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Fill-in-the-blank stories

It was my oldest daughter’s 8th birthday today. I made Addie and Ben some dad’s-not-here mad-libs to fill out.

Addie’s said:
“Today my dad had to go to the dump to help people figure out how to waste money. He loves me like a Komodo dragon loves a ninja line. I’m turning 5 million years old!”

Ben’s said:
“Today, my dad had to go to Atlanta to help MCC figure out how to watch television. He loves me like a big fat cat loves a waste of money!”

None of those things are true, but I love them both. So much.

Today, what dad had to do was travel to Vancouver to help a college figure out to use their content better. (And I love you like a dad loves his crazy banana-brains kids.)

*

I got to spend the evening at my colleague and co-facilitator’s place, where we ordered Indian food, and waited to hear if the offer they placed today on a new house would go through.

It didn’t. We were sad. We drank wine and felt sad, and told stories.

*

I boarded an ice-covered plane this morning, thinking about Victor Frankl. In his book, Man’s Search For Meaning, he talked of how one motivating factor through his experience was mentally-composing his book, and mentally-rehearsing talks for his psychology colleagues on-stage in Vienna, where he imagined recapping what he was learning about his experience.

Though he didn’t directly say this, he modelled that “the way we tell stories in our life gives us meaning.” When we see our current circumstances through the lens of “others can learn from this,” it changes how we experience it.

I wonder if that means that our current world of instagrammers, and bloggers are actually an incredibly meaning-filled generation? We tend to malign and demean those overly obsessed with documenting every waking moment. Yet what if they are simply working to see their current situation through a lens that transcends the now? They are imagining their own experience through the eyes of an unseen audience, are they not? Isn’t that a gift, to us and the world? Perhaps these are not mere selfies, but self-transcendence.

Perhaps that’s just me hoping that my own create-daily project has meaning…

*

The cabbie I rode with in Vancouver this morning explained why the softwood lumber industry is going away. Nobody wants to build anything with wood anymore. Use it in house construction? No thanks; most new homes in cities are condos, and are made of concrete. Ship it to overseas, to places like India? No thanks. A certain insect is destroying any wood that gets used in window-frames or doors; people are choosing aluminum as their material of choice.

I looked out the window as we drove and the only wood I could see in Vancouver was the kind that was growing from the ground, in the form of trees.

Perhaps the best use of trees is to simply stay rooted. Sorry, local mills. It turns out that the downturn of your industry means the uprising of healthy forest ecosystems. What’s bad for the economy ends up being good for the environment, and helping us all breathe.

*

It would have been nice to be there for my daughter’s birthday today. I tried to change my work schedule, but couldn’t.

It would have been nice for my colleague’s house offer to be accepted. They tried to up their counter-offer, but it was a no.

It would have been nice for the forestry industry to keep thriving. People have tried, but it’s out of one person’s hands.

As it went today, a birthday got missed.
A house offer was declined. An industry is declining.
And somehow, what happened?

Humour happened anyway.
Relationship happened anyway.
Meaning and breath and health happened anyway.

*

Update: I’m circling back to this story at the end of the week.

Six days after writing this post, we hosted my daughter’s actual birthday with friends. It was deeply beautiful, and I was deeply present for it after all.

Six days after writing this post, I got a text from my colleague. The offer they had put on their house? It went through anyway! The financing for the other buyer didn’t work out.

Two days after writing this post, I can confirm that chopping down trees is indeed the worst.

When I was living these stories this week, I knew none of their endings. I filled in each blank as I travelled blindly through each moment. And yet each one came to have a surprising resolution or tie-in that very week.

When I was preparing the weekly email that gets sent from this blog, I wanted to get a reading-time estimate. The website I used displayed this quote: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”