Fog makes the tops of pine trees in my line of sight look like smudges. Gazing intently at the more distinct outlines of trunks and branches, I allow the scene to become a painting in progress, in my head. The smudges in that imaginary painting must be the artist’s technique of establishing a background for what, later, will become clumps of pine needles and pine cones. The precise lines of the trees’ framework provides the artist’s vision of the broader scene. But the more I stare at the foggy scene in front of me, the less distinct all of it becomes. The fog is getting heavier and less translucent; the light of the invisible sun cannot penetrate the clouds and fog as well as it could just a few minutes ago. I can imagine that, if the fog continues to thicken at the same pace for another ten minutes, the world outside my window will be enshrouded in absolute darkness. But my experience tells me that will not happen. At least it has never happened before. At least not to me. And, of course, the fog now seems to be lifting slightly; but not for long. Wave upon wave upon wave of thick pillows of fog drift by, hiding the tops of trees for a moment, then revealing them for another. And, then, again the cycle repeats. I like to think about how fog behaves and how closely it resembles the behavior of some people. I had a conversation yesterday, during which my brain seemed to drift in and out of a fog. I hope that was only a brief attribute; I do not want to become, permanently, like those fog-people, whose words and thoughts meander between the irrational and the disturbing.
Everybody knows that you love me baby
Everybody knows that you really do
Everybody knows that you’ve been faithful
Ah, give or take a night or two
Everybody knows you’ve been discreet
But there were so many people you just had to meet
Without your clothes
And everybody knows
~ Leonard Cohen ~
A stanza from one of my favorite LC songs, Everybody Knows. Cynicism can teach us, even when we do not want to learn. His use of paradoxes and impossible opposites was something about his poetry I have always admired.
I have always enjoyed hot, spicy food. But I can no longer tolerate the very hot stuff like I once did. It’s not my gut that’s impacted by the change; it’s my taste buds. I love the flavors associated with very hot peppers, but now when I eat the peppers they can seem a little like molten lava. I still like hot, spicy foods, but just not AS hot. I have never enjoyed foods simply because they are hot; their heat has to be both tolerable and necessary to the greatest enjoyment of the food. I do not eat whole Scotch Bonnet peppers or habaneros (are they one and the same?) or Carolina Reapers. This, too, just happens to be on my mind. That having been said, I could stand something hot and spicy to eat right now. But I doubt there’s anything quick and easy enough waiting for me to pop in the microwave…or whatever.
The difference between expectations and demands can be vast. I remember that the expectations placed upon my staff and me by clients boards of directors, in the form of contractual obligations, often were far lower than their demands. Once I committed my signature to a contract, I committed to provide the services stipulated in the contract. But clients’ contractual expectations frequently seemed to be equivalent to “at a minimum…” Their true expectations, which transformed into demands, were far higher. When those demands significantly exceeded levels the fees could cover, I had to broach the topic of fee adjustments or limitations to services provided. Actually, the services rarely were limited; I tried to scale back on the time devoted to the client. But that rarely worked for long. The demands returned. And they grew. My experience with organizational boards of directors was not unique. It was simply an attribute of the kind of relationship that existed, and still exists, between boards and contract management. That relationship required constant attention; it had to be tweaked, revised, manipulated, twisted, etc., etc. on an ongoing basis. Some people find such relationships both challenging and fulfilling. I found them challenging and frustrating. And draining. And, over time, increasingly unsatisfactory. I retired at age 58, rather than waiting to the more traditional 65, so the pressure vessel that was my brain would not explode. Well, that was part of it. I had long wanted, desperately, to be free of work obligations. If I could have figured out a way to do it without starving and going broke, I would have done it earlier. I should have pursued a different field of endeavor that did not involve close, personal engagement with board members—many of whom considered their board membership evidence of their power and importance. There were plenty of dedicated, intelligent, reasonable, likeable board members, of course; but the many others sprinkled among boards provided enough discomfort and frustration to make escape an appealing objective. Fortunately, the board I lead today does not behave like those boards in my past. These matters flood my mind sometimes; so I document my recollections and my observations. They merit no more than a passing nod; what’s done is done.
Church before long…and off I go.