I’ll take my metaphors wherever I can get ’em.
This one came courtesy of a flight attendant — four of them, actually — on my recent vacation.
A cross-country trip from the snowy Northeast to sunny California (and back home, unfortunately) required four separate flights. With each landing, I heard something like this: “Use caution opening the overhead bin, as your bags may have shifted during flight.”
My bags were fine. But all week on vacation, I kept opening my overhead psychological bin only to discover that some personal baggage had shifted. (If you think I’ve lost my luggage, as it were, here’s what I mean:)
In recent years I’ve felt a growing, nagging sense of urgency, a sense that I need to do more with my life. The older I get, the faster the years zip by. I want them to slow down. I need them to slow down. There is still so much good work to do, so much fun to have.
The baggage shift: No longer will I play it safe and just “settle” for circumstances that, while comfortable, border on mediocrity or even apathy. If I merely coast, I might get somewhere eventually. Or I might not. It’s time to take a harder look at the world around me, and do something about things that aren’t right. Some of my recent posts on this blog are part of that shift, I think.
Usually cautious and mostly rational, I stepped way out of my comfort zone and did something on vacation I never thought I’d do. I bought a mandolin. (That’s not a typo.) I’ve never learned to play an instrument, but I like the mandolin’s sound and admire those who play it well. Can I learn a new trick at 56? Blame Levon Helm, I suppose.
My primary goal is to learn to play a couple of songs I like without sounding like the musical equivalent of a Dumpster fire. True nirvana would be to some day sit in on an Irish session in a pub. (I could then die happy, since the Red Sox broke the curse in 2004 and I finished my 10th marathon in 2013.)
As so often happens when I need guidance, I look to the words and wisdom of far more eloquent writers. Two come to mind now, the poets Mary Oliver and Robert Browning, and they fit nicely together.
Like good reporters, they ask some tough questions here.
A line from Oliver’s “The Summer Day” hasn’t really left my overhead bin since I first heard it a few years ago — “Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
And a line of Browning‘s has been with me since high school: “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”