This Chance

There’s a simple line from a TOOL song that always grabs me:

Celebrate this chance to be alive and breathing

That’s it! There’s no deeper metaphor, there’s no double meaning. It’s as basic as reminder as you’ll ever get about living well. Remembering that you get to live right now, something that a lot of people no longer have, and that it’s a blessing. You can appreciate things on this level without being religious or sappy, take it from me.

I’ve often been puzzled by people asking big questions of life like “is this all there is?” The answer, as always, has been yes. If your entire life is watching YouTube videos and begrudgingly going to work 9-5, then that’s all there is. On the other hand, someone who decides they’re going to scale three mountains in a summer, volunteer at the local hospital, or write a book has given themselves a different version of “all that is.” There are an infinite number of things to go pursue, so if you’re not happy with the ones you’ve selected, that doesn’t mean there aren’t options. It just means you need to pick something better. This is not a deep riddle or mystery. And yet. And yet. Hold that thought.

I was once bellyaching to another creative friend about how artists are too sensitive. She explained why with both patience and confusion. Like teaching a child why they can’t draw on the wall of the kitchen, this was basic knowledge to her that she realised she’d have to pass on to me, so she walked me through it. “Jon, artists have a wider aperture, like in a camera. We let absolutely everything in. We see everything, because that’s what it means to be an artist. The problem with seeing everything is that every little thing sneaks in, including criticisms and self doubts.” Well! That about sums it up, and I don’t have to think about that anymore. It’s nice when someone’s done the thinking for me! Hold that thought.

I’ve been thinking about what would happen if I tried to start a business from scratch. I’ve always appreciated the stability of corporate jobs, or at least startups where I’m not the CEO. I often tell people how I don’t understand the entrepreneurial instinct — why would someone threaten the stability of their family by leveraging their home for a bank loan? I don’t care how good your vision is, most companies fail and then you owe a ton of money. Yuck! On the other hand, I did found a non-profit a few years back, and I loved it for a few months before another job came calling. It’s also worth pointing out that not every company needs to make gobs of money, or be a for-profit at all. They don’t need a big staff, and the product doesn’t even need to include software. Shocking, I know. Hold that thought.

When I was growing up, autism was a word used for people who had special needs at school. For example, people who were non-verbal or who needed physical assistance in a typical classroom environment. But as time went on, “neurodiversity” emerged as a much broader umbrella term, not just for people with visibly apparent differences, but people we my have traditionally called “quirky” or “hyper-focused” or “socially awkward” or even just “super bright.” There’s a reason people talk about “the spectrum” — it covers a tremendous amount of ground. And it’s been dawning on me that, hold on a second, I may be autistic. Just like David Byrne! If I am, it’d make a lot of sense. And when I mention this to my neurodivergent friends, it’s been notable that everyone just smiles serenely at me. Their face says it all. “Yup. Welcome.” Hold that thought.

I’ve been writing my thesis and I’m making real progress. I don’t want to sugarcoat it. It’s been hard, and I’ve been flailing for the last month or so. I’ve been realising I don’t have time to do everything I want, I’ve been stressed about getting everything done, and I’ve definitely experienced that saggy part in the middle of a giant project where you’re a bit lost. So all of those things have happened to me for sure. But, on the flip side, I have indeed made progress. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but when I’m done freaking out about a project’s schedule, I tend to be good at cutting it back, coming up with a plan, and doing it. I hate not having a plan so I’m pretty good at making plans. Hold that thought.

I’ve dialled up how much time I spend with my kids. I work from home, so we’re already on top of each other most of the day, seven days a week. They are definitely getting a lot of dad face time, even when I’m buried in work. That said, there’s been a notable uptick lately. A few weeks ago I took one of my daughters out one on one, and later she called it “the best day ever.” Then I did the same with my other daughter and got similarly glowing reviews. Then we went out together and brought a friend the following weekend, and it was amazing all over again. I’ve always done these sorts of techniques — having twins has given me strong opinions, one of which is that you need to spend one on one time with kids, not just always clump them together as “twins” — but I’ve put more emphasis on it lately, and I’ve seen the results. It turns out working on things makes them better. Having a plan matters. Hold that thought.

I have so many things going on. I’m tired and focused. I’m distracted and excited. I’m doing more of what I want, and less of what I don’t. I’m lost and know exactly where I’m going. I have a map and the lines are dancing. I feel everything, from the pain of my recent wisdom teeth removal and concussion that sent me to the doctor, to feeling the blessing of being here, alive and breathing. I hold each of these thoughts and so many more.