Today is Kind of a Big Deal
by Dallas Doctor
(September 19, 2018)
Birthdays come and go. Everybody’s got one. Every day is somebody’s special day. When you’re a kid, birthdays matter; when you’re an adult, they rarely indicate more than new set of digits. I generally haven’t paid all that much attention as the years have accumulated; in fact, for most of my life, I promise, I couldn’t tell you how old I was without stopping to do the math in my head. But today — 65 — a government-mandated milestone — has prompted me to do a little reflection. And here’s what I’ve come up with:
Life is good!
Wait, let me explain: Although I’ve never had anything like a formal “bucket list,” when I think back, I realize I’ve done some stuff. I’ve hiked the Nāpali Coast, sailed both the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, played music in 49-states and 27-countries, written a few books, danced drunk in the rain in the streets of Liverpool, partied with models and millionaires in Mallorca, and had sex at midnight on a dark, deserted beach in Cozumel. I’ve been BOTH the most-famous-person-in-the-room AND the least-famous-person-in-the-room enough times to know that the latter is better. And I imagine each and every one of you reading this could tell similar stories about your own life.
Because just like many of you, I’ve experienced delectable feasts in some of the world’s finest restaurants with skyline views of Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Paris, London, Belgrade, Barcelona, and (my surprise favorite) Monte Carlo. Once in a while, I think it’d be fun to experience that particular flavor of outrageous decadence again, but here comes the weird part: “I already know what that feels like!” I’ve lived it. And loved it. Many times before. And, as wonderful as it is, it’s never (fundamentally anyway) all that different from real life.
Now of course, once in a while, I fleetingly think it’d be fun to repeat one (or several) of the more epic adventures from my past, but then I remember that I already know what those experiences feel like. Not a single event, nor the thousands of other adventures too numerous to mention, are ever, in the moment, any different from actual real life.
And of course, probably very much like you, I’m also intimately familiar with the “other” end of the decadence-spectrum — the “I wonder if I’m going to be able to make rent this month” end of the spectrum. But I’m beginning to realize that I liked those adventures too (even the ones we call struggles) every bit as much as the others. They were just as real. Just as experiential. They get your attention too. And looking back, I can’t regret them. How could I? I’ve hungrily scrounged together enough loose change to scarf down yummy, satisfying comfort food in Great American roadside diners, Dublin pubs, Albanian taverns, Canadian cafés and Mexican huts. Once in a while, I fleetingly think it’d be worth whatever the cost to get a chance to re-experience more lower-end-gastronomic-delights again (and I’m sure that would be pleasant), but again, I already know what those experiences feel like.
So what am I trying to say? When I think back on my actual real-life adventures (pick one of my 11-coast-to-coast-round-trips-across-America-without-a-windshield-on-a-motorcycle, for example), I realize that the visceral experience of each moment — in the moment — is not fundamentally different from walking to the market. (I like walking to the market, by the way.) As I put one foot in front of the other, I realize that walking to the market is not all that different from everything else.
So I’m obviously one of the lucky ones! After 65-years, I not only have a lifetime of memories, but I still get to walk to the market. And you know what? Maybe that’s enough? Maybe that’s all there is? Because seriously: no matter where you go or what you do, it’s never actually all that different from regular-old-every-day-real-life.
So what’s the point of all this?
The point is that, in spite of all this sameness, there IS something different now; there IS one thing about this stage of life that has, in fact, surprised me.
Here it comes now: Most of you know, I made my living playing guitar for the largest part of my life. And I genuinely loved that part of my life.
Most of you also know that I relocated Ringo and I to Europe from the US 16-months ago.
And here comes the weird part I never expected or imagined:
Within a week of arriving in Paris, I stopped picking up my guitars!
It’s been well over a year now and the callouses on my fingers have almost disappeared. It strikes me as strange that I no longer play. It strikes me as even more bizarre that I no longer want to. But the desire, the dream, the endless hours of practice, the discipline, the determination, and the perseverance that I used to invest in my guitars are all now focused on rearranging words into sentences that will hopefully make sense to somebody, somewhere, someday. It’s the last thing I ever expected, but rearranging words now takes up all my time and fills up all of those spaces that used to be taken up by chords, riffs, scales, lyrics, and melodies.
And I, for one, am surprised! I promise I never expected this transition. I didn’t see it coming at all because, like so many of my peers, I fell in love with guitar as a boy when I saw girls screaming at The Beatles. I thought playing guitar would be a great way to impress girls. And it was. For a long time, it was. These days? … Not so much anymore. So since arriving in France and everywhere we’ve traveled since, my last remaining guitar sits untouched in its case like a cranky old man who’s decided that girls are more trouble than they’re worth. That’s not how I feel. Not at all. Not even close. But like the old man who sits alone and unnoticed at the end of the bar, my last guitar remains untouched, nevertheless.
Now by necessity of course, I sold or gave away all but two guitars (from my rather extensive collection) before Ringo and I made the move to Paris. Not without some sadness at parting, many treasured assets that I’d collected over the years were put to excellent use helping to fund this adventure Ringo and I are enjoying. I calculated, at the time, that I could get by with only two guitars — my favorite electric and my favorite acoustic.
As it turned out, I brought two too many.
Interestingly, I sold my penultimate guitar — my favorite electric — a few weeks ago to raise some cash and I haven’t missed it for a single second. The strange thing is that I used to love that guitar, but it wasn’t difficult to let it go! I used to experience great waves of genuine joy from simply holding it. But after more than 16-months over here, I hadn’t picked it up more than twice, and even then, I only played it for a few moments before putting it away. I still have my favorite acoustic with me, but I keep it in its case. I haven’t tucked it away yet; I keep it out where I can see it. I prop it up in the chair next to me while I write. It reminds me of who I used to be.
Sometimes I think I should go ahead and sell it. But then I wonder if maybe I shouldn’t hang onto it just-a-little-bit longer, in case I ever get a chance at another adventure. If it happens that no more opportunities come my way, that’s okay. I’ve had more than my fair share already. I’m not complaining. Besides, even if another adventure DOES comes along, it’ll probably be a very-much like all of the others, anyway… So that’s the thing right there!
Because to be honest, that’s the reason I still hang on to this last untouched guitar: it makes me feel like there are still possibilities in the world…
That’s why today is such a big deal: it made me realize I’m living the best of all possible lives: I have both my memories and my options. The future is every bit as unknown and full of wonder as it ever was, and like I said in the beginning, to my great surprise, life is good…