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Friday, May 11, 2012

Early Breakfast

I was a young man, just starting my career.  Back then, I traveled back roads three weeks out of four.  My life consisted of motels and early breakfasts...and way too many cigarettes.

All those miles, the motels and cheap, expense account meals, have faded to fog, except this one:

I was offered a seat at a table for two one row from the window wall.  To my left were plush window booths.  To my immediate left was a booth occupied by two.

One man wore a suit and tie.  Across that table sat a man in denim.

The odd pairing caught my attention.  I strained to listen in.

The man in plain denim, albeit silver hair, silver bracelet and silver Rolex, stated he was going to Mexico to begin life anew.  His starched shirt-and-suited companion sputtered: “Why!?!

I can’t take it any more.  I’m spent.  Done.  Finished.”

But, your wife?”

She’ll be fine.  She’s well taken care of.”

I poked at my eggs distracted.  There was something momentous happening immediately on my left.  I couldn’t catch the complete conversation, but I caught the drift:

Man who had it all gives up all.

I was young then.  Slurping caffeine and runny yolks to gird myself for the future, I could not understand.

Decades later...

I do.

* * *


Blogger Wine and Words said...

I wrote this in the back of m journal 5 months ago. I wrote it upside down, as if that might be code enough to make it less true.

"I want to trade all the creature comforts for IT...that kind of soul/heart connection, bashing, crashing, messy, loving, angry, passionate. IT."

I live very little. I mostly work.

Sat May 12, 03:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh yeah. Giving it all up isn't as hard as we think when we're young. And I think it's important as we get older to realise what life is all about. Rolexes and fast cars just ain't gonna keep you warm at night....

Sat May 12, 09:43:00 PM  
Blogger June Calender said...

Have-it-all-man can drop out, but wherever he goes his unloving heart is going to go with him.

Sun May 13, 06:43:00 AM  
Blogger Secret Agent Woman said...

I'm with June - this just makes me sad. He's running away and leaving casualties in his wake. Not cool.

Sun May 13, 07:43:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

A most interesting set of comments. Kinda kept me mulling throughout the day.

I believe most of us grapple with the place of "work" in our lives. Of course, those of us fortunate enough to be born into a developed economy actually have choices. The truly impoverished toil without respite merely to survive.

There are two basic paths: living to work or working to live. Both paths have their consequences.

Yes, indeed, Selma - changing one's life is decidedly simpler when young. As a youth, my life changed dramatically several times in the space of a few short years. Decades later? Change has profound consequences. What intrigued me so about this breakfast moment was the fact that a momentous change was happening and I didn't understand it (then).

Your comment caught me by surprise, June. I had never considered the possibility that "have-it-all-man" had a cold heart. I pictured a devastated heart, a broken heart, a despairing heart. Would a "cold heart" give up fortune? I can't say. I've tried my best to avoid associating with cold-hearted types.

I believe the reason why this little "slice of life" stayed with me for decades is because I found it so perplexing, unfathomable.

While thinking about whether or not "have-it-all-man" was cold-hearted, I harkened back to a book I read almost a decade ago: Walker Percy's The Second Coming. The book had a profound impact on me because I read it at a time of deep personal despair. Walker Percy explored the theme of spiritual seeking at a time when one suffers "death in life." The protagonist, a successful individual, seeks to find meaning when all has turned to dust. His marriage had been reduced to "two ghosts passing in the hallway" and, as a consequence, he embarks on a different journey.

Clearly, SAW, you and I draw different conclusions. I can't say who is right. The ambiguous situation can be interpreted any number of ways.

Sun May 13, 08:27:00 PM  
Blogger Secret Agent Woman said...

I wasn't there for the situation, of course, so I can only take a stab based on the information you provided. It's not the giving up wealth that strikes me, but the leaving behind the wife. "She'll be fine. She's well taken care of." As if money were all that mattered.

Mon May 14, 03:29:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

I understand what you're saying, SAW. I happen to agree completely. Money should not be the only thing that matters. And yet, countless couples divorce and, in too many cases, MONEY becomes the ONLY thing that matters. I'll even go so far as to say that some percent of divorces become battles to impoverish the other.

What I find interesting is that we all filter information through the lens of personal experience. In my case, when my marriage proved doomed, I setled for FAR less than I was legally entitled to receive. Why? Because I wanted my ex to have a decent life (after all, I devoted a quarter-century trying to provide that for her). I wanted her to be well taken care of.

Mon May 14, 06:11:00 PM  
Blogger PattiKen said...

That guy obviously didn't have it all. He was missing the things that count. And he's never going to find them by running.

We all struggle. We all feel spent sometimes, and wonder if we can go on. But we keep on keeping on because it's not all about us, is it?

Mon May 14, 11:31:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

A Walker Percy quote:

“After you make a living, then what do you do? How do you live?”

Tue May 15, 08:34:00 AM  
Blogger PattiKen said...

I haven't read the Walker Percy book but my immediate reaction was: then you have time to look around you. And that reminded me of the airline announcement made when the oxygen masks are discussed during the pre-flight check: "If you are traveling with children or anyone needing assistance, make sure that your own mask is on first before helping your children or someone else."

We obviously must take care of out own needs first, or we will be unable to help others. But once we "have made a living," as Percy says... Well, it seems to me that there are a lot of things to do, ways to live, ways to help others get the oxygen mask on.

If you have a few minutes, read my latest post, and watch the video. I think you'll see an example of what I mean.

Tue May 15, 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger Maria said...

It took me nearly 45 years to figure out what is important. So...late bloomer or early one?

Thu May 17, 06:53:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Given that I'm still trying to figure all that out at age 60, I'd say you're an early bloomer, Maria. Good for you!

Thu May 17, 07:46:00 PM  

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