ago. You almost certainly weren’t going to catch up with that person, but now you realise that it’s too late. I’m not saying that it’s too late to spend more time with my parents, not least of which is because they will probably read this, but it’s that feeling of lost possibility or opportunity. As people we don’t generally deal well with loss, even small amounts of it, and when we feel that we lost something that is important to us, like the ability to see your son, it hits us very hard.

I tend to be a pragmatist on such things. I am probably going to see my parents around the same amount every year, although I most likely won’t be home for Christmas, so I don’t worry too much about it. I honestly don’t worry too much about anything. Most of my good friends will attest to this, but I don’t think this is an especially virtuous trait. People who worry tend to care, and very deeply, and while I care very deeply for my family, and friends, there isn’t a whole lot else that really hits on my radar.

It’s nice to have money, and toys, a nice house, a car, and a job, but it’s all ephemeral. These are things that we can lose, very easily if truth be told. Family, friends, sense of self, and the relationships we build are the things that we should be more focused on. Honestly I worry that I’m the finite time I have with my family. My nephew is growing up so fast, my brother and sister-in-law are building a whole life that doesn’t have anything to do with me, and my parents are not getting any younger. However I’m not really sure what the alternative is. I’m trying to build a life that allows me to spend more time with them, but that’s a bit of a catch-22 isn’t it? Spending all of my time away to try to get more later. I don’t buy into that for retirements. I’m not interested in saving for 40 years to finally be able to do the things I want when I’m too old to enjoy them. I also know that the longer we wait the more life gets in the way.

I talked with my brother a few years back, or more than a few now that I think about it. He said that he had always wanted to go travelling, but that it would probably not happen for years now. He didn’t regret his choices, and honestly I’m a bit jealous of the life he’s built for himself with his family, but he wanted me to approach my life decisions with open eyes. I think that I do that, but I suppose everybody thinks they do, especially the people with their eyes closed tightest, fingers in their ears yelling over everything that it’s all fine as their life goes over the edge of a cliff. Here’s hoping that I’m not one of those people, and that you aren’t either.

Noah Gildersleeve
Sunshine Coast AUS 2016