Tuesday, January 27, 2015

You Never Know

As I hope I've made clear in the past, I'm not a fan of New Year's resolutions. Yes, I could stand to exercise more and lose [quite] a few pounds . Yes, I should finally write my book proposal (I've got my Complete Idiot's Guide just waiting to be cracked open); but no amount of arbitrarily-timed, self-critical promises will make those things happen. Nevertheless, I have accepted a motivational motto for 2015: "You never know..."

I like this phrase for a number of reasons, not least of all its varied interpretations and/or meanings:

1. You Never Know = “Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.”
This quote was written by Allen Saunders but popularized by John Lennon.
2. You Never Know = "Don't Judge a Book by its Cover"
3. You Never Know =,"A true genius admits that he knows nothing."  So said Albert EinsteinNow, I'm no genius, but I am comfortable enough in my ignorance to admit that I possess a pittance of certainty about the world. It's quite liberating really. 

My focus is behind Curtain Number 3.Versions 1 and 3 are two sides of the same coin, but 1 is more about stealing yourself against unexpected mishaps and 3, for me, is more about being open to happy accidents and unforeseen opportunities. Unfortunately, it's only just now that I've realized how Forrest Gump it all sounds. Though I'd take a box of chocolates if offered.

I'll use #2 as a reminder that everyone has reasons for their choices, often unrevealed and not to be judged. I know that -- especially with my kids -- I often jump to conclusions about their intentions and/or lack of consideration. And you know what happens when you jump to conclusions -- You make a jay out of con and clues. No, I don't know what that means either. It's just something I do, because Tony Randall made it look so compelling.

From the outside looking in, "You Never Know" #2 highlights the invisibility and misdirection of my brain injury: My cane and limp say, "this guy has a bum knee." My reliance on one-handed living says, "this guy must have dislocated his left shoulder or elbow or broken his hand down at the mill during the Industrial Revolution." Probably, people don't even notice me not using my left hand. But it's all a good teaching moment for me when they do, just to emphasize our over-reliance on the jellyfish in our heads.

Recently, my department had its post-holiday holiday bowling party, which was a good reminder of all three variations of, "You Never Know":
1. In September 2010, no amount of planning could have fully prepared me for the fact that I'd be attending the January 2011 party in a wheelchair. That said, having that experience to reflect back on makes the last two outings --during which I've actually bowled -- that much sweeter (even if my score went down this year).
2. While my co-workers were, as usual, hugely supportive, it was also useful for me to vaguely emphasize one of the less obvious effects of my disability: Because the leg brace I wear has a large foot bed, I had to rent two different size bowling shoes. The bowling alley was very accommodating about that, whereas buying shoes is more complicated for me: Either I have to buy two pairs of the same shoe in two different sizes, or I have to buy one pair that's larger than my actual size and pad my right shoe (the route I've taken with the three pairs I've bought since getting the brace).
3. I certainly could have legitimately opted out of bowling altogether, but it was nice to see how it feels. What struck me more this year than previously was how much my muscle memory wanted to kick in, even though my brain still can't remember how to control the muscles. There's a lot of grace and rhythm in bowling, neither of which I have anymore. While the picture in my head told me to stride up to the line (better still, use Fred Flintstone's twinkletoes technique), holding the ball in two hands as if presenting Simba to the sky, and synchronize a smooth backswing and toss with my last step (thumb audibly popping out of the hole as my right foot elegantly crosses behind my left), the reality was a slow shuffle from the ball return to the line; a dead stop; a pause until the moment it felt right; and finally a chuck down the lane (no Fred Astaire-inspired leg cross). Are there actually places that let you take free practice throws? Because I was already through one game and too tired for a second by the time I realized I should have shuffled to about three feet from the line, stopped, then tried taking one or two long steps before throwing. Next time I'll have to try that. Maybe I'll break 100.

So in 2015 I will continue stepping outside my comfort zone and trying new things. 2014 was a good test of that physically, especially with my recumbent tricycle. For Christmas, I got snowshoes, which I'll actually use if we ever have snow and reasonable temperatures at the same time. I/we also received a sleeping bag, tent, and camping cot for Christmas. Very subtle, Jamie. Nothing says family bonding better than spending time together in an uncomfortable, confined space. No, I've never really gone in for camping. My most memorable experience was the fall of 1993, sleeping in the shadow of Mt. McKinley, where I had a dream that spanned two years and a war. Obviously, it was one of those dreams that  lingers and continues to feel real long after waking. They say Denali has its own weather system, and it was working overtime on me that night.

My other You Never Know #3 for me this year will focus on friendships. I've already reconnected virtually with a couple people I knew Back When (1990ish) in England. I'm forging new friendships at work and in my support group. I also just returned from a re-bonding weekend with my Best Man, who is about to have another baby. And if there's ever a You Never Know, it's The Second Child. The First is a ruse to make you believe you know what you're doing as a parent. The second is a heavy reminder that you haven't got a clue.

"You Never Know" also means embracing unpredictable consequences. Who thought the same Industrial Revolution that mangled my hand would lead to Global Warming? Maybe that's a bad example, since the reaction to that discovery should be one of remedy, not acceptance. Nevertheless, I won't be surprised in twenty years when we learn solar panels are extinguishing the Sun.

Growing up in NJ, I couldn't have predicted  I'd end up in Maine. I remember writing a college application essay as if it were Page 84 of my autobiography. Pretty sure it said nothing about Maine, strokes, or Knowledge Management. I'm sure it would be hilarious to read now, if I only had a 3.5" floppy drive. And my 1987 disk.

We shall see where the time takes me. And maybe I'll lose some weight in the process.