Friday, October 23, 2009

Birthday Surprises

I'm not typically big on birthdays. This year, however, I may not have a choice.

In two days I'll turn 60, and Ma'ikwe has been plotting for months about how that should be celebrated. I've been told to keep my schedule completely free from Friday afternoon through Sunday morning—that's about 44 hours worth of surprises. So even if I remain not big on birthdays, I reckon this year my birthday will be big on me. (And I'm fairly confident I'll have some great blog material come Monday morning.)

As I'm not the kind of person who tries to wheedle clues out of people, I truly have no idea what shenanigans my wife is up to. I'm just going to let the Force guide me—and hope it's guiding her as well. My mantra will be WWYD: what would Yoda do?

As it happens, Ma'ikwe turns 40 in early February, which means that no matter how out of control things get over the weekend, I only have to wait a little over three months before I have the chance to get even. (Ma'ikwe is fully aware of this, yet I'm not sure whether that knowledge is injecting some sobriety into her machinations, or egging her on to even greater excess in the hope of enhancing the luster of her own hour(s) in the spotlight of a milestone birthday. As I doubt my wife has
ever met a lime she didn't embrace the light from, this could go either way.)

• • •
I just got home yesterday from a week in Colorado, and was eager to spend last night in the same bed with Ma'ikwe, but it was not meant to be. I depart early next Tuesday for the fall FIC organizational meetings (to be held Oct 30-Nov 1 in Berea KY) and I chastely stayed home (I live at Sandhill and Ma'ikwe lives at Dancing Rabbit, three rainy miles away) to compose as many of the five reports that I'm responsible for authoring for the meetings as possible. Whatever I don't accomplish before I enter Ma'ikwe's Birthday Blackout Zone this afternoon will have to be completed Monday.

I might have gotten a few of the reports done while I was in Colorado, but other than treading water in my email In Box, that time was fully subscribed by meetings about cooperative business consulting, and helping a friend rearrange the tables and (deck) chairs among the titanic mess that is her apartment.

I've never seen anyone with such a robust collection of empty boxes—all so that she won't have to spent much time re-manifesting them when she next decides to move. It borders on being a fetish. (Although partially peeved by the problem, I didn't presume to posit the possibility that the proliferation of paraphernalia in her penthouse has produced a predictable pattern that will plausibly precipitate the very peregrination and attendant distress that her procurement of plentiful boxes was meant to be prophylactic against.) I'm telling you, irony is wasted on some people. (While my observations may or may not be illustrative, at least they can be alliterative.)

The way I see it, these boxes—as in mounded so high they rain on your head or grab at your ankles whenever you try to access a shelf or a closet—are manifesting their own destiny and, sooner rather than later, she's gonna move.

For all that though, I had a great three days with my friend. We talked at length about her life choices (she's got to find a way to live in community again—living alone doesn't really work that well for anyone, but especially if you're 67, thrive on collaboration, and are trying to juggle multiple health challenges), we overhauled the furniture and organization of three of the rooms in her apartment (everything but the kitchen and the back hall closet—which has a density and tottering quality reminiscent of the legendary Fibber Magee's closet), and even managed to watch a video each night (making a modest dent in our near-hopeless backlog of Movies We'd Really Like to See).

Those three days were an excellent example of how time with friends is a major quality of life issue. In order to fully enjoy the bounty that close friendships can bring, you have to cultivate the garden of your relationships. That means spending time together where you are not always constrained by the need to be on task.
One of the secrets to making my life work is that I've figured out a way to accomplish that despite having a To Do List that never reduces to a single page.

While being on the road more than half the time means I'm often away from my wife and my community (things that go on the debit side), I am richly compensated by getting to do work I love (Benefit #1) with stimulating people (Benefit #2). Less obvious are the ancillary advantages of being able to regularly see friends around the edges of my work, by extending my travel to come early and/or stay late once business has brought me to a location (Benefit #3), and by making the choice to travel by train whenever possible, thereby protecting time for reflection and transition in a life that has otherwise crowded that out (Benefit #4).

So, if you want to spend time with me, you prospects are best if you to come to Sandhill when I'm home (good luck), attend an event I'll be at, or get me work in your area. There are also possibilities if you get married and invite me to your wedding, or arrange to travel with me.

Next Tuesday I'm looking forward to spending the day with Tony Sirna, as we drive together to attend the FIC meetings in Berea. That'll supply us with the luxury of about 560 miles of visiting time. Like Ma'ikwe, Tony lives at Dancing Rabbit. Though he's a close friend and lives in the same building as my wife, we rarely hang out together when we're both in Missouri. Instead—because we're both busy guys—we've gravitated to a friendship that is substantially cultivated during blocks of time spent traveling together, usually en route to Fellowship Board meetings. While that's a somewhat exotic solution, the important thing is that it works.

And in the end, that's all that counts.

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