This coming Friday is my birthday; I turn 62, which means I enter my 63rd year of life. Don’t think about sending a gift, though cash is always welcome. I buy my own birthday presents since I know what I want better than anyone else, and to tell someone else what to buy is tacky. What am I giving myself for my birthday? Poof.
My life has been lived in the quest for stability. Every company I have started or worked for was supposed to have been a permanent gig. Yet all of them went poof.
Poof is the key to understanding my favorite book of the Bible, Ecclesiastes. You can translate the opening teaching as, “Poof after poof, everything goes poof.” So it isn’t that poof is new; what is new is that I’m giving myself permission to experience poof without guilt.
My main work is writing and lecturing. No, that’s not exactly right: my main work is thinking. The writing and lecturing are expressions of the thinking. So my job is to think, and then to share what I think in words both printed and spoken.
But writing and lecturing are all poof jobs. I write a book, magazine column, journal essay, or even a blog post or Tweet, and poof it’s gone, and I have to write another. The same with talking: I visit one venue, share some of my thoughts, and poof it is over, and I have to find another venue. Nothing lasts.
This used to trouble me. I wanted the security that comes with something that lasts. But, come this Friday when I give myself permission to live a life of poof without fear, guilt, or regret, it will trouble me no longer.
Poof is liberating. I am free of having to maintain efforts that don’t work, and free to experiment with efforts that might not work, or, if they do work needn’t work forever. I will continue to produce poof: essays, books, columns, talks, retreats, and the like, but I will now do so without feeling guilty about it.
So happy birthday, Me, and welcome to your 63rd year of life, which, like life itself, will very shortly go poof.