It’s taken me an embarrassingly long time to finally realize exactly how I’m wired and what I want out of life. I’ve been wrong a whole slew of times about what to wish for, enough times that Pamela and I both came to the same conclusions at about the same time. I first noticed the wrinkle when I met Pam for the first time at college. In high school I’d always thought I wanted a Playmate of the Month type. Don’t think I need to go into great detail: perfect teeth, perfect bod, perfect everything.
Turns out that isn’t what I wanted…at all. The first inkling I remember was trying to convince her to join me for a cup of coffee at The Grill on Centenary campus. She was trotting back to her room in a black leotard and tights, having just finished a ballet session. She was too skinny to be a fold-out, and she appeared still on some kind of emotional high from dancing for four hours. When I caught up to her on the walkway, she looked…a little bit crazy. Her one eye was pulling in the tiniest bit because she was tired, and looking in her eyes I just wanted to hold her and protect her against the rest of the world. My stricken-ness at that moment, was actually based, not on perfection, but imperfection. …Happy to say that over the years, each of us gets even MORE imperfect and so our almost half-century together seems to be working out okay.
When I left my very “sexy” job as Air Force pilot, and more importantly, Tempest officer, I left to become the proverbial starving artist. From disposable income to disposable diapers in one week and trying to make ends meet. It was rough and I remember one specific evening, driving with Pam out to Sabino Canyon in Tucson and telling her, “If I can just be a successful sculptor and husband to you …I’ll be happy. I don’t need anything else.” That turned out to be utter bullshit, though I believed it with my whole heart at the time. As it turns out, at least for me, being there, having it, winning 20 to zip, isn’t nearly as much fun as going into overtime and winning by a hair. As it turns out, this concept plays out in just about everything Pam and I do, buy, or covet. We’ve never taken the easy way.
As many of you know, we’ve been planning our move to Asheville, North Carolina, for a while now. Not sure how it was that we suddenly got stupid again over the years, but we did. When we started looking at homes and properties, we kept running into pretty nearly perfect homes for us…perfect enough that we could sign on the dotted line, move our stuff in and then just sit back and watch the sun go down. With each new house we’d visit, however, either Pamela or I would come away finding something ridiculous wrong with it. Kitchen’s too big. Ceiling’s too high. Too many rooms. It took both of us a while to realize that what we were looking for was not absolute perfection. It was a place where we could move in and do what Pamela calls “Harvetizing”...making the place reflect who we actually are. We did it with our current home, CrossBow, which 30 years ago was a nondescript dot on the map. Did it in every home we’ve ever bought. Each time, the exact moment when we’d gotten the place just exactly the way we wanted it, and could now put our feet up…the party was, as they say, over. It was time to move on.
Pamela finally broke the code (again) on what we really needed. Exiting one particularly perfect house she sighed and said presciently, “What the hell would we do here all day?”
The house we’re attempting to buy is waaaay at the other end of the spectrum of perfection. And yet, I immediately noticed something when Pam and I were doing the walk-through. It was that ‘twinkle in her eye.’ She looked like she was falling in love. “Pssst, Henry… We could knock out this wall, expand the deck, enclose the back patio, and….put a bridge across the waterfall (???!!!)“ Waterfall? Make that plural, waterfalls, add a trout stream, a pond, and the possibility of panning for gold and…it’s almost heaven. Better yet, it needs some TLC. In the space of two hours, we had come up with pages of projects we can do with the house. The other “perfect houses?” Couldn’t find anything to do but just sit there and watch the grass grow.
Here’s a tiny microcosm of the typical decisions we’re making: We have to get a new truck when we move down. Our old POS (piece of shit) van finally breathed its last. Doing a week’s worth of research we discovered that for us the logical choice would be a new downsized Chevy Colorado. We didn’t need a pickup the size of the Queen Mary which trucks are today. They have to make electric sideview mirrors that turn-in so you can get it in your garage. And they cost like hell.
Neither of our hearts were in spending 30-50K for a truck to once in a while pick up some sheets of plywood. Soooo…on a hunch we Googled old pick up trucks. Found a mechanically great truck that needs a little TLC and a new paint job, new wheels, etc. We figure we’re saving about $30,000.00 and it’s already stolen our blackened little hearts. Which one do you smile at? If your eyesight is good enough, or you just click the picture to read the letters on the truck, it says, Blue Bayou, fountains, sculptures, time machines.
Blue Bayou is the name we’re giving to those twelve acres next to Catawba Falls. We still might get snookered by a competitive buyer, but we’re giving it our very best shot. Friends…and you know who you are, there’s a full-function charming guest house on the property. It’s near the waterfalls. You have an open invitation to visit. Keep in mind, of course, that after a week or so, fish…and visiting guests begin to smell a bit… :o)
Imperfection is Everywhere: Our dogs, all three Boston terriers are, by most people’s standards, off in left field as far as perfection goes. First off, if you look at them wrong, they fart…lethally. We’ve had parties grind to an emergency stand-still because Moose or Scootie slipped in under the dining room table. They don’t listen for beans and can freeze in position under the covers pretending they don’t exist when you call them. They are incredible con artists at begging. (Score so far: Gigi= 1000 Me= 0 and…did I mention the farting?) But…I seriously wouldn’t trade any of them for their weight in gold for the pleasure they bring. Born comedians, born empaths, they will not leave you alone if you’re even a bit down. They’ll lick your nose, jump around, howl, whatever it takes to make you smile, break your mood. They are our best friends in the universe. Perfect? You gotta be kidding. They just suit us to a T. Take a really close look at that face up above.
As Soon as…… ….I’ll be Happy. Beware that sentence! It can lead to a life of misery, frustration, or just going down the wrong road entirely. Take it from someone who has fallen into that hole a whole slew of times. As soon as I’m a published writer…I’ll be happy. As soon as I’ve got that patent…I’ll be happy. As soon as I make $XXXXX.OO a year I’ll be happy. As soon as… As soon as… As soon as… You can pretty much bet the fort that that particular sentence will never come true for you. The very moment you achieve your goal, that ole Hedonic Treadmill kicks-in and your goal, like the ephemeral rainbow, drifts back to the next horizon. You’ll never catch that rainbow. Change course while you still can.
For you sports fans, what’s the best game you ever watched? Was it the one where the score was 40-zip? Without having met you, I can answer for you. No way. It’s the game where you’re fighting the last seconds on the clock to get that one extra point, that one winning goal. That’s where the fun is. That’s where the excitement is. That’s what life is all about. Were you lucky enough to watch the Americans against the Soviets in Olympic Hockey? God…
Or, this is a bit specific, but if you saw it you remember: Franz Klammer coming from waaaay behind to just far behind, almost falling, but NO!!! he’s still up!!! To almost falling again, but NO!! somehow he’s STILL up! to hundredths of a second still behind as he races to the finish.
That, my friends, is what makes life sweet. Don’t take the easy route. Don’t sit out on the deck and check your watch every ten minutes to see if you’re still alive. Don’t even think about perfection. Perfection is BORING. Go for better than perfection. Go for EXCITING! Even if you lose, it’ll be a glorious loss having given your very best!