Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Near Moleskine Catastrophe of 2014

I think I've always been a little sensitive (Read: super sensi and melodromatic). It's really not a quality that gives me a great sense of pride, but I'm doing my best to recover from this predisposition. As a man, being overly sensitive is much akin to being a huge fan of Grey's Anatomy or learning to cross-stitch at the beach with your cousins at the age of 12, in that it's not widely celebrated in our culture. It's kind of tough to admit publicly. I probably wouldn't be writing this post if I wasn't fairly sure that at this point, the secret is out (fast forward to :18) on one of my less desirable character traits.

Despite my desperate attempts to separate myself from my soap opera tendencies, they've taken a little more control in the past couple of years. Suffering losses makes life feel raw. Taking chances leaves you vulnerable. My losses and risks knocked me out cold for a little while. I was down and pretty unaware of the things going on above and around me.

Fortunately, I had some friends pick me up off the canvas and snap some smelling salts under my nose. I've been back in the fight. It's felt good to throw some punches, imagine success and believe I'm not alone. Something happens when you get knocked down, though. You get the taste of your own blood on your tongue. You feel the rough canvas against your face. You get a glimpse of what it would be like to suffocate as your breath leaves you entirely for a moment.

When you get up, you're woozy and painfully aware of your weaknesses and injuries. If you're smart, you learn from your mistakes and prepare better for the next onslaught. Regardless of what you learn, nothing but time can help you recover from the spacey detachment that results from that first big fall.

I feel I'm at that point in the fight right now. I've recovered and learned from some pretty rough mistakes. My coaches have taken a blade to my once-swollen eye and I can see again, even if my vision is still a little blurry. I'm gritting hard on my mouthpiece, ready to make a clear statement that I'm not going down in the next round. But I'm still woozy and one solid, well-placed blow could easily put me on the mat again. This is how a misplaced notebook pretty much destroyed my psyche for roughly 48 hours.

About six months ago I got robbed. The details aren't worth hashing out, but the items I was relieved of had a vicious combination of monetary and sentimental value. There was a large amount of cash, a laptop containing work and pictures from a once-in-a-lifetime trip that were never backed up. It was, in a word, lame. One of the items stolen was my Moleskine.

For those of you who aren't hipsters and don't fancy your thoughts more significant than everyone else's, I'll explain what a Moleskine is. It is a notebook. Really, that's it. It's a notebook with a thin leather cover and a ribbon to mark your page, much like many other notebooks. What differentiates a Moleskine is its heritage. Great thinkers, writers and artists such as Jean Paul Sartre, Ernest Hemingway and Vincent Van Gogh carried Moleskines. In carrying one, nearly every one of us deludes himself/herself into believing that one day we will record something as significant as the works of the aforementioned greats in our $20 notebook. Who knows? Maybe we already have, and the world just needs to stop being so lazy and discover our wondrous brilliance.

This is what was taken from me six months ago. In the interest of full disclosure, I don't just love my Moleskine because it makes me feel smarter than I am, it's also at the core of my organization. I take notes in it daily, both for work and my personal life. It's filled with to do lists, strategic plans, deeply valued thoughts, ideas and sketches. As I get older, my brain is an increasingly rapidly shaking sieve. Every thought I have is roughly two seconds away from being erased from existence. I need my Moleskine. When this first Moleskine was stolen, I felt the sting of a deep loss. I learned how much I valued it.

Fast forward to Sunday evening. I had a really fun time running all over the Bay Area with my Dad during the preceding four days. We saw Yosemite, SF, Oakland, drank excellent coffee, went mountain biking, ate and drank at Lagunitas and Brown Sugar Kitchen and created a deep bond with the bar manager at Lost & Found, a local beer garden. The only problem with this amazing time was that it completely threw me out of my daily habits, which is a major issue cuz the brain sieve thing. On Sunday evening, I was trying to get some work done when I realized I hadn't seen my Moleskine in days. Thus began a 48 hour downward spiral of hatred and self-loathing. I knew exactly how valuable this little notebook was to me, after having to part with one recently. If I couldn't handle a responsibility as small as keeping track of this item I have deemed incredibly important in my life, what could I handle? I had ONE job! And perhaps the worst part of the whole situation was feeling as if I was floating above my spiraling self, knowing that in the grand cosmic scheme, this notebook was pretty meaningless. I screamed at myself to go on with my days like a normal person, but both of my ethereal selves were apparently powerless to act. Now I could hate two of me for our irresponsibility and inaction. I am not a great multitasker (see above: brain sieve), but while I used most of my will to resist punching everything in sight, I was able to compile a list of responsibilities I would never be able to handle because I lost my Moleskine:

1. Succeeding at my job
2. Succeeding at any other job for the rest of my life
3. Meeting and caring for a woman
4. Marriage
5. Children
6. Really being trusted to take care of anything, ever, at all
7. Cactii

I referenced a boxing match earlier. If you've seen Fight Club, you can recall the unforgettable moment when Edward Norton beats himself to a pulp in his supervisor's office. As you remember it, you are creating a pretty accurate image of what was going on in my brain and my apartment for 48 hours. 

Over a notebook.

With the exception of actions required by basic survival instinct, I completely shut down as a functioning human being for two days. Because I lost a notebook. To some of you, this likely sounds absolutely nuttier than squirrel turds. On the other hand, I'm sure there are a few people who can relate to this. The struggle is real, as they say.

We let so many things define us. Our successes, our failures, our jobs and our relationships are just a few of the many external things we allow to dictate to us who we are. When we are emotionally and spiritually at our healthiest and happiest, everything we've done and own matters to us less. It becomes easier to say, I am not my career, I am not the things I own. It's the days when life is harder that we begin to grasp on to anything we can use as evidence that we are worthy. It's the slightly harder days that we look to our perceived failures because we are so disappointed in ourselves we actually want evidence of our unworthiness. 

Giving a pat solution to this degree of disappointment and self-sabotage feels a little contrived and forced, given that I'm still amidst a hangover from two days tail spinning over a notebook. I will say this: every single moment we have is an opportunity. One moment may be an opportunity to serve, one may be an opportunity to listen. One may be an opportunity to prove that although you lost a prized possession, you are capable of contributing to society in a meaningful way. Behind the ability to make the most of each moment is the confidence that no matter what happens, you can make the best choice possible, you can press on, you can be, as my mother used to say, a duck back. But even if you can't there are still a lot of people and a God who loves you. Maybe that actually matters a lot more than anything you'll ever do.

And you never know, maybe your roommate will find your Moleskine under the front seat of his car.