Visiting Home?

New York - Times Square - July 1977

I was eight, nine-years-old. I ran away from home. After dark, lights reflecting off the wet street, I turn into an alley off Granville near Broadway. There’s a dumpster to my left, weathered utility poles down both sides of the lane. Something spooks me, I start running. The alley seems endless. I panic. I wake up.

It was a recurring nightmare and I was scared of it. Unable to shake the memory of the fearful flight, it would take me forever to fall asleep again. I would go to bed anxious of a repeat performance. I started a practice of fantasizing to make sure I would fall asleep with pleasant thoughts.

And I got good at forgetting my dreams.

I see a notification on my phone. A message from the future mother. In addition to a grandchild, I am also getting a son-in-law I reply with my congratulations. It feels too early to ask if they’ve set a date.

I’d asked when she gave me the news of my impending grandfatherhood. She said she didn’t want to spend a fortune on a single day. I heard the words and listened to what she was saying. She is happy with the father and trusts him.

The contrarian and I had both thought he would pop the question last year during their Mediterranean cruise. It’s hotter in Hawai’i.

This news has no voice, no body-language, only the words “I said yes” and a smiley. It is enough for me to know she is very happy that he is ready to commit completely.

I should have asked if the date is known. My self-interest becomes obvious if I do it now. Do I need to plan one or two trips? If only one, do I have to change my dates? Will I have to get a hotel room?

I want to plan this trip. It’s a new thing for me. I was biased against planned vacations. Vacations are a vacation from planning. It’s future mother who showed me how good it can be. My self-indulgent version unsatisfying, I was open to changing my mind. .

It started with my almost annual trips to Canada in the spring. I would arrive just as the hockey playoffs were starting.

Hockey, a large part of my Canadian identity. Would I be such an avid fan if I was still living in Canada?

I’ve lived in two countries for longer than I lived in Canada. And the longer I live out-of-country, the more I feel attached to my Canadian identity. A fear of assimilation.

I passed a milestone without knowing. I received a letter telling me that if I work another 12 years I get a pension equal to 70 percent of my salary. It is more than I was expecting. It also shows me the penalty for stopping sooner. They’re discouraging me from retiring early.

I was happier thinking that, having arrived in France at the age of 35, there was no way I was going to qualify for a good pension. I had very little to lose if I moved back to Canada. Now I feel tethered, just when my youngest is getting old enough for me to start planning.

Fucking loss aversion principle! Probabilistically, I would not lose much, if anything. However, if I live a long life, then I lose big and I am human enough to be optimistic.

I do have the option of continuing to pay in even if I move away. It means earning enough to do so. I don’t want all these complications. I want simple options.

Two strong instincts fighting each other. Trapped versus loss aversion.

I’ve always told people I don’t plan on retiring. I can’t see myself without an occupation. I am just now realizing that it doesn’t have to be a job. I can be slow.

I need to find a new saying. Something to replace “My idea of retirement is having enough money to say ‘Fuck You’ if someone wants me to do something I disagree with.”

I call the contrarian. He is doing well, in a good mood. He has an urban dance class starting in a couple of hours. I tell him how my travel plans have become less sure. “I would like to start planning my activities there.”

“Hockey games?”

I shout a laugh.“More like avoiding spending five hours every evening watching playoff games.”

“I can’t believe you are going to be in Canada and not watch hockey.”

“Ha! That’s not what I said. It’s spending every evening watching back-to-back games that I want to avoid. I’ve done that too many times. I’ll watch some games if there’s nothing else happening or if I am in the pub. I just don’t want it to be the only thing I do with my evenings.”

“So you want to go out and party every night.”

I shout another laugh.“I wouldn’t mind. It’s a vacation! But no, that’s a little too self-indulgent. I am supposed to be there for the grandkid. Not that I know what a grandfather is supposed to do. I am not doing diapers, that’s for sure.”

It’s his turn to laugh.

I let him go. He’s anxious to go add another party trick to his arsenal and I know that there are more women than men in the class. (I took salsa classes when I was between wives. Nowadays, I prefer theatre.)

How do I go about finding a contracting gig? Now there’s a question I haven’t asked myself before. Not seriously. More like, I haven’t answered seriously. Like make actual plans.

I keep telling people I’d like to spend the Northern winter in Australia and pay for my stay with a contracting gig. Now I’m saying I want to use one as a stepping stone  to moving back to Canada. How can I pretend to be serious about this if all I do is browse freelancing sites and decide the offers don’t pay enough. I easily find reasons why solutions wont work.

How did I say it the other day?

And there’s another issue. I can preach eloquently but when I want to repeat it or write it down, I struggle to find the words I used.

It’s a sign of avoidance, anxiety when you I spend more effort finding reasons why something wont work versus finding solutions to hurdles.

I’m anxious about calling myself anxious. Maybe that is the first step, admit my anxiety. Forcing myself to push through could be less painful if I admit why I need the push.

So what am I worried about? Expectations wont be met? Because the Vancouver I left is not today’s Vancouver? I tell people that my first ex moved to Britain because of that. Another canned saying.

The city is expensive now. Can I succeed there? I’ve always felt (never dared tell anyone) that I would have more success there, a better cultural fit. Fewer rules around running a business. And linguistically I don’t have to worry if I should be using formal or informal address. Are those just scapegoats for my current circumstances? If I move there, I will have to confront those assumptions. Scary! And now I have the aversion feeding the anxiety.

And I would lose my special snowflake status. I’d be just another Canadian.

A lot going on there. It’s not surprising that I’m anxious about moving home.

Overwhelm. I have spent enough time procrastinating on the internet instead of attacking the issues to know that the solution is to break down things into small digestible steps. Answer the question What is the immediate next thing I can do to move forward? Too many projects? Prioritize based on strategic goals.

I have also learned that working out the next steps, strategizing and organizing can be used to procrastinate.

The thing that works for me is to take the thing I am avoiding the most actively and do one small step on that. I then take a few items, one at the time, from my to-do list and do those. When I start losing steam, I take a break and start again.

That sounds like a system. I could be a David Allen. I’d rather be a Daevid Allen. A little late for that and I certainly don’t have the time to have as long a career.

There’s a daily flight to Vancouver that arrives at 11:30 AM.

2 thoughts on “Visiting Home?”

  1. Wow – don’t think I’ve ever read a post of yours quite like this. There’s a lot going on, right? Understatement…I like the idea of contracting gig for you more than 12 more years, there. That just doesn’t seem right, the 12 more years plan. But unsolicited advice…I will say, I relate re: the fear/anxiety on how to get a contracting gig. For me it landed in my lap, through a friend of my wife. Consider making some in-roads; it’s been a super way of life for me, but only about a year. All about the client/the connection you make with the workgroup (similar to most things). Project management work can and needs to be done everywhere.

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