Sunday, September 27, 2015

How do we choose?

(broccoli and cauliflower saute')

Hubby has been getting up early, many mornings, just to get to the kitchen before me, just so he can have his favorite breakfast, his way. What is that, you ask? Potatoes hash/brown with peppers and onions, a slice of crisp bacon and a fried egg. He changes this pattern rarely; even the breakfast he might order at a restaurant. If left to choose on his own, Hubby will eat the breakfast he has come to love, even though his doctor's orders are otherwise.

I fix all meals with three thoughts in mind:  what is in the refrigerator that needs using; what fits our nutritional needs.  This morning, I could have easily prepared this sauteed combo, but I had spinach to use up. So, we had a spinach omelette instead.

How we choose, however, is hardly something we do consciously according to the latest research. So, ignore that second paragraph, where I list my thoughts/criteria for preparing meals. The real process is quicker and unconscious, based on a lifetime of habits, and only when we think about our choices, we come up with rationales, clear patterns, philosophical standings to justify our actions.

As I watch/read the statements out of Pope Francis's mouth this week, throughout his visit to America and Cuba, I keep thinking of all the things he could have said and done in his role as the Holy Father. I'm sure his "handlers" act as all assistants do, help smooth out schedules, identify areas of concern, etc. His character and habits however, will show through and through.

The idea that we do most of our choosing automatically is a bit unnerving. After all, haven't we taken entire courses of study on planning, analyzing, prioritizing.

How will it look if an employer asked us to plan a strategy for improving a process, and our response is: No need to. When it's time to choose, we all jump right in.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Getting to the end of all things.

We are all fishermen, equipping our boats with traps and lures, life jackets and survival kits, adding extra ice in those coolers we hope to fill with our catches, as we go on, day in and day out to fight for our survival, one bounty at a time, on most days when the weather is cooperating, and even on those days when most people would rather remain under blankets. We are wired to work; we are wired to support our families; we are wired to keep trying until we succeed.

Our working lives give us sustenance and identity.

Whether in an office or on an assembly line, at sea or on the ranch,  our work has demands on our being, our full attention in the present and our full commitment for the future. We trudge through the worse days anticipating better days. We work and then, one day, we hope to take a rest, run into some extra cash to fulfill the dream of a bigger boat, a set of tools, all to make our work produce more income, more security for those days ahead we know we won't have enough strength to pull another load, to handle another complaint, to type another inquiry. There will be a time, you tell yourself, when all this will pay off; our lives will improve, and lady luck will smile broadly and long upon us.

Then, we are too old for work. Or, our boat brakes down; our equipment is too ancient; our energy level can't keep up anymore. It's time to retire. Time to enjoy the fruit of our labors. Or, sell what we have and move out of the rat race, identify the necessities and live without those trappings we have come to rely on.

When the end is near, we all think of ways to pare down. We might sell our house and buy a smaller condo, with no upkeep expenses. We try to sell our stuff too; or give it away as stuff will tie us down.

After all the dismantling, reality kicks in. What do I do with all my time? How do I live without the comforts I have enjoyed all these years? Will I miss my old work? Will I miss the grand kids? What happens if I become very ill? What happens if my money runs out?

We take a long time to prepare for work, decades. We take very little time to prepare for the decades that follow work, for the decades when our choices will be just as tough as the choices we had in our youth, yet the time to recuperate if we make bad choices is very short. Our health and social lives will change drastically; our partners, too, as we are then left to deal with life's circumstances on our own. If our families were close, there will be comfort. If we still can drive and travel, more comfort.

Mostly, the race to the end of life is a sad string of circumstances we have no idea how to handle, and very few resources left to address such needs.