Unlike Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol, for the most part my Christmases Past, especially those of my youth, were largely pleasant, a middle class boomer generation cliché, a Saturday Evening Post magazine cover, privileged in a rather unaware way, though when you’re six or seven years old you’re not much aware of anything; but when you are seventy-something wholly revised perspectives emerge, patterns that weren’t altogether evident at the time.
Travels with Myself
A Journal of Discovery and Transition
Doug Jordan, Author
[Trudeau fils has said he is the leader of the world’s first post-national state, because ‘there is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada’ (this last remark may be, sadly, correct)
I think, [CFL and the Grey Cup] are symbols of Canada’s unique identity and a heritage that must be protected and preserved.
So, facing my fears, I decided to make the Marketing and Selling of The Treasure of Stella Bay my Project for the next five months. I would try to bring my talents to bear, even if they are not my best talents, and strive for some modicum of fulfillment, if not actual joy.
It seems to me that September 1, or at least Labour Day, is more like new year than New Year. In January we drag ourselves back to work or school after ten days of Winter Solstice celebration – knowing we had 90 more days of winter to go. But in September we rouse ourselves from our summer slumbers and get on with life – new plans, new prospects, new purpose.
Do you recall Roy Orbison’s tier two hit song, In Dreams? (Probably not, but it’s a beautiful song.) It starts as a fantasy, of a lucid hopeful future; but true to form, it ends badly. I think that’s the main point of dreaming, to reconcile our internal conflicts. (Roy must have had a depressing life – almost all his hits are sad songs full of doubt.)
Have you ever noticed, we rarely wake up to emotionally satisfying dreams? Mostly we don’t wake up at all because your busy little brain had no problem with its filing assignments that night. If you wake up with a dream there’s usually some sort of conflict going on in it, some emotional trigger, enough to disturb your sleep
So, to assuage my melancholic mind I have turned to reading lighter stuff, and viewing ancient Johnny Carson YouTube videos. I’m reading Alexander McCall Smith’s quirky series about a seriously cloistered university professor of philology, 2 ½ Pillars of Wisdom, including Portuguese Irregular Verbs; and Bill Bryson’s, Notes from a Small Island, an Affectionate Portrait of Britain.
Marlene rather liked birthdays, her own included, but she wasn’t especially effervescent about it. Not for her, ‘birthday week’. She liked modest celebration of her birthday but was not strange about it as I am/was. She revelled most in the fact that on my birthday she was now a year younger than I, for three days.
It’s amazing how we put off doing what we know we must, somehow hoping to buy time and maybe a miracle. It’s certain we have to do our taxes. (Though maybe not for everyone – I’ve heard of people who avoided filing tax returns for years, maybe even know some of them, and I’m pretty sure it’s not because they have no taxable income.) It seems just as certain we have to accept our own demise too (though maybe those serial avoiders also know something about certain death the rest of us don’t).
The problem of death for the mourner is the pain of loss. It is not the loss of the past – the past is already past, and we still have our memories and photographs. The grief of loss is for the loss of future experience of the loved one – the promise of the future is that we can live again the present we take for granted. But with death, we have no more presents, we can no longer enjoy the company of the lost loved one.
Still it’s the 50% of regular ‘openers’ of my notification emails who don’t click through I wonder about – why don’t they stop and read my wonderful stuff?!? But then I recalibrate my ego and allow for the fact that many of these people have busy lives, and competing interests, and haven’t the incentive (the title doesn’t appeal to them, nor even the excerpt) to click through to my blog and actually read it. I have to accept that people, even covid cloistered people, are not sitting at home counting the days until my next blog comes out.
Ennui is not quite the same as boredom… Ennui is more than that, a general feeling of lassitude and listlessness that dulls the mind and torpefies the spirit, and persists. It is this feeling of ongoing sameness that enervates; even people exhausted by their heightened workload and demands of the pandemic and its consequences are suffering mental fatigue. It’s a hamster wheel with no joy.
And then there is the problem of giving and receiving feedback. Giving feedback is hard to do, which is why it is seldom actually done. Receiving feedback is hard because of our tender egos – but we self-protect by not listening, or rationalizing, or dismissing. Accepting ‘constructive’ feedback from social sources is especially hard. Who really wants ‘constructive feedback’? What we want is complimentary feedback, lots of it. How nice to have affirmation of our terrific traits and talents. But then, in the backs of our minds, there lies doubt.
Not only should the cover have a clever and pithy summary of the book which entices browsers to pick it up the and browse through it, it should also have a couple of short and sweet blurbs from noteworthy reviewers recommending the book to hesitant readers. And let’s not make too fine a point of it, anybody who makes the cover of a book with a recommending blurb must be noteworthy to the otherwise ignorant browser.
Never judge a book by its cover’ so goes the saying, but if readers never crack the cover, they will never know what they’ve missed. Not everyone will be interested in your book – not their genre, not in their present mood, they’ve already read one of your books and one was enough – but for those who might be interested in the extent of your book, they need to be captured by the essence and the essence of the book has to be demonstrated somehow in your cover.
Or how ‘bout this one, don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good. Absolutely. How many of us get mired in design detail seeking perfection (or even excellence) and never make deadlines, or even produce anything at all? But you know, the devil is in the details. And there’s that damn word ‘good’ again. What is good? Is it good enough. Good enough is hardly excellence.
My purpose in life is not necessarily to be happy so much as to be worry-free. Regardless, you can put yourself into that state by becoming absorbed whole heartedly in something. Some people can do this through ‘mindful’ meditation. I can’t. I have to do something. So I write.
I wonder what 2020 would have been like if the world hadn’t panicked in response to a pseudo-calamity, covid. As I wrote my annual plan in my virtual Harvard Planner last January while I was in The Philippines, who would have guessed the events that turned my plan upside down.
Illusion or not, [sense of self] is pretty powerful magic and while I doubt we humans are anything so magical, it’s hard to resist. So we may as well go along with it. … And even though I doubt we have any special purpose in the universe we may as well give our minds satisfaction by inventing some purpose it can actually do something about.
Not content with sorting out mere months and weeks in the celestial calendar, the ancients decided to divide up the day too, and the night
So, despite my introversion, I do not like being alone, living alone. My normal planful proactive self would take action to solve this problem. Even in my crazy year after Marlene died, hair on fire, I was desperately trying to fill the void in my life, even if that meant traveling half way round the world to do so. (I hasten to add, I don’t really recommend my course of action – I was certainly being proactive, but grief hugely distorted my normal behaviour.)
I’m not sure how other authors do it [research for their books]. Highly successful authors with large revenues, or publisher advances, can hire students and staff to do it for them. But if you’re an independent author (the modern vernacular is ‘Indie’, hmmmm) you do your own. Or if you are mildly schizophrenic, or merely eccentric, you could delegate, to yourself.
And on other fronts I am proud to state that I have overcome my skepticism of lulu.com and rejoice at having successfully put up my book, Travels With Myself. (Well, I am still skeptical of lulu’s claims that self-publishing a book is as easy as 1-2-3. It is if you have perfect knowledge of Microsoft Word and how it must be formatted in absolute compliance with the PDF criteria in lulu’s print engine.
Said to be a virtue (though, curiously, not one of the ‘Great Virtues’ (André Compte-Sponville)), Patience can be learned, or so we are also told, and there is no doubt in my many years, and even more so in the last many months, I have had plenty of opportunities for honing this virtue.
I lament my forced separation from Carmen Beauty; I am missing her company and constant companionship and feeling quite lonely. We Skype twice a day, sometimes four times a day, adjusting for the twelve hours difference in our time zones, and keep ‘in touch’ (ha!) that way.
Many of my readers, when they had read the last instalments of my blogs that they were in fact the last, were mildly alarmed at the news: I had said I would convert the two blogs to books: The Pilipiñas Packet ended because I had returned to Canada from Philippines, Travels with Myself ended because my journey from the abyss to recovery had largely been complete. But then my caring readers were relieved when I said I would continue the blog, I still have a life to live and stories yet to tell.