Knowing Things

A bazillion years ago, my friend Dave and I had a game. He’d just moved to Seattle, three years after we had, and he was living in a sublet apartment down the block from us while commuting down to south Seattle for work. His wife was finishing up her job in Arizona, so for a while I was his only companion, and for the first few weeks I’d quiz him as soon as we left a building.

“Which direction are we facing?”

“How do you get downtown from here?

And so on. It was really about the only thing I could share from my own experience of moving from Arizona to western Washington. You gotta stay oriented, or it can mess with you.

I joke all the time about having no sense of direction, but it’s just a joke. First, whatever we’re talking about, it’s not a “sense” in the, sorry, sense that it’s inherent in most people. I don’t think it’s inherent, or it is at this stage of our evolution. I could be wrong. But I’m right on at least a conscious level. We don’t gaze toward the north and know it’s north. We might. The ability just doesn’t come with the original equipment.

So forget the jokes, although Lord knows I don’t know which direction I’m facing a lot of the time. But that’s because I’m just not thinking about it. Even at this age, I could train myself easily to know, in general, where I’m heading. Knowing where I’ve been would help, by the way.

This is mindfulness, which is unfortunate. First, it’s a word that looks like it was assembled by committee. I’m surprised it hasn’t been modified a few more times by now. Mindfulness-esque. Paramindfulness. It’s a mess.

It’s also a popular term, tossed around by those who would make us better. It makes me want to walk away when I hear the word.

But if you can tolerate the faddish nature of it, and strip away the Buddhist associations, although those are actually pretty good associations to have, you just have something our parents, grandparents, and teachers taught us: Pay attention. Be aware. Know where you are.

Now add in some of the stuff that feels woo-woo. How are you feeling? What’s up with that? Is it feeding you anything good? If not, figure out how to fix it. It’s not a big step; a little practice and it becomes second nature. You don’t have to wear special costumes or anything.

I was trained in some of this, but in a lifesaving class. So to speak. It was important, I was told, if I were pissed about something or bummed about something, to figure out what that something was and fix it, fast. People who don’t, who bottle that crap up and keep their mouths shut and wish it away, can end up unhappy. Alcoholics can end up drunk. Or worse. You know.

I don’t practice mindfulness, or meditation, or anything remotely resembling a spiritual or contemplative state. I get there sometimes, mostly through turning off the screens in my home and staring at the walls. I get some pretty good ideas that way.

So this is going to be my Lent. Try harder. Be nicer. Be more aware.

And know that what I do today affects tomorrow, and some things are better off doing now than waiting.

And that I don’t want to spend my days waiting for them to end, as I’ve been doing for months now, for whatever reason. I want to wait for them to start. Welcome to my Lent. I’m facing south at the moment. I’ll keep you posted.

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