Posts Tagged ‘goals’

Dry Eyes

15 October 2010

Dear J-

Both theVet and I grew up as the younger of two siblings; she has an older sister and I have an older brother. We’ve never known what it’s like to not have a sibling, while our older sibs may remember what it was like to be an only child. Likewise, we’ve never known what living with a baby meant (well, until three years ago let’s say). I wonder what figgy has to say about it; no doubt she’s gotten an earful of what it means from her daycare classmates, but thus far she’s been remarkably accepting — she kisses her brother (theVet’s belly) regularly and tells us all about the things that he can’t do “because he’s a baby, right?” At the moment the idea of a brother is an abstract thing to her, and based on how she is now about sharing time and attention, we’re going to have to carve out special times together.

Yesterday we were watching The Princess and the Frog and she kept pointing out that the monsters were going to kill them or that “he’s, ahhh, probably dead.” There’s no way to pry open her head and peek at what’s going on her mind, but there’s no mistaking that matters of life and death are trickling through along with a deeper understanding of stories beyond just the bright colors and moving shapes on screen. Though I suspect I’d say the same thing no matter when a little sib arrived for her, it feels like the perfect time, as she’s become more aware of her world and her place in it over the last three months.

No one will react well when the attention devoted is halved; it’s something to watch out for in the coming few months. If there’s a moral from that movie, it’s that love means giving freely of yourself without considering what you might get in return. And sure, it’s wrapped in a Disney shell and all the attendant candy-colored unreality, but look beyond that a moment and consider what changes in your life have happened because (or perhaps in spite of) the choices you made for you. Now think about what happened after deciding what to do for other people (and how easy was that decision in comparison?). There’s a lot of goals in sight from here, and it’s thus doubly important to know shere you’re headed.

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Prototype Run

27 December 2009

Dear J-

Whine whine whine.  Moan moan moan.  Sad about this.  Tired over that.  Make far-fetched conclusion extending applicability to some global problem.  Turn around and make it personal again.  End on ambiguous note.  I’ve ridden (written) the formula to death and no actual success, so let’s instead talk about what’s right in the world as we kick off this last week of 2009 (by the way, my brain seems to have completely skipped over 2009 as a bit of an afterthought — I’ve been calculating based on 2010 for a while now).

When we visited my folks up in San Jose six months ago I bemoaned the lack of a semi-manicured park like Overfelt Gardens for San Diego; I think I’m now officially over it, as we went to Presidio Park, a place I hadn’t been (saw it from the freeway, it turns out, several times) before.  Not precisely an open space preserve like our wild canyons, but not groomed to an inch of its life, like the Prado in Balboa Park.  This was partly my fault — since I didn’t print out the Legoland tickets, I had to come up with a family activity that we could all enjoy with some kind of good lunch in the middle, and I do like the restaurants in Old Town.

Speaking of which, we completed a trifecta of pork today, between bacon, roasted pork, and ham for our three meals; that’s got to count for something even if it’s not a spectacular accomplishment.  We were talking about slaughterhouse methods in the wake of No Country for Old Men and the scary stunner employed by Javier Bardem’s character, it’s nearly enough to put me back to being vegetarian again (the first bout was triggered by an evening mis-spent in Tony Roma’s).

The great thing about goals is they provide a measure of accomplishment, not just when they’re actually reached, but also to see progress along that particular path.  Once we’re moving forward then we’ve at least got momentum and a sense of speed; it blows the stale stench of stagnation and frustration away posthaste.

Mike

Milestone Goals

23 June 2009

Dear J-

Do you ever have one of those days, J-, when as soon as you get up it feels like the world is in slow motion?  I have certain milestones I shoot for in the morning — alarm at 3:30, out of bed by 3:45 (darn this ridiculously easy snooze button — a touch-sensitive rim of metal surrounding the radio face), walked & fed the dogs by 4:00, breakfast by 4:15, and out the door by 4:30.  It makes for a bit of panic when you start to see those deadlines slip by twenty minutes and sets a sour tone in my mouth for the rest of the day.

For what it’s worth, I seem to live in a superstitious life — I know that rationally I have the opportunites and abilities to effect changes in my attitude and actions, but sometimes I feel as though what I do either has too much (watching sports, here) or too little (nothing can lift my bad mood) effect on the remainder of my life.  Right now, I know I didn’t do a great job stowing the bike in the back of the van — something’s loose back there so it’s rattling AND squeaking at the same time; I worry about the unrest it’ll cause for the rest of the trip even though it’s impossible to tell how well it’s packed — or what’s loose — until the van’s in motion and I can do nothing about it, strapped into the front seat.

It’s about goals, then.  Do the things you can (I can change the way I react, I can bring or lend earplugs), don’t worry about the things you can’t (TV is not so magic that I can will a team to score or not at my insistence, and I’ll fix the bike when I get a chance), and figure out the right prioritizations.  Thus the goals inevitably seem to revolve around short-term fixes without much thought to the future; it’s part of the abundant immaturity and insecurity that keeps me from delaying the question of what I want to be when I grow up.  The man who persuaded me into working for the company asked me, those not-so-many years ago, whether I wanted a job or a career; lately there’s been a lot of job filling without much career fulfillment.

Mike

Define Success

26 October 2008

Dear J-

There are those people who are refreshed and recharged by their vacation times, ready to tackle all sorts of obstacles and challenges at work.  Then there’s me, hoping that the days off didn’t hurt my memory of the password I use to log in.  The days are now conspiring against me, too; it’s dark so early now that I’m having to use lights for the ride to and from the vanpool.  Time moves at a blur, speeding up, asking me to carve a pumpkin before Friday’s Halloween.

As I get older, I get more set in my ways.  Things must be just so.  Routines, paramount; this past week and a half has been a lesson in rolling with new things, agreeing and deciding on the fly.  More than idle fears about being locked out of the system, it’s losing that freedom and going back to a daily schedule — production, numbers, bring this down, bring that up, let’s see some paper fly — that bothers me the most.  I’ve had a taste.  It’s exhausting, but I think I can make it work.

I finished the Chronicles of Prydain series (Lloyd Alexander) a couple of weeks ago, and the book that won the Newbery, The High King, strikes me as one of those retroactive Oscar votes — Scorsese winning for The Departed instead of Goodfellas, for instance — as the preceding Taran Wanderer is by far the strongest of the lot.  Suffice it to say that losing your goal isn’t the end of the story; choosing to re-aim doesn’t mean that all is lost.  Success is a relative term, and you choose its definition, no one else does.

Mike

Who Are You?

23 October 2008

Dear J-

It feels like I’m always running away from something lately — after a long day at work, I’ve managed to get another day off to head up north, Bay Area for a funeral tomorrow.  It’s a cliché to say that we all get together only for funerals and weddings, but amongst us cousins, we’re starting to run low on the latter, even if this is the first of the former.  What can I expect from it?

It won’t be the same rowdy scene I’ve come to associate with throwing all of us together into the same room.  Something else, perhaps; to be honest I myself wasn’t particularly close to my aunt; I go because of my mother and the sister she’s lost.  We did have high hopes to spend a week together, roughly half a year ago; all that came to naught at the last minute, as other family events and health issues derailed that promise.  So.  Here we gather from as far away as New York, each with their own lives put on hold for the nonce.

At work we have stand-downs when something significant happens — whether good or bad, we take half an hour to discuss the reasons and causes and take those lessons to heart.  Now we have the opportunity to examine the trajectory our lives have taken — not so much to benchmark where we are compared to the rest of our generation; I’ll leave that for the grown-ups in the crowd — but to change where we see our path takes us.  And though it’s ridiculous to suggest I can read the future any more than I have x-ray eyes, when else would I get a chance to reflect on it?

Better yet, ponder this:  is this what you wanted five years ago, five years from then?  What secrets did you dream of, what secrets have you kept, what tears have you hid, and which tears have you wept?  Where is home?  Who are you?  Who will you be?

Mike

Drastic Steps

6 October 2008

Dear J-

We take drastic steps when we believe that we’re in peril — the fight or flight reaction.  The rumors you hear never seem to sound quite so urgent until they start talking about those things close to you — family, work, life.  You hear and you don’t want to believe, you don’t want to get involved, but most of the time it’s already too late, isn’t it?  The anecdote that keeps running through my head is that you never hear the bullet that hits you:  as they’re traveling faster than sound, you’re shot before you hear the shot.

We spend time worrying about things we can’t change, though, instead of doing what we can, where we can.  I remind you that all the extra time, all the extra hours spent in the paralysis of indecision could be spent chipping away.  Journey of a thousand miles, single step, you know.  A life lived a minute at a time, hour by hour, not looking too far forward, nor casting a backwards glance; is that really ideal, either?  Aren’t goals a form of looking at all the work you have in front of you?

Miles pass underfoot; time slips by and leaves us breathless in its wake.  Whether or not we choose to change, whether or not we continue to learn, the rules morph into something new.  Good enough changes day by day.  When do skills start to elude you?  What rungs on the ladder remain forever blocked?  Where do you decide your comfort zone goes this far and no further?

Can we continue, this world divided, this nation double-yoked end-to-end instead of side-by-side?  I’ve said before that the main reason I went East for school had to do with learning out of my depth, but it reinforced what we all have in common.  An essential humanity, a universal America, a belief and a hope that this can’t be the end, this isn’t the final, we can pull it around and succeed.  Are we realistic?

Mike

Shifting Aims

30 June 2008

Dear J-

Growing up, my best friend was your eventual debate partner, Charlie; sure, there were plenty of times I got shoved into a snowbank without warning, but that’s the price of growing up.  Impromptu snowball fights usually led to hot chocolate at someone’s house.  He was a much better piano player, too, able to evoke emotions with every keystroke, whereas I just sounded like I was having a stroke at the piano, between uncontrolled notes and inadvertently overstruck keys.

Now I get word that he’s back in our hometown, going to school where all our parents taught and aiming for his teacher’s credential so he can shape elementary school minds.  My folks, fresh back from a visit, confided that he still has the long hair and moustache that marked his long years in Chicago; his first winter break back from college, he also invited his girlfriend to visit.  Thinking nothing of this, I went over on his invitation to watch a few video tapes for what may well have been the longest evening of my life (well, perhaps prom nite excepted, and that also in a bad way — another story, another day — remind me if I don’t remember to write it up) as two hormone-driven eighteen year-olds mauled each other on the couch and I pretended not to notice.

No, you’d think that I’m the last person who’d be shocked by change, given how frequently I muse on it here, and yet it still strikes me as amazing to see where life has taken our dreams.  Do we settle for less, having adjusted our sights lower, or do we refine our values instead, knowing better what we want as time goes by?  It’s when we stop learning, stop evolving, stop adjusting, stop making sense of the world for us that we truly stop, isn’t it?

Mike