Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Talk Thursday (on Friday): The Challenge of Uncertainty

Hi all. I'm in Phoenix, or rather Chandler, which is a town outside of Phoenix. The occasion is my mom's 70th birthday party, and I just found out about half an hour ago that I'll be giving a speech. You know, one of those tap-on-the-glasses things where you stand up at the table and address the gathered company and try really hard to say something funny without embarrassing hell out of the guest of honor. This is hard enough to do at a wedding, where everybody's already drunk and won't be remembering what you have to say anyway. I get to do it at a birthday party, and who knows what sort of substances will be in play. My mom grew up in the 60s, after all.

So you might say I'm powerfully uncertain about what I'm going to say. In fact, you might say I haven't a single effing clue what I'm going to say. I will probably make it up as I go along, at which, actually, I am pretty good. If it weren't for extemporaneous speaking I'd probably not be alive right now (though any number of fiascoes, like the one in Sweden, might not have happened, if one must look at the minus side).

I am a creature of routine. I get up, do my fifteen minutes on the meditation cushion, fire up my laptop, cruise the headlines on CNN and MSNBC. Then I get into Word, write a little, maybe send a query letter or two or three, then power down and head off to work. Depending on what day it is, I go to the pool first. On the alternate days I'm found at the gym on my lunch hour. And I find it very soothing to know in advance where I'm going to be at just about any given hour of any weekday. Then the weekend shows up and all bets are off.

Most people like this sort of thing. The uncertainty of weekends is what makes them fun. Maybe they'll go to the lake and do some wakeboarding (I have no idea what that is, but a colleague of mine has recently become a fanatic, and it sounds like fun). Maybe they'll take in a few football games. Maybe they'll do nothing more exciting than catching a nap on the sofa. It's the maybes that captivate. For me, it's the maybes that bring on Fang, the Velociraptor of Sudden Panic. (For more on the dinosaurs that live in my kitchen, see this post.) Unstructured time? What in hell am I going to do?

So I end up doing what lots of people end up doing: I make lists. I make chore lists, fun lists, household stuff lists. I cross stuff off and feel like I've accomplished things. I leave myself notes, too, often at work: "First thing -- motion to compel; second thing -- Chronology." The idea is to bring order to chaos, to have a nice set of expectations to fill up that unstructured time. To challenge the uncertainty and chase Fang just a little farther away.

I am, of course, putting a Band-Aid on a giant gushing split artery. There will never be certainty. Life throws me and everyone else Derek Holland-style curve balls all the damn time. Sometimes you have to jump on a plane and fly to Phoenix. And sometimes you just have to run out and catch a movie. Or make a speech at somebody's 70th birthday party. I could try hiding under the desk in this hotel room, but I imagine they'd find me eventually. So I'll do what I resolve to do every New Years: I'll wing it and see what happens. Watch this space.

No comments: