Friday, June 27, 2008

the North Pole

Today at work, management let all non-essential employees out early due to a power outage. Upon hearing the news, I waffled a little -- work is about half way between where I live and where my after-normal-work-hour plans required me to be. It didn't help that I felt no strong pull regarding what I should do with myself. I considered finishing up a few things for work (my laptop still had some juice) but eventually settled on finding a cafe that offered wireless internet access so I could write for a bit.

In contrast, most of my co-workers hightailed it as soon as they learned they could go.

For some reason, noticing that reminded me of a time I was hanging out with my friend Anna. We were looking for a parking spot when she pointed out a dog that was walking by. He was looking straight ahead and, as he crossed the lot, he never moseyed off the straight line that was his path. "He's definitely going somewhere," she said, "and it looks like it's a very specific somewhere."

Even the dog knew exactly where he wanted to go.

During a visit home a few years ago, I planned a short road trip for my mother and myself. At some point during our trip, I asked her what she would like to do. She kept suggesting things she thought I might want to do. But I didn't need for anything. I was a blank slate and had no preference for any destination or activity; My only desire was to spend time with her, and unless she opted for time alone, I would be getting exactly what I wanted. It took some time, but the moment I convinced her of this, her eyes lit up and she literally blurted out what she wanted to do.

I had never dug past enough of the "I'm your mother, let me take care of you" strata to get to this particular layer of hers. If I'd had any inkling that this layer was there, of course I would have dug sooner! How could I not have guessed she might have that sort of drive, that ability to think of an activity to do and then crave doing it?

Because I don't seem to have it myself.

I first noticed this about myself the summer after my junior year, while on a plane headed toward Boston. This was something I wanted, something I knew I would enjoy. But I felt no giddy anticipation, it was as if the only moment that existed was the one I was currently in. I remember sitting on the plane and wondering if it meant anything. Was it a premonition? Could the reason I couldn't imagine and look forward to the future be because the plane was going to crash? Over time I've learned that although there are many, many things I enjoy doing, my anticipation button is just a little broken.

Last year, my friend Dan and his wife Linda planned a trip to Hawaii, inviting one friend each to join them. Dan invited me and, when I saw how much it would mean to him for me to say yes, I said yes. He was excited about the trip. On occasion he would ask me if I was looking forward to it. I reminded him of my weird quirk. I tend to not look forward to activities, milestones, or events. I don't mean that I dread them, I just mean that I don't feel that sense of anticipation, that sense of "this is going to be great!" excitement, even for activities I know I will enjoy.

The only caveat I can think of has to do with activities that revolve around a good one-on-one conversation. (The kind where someone learns something new about the other or about themselves, or where ideas volley back and forth, allowed to change shape with each catch and toss, or where someone is listened into a better place, ... )

My theory is that my non-linear life path is a direct result of this.

Other people seem to have a North Pole out in the world, and a big magnet tucked inside them that craves that big North Pole and pulls them in a straight line toward it. I'm coming to believe that instead of a magnet, I have a little north pole inside. And it craves not things or milestones or places, but that magnetic tug of other people.

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