Thursday, January 14, 2010


I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter. ~ Winston Churchill

There has been a great deal of discussion about the Mayan Doomsday prediction date of December 21, 2012 in the past few years. Every third program on the History Channel, the Discovery Channel and other cable networks seem to feature a marrying together of the 'end' of the Mayan calendar, coupled with Nostradamus' predictions of the end of the world. A major movie's teasers have left audience reeling their seats in fear, trepidation and a bit of nervous excitement. My 17 year old son, among many others, has a concern about this; and justifiably so. The idea that all things, as we know them, will cease to exist is petrifying. To come to terms with our existence on this planet, and to become fully aware of our potential as human beings, only to have it snatched away, is both hideous and alarming.

There are as many opinions as to how this Doomsday Apocalypse will happen; some say a world war, others natural disasters striking all at once. There are those who believe massive solar flares will reverse the polarity of the Earth. Still more believe that an immense meteor will strike the planet, as is the theory regarding the end of the dinosaur age. There are as many theories about "the End of Days" as there are peoples' opinions. There are those who believe this event heralds religious connotations, and scientists who are certain this is purely seismic and natural fact. There is even a smaller, but growing, school of thought that none of these ideas are true: that the end of the age will not signal our planet's destruction but, rather, will herald the coming of a 'change' in the frequencies of the universe. Quite literally, these people are confident that the date will ring in "The Age of Aquarius", to bring us to greater 'harmony and understanding'.

This post isn't about how the world is, or is not, coming to an end. When doing a little research about Doomsday predictions, I learned that literally hundreds of them have been predicted in my own lifetime alone. Thousands have been forecast since people have recorded time. Cults, religious sects, and scientists have had dates come and go without the demise of humanity. Does this mean we shouldn't be concerned? Of course it does. We should not be worried about an arbitrary date that might mean absolutely nothing at all. There are so many events that happen every day in the world around us....terrible tragedies like the horrific Haitian earthquake, Hurricane Katrina and the Tsunami in Thailand...that we waste our energies fretting about a possibility when we have a call to action to assist those who are suffering right now. Yes, we can barracade our homes, stockpile bottled water and batteries. Or, we can help our friends, neighbors and global brothers and sisters by doing what we can to improve life in our world right this very moment.

I'm far more concerned about how I choose to live than how I will die someday. Will I die from a natural disaster, a solar flare, an earthquake or a flood? Will a massive storm rip apart my home? I don't know the answer to that question, any more than the 'experts' do. I may have a recurrence of the cancer I have beaten. I may have a traffic accident. I may contract a disease. I might be attacked by a group of wild boars. Anything can happen and life is fleeting. Therefore, instead of wasting time worrying about what might be the reason my heart stops beating I want to make a difference in the world with every single beat my heart does have. I want to be kinder, more helpful, more generous, more open minded and more tolerant. I want to offer my meager talents and gifts to be of service to others. We are given every day we are alive to use wisely. George Lucas once said, "Everybody has talent, it's just a matter of moving around until you've discovered what it is." I would like to add that, even if we don't know yet where our talents lie, we still have hands to help pick up, a mind to evaluate a situation and figure out how best to help, a heart to love and show compassion and ears to listen to where the needs in our communities lie.

It's my humble and simple opinion that the Doomsday predictions we see on television, bumper stickers and movies doesn't really matter. It's our response about how we choose to live that does. We can create bunkers and hunker down in fear and panic. Or, we can put ourselves out into the world, to love and help others, to do our best to relieve the suffering that already exists and to use each and every heartbeat wisely. We don't know what the future holds for any of us. But, I do know what I want to do with mine in the meantime: I want to make a difference in brightening the day of those around me, and around the world. I would rather walk in the rain, looking for patches of sunlight, than hide from the rain, never knowing when the sun would come out.

Monday, January 11, 2010


If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” -- Lao Tsu

There is a famous road sign, here in Maine, that has been photographed more than any other attraction. It has had more pictures published than either Mount Katahdin or Cadillac Mountain, more than the famous Kittery Lighthouse and more than the picturesque harbors dotting the Maine coast. On this sign, on a rural road in inland, non-touristy Maine, lists the destinations of many of Maine's creatively named towns. From Norway to China and Sweden to Mexico, the sign post is legendary in its level of fame. People travel from all over just to have their picture taken next to it. It's appeared on magazine covers, in movies, on book jackets and used metaphorically by philosophers from all over New England. Why? Because, despite its campy, almost burlesque, appeal, it still represents a fixed point between many destinations. The goofiness of the names aside, this sign shows what direction you need to go, very clearly, to reach your destination.

At one time or another, I believe we've all wanted a road sign like this one. We have come to a place in our lives in which we haven't known which path to take. We have been confused over a possible move, a potential new direction in our careers, a relationship that might (or might not) be going to the next level. We have wondered if this is the right time to have or adopt a child, to purchase a home or to sell one. We have sat the crossroads, legs folded underneath us, and gazed in both directions...or in some cases, down multiple avenues. We have paused, uncertain, not knowing which route is the one that's best for us.

There are two schools on thought about these moments of intersection and turning point: the first is that, whichever road you find yourself taking, it will ultimately lead you to towards your fate, your karma, your destination that you are meant to have. In this mindset, the road we take doesn't matter. We will still learn the lessons whether we take the lane by the beach, or the hiking trail through the mountains...that both roads will eventually end up at the same end spot. We can choose to backpack around Europe for a few years, and then go to graduate school. Or, we can apply right away. But, with the passage of time, we'll be where our destiny lies at the end of the 'game'.

The other philosophy, when we find ourselves standing still and staring up at the signpost that points in multiple directions, is that every decision comes with it a consequence. Through that consequence, you will be proceeding, not in a linear fashion, but one that resembles more of a spiderweb or maze. Each choice, even the tiny ones such as, where to go for coffee, represent forks, diversions and can forever change the way our life unfolds. We will never truly understand that 'what might have been' end points because the forks aren't massive and arbitrary, they are small and our course changes every moment. The consequence that follows each decision will change our fate, change our direction and change our life. This isn't to say that we are unable to make course corrections, but even the correction itself can lead us on a completely new, untrod path. This philosophy leaves more to the journey's importance itself....rather than coming to the destination. In this way of thinking, the journey itself can take any number of twists, turns, sidesteps, backwards leaps, forward lunges. The end destination will be different based upon any of these diversions. But, that end isn't what you do along the way that matters.

As for me, my own beliefs lie somewhere in the middle. I have had moments in which I've felt shivers down spine, simply understanding that no matter where I made have made enormous mistakes in my life, I'm still working the road that I'm meant to traverse. I look at the times I've chosen the easy route---with sunshine and roses, and this has led me straight into the dark, gloomy, rocky places that I've tried to avoid. On the other hand, I've seen what small, random chance can do to changing how I feel about my place in the world. I can see how unimportant goals I'd set for myself years ago are now. I can see how serendipity has played a role in my own path changes; I was at a dinner party, 12 years ago, when a girlfriend asked me to please join her in going to a yoga class the next day. I couldn't imagine doing yoga. I was more of an aerobics junkie at the time. But I chose to join my friend, Tammie in a class that would change the direction of my life. I fell in love with yoga, and ultimately went through yoga instructor training. Tammie went back to running marathons. What wasn't even a blip on Tammie's radar of her life journey, turned mine upside down in a wonderful way. It's difficult for me to imagine my ending up on the same path, without the consequence following a small change of plan.

As I stand at yet another crossroads, looking down the wide, but dark, road of having both of my children out of the house, I can't help but wonder about the future. I worry about all the actions I've taken up to this point. I have anxiety about if the choices I've made, and the curve balls life has thrown, have prepared me for the next turn up ahead. I debate endlessly if there are parts of my life I should have done differently. I know, however, that none of this internal conflict is going to make a difference in the way the future unfolds. I don't have a sign post that says "Empty nest: Left 4 miles" or "Next career: Right 26 miles". I can't plunk myself down in a fork in the road and try to peek out into the future. I can't climb a hill and then decide which looks like the most fortuitous route. I just have to pick a path and get onto it...with my whole heart.

Rock, paper, scissors, anyone?