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Left Coast / Right Coast: It’s the little things that give us satisfaction

Mike Gold living the dream in the Pacific Northwest. Photo credit: Nancy Gold.
Mike Gold living the dream in the Pacific Northwest. Photo credit: Nancy Gold.

By Mike Gold, A retired entrepreneur living the dream in the Pacific Northwest.

For most of us, life is a very long continuum. That is, our lives evolve over a very long period of time. Usually, there is the unknown that faces us day by day. Many of our life challenges – the major things that define our lives – don’t really have a “hard ending” other than when we expire – which is the ultimate “hard ending.

In this situation, I thought it might be fun to look at a large number of things that do have a “hard ending.” That is, things we can start, do for a relatively fixed amount of time, and then they end.

What appeals to me about looking at these type of things is that unlike the long indeterminate evolution of life, these are things, when done, that we can look back at upon completion and simply enjoy them.

  1. On top of my list is washing a car: The car is dirty. We wash it, dry it off, wash what my wife calls “wheel crunk” away. (Wheel crunk is typically generated by the disk brake pads wearing down – depositing a darkish film on the wheels). When the job is done (it typically takes me about ten minutes to wash either of ours), you can step back and admire your handiwork.
  2. Watching a movie or television program: This particular activity, to me, is one of the greatest generators of disappointment in life. What I mean is that when you watch a movie, say a “slice of life” film about any event in the main character’s life, if the movie is an hour to two long, whatever events, tragic, funny, mysterious or whatever, two hours or less later on everything is resolved. It ties everything up into a nice clean knot. I always like the ending of Woody Allen’s Oscar Winning Film, "Annie Hall." The film depicts one of the messiest interpersonal relationships (Annie and Allen’s character Alvie Singer) you can imagine. Although the ending is, to me, bitter sweet, as you walk away from the film you are impressed by how “neat” both characters’ lives end up – even though through the mess, they are not together, unlike real life.
  3. Working out at the gym: I’ve been a gym rat for 30 years. I actually feel “incomplete” on any day in which I don’t go. What is especially nice about the gym visit is that after 30 or 45 minutes, you are done. In addition, you generate endomorphs. This is brain chemistry, which gives you a feeling of “well being.” So you get into or maintain your shape, and at the same time improve your mental state.
  4. Paying bills: This one, perhaps, does not register on your “favorites” list. I include it as there is a certain harmony to getting your obligations taken care of in a relatively short amount of time. It is a great feeling (I pay most of my bills on-line) to know that you have taken care of your financial responsibilities and then you can relax. You’re not going to get a telemarketing “reminder” or an e-mail saying your credit card payment is either “late” or “due.
  5. Finish reading a book: This one is similar to the movie watching item above. You get drawn into reading a book, you go along with whatever mental state the author wants you to be in. Then, no matter how much peril the protagonist is in, they “work it out,” usually (for a mystery or crime novel) with a very nice ending that benefits the main character. If only life worked out this way.
  6. Taking a relatively long plane trip: What I especially like about this activity is there is the anticipation of getting to your destination. In addition, there is the relative peace you get by knowing that no one can disturb you for the next “X” hours. (I’m not counting on the newest “air internet connection” you can purchase at extra cost from the airline.) Frankly, I consider this a massive intrusion on my solitude. But, again, the trip is of relatively short duration, and other than a crash, has a happy ending (other than, God forbid, if you’ve checked baggage).

Quite a few of our daily activities fall into this “clear beginning and ending” category. Here are just a few additional ones:

  • Visit to a dentist.
  • Sitting down to eat a meal.
  • Our morning ritual (for me, shaving, shower, dressing).
  • Shopping for a specific item(s) (say food).

On most days, I look back at what I’ve accomplished. If I can point to three or four things that I’ve completed on that day, I go to sleep a happy man.

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