Monday, May 13, 2013

Living Like a Visitor

I spent a good part of the weekend wondering whether I would be sitting here this morning.  Wondering if I would ever sit here again.  Like a hunting club or a fishing hole, this was a hobby, and a "place" of sorts, that I shared with a friend and now he's gone.

Every post, I would think about Dennis.  He read everything I wrote, I read everything he wrote, and we talked about it whenever we would see each other.  It's the way a 58 year old and a 31 year old become friends.  He had this face he would give whenever he thought my post was too corny; almost a grimace, but paired with a laugh to ease the slight.  Dennis would occasionally give the gentle critique of "That's not the way I would have written it, but your way is fine too."   We would talk about "post ideas" and "scoops", getting together about once every two months or so, just the two of us, to trade the things that we "knew but couldn't write".  It makes me smile to think that there are still some things out there that he knew but couldn't share.  He loved being in the know...even if it almost cost Columbia a Whole Foods. 

About a year ago, Dennis and I met for coffee (very rare for us).  He told me that he was going to start writing less.  He wasn't going to stop writing, but maybe only write once a month or once a week, and only if it was something "really good".  Dennis was his own worst critic and thought his posts had lacked the substance he expected of himself.  The daily obligation was feeling a little weighty, understanding that this obligation was self-imposed.  We talked about "funks" (a word I could do without for a while) and how writing is about momentum.  We talked about getting back in the groove and the amazing difference between having nothing to say and hours later needing to capture all of the "post ideas" that come flooding out of the ether.  We talked about all of the posts that he "didn't really like" that were enjoyed by all of us on the other side of the computer screen.  Finally, he did his little Eureka head-lift and said, "Why would I ever give this up?"  Then I teased him for 20 minutes about how he was just fishing for compliments and how I made some of them up just to make him feel better.

All that said - I was ready to go cold turkey on Saturday.  That morning's post was everything I wanted to say about Dennis and I wanted people to read it.  What better way than leave it at the top of this blog...and be done.

And I know the compulsion is to think about what Dennis would have wanted, but that may work in naming a street or installing a plaque, but it doesn't work for something like writing.  Sometimes you just lose the juice.

Then I read this:

"When you go to a new city, you tend to notice everything: colors, buildings, people, landscapes.  System 1 is on the alert and soaking in the details.  The sense of acute vividness that people get when visiting new places comes from the fact that a lot is unfamiliar and thus stands out from the background.  When you return home, not so much stands out (even if home is pretty amazing)." - Cass Runstein, Simpler: The Future of Government

I spent yesterday reading between 60 and 70 of Dennis's old posts.  The reason we loved reading him, and looking at the pictures he would take, was because he took our familiar and made it remarkable.  And, really, THAT is what we all should be aspiring to do.  Because our home is amazing, filled with amazing colors, buildings, people, and landscapes.

If you have a beer on Sunday morning after running up 3 miles of hills, take a picture!  If you are eating a crazy mixture of barbeque and baked potato, take a picture!  Let your friends know!  Celebrate it.  Because you don't know when that will happen again and by celebrating it you have made your day remarkable.  Live the life of a visitor with the knowledge of local.  Be curious.

All of these lessons are what he taught me.  I always thought I had become a better writer by pounding away morning after morning, but it was really by way of Dennis.  I may spend the next week, maybe even the next month, just writing about him, but I'm going to do my best to keep the momentum going.  When you stop, you stop looking to the world for things to write about.  Your curiosity dulls.  Not much stands out...even if it all is pretty amazing.

Have a great Monday doing what you love!  Rock on.