Friday, March 4, 2016

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance



There's some new books on my bedside table. A departure from the usual types of reading I do. I'm all about new adventures and learning ...particularly if I can do it vicariously by reading about it. It's good to have new story lines. New liturgies. New literature. Too many of us get stuck in one story line as if it were the common that could usher us peacefully fulfilled to the end of our lives. Many of us stop seeking new story lines, even vicarious ones, so comfortable are we in the status quo. We choose the familiar over the fulfilling. The mundane over the motivational.  Sometimes the search finds us numbing those longings with food or alcohol or electronics or busyness.

You know this storyline: Men. Midlife crisis. Ditching the mini van for a sports car. Sometimes the wife gets left in the mini van with the children and the sports car comes with a shiny, new accessory.

So, when I tell you that Jason and I are currently separated, I want to clarify that it's temporary. We're very much together...though we're living in different provinces and figuring out what that looks like for the next few months.

One of the things we promised each other when we got married, outside of our vows, was that we would always be on each other's team. We would figure out how to be the cheerleader that the other needs to pursue the dreams that need to be pursued in order to live well.

You know those things you daydream about when you're mindlessly going through the motions at work or waiting at a red-light? Those dreams that on cloudless sunny days are the thoughts that have you believing that "if only....then...."?  Jason and I have often referred to those types of daydreams as "Spaceman Spiffing"...a verb we created from the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes? There's a lot of wisdom in the relationship between a boy and his tiger. Our favourite Calvin alter ego is Spaceman Spiff, who is a result of Calvin's common daydreams. Sometimes, when kids are pressuring him to do something or his teacher is rambling on, Spaceman Spiff appears and takes on the "aliens" who are trying to destroy the peace and well being on his planet.   It's not uncommon in our house for Jason to get out of the shower and say, "Do you know what I Spaceman Spiffed while I was in the shower?" or for me to be laying in my hammock in the yard and when asked what I'm doing to say, "Oh, I'm just Spaceman Spiffing about being in Zambia...." We've created our own language to describe the dreams that seem just a little outside the realms of possibility but are still worthwhile giving mental energy too.

For the past few (ahem...5?) years since leaving ministry, Jason has had a recurring Spaceman Spiff dream. It's come up over the years in increasing intervals and so when a Spaceman Spiff turns into googling logistics, it's time to look at it in a more serious light. So, we did. Jason's dream has been to become a motorcycle mechanic. It's left field kind of thinking for a guy who sold his motorbike to help fund our 2012 trip to Africa with the kids...and it's out of the ball park kind of thinking for a guy who doesn't know a carburetor from a clutch kit...and yet, it's persisted. And so, he's packed up the Suburu which will probably get him an "F" for street cred, and headed back to school...a measly 10 hours away.

The dream is inspired in several ways...in natural ways and in uncommon ones. It  has no doubt been fuelled by friends with names like oh, say...Jerms and Woody...that show up on their bikes or work on them in the driveways across the street and tell tales of life on the road and the (mis)adventures of crashes and near misses and epic rides to Sturgis. But, it has also been inspired by being in Cambodia and seeing that there are thousands (millions?) of motorcycles on the road and that there are thousands of young men looking for work and it would be an amazing gift to be able to teach a trade to them. It's a wife that desires to volunteer long term overseas and the idea that having a trade would be a useful and empowering legacy to pass on to those who have no income to pursue a trade themselves.

So, for the past few years we've been talking and revisiting this idea. We've found an ever growing list of reasons why it's not practical, or feasible or even responsible. I mean, I have a part time job that barely keeps two teenaged boys fed...but hey, Kraft dinner is always on sale for less than a buck, right?

There are a million reasons not to pursue the dreams. There is a cost to making dreams reality, even the small ones. And there are those who say, "Why bother?" or "Why would you give up a decent job for the unknown?" Or my personal favourite "We could never afford that". There are those who couldn't live with the squeaky dryer or using a butter knife to unlock the washing machine for a few more months just to save those repair bill dollars and put them towards the dream. It's giving up the idea of just one family vacation before our oldest graduates and it's being alone in a remote northern town and living with friends of friends. It's walking into a classroom knowing how little you know. It's watching your husband drive away and feeling like a few months is far too long to hold down the fort. It's having to take on a few odd jobs and drinking coffee at home.  But you know what? Time passes. Months go by whether you're chasing your dreams or not. I can't tell you anything super significant that happens in the months of the year that we're just doing the day to day. I'm not saying there are not a ton of beautiful and meaningful moments in the ordinary. There are. I am saying though that those continue whether you're chasing a dream or not, why not chase it in the midst of the ordinary?   And you know what's not ordinary? The Spaceman Spiffs. Those sparks of your imagination that reveal your longings.


Chasing your dreams offers no guarantees other than one. That at the end of your life, you won't look back and wonder, "What if?" about the one nagging thought you had for years on end. Whether it works out the way we want it to or not...that's worth chasing. I'm proud of this guy...(Jason, not Calvin) and I know that when we figure out what all this leads to in the future, we'll know one thing for sure, it was worth it to be the kind of couple that challenges and cheers one another on to pursue dreams.


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