Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Payoff

I want to talk about payoffs.

Every month, I put $100 into a retirement account. The hope is that 35+ years from now I will withdraw those monthly donations, and that with interest I'll have accumulated a nice little nest egg. (Do you hear the sound of me blithely ignoring the stock market as it drips steadily downward? Ignorance is bliss.)

There are other types of payoffs too, of course, and perhaps they offer far more than monetary value. Several times a week, many of us drag ourselves to the hot room, believing that our efforts will bring us rewards in the form of a healthier body, a saner mind, and a purer spirit. Effort takes the form of therapy, prayer, and meditation, typically done with a sort of "goal" in mind: we endure what is often a "grim duty" in the hopes that we'll achieve a sense of peace.

The struggles that push me into these activities are not unique to me. I get worried. I'm tightly wound. I have difficulty sleeping. And when I do sleep, anxieties persist: even my dreams reflect my mountain of insecurities back to me. "Life is a journey, not a destination," I tell myself to make it through a tough moment, pleading with myself to stay in the present.

One thing I think we can all agree on, though. The destination can be pretty sweet.

I took the time to pause and savor one of those destinations just last night.

Jamul view
Jamul, Hollenbeck Canyon
Every year, I go out to "the country," Jamul, which is located about 20+ miles east of San Diego. Each April, I celebrate the birthday of a dear friend, whose wife invites dozens of friends out to their sprawling property to explore, eat, drink, and dance to a band's rendition of Tom Petty, Santana, and The Doors.

Oh, and people also ride dirt bikes and ATVs.

I've been going to these Jamul parties for about five years now. Whenever I arrive, the hosts, Jerry and Cindy, offer me a drink and the keys their ATV, also known as The Rhino. Always I have declined, unless I happen to be with a guest that wants to jump into the driver's seat. I have ridden shotgun many a time around Jerry and Cindy's sprawling country property, always content to be in the passenger's seat. Whether it is from fear or simply from the result of resistance to new experiences, it never even occurred to me to grab the keys myself.

But there have been changes 'round these parts these last few months. Years of yoga and deep spiritual and emotional exploration have tenderly prepared the soil for new growth. A new man is at my side, a trellis that encourages those new tendrils to sprout upward. I was ready to start a new tradition at Jerry's party.

"Where are the keys?" I asked, not long after I arrived. My partner bravely entered the vehicle and gripped the dusty handle for dear life. Off we rode, bumping through ruts, nearly tipping over into brambles, streaming through mud puddles, and reversing down roads to avoid territorial guard dogs.

To say it was fun would be an understatement. As I steered us through windy country roads, I felt as if I were putting the miles between me and my old self--the past was, for once, going to stay put. A few moments of freedom, speeding steadily forward.

I know I'll keep on toiling away in the hot room. I will continue to sit until our sits bones are sore, and I'll dutifully deposit the money into my retirement accounts. But the payoff? When it arrives, I promise to love it. We should all spend a few moments reveling in that gloriously muddy, dusty destination.

Territorial canine
Avoid the territorial canines

E in the rhino
Enjoy the ride in the Rhino


feralchick said...

Love! :)

Anonymous said...

Wow you sound like an English Teacher! That was AWESOME in all senses of the word! Glad you took the Rhino by the AAAAAW OOOOOOOH GAAAAAAA HORN! LOVE YA, Jerry & Cindy

Martina said...

You go! Enjoy all of life's little (and grand) payoffs. I can't wait to meet your trellis!