Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Quest New Year, 2012

I had a great sit in session at Tim Horton's on 8th and Cumberland on March 17th. I sat, read and wrote for well over 2 hrs. on my own and then for another 2 hrs. with Vin and James. 

In attendance: Mike, James, Vin
Regrets: Dave
Absent: Geof

I hope all Questers managed to find the renewal that we all crave. I was suffering from serious lethargy, due to cold. I still managed to have a fine evening and stay up until 1:30am. We mostly reminisced and drank coffee (I broke a very long dry spell by winning a free coffee -- despite the stated 1:6 odds). I am still hopeful that we can get together for a more formal gathering if/when Dave makes it to Saskatoon.

What follows is a peek into my brain while reflecting on the celebration that is Quest New Year. My thoughts aren't well edited. I've mostly included them as part of my need to archive my thinking.


I don’t know what the Quest Era is. Traditionally, we have kept track of Quest birthdays, as it were. Working from an increasingly difficult place of my shaky memory… I met the questers after about 6 months of university -- when I was in 1st year. That would make it 1991. Therefore, March 17, 1991 is QE0, making this QE21. Sounds reasonable anyway. Of course, there have been adjustments to the calendar to compensate for failed meetings and the like. I can no longer be responsible for knowing that.

I still find this day holds a great importance for me, but something has changed. It’s been happening for a few years, now, but I think something fundamental has happened for me.

By now, everyone I know is pretty aware that I have traditionally suffered from what I have begun to think of as SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. I can trace it back to early university, which is the first time that I started to match my emotional state to the seasons. It took me quite a few years to identify that there was a direct mapping of my depression to the particular months of January and February. I’m not convinced that the celebration of Quest New Year, which is at it’s heart a Spring festival, was entirely an accident. I think there is something critical to human success that involves celebrating the retreat of winter. I didn’t pick the Quest New Year – I’m certain that it picked me, in a sense.

After months of study and slowly spiraling out of control, missing classes, struggling to find meaning in what I have been doing, there is a desperate need for renewal. QNY has always been that event. The opportunity I need to seize control of my life, try to reinstate order, and try and make sense of what IT is all about. Goal setting has always been key, whether I was planning to write a novel, run a marathon or studiously avoid setting a goal (because I was beyond it that year).

In an adult life filled with epiphany, I think I’m getting close to the real deal. And it only took 21 years.

Setting and achieving goals wasn’t something I ever learned to do as a child. I don’t like to blame my parents for somehow “scarring” me this way. They certainly never told me outright not to set goals. I’m sure they must have set goals of some sort, or encouraged me to do so. It just couldn’t compete with my ability to adopt the coping mechanism of never planning for the future. My childhood was a typical chaotic existence. I couldn’t count on Dad to be anywhere at any particular time and Mom was at her wit's end, trying to keep us in food and clothing. Taking that into consideration, I think that they actually did very well. But, the result was that I found it most useful to not plan ahead. I have always been quick on my toes. Much better to pull something off at the last minute and impress people than to plan ahead and efficiently underwhelm someone. I don’t think that was the only way to survive, and I can see from the example of my wife that, in fact, things can go completely the opposite way. But, that is how it went for me.

As I went through university, the meeting of goals became a virtual necessity for the first time in my life. QNY came to exemplify my goal setting. Here is what I have recently discovered. I always set my goals to be something I thought I wanted to do, or wanted to find out if I could do. If I failed, it was because I was no good at the thing (Of course there was always room for the option that I was just no good). I didn’t have the words for it at the time, but I had a very “closed mindset”. Quite recently, I have begun to change. Now, I think of what I want to do and I set a series of reasonable steps. I innately believe that I can achieve the goal. Not because I am good enough at it, but because I can learn to do virtually anything if I am patient and provide myself with encouragement. I’ve taken to thinking of it as parenting myself. Wendy helped me develop the practice when she pointed out the super patient and encouraging manner I had with my children and those in my dayhome and contrasted that with the way I limit and trash-talk myself. It was a revelation.

I struggled to find the benefits of this new thinking until I began to read about the concept of FLOW, which I have talked about before. Once I began to apply my parenting self talk with challenges that were carefully balanced to maximize opportunities for flow, things began to take off.

More carefully balancing the challenges in my life and adopting an open mindset have lead me to have the best winter of my adult life. Happy New Year to me!