A Journal for Those Stuck at Home

Why the Process is More Important than the Results

When my son, Sevan, was old enough to play with blocks, the routine would go something like this: daddy would sit on the floor beside him and relive his childhood of meticulously building artwork out of Lego. Then Sevan would gleefully smash it down. This used to cause my stomach to knot. Every time. You see, I like to hold on to things tightly in some sad hope that they’ll last forever. I think that’s part of the reason I’ve always been attracted to photography: capturing a moment in time — permanently.  It’s also why I have 8 backup hard drives of all my work floating around the city. Just in case of a catastrophe, I’ll still have my unpublished writing and photography for the archives. Of course, if the world ends, who cares…

The opposite is sometimes true with things that I want to be done with fast, and I’m filled with foreboding  that they’ll last forever,  whether it’s being stuck in a theatre watching a bad movie, feeling like crap with the flu, or being present for one of Sevan’s less-than-pleasant tantrums.  But I digress…

In the meantime, all the road posts in my life have been saying, “let it go.” Let go of trying to control things you can’t control; let go of your fear of mortality and impermanence; let go of results-oriented thinking. After all, life is lived as a process, moment by moment. Not to say goals don’t have a place in our lives. They can motivate us. But then we need to embrace and savour the path to the goal. Otherwise, we risk feeling let down and betrayed by the goal – whether we attain it or not. Even worse, if you become, say, an actor only to be famous, and it doesn’t pan out, not only will you feel the burn of not achieving the goal, you may feel you’ve wasted years of your life.  If you do it because you love it, then there is no downside, whether you win an Oscar or work your craft on a community theatre stage.

I’ve embraced this approach for running.  Out on the trails and roads, I have a regular conversation with self, staying mindful of my technique, running economy (efficiency of movement), and how I’m feeling at any given moment.  I remind myself to look all around, to appreciate the gift of mobility (which many people don’t have) and the beauty of being outdoors – even in the dead of winter. I want to make sure I’m enjoying the process, because the goal of running the 80k ultra marathon in Whistler is 8 months away, and anything can happen. Think of those runners training for the New York Marathon this past year. Some of them probably had focused all their life’s energy on this goal, preparing so they could be in the best shape of their lives, only to have Hurricane Sandy dismantle the dream overnight (and this says nothing of the ongoing suffering of locals, who now must rebuild their lives from scratch). At least, if you were one of those runners oriented toward the process of training, after the disappointment of the cancelled race, you’d still be able to appreciate the experience in its entirety versus those folks who suffered only with the end goal in mind. For them, there is no consolation.

Over the months of building block towers and having Sevan destroy them, I came to embrace the temporariness of my buildings, even if I did occasionally flinch when he “deconstructed” my favourites. The best part is that at 21 months, he now builds his own creations. So together we enjoy laying down the blocks, piece by piece, building a new idea from the ground up – which he still takes pleasure knocking down.  For the time being, he doesn’t seem too hung up on the temporary nature of things. Like Yoda, he continues to serve me up teachable moments — daily. Suffering, after all, is clinging to something that never belonged to us in the first place.