Howling Into the Wind: Playing in the “What If” Puddle

I took the opportunity this weekend to travel from central Tejas to Hot Springs, Arkansas to visit the graves of my parents. I am not sure that I would ever have thought that a boy that grow up in the hills of southern Kentucky and his wife – a German from the fairly large city of Wiesbaden – would ever have picked Arkansas as a place to retire. Coming back here, at what seems to be the height of Spring, I can see why. The trees are full of lush, green leaves. The air is filled with the smells of wildflowers. And then there is the state bird of Arkansas – the mosquito. These suckers are large enough to carry away small dogs. But despite the overly large bugs, everything is serene and peaceful.

I am fifty-five now. Later this year will mark another turn of the Wheel within my life. Sometimes, I wonder what the future will hold for me. Other times, I look back on the past few years, marveling at the turns and twists that my life has taken. I think the lyrics to a song states that life is a winding road – or something like that. Sometimes, it can have that feel to it.

Over the last few weeks, I often wonder why I write these blog posts. My traffic stats suck. Nine times out of ten, I get stuck on just what to write. When I do write, I always feel like I could have been more concise, that my writing is a touch more rambling than it should be. I write about my experiences in Paganism. I write about my experiences in Druidry. I write, and I realize that I don’t typically follow the same Path that most other Pagans do. When I look back through my life, I have begun to realize that most everything that I do is quite unorthodox. How did it go in the Johnny Depp pirate movie? Those aren’t rules – they’re more like guidelines.

Sometimes, I wonder what I would be like if I just did things the conventional way? Wat kind of computer technician would I have been? Would I have stuck to single specialty or would I have satisfied my curiosity of other areas in Information Technology and still branched out to become more of a generalist? Not that someone with generalized knowledge is considered valuable or necessary in today’s marketplace. Or at least that’s how it feels from where I sit.

What about me as a Pagan? If I had just learned to live with the parts of Wicca that I didn’t completely agree with, and stayed on my original arc of Wicca – would I be the Pagan that I am today? Perhaps, my disdain for spell work would be far less than it is today. Perhaps, I would be less inclined towards non-formal ritual structure in my life? What about my encounters with Crow, Coyote and Abnoba? Would any of that ever have happened? Would I have been interesting enough to have the interest of Coyote happen upon me? If it did, would I have delved into understanding the perspective of First Nations’ Spirituality enough to know that I was not “of the People” or would it have mattered to me at all?

There’s a lot of room to play in the “What If” world. While it can certainly be fun and amusing for a time; in my opinion, it’s a nice moment of play. None of that is going to take care of the things that I need to do to move forward from where I am now.

2020, the year of COVID, has certainly sucked. During it, I lost a lot of things for a large variety of reasons. Chances at a job since companies didn’t seem to want to hire anyone. Friends – over the choices that I made in my life – both good and bad. Muscle-mass, as I had a major tendency to stay indoors and avoid people outside – choosing to be sedentary instead of staying active. Not being able to be among friends and family around campfires at various points of the year – catching up with our lives, as well as making fun, zany, new memories. There is a lot that I must take stock of within my life, as well as building things back up to being the active person that I was in 2019.

The biggest part is decided where and how to start. Thinking back to when my parents had decided to move up here to Hot Springs and build a home, I remember how much work they put into everything. First was the purchase of the land that they built the house. After that, it was developing the plans for the small house that they had created for themselves. The kitchen was the way my mother wanted it. The garage had a workspace that my father laid out his wood-working tools on, as well as the little corner where he built golf clubs as a side business. Then there was the plan on moving from the house in Shreveport, Louisiana. Things had to be set into two groups – things to go to Arkansas, and things to be gotten rid of. It was a lot of work and effort, but they did what they had to, to make their retirement dreams come true. That hard effort, planning and sweat worked out for them, and they spent the last years of their life living in a heavily forested retirement community, able to enjoy those years in as comfortable a manner as they could.

Here I am. In a similar position. At fifty-five, I’m no young person full of vim and vigor. I’m not old either. But I am old enough that I am starting to see age discrimination in the hiring practices with employers. In the end, I am really looking for a way to continue working – and setting up for the latter part of my years. However, I have far more pressing needs in the short term. I need to get out and do some moderate exercise – not enough to turn myself into another version of Kirk Douglas in his later years. Just enough to keep my healthier than I am now. I have OBOD studies that I need to put a stronger focus into. I have a role of where I fit into a wider Pagan community to figure out as well. Through all of that, I need to continue to be alive.

Playing the “What If” game is a nice past-time to partake in when the rain is pattering softly on the roof. Hang around there long enough, you will wake up suddenly and find that Life has started to move on without you, while you remained in park. My parents and I were never close. I didn’t follow the Path in life that they wanted me to. That disappointed them, and they were not shy about expressing it to me. While I loved my parents, I kept them at arm’s length in my life because of that. I have no regrets in doing that – it was what was necessary for me to be able to survive. I found my support and love from my extended family. However, my parents did show me what drive and determination could do. They had a dream of living here in Arkansas. Why? I’m not sure, nor is it important. They had a desire to be here, and they found a way to do it. Now, its my time to approach that same idea…where am I going, what am I doing, and how do I make all of that happen? On the first two, I am not completely sure, but I have some idea what it is. I can utilize the third to make it real.

–Tommy

The house that my parents designed and built for their retirement years.

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