I can’t get this fact, learned in a series of futures thinking courses I took recently, out of my mind:
1. On a medical scan called a Functional MRI (fMRI), the brain lights up in the exact same space when thinking about something imagined as when thinking about something actually lived.
Add this to other facts I’ve known for years:
2. The feelings of pleasure about an experience are equally divided among the anticipation of it, the actual living of it, and the memory of it.
3. Time spent imagining something enables your brain to find paths forward and overcome barriers.
When you combine those three points, you can see why both visualizing and planning can help increase not only your pleasure relating to something already existing (or imagined) in your life but also its ongoing or future success.
And so it is that I’m spending the next six months or so creating not just the conditions but the mindset for success of my journey across the USA (see the working cover for One Duck’s Journey at the bottom of this post, plus the previous post titled Shake Your Tail Feathers, Mama!).
I’ve taken seven concrete actions so far:
- I’ve joined WWOOF USA and Couchsurfing;
- I’ve loosely drafted a schedule, including a plan to pilot-test this fall close to home;
- I’ve contacted farmers;
- I’ve researched bus and train schedules;
- I’ve spent hours in conversations with my husband (who is 100% in support and will serve as my co-traveler from our home base — I’m hoping to do this as cheaply as my backpacking around 10 countries in Europe in 1985 — $20 a day; I’m hoping to pick up additional freelance work to fund this between now and my target departure date of March 4th, 2023);
- I’ve made TikToks;
- I’ve prayed.
I’m currently not quite sure what I’m in search of, if anything:
- Maybe learning what I don’t know;
- Maybe sharing what I do know;
- Maybe simply shining a spotlight on what I find, like writers and photographers did during the Great Depression funded by federal programs such as the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Farm Security Administration (FSA) (note: there’s talk of a New Deal coming that includes funding like that for artists — I want in on that. See my Today’s Nice Stranger photo series as well as my series of profiles of people changing the world);
- Maybe reminding myself and others about the good in humanity and hope for our future at a time when both of those seem gone from this world-in-crisis.
I’m currently not quite sure what kind of book this will be, if any:
- Maybe something like Food for My Daughters, with a narrative and sidebars and tips;
- Maybe a fictional middle-grade children’s book very specifically about Disco Duck (my traveling companion), like Slow Duck Crossing — which is told from the point-of-view of a mailbox (yep);
- Maybe a straight memoir, like Bucket List or Traveling at the Speed of Bike or my favorite book in the world, Round Ireland with a Fridge (about the generosity of the human spirit and the joy in trying);
- Maybe something more visual and artsy, way beyond Stranger Things Happen, like a book I adore named Spilling Open, which I’ve always wanted to do, or a new product like BikeBloom. As always, all proceeds would be used to do good.
I’ve told some folks about my ideas, but that may stop soon except on this blog (and my other one) as well as on my TikTok feed. That’s because the number one reaction I absolutely always get is “That sounds dangerous.” My response is absolutely always the same:
“Well, I was almost killed a mile from my home, so I guess everywhere is dangerous.
Not pursuing my full potential with the nonrenewable resource of time called life seems the most dangerous of all.”
So that goes over well lol. Plus, it re-traumatizes me and that’s getting old. Speaking of old, I enter my 60th year on earth next week. We think we’re guaranteed 80 years*. COVID, constant news of suicides, and my current pre-cancerous diagnosis remind me that’s not the case.
And so on we go.
P.S. I stopped allowing comments when I got the predictable abuse following my assault. I could use knowing you’re out there, however, and that this blog still has some value. If you want to share positive comments, please feel free to contact me.
* My review of the Steve Jobs book by Walter Isaacson, published on Better World Books’ blog years ago:
You think you get 80 years. Steve Jobs’ death knocked the wind out of that one, and snapped back into focus for me that we have one day (this day) to live our fullest lives. Jobs had barely been on my radar – I have never owned an Apple product, and I’ve walked into an Apple store exactly once, while on vacation, simply to check my email (I don’t even text) (update: that has all changed). Yet, I saw that face looking up at me at the last of the big-box book stores. And for some reason, he spoke to me (smart marketing decision, that face). I requested the book from my husband as a holiday gift, and I received it.
Thus, I began. First, let’s start by saying that I read books rather slowly, not because I’m a conscientious, deliberate reader but because by the time night comes, the opening of the book and the almost-immediate closing of the eyes have become a Pavlovian response. It is common for me to dog-ear the same page day after day after day. So picking up this 600-page behemoth elicited snickers from my family.
Yet Steve quickly became my constant companion. He rode with me in the car and stood in line with me at the post office. He walked with me to the supermarket and I read while I strolled (carefully). He even kept me company during that annual three-hour mammogram/ultrasound appointment where I mostly shuffle from waiting room to waiting room in a blue gown, hoping to dodge the family-history bullet for another year. Two other women brought him as well, and thus began what became a common occurrence over this timeframe for me – the recognition of a secret society of people completely addicted to this book. We smiled at each other, we talked briefly, and we collectively dove back in, almost sorry when our names were called.
I heard some recurring comments while I was reading the book all over town. “I can’t put it down.” “Can you believe this story?” “Every single page is a page turner.” “Don’t you just love it?” And even, “Time to go to bed with Steve” from a friend who sent me a photo of the book sitting on her pillow, with its jacket off. She and I had discovered we were both reading it as we dug in a food pantry garden together, and out of the blue she whispered, “Have you read the Steve Jobs book yet?” Trowels got the towel, and it was all about Steve from that moment on.
So, the book. Let me tell you briefly about the book. First of all, the story is completely fascinating — how Steve was adopted; what happened at college; the whole apple farm thing; the drugs; the friends he made; the famous tinkering in the garage; and the building, demise, and rebuilding of an empire. Oh, wait, not just one empire, but two. You do know about Pixar, too, don’t you?
The guy was completely socially inappropriate. If you’re anything like me, you’ll talk about the fruit diet thing and the way he smelled for days. The guy was nasty, as in extremely nasty (my personal conclusion is that you can be a genius and change the world while still being nice, and I’m holding onto that). The guy simply made up his own rules (um, yeah, you really do need to get a license plate when you drive a car) and he truly believed that he could bend reality, not just view it in his own way but actually bend it, change it.
Goodness, let me not go too far without giving Walter Isaacson, the author of Steve Jobs, the major shout-out he deserves. Although mostly chronological, this book suddenly isn’t. Although mostly told from an observers’ position, this book suddenly welcomes Isaacson dipping in and out in the first-person. Although presenting a whole lot of technology details, Isaacson never once caused me to glaze over or skim–not once, in 600 pages. In fact, by the time I finished reading this book, I found myself wondering about Albert Einstein, Ben Franklin, and Henry Kissinger (all biographies Isaacson has written). Hint: If you’re a high school teacher, get this man’s books into your students’ hands immediately. They will fall in love with the power of storytelling and the relevance of history.
And now, back to Steve. Yes, now his story is history. But I suspect there is not one person who puts down that book who won’t be changed, and who won’t somehow carry forward the best of the man. For me, I already see his impact. I’ve quit some things. I’ve pursued some others. I’ve lost a little patience. I’ve spoken out a bit more. I’ve gotten in some trouble. I’ve lived a little louder. I’ve celebrated my passion and reconsidered some weaknesses as possibly strengths. I’ve dreamed a bigger dream. I’ve stretched. And it’s only been a month.
I would be so bold to say that Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson, is the best book I’ve read in my life, and having read it now, at this precise crossroads on my personal and professional journey, will prove to change its entire outcome, in ways I can only right now imagine. The important thing? I’m imagining more. In that way, Steve continues to be my constant companion.