Tuesday, January 3, 2012

On the Turning of the Year

It is January 3, 2012 and bitterly cold in the Ottawa area.  Just a few days ago we were in British Columbia visiting the west coast branch of the family, and for 10 days we didn't see the sun. "At least it isn't snowing," we said.  Today it is brilliantly sunny here at home, but about -20 degrees Celsius.  I am thinking about Hawaii!

Another year has passed, making a total of 60 for me now.  I suppose I am now at the age where just surviving another year is the biggest accomplishment of all, and something to be celebrated in itself.

On the family front, all is well.  She Who Must Be Obeyed continues her quest to achieve immortality through raw foods and smoothies.  She maintains a bewilderingly varied social network of contacts with like-minded people all over the world and she is a hub of support and wisdom for her very large family.  Son has begun to find himself in high school and has grown into a man-sized teenager with a tremendous wit.  Daughter has her smoothie business, now located on an Island, near Vancouver, and Granddaughters continue to be interesting, beautiful and smart girls who are growing into interesting, beautiful and smart young ladies, like their mother and grandmother before them.

On the writing front, I reworked my novel Grey Eyes during the summer, but my work schedule has made it very hard to maintain any sustained attention to fiction.  But it is getting there...

As detailed in three earlier blogs, I bought a Bentley and having it is a great pleasure.

On the work front, I reached major milestones in some of my largest and longest-lasting matters.

But the overall impression I have of 2011 is of exhaustion.  All the accomplishments came at a great price.  My resilience seems to have left me.  A significant part of this is due to having ballooned into a caricature of my old self, carrying more than 100 pounds that I don't need.  Part of it is the result of spending virtually every week on the road to serve my clients.  There have been too many nights getting home at 2 am after a long day of negotiations followed by hours and hours of travel home.  Far, far too many airplanes. Far, far too many hotel rooms.  The rush to get to an airport through traffic, then the waiting.  The delayed flights, the missed connections.  The airport shuttle buses.

Most of all, I am no longer sustained by my optimism that my professional work will benefit the people I am working for.  As I am getting close to settling major land claims the news is full of horror stories about First Nation communities.  A housing crisis in Attawapiskat.  Widespread Oxycontin addiction in many communities in northern Ontario.  These are problems that more land and more money cannot solve.  Law has no answers.  I hope that my experience with First Nations communities can still be put to use to try to find answers, but that is not something I can expect to happen through practicing law.

But it is more than that.  Yes, I am tired and yes, I am losing my sense of accomplishment even as I am achieving professional goals.  I am suffering from a deep weariness that does not go away with a weekend of rest or even a vacation.  It is as if I have drawn on all my knowledge, all my emotions and all my physical energy for so long that there is nothing left.  I talk about recharging my batteries, and on the level of tiredness I can recharge and then go back at it again, but there is something deeper in me that is depleted and cannot be recharged, at least not with the time available to me in my current circumstances.

In 2011 I resolved to end this way of life.  I am going to "semi-retire" in 2012.  Jokingly I have told people that this means having a normal work schedule.  But it is more than that.  I really need to make dramatic changes to my life if I am going to get back to enjoying my work.

So here is the "Plan."  As my claim files reach a conclusion I will make no attempt to replace the work.  During the coming year I will be down to 50 per cent of the workload I have been carrying.  I will have time to read, to think, to listen to music, to write, to play my guitar.  I can drive Andrew to school and pick him up.  I can sit in Starbucks and read the whole morning paper over a latte.  Wife and I can go for long lunch dates.

We are considering a move to a better climate.  Likely it will be in the Vancouver area.  From my first visit there in 1974 as part of a travelling gang of gypsies selling old documents to lawyers (a story for another time!) I have been enthralled by Vancouver and its surroundings.  It is always green.  There are always mountains, and there is always the sea.  Life seems slower, somehow, although it is now a very large metropolis.  "I could live here,"  I have said to myself on every visit over the years.

But do I want to?  After 10 sunless days, days of constant rain and low clouds, I wonder.  Could I survive those winters?  Could I ever live in a city with a team named the Canucks?

I could live in Hawaii, but then there is the fact that it is (likely illegally according to international law) part of the United States.  Could I ever live in a country where Sarah Palin and Rick Perry are considered politicians?  No, I don't want to live in any part of the United States, even though Hawaii would deserve an asterisk.

What I really want is to live in B.C. but with a month or two a year in Hawaii.  That may be possible.

Getting back to the Plan, now.  With all the extra time I want to look into issues that I have enough time to contemplate but not to investigate.  Here are some:

  • What is the truth about global warming?  I believe we humans have contributed to the process but I suspect it is too late to do anything about it, at least through cutting back on emissions.  What we need to do is capture the CO2 and take it out of the atmosphere.  Maybe we are going to have to alter the albedo of the Earth and do some other things that sound like the premise for a disaster movie.  
  • How can humanity make the transition from its addiction to fossil fuels to a solar-powered future?  What are the technical, economic and political obstacles?  What is the critical path?
  • How can we redistribute the wealth of the Earth so that no child is hungry or lacking in the basic necessities of life?  What stands in the way?
  • Why is so much of humanity driven by religious fervour?  I don't understand why belief in a deity must in so many cases translate into hatred for others.
I also want to read or re-read many of the great books.  I want to listen to great music.  

Mostly I want to stop wasting my time on airplanes and sitting in airports or in traffic trying to get to airports so that I can be driven to distraction by government representatives and sometimes clients too.

The Plan presupposes that I am going to survive, so it also presupposes that I am going to get rid of the 100 or so excess pounds of me.  So I will conclude with that.  I am going to be lean, but less mean.  I am going to learn to meditate, to live in the moment and not the billable hour.  It is time for a new me, or at least a different one than the one who has been inhabiting my body these past few years!  Interesting times ahead.


ToBlog today said...

Coming along for the ride!

Alan Pratt said...

You betcha!

Stan Pratt said...

Great plan.Riding a mower or snowblower is instant gratification while you ponder bigger things