unfinished business

2006-07-25 15:02:16 -0700

Yesterday, what began as an innocuous search through my email for a trivial bit of information left me mired in the wreckage of unfinished missives. Hundreds of unsent messages lay bitrotting in my out box, many of them years old, and this search brought them to my attention. As I started to read through some of these fragments of abandoned prose, I initially felt the thrill of a voyeur—the familiar novelty of a not entirely unexpected discovery providing a sort of vicarious pleasure. But continuing on, that pleasure curdled. Here were so many promising threads left to wither, so many budding relationships suffocated by my self-absorbed silence. And these orphans are not outliers; they are representative of a deeply-ingrained, chronic pattern of abandonment, representative of my character.

This tone tastes disappointingly of regret, a flavor quite bitter to me. But spitting it out does nothing to sweeten the aftertaste. "To live in such a way as to have no regrets," has long been my overarching goal; and what success I've had in this has never depended upon my refusal to acknowledge regrettable behavior, but rather my mindful preemption of it. Even so, cowardice, laziness, lassitude, and indifference govern far too much of my activity.

Much of my dissatisfaction results from my habitual inability to promptly answer the question, "What is important to me?" I have not sufficiently developed the skill of improvising integrity, of spontaneously mapping the diverse abundance of choices immediately available to me at any given moment to the carefully aggregated choices I have already made through thoughtful deliberation. And yet so often it is unmistakable to me even as I act (or fail to act) on something that the choice I have made to do so is not "right." But this awareness rarely provides an effective dissuasion. This skill I seek of quickly and reliably acting in accord with my principles is surely developed not by detached contemplation, but by regular practice; by taking risks, by making mistakes, by my active involvement choosing—by doing.