Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Pulling weeds

I spent much of yesterday on the wild slope that makes up much of my backyard, pulling weeds. It is one of those ironic Sisyphean tasks that we humans insist on that is right up there with making my bed and washing dishes. The irony being that determining whether or not a plant is a weed is purely a judgement call. Even desirable plants become weeds if they crop up where you don't want them.

The slope used to be overrun with Ivy until I pulled most of it out to make way for the horsetails that immediately grew up when the Ivy was evicted. And, although I only have anecdotal evidence, I suspect getting rid of the Ivy also contributed to the slope slippage a couple of years ago that threatened my deck and my pocketbook, warranting a new retaining wall.

My battle with my slope is a perfect proof of the theorem that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

But enough of my waxing poetic about my weed woes. The real importance of me weeding is that it gives me a great deal of time to weed my mental garden while I'm weeding my literal one. And the mental garden is also subject to the arbitrary judgement of what constitutes a weed. At times I am tempted to take a virtual weed eater and clear out my mental garden rather than having to go through the tedious task of virtual hand pulling mental weeds.  Unfortunately, a weed eater is a very indiscriminate tool. Everything is a weed to it. And I like some of my memories.

After I was done weeding the real garden for the day and had cleaned up, I did something I really enjoyed: firing up the grill. As I sat there while chicken, steak, corn on the cob and turkey hot dogs were purified by fire, I reflected on my virtual and literal weeding. To tell the truth, I got a bit melancholy. Because the trouble with weeding is that you have all of these awkward bare spots and its easier to actually see what is really there. And one of the things I saw was the reality of what life is versus what I used to think it was.

For one, I had weeded through all of the friends I've had over the years. And one of the weeds I'd pulled was the concept that true friends last forever. Because my reality is that I really don't have many real friends (and I'm not talking Facebook). Reflecting on it, I had school friends who went their own ways after school was finished. Then I had work friends who also went their own ways when they changed jobs.

I also reflected on other relationships. I spent most of my youth mired in infatuation that I mistook for love. It wasn't until much later in life that I discovered the difference between hormones and love. I'd have avoided many paths if I'd weeded that garden much earlier.

I also reflected a great deal on weeding my career path. I viewed a TED video recently about people will never really have a great career unless they do something they are passionate about. The lecturer was adamant that you couldn't just do something you were interested in. You had to truly be passionate about it. So after pulling all the weeds around my career choice I've come to the conclusion that I need to give up on having a great career.

Which leads to something I've been fretting about since I watched the TED video. What am I passionate about? The lecturer said that you couldn't cop out and say you were passionate about being a parent because it was putting a guilt trip on your kids, making them the scapegoat for why you never did anything great in your life. Though I am passionate about being a father.

At various points in my life I have been passionate about music. I love playing the guitar. But that is a passion I would have needed to pursue more aggressively when I was a teen. I'm too old now to become a rocker and frankly I am only a fair guitar player at best.

At one time, I was passionate about art. I dabbled with drawing. And if you've followed my blog for any amount of time you've noticed I like to mess with photography and Photoshop. But I can't imagine making a living off from Photoshopped photos of myself on various random objects. So I guess I'm not that passionate about it.

I used to like to browse antique malls and shops as well as second hand stores. I was a fairly passionate collector until I realized I was also a borderline hoarder. Well actually my wife pointed out that I was a borderline hoarder. But I still fantasized about opening up my own shop but only if I won the lottery and didn't need the money.

One might assume I am passionate about writing. But I have given up on the fantasy about writing a great novel and having it published. I've whined about that in several blog posts. Because getting a book published these days is as about noteworthy as winning the Angry Birds Friends Tournament on Facebook. Printed books are the equivalent of 8-track tapes these days. And no one has the attention span anymore to read more than a Tweet. I've already written more in this post than the average person can focus on. And no one wants to pay for the written work anymore anyway. Digital publishing has killed the art of great writers.

You see, my limitation is the desire to actually make money while doing something I am passionate about. It goes back to being passionate about my family and wanting them to have a roof over their heads and food and clothing.

Damn, I see some weeds growing back.

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