Thursday, January 31, 2008

What are we doing???

What are we doing with our lives? How is it that I/we spend most days indoors staring at a computer monitor all day and dealing with bullshit issues? I'm so tired of it all.

In a previous job, I traveled more, moved around the country and region interacting with people and the environment. Now, I'm stuck in a box with little time to escape and feel the sun, wind or air temperature on my face. I miss all that. Yes, there are trade-offs to be sure. Travel delays, security lines, the hassles of post 9/11 America. I'd take all that for the infrequent moments when I'm outdoors, in the real world, or just motoring down the highway.

Maybe that's why motorcycling appeals to me as much as it does. It's not the great (or sometimes not-so great) destinations that we arrive at, it's the feel of the breeze through a partially-opened visor, the sun on my forearms in the summer months, the smell of honeysuckle, rubber and gasoline. It's the lack of walls, PCs, telephones, emails, spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations. It's the quiet of your own thoughts without the interruption of extraneous distractions.

I'll admit to sometimes medicating myself with music, turning on the tunes for background noise or to kill time on a boring ride. I listen to talk radio most mornings on the way to and from the office, to numb the pain. But increasingly, I find myself switching it off, in disgust, at the sameness of today's rant, or the latest info on Brittany's meltdown. Who cares? Why are we so sheeplike that we willingly accept the pablum on TV and radio. Why am I afraid to listen to my own thoughts?

The truth is, I'm not. They creep in, when I allow, and when I am not overstressed or overburdened with work or other obligations. As I reflect, I think "What am I doing? Why am I living my life this way?" There has to be more. There has to be a greater satisfaction out of one's daily existence and, taken in total, one's life. That little voice I hear (along with the constant ringing) is the roar of dissatisfaction.

According to the Dalai Lama, the Secret to Happiness is to learn to be happy with what you have. How true. We all have so much and yet feel the pressure of our conspicuous-consumption society. Bigger, faster, sexier, Wow! We gotta have it. Mea culpa. But I'm trying. Not to go all Al Gore on ya, but I'm trying to consume less.

I'm a very lucky guy. I have a wonderful family, great friends and good health. We live in an incredible part of the country, with clean air, abundant water, mountains, beaches, little traffic and access to the rest of the world just minutes away. And we squander all that by breathing recycled air in a dank office environment, hunched over an LCD display sending worthless emails for crap we don't really believe in. Gotta pay the bills. Well, my psychic bill is overdue.

This year, I promise to do something more positive with a portion of my time, so I can look back on that accomplishment and know that I did something meaningful. I'm going to join the Surfrider Foundation ( and do some volunteer work to help clean up our beaches and work to improve the water quality. It won't be easy as the nearest chapters are in Portland or Boston, but I'm going to try. Spring will be here soon and our favorite 12-mile strip of coastline will be awash in winter trash, debris and other crap. If you want to help, follow the link, join and donate money to a worthy cause. Or, if you know me, bend my ear and join me for the experience.

Yes, I want to lie on a warm, sunny beach with the smell of the ocean and coconut-scented sunscreeen wafting over me. But before I retire, I need to accomplish something. I need to do something positive so that I can look back on this time and admit to myself that I did more than shuffle papers and make empty promises. I need to rethink the job thing.

I know a lot of you already volunteer for cancer walks, Toys for Tots, Patriot Guard. So many people doing good. And still, there are so many needy people, so many less fortunate, so many causes. Pick one in 2008 and make it your own. Turn off the noise and listen to what your soul tells you is right, and act on it. How are you going to do more this year?

Oh crap, I'm turning into a hippie in my old age! Peace out everyone,

Joe Rocket