IT’S THE JOURNEY

No project goes as planned. No vacation is perfect. Some part of every meal will not be ready when the rest of the dishes are served. Guests come early, late, leave too soon, or not soon enough. Complications, delays, bumps in the road are the companions to everything.

So many things almost happen. When I was newly back from Israel, I took a three-day weekend from my very new job to visit friends in San Diego. I bought a new weekend carry-on bag (I love luggage). Got tickets to San Diego — not easy because most cross-country flights out of Boston go to Oakland, SF, or LA — none of which are close to San Diego.

On local roads ...

I got to La Guardia airport, but the plane didn’t. I had a connecting flight in Salt Lake City. Four hours later, the plane was MIA. I demanded my money back

The perky young thing at the ticket counter explained, “These are non-refundable tickets. See? It says so right here. We can get you on a flight to Los Angeles tomorrow afternoon. How’s that?”

I was not feeling perky. More like an Arnold Schwarzenegger character about to do serious damage to an airport.

“I took a three-day weekend from work. I won’t get those hours back. I’m not interested in Los Angeles. It’s more than 3 hours drive from San Diego and I don’t have a car. By the time I got there — if I got there — I’d have to turn right around. I’ve had to spend money on taxis, lost my holiday time. All I got is a long afternoon in a waiting room. I want a plane to San Diego. Direct, nonstop because I already missed my connecting flight — or my money back. Now.”

I got the money. Took a taxi home. Spent the weekend feeling sorry for myself. Never made it San Diego and eventually lost touch with those friends.

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Our fondest illusion is control, that we’re the designers of our destiny. It’s the greatest promise we get as kids, and the biggest lie of all, that if we do “life” right, we can get what we want.

We know — because our teachers and our parents and everyone told us — that good work gets rewarded. Kindness will be returned. If we eat right, keep fit, exercise, avoid drugs, cigarettes and alcohol, we’ll be healthy forever. The bad things won’t happen to us. We will live happily ever after.

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From little stuff that goes wrong — flights cancelled, vacations rained out — to failed marriages and jobs lost, we get stripped of illusions. Injustice comes in an infinite variety of shapes and sizes, from tiny indignities to incomprehensible calamities. No one is immune.

Sooner or later, it becomes clear. We are passengers on the bus of life. We aren’t driving. We don’t even know what road we’re on, and have no idea of the destination. After a lifetime of trying to drive, I get it. The bus is going where it’s going. It is what it is.

It’s not where you end up. It’s a journey. I might as well enjoy it.


But No Cigar – Daily Prompt

My lance, my windmill, and my mighty steed

Nothing is simple. No matter how it looks on the surface, no project goes as planned. No vacation is perfect. Some part of the meal will not be ready when the rest of the dishes are done. Guests come early or late, leave too soon or not nearly soon enough.  Complications are the inevitable companion to everything.

Old South Church steeple

Old South Church steeple

Our fondest illusion, the one we hold most dear, is that we control our own lives, design our destiny. It’s the greatest promise of youth, the one that gives us the energy to charge off into life. We need to believe if we do the right stuff, go to the right schools, work hard, plan carefully, save against a rainy day … if we do “life” right, we will get what we want.

Good work gets rewarded, kindness will be returned, generosity appreciated. Moreover, if we eat right, keep fit, exercise, avoid drugs, cigarettes and alcohol, we will be healthy forever. Even if we don’t, statistics are just numbers: the bad stuff won’t happen to us. And of course, when we marry, it will be the right person and ours will be the love that lasts.

Crosswalk shadow

From the smallest things that go wrong, to the marriages that don’t last … to the jobs we lose when the company goes belly up or we are declared unnecessary or obsolete … we get stripped of our illusions. We learn that doing the right stuff doesn’t always yield the results we expected or the rewards we deserve. We discover that injustice comes in an endless variety of shapes and sizes, from the tiniest indignities to incomprehensible disasters. No one is spared, no one is immune. Whether slowly but surely or suddenly and without warning, we realize we are passengers on the bus that is life.

We are not driving the bus and don’t even know what road we are on.

Our plans for immortality are interrupted by unexpected illness. Friends and family are taken from us. The sickly partner lives, against all logic and reason, a long life and the apparently healthy, fit one is felled by accident or disease. We plan for a future that is never ours. There is a future, but it’s inevitably a surprise. Perhaps that’s the way it ought to be.

Bridge over the Little Colorado

Small choices are always in our grasp … the clothing we wear, which movie we see, with whom we share our lives. Beyond that, we might as well relax and enjoy the ride. Rich or poor, it’s the same for us all. Control is illusory. Man plans, God laughs. So why not laugh too?

Bus Crash

After a lifetime of trying to drive the bus, I got it. I could try my best and do what I can, but in the end, the bus is going wherever it’s going and I have nothing to say in the matter. I can enjoy myself or I can be miserable, but I’m not in charge.

I’ve gotten better at enjoying the ride and not making myself and everyone else crazy because I don’t like the bus, don’t know the driver, and apparently have no idea where I’m going. Although I still try to wrest the steering wheel from the steely grasp of the driver, I know I’m going to lose.

For every battle in which I engage and take away some small victory, there are dozens that I emerge from beaten, tired, pissed off … and in exactly in the same place I started. I keep relearning the same lessons. I recognize the futility of what I do, but sometimes I do it anyhow. I need to fight back, rail against fate. However futile it may be, sometimes I have to tilt at a few windmills.

That’s why I write. Because words are my lance, the world with all it’s injustice is my windmill. The internet? That’s my mighty steed.