Maybe a magnifying glass isn’t enough

In my last newsletter, I wrote how future casting with a telescope is no bueno for me and that peering through a magnifying glass is a much better approach. Present moment for the win.

With my focus in front of me versus spiraling on the future, I feel centered, connected to others, and generally good.

Well, mostly.

As I creep into my 40s, I’m struck by how life loses the carefree nature of earlier years. Whether it’s me and Chelsea, colleagues, friends, or family, someone is usually navigating a tough life experience at some moment. It’s like the weather forecast changed from clear and sunny to “thunderstorms and golfball-sized hail for someone in your network….always.”

It makes me wonder if this was happening when I was younger and I was just too self-absorbed or busy to notice. (Hooray for our 20s!) For sure life is more complex, plus health issues simply crop up more as we age. As my friend Brandon told me, “our culture acts like it’s not the case as it upholds and worships youth, but we know better.”

So if difficulty and dealing with it is the norm, what to do?

In my telescopes and magnifying post, I quoted the book Radical Acceptance:

“The way out of our cage begins with accepting absolutely everything about ourselves and our lives, by embracing with wakefulness and care our moment-to-moment experience.”

Tara Brach

Mostly, my “acceptance” of life challenges has been that they’ll change…for the better. Aka DIFFERENT. However, another wise friend said, “Maybe the silver lining of the whole ordeal will be mastering acceptance and enjoying the present without needing anything to change to feel better?!”

Whoa. And YUP.

This too shall pass…but maybe the goal and lesson is that the ultimate win is being ok even IF things don’t change, or get worse. What if I’m fine even if things go poorly relative to some expectation of mine?

My work continues.

Ditching the future telescope

Having my cake and drawing it too.

Recently a friend asked me what I’m looking forward to. My answer wasn’t bikepacking or a trip overseas, but “continuing to develop the ability to be happy and satisfied without constant new experiences.”

Boring, right? Who kidnapped the old Dakota?!

(C’mon, you don’t actually read Traipsing About for bikepacking photos and van build posts, do you?)

I said this to my friend because in some ways, my life has less shiny *new* in it than ever before. My back injury is persisting, my business is in the tank, our elderly kitty Oliver makes it tough to travel…

Usually, my way through is ACTION. Hack, slice, dice, a metaphorical machete clearing a path. Onward!

But this time? I need to rest my back. The economy and my industry will recover sometime. We’re committed to being with Signore Gatto to the end while his quality of life is good. (Watching his connection with Chelsea is one of the sweetest, most heart-warming things ever.)

In fact, I’ve realized that using a telescope to futurecast, to peer into the distant future, makes me miserable. My brain defaults to “things will always be this way.” Hopes and dreams feel heavy, morphing into burdens. “I’ll never bikepack again!”

But if I kick the telescope over and pick up a magnifying glass, things shift. I trade decades and years for days and hours. Everything pivots, brightens. Perspective returns.

Instead of hacking, I need to take a page from the book Radical Acceptance:

The way out of our cage begins with accepting absolutely everything about ourselves and our lives, by embracing with wakefulness and care our moment-to-moment experience.

Sooo I’m trying to focus closer in. Daily walks or hikes in beautiful Central Oregon. I feel connected to Chelsea, my family and close friends. My piano, drawing, and language endeavors continue to captivate me. Yesterday I devoured Chelsea’s homemade pineapple upside-down cake topped maraschino cherries a friend canned for us.

What else does a boy need? Up close, life is good.

Funny how zooming in works. It’s almost like…if I stay in the present moment…I’m happier?! Damn you, Buddhists, for continuing to nail things.

I’ve even found I can zoom out a bit—binocular distance!—and dream. Some van trips, hauling Mr. Gatto out to Airbnb on the Oregon coast, a few other glimmers in the distance. But I’ve gotta just say no to telescopes.

As they say, this too shall pass. Yes, even my injured back, which is improving.

But for now, it’s time for another piece of pineapple upside-down cake.


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