Several years ago, my boss’s mom suggested I take Steven Covey’s self-help course – The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Why she didn’t think her son wouldn’t benefit from it as well, I have yet to ask her. Apparently, she must have felt he was already highly effective – he had me, didn’t he? Anyway, he paid for the course, so I felt obliged to go. Besides, who wouldn’t enjoy a few days off from work for some self-exploration and a chance to meet some new people?

My feeling about self-help seminars is that they’re self-serving for the creator, and extremely lucrative for him or her as well, in this society that believes in quick fixes and spiritual car washes. I could have completely immersed myself in the course and spent hundreds of dollars acquiring all the materials I would need to become highly effective. But I didn’t. I did manage, however, to collect a few useful life skills from the course. One was presented in the form of a visual analogy on how to manage all aspects of one’s busy, event-filled life. The facilitator laid out several large rocks, more smaller stones, a multitude of pebbles, and a large pile of sand on his desk. These were followed by a large glass cannister. The teacher challenged a volunteer to try to fit all the objects into the cannister without having any leftovers. She started by dumping the sand in first, then the pebbles, the stones and finally attempted to fit the large rocks inside. It was obvious from the beginning she would fail. The teacher showed her and us how it was done by filling the cannister in reverse order – the large rocks, followed by the smaller stones, the pebbles, then finally the sand trickled down through the layers of rocks and stones and all fit neatly inside. This, he said, was the way to order our lives – in other words, don’t sweat the small stuff – save it for last. Concentrate on the big, important issues first, and the rest will resolve itself.

The other tool I took away from this class was to prepare a life to-do list for myself – a “bucket list” in today’s parlance. Easy, I thought. At the top of my list were all the places I’ve always wanted to visit – South Africa’s Table Mountain; Banff and Lake Louise; Yellowstone; the Grand Canyon; Mount Rushmore; Paris again, but this time I would go up in the tower and view Paris from 1,000 feet. Then I added hang-gliding, skydiving, and parasailing. Driving a huge bulldozer or other massive land-moving equipment would be a kick as well as driving a big yellow school bus. And finally, the ultimate – driving a Zamboni.

The Zamboni is brought out onto the ice after each period of a hockey game. The driver starts by driving straight down the middle of the rink, scraping away the slush that has been scraped up by the skaters, and at the same time, laying down a veneer of warm water that flushes out any impurities and smoothes out any scratches, gouges, or scrapes. A shiney smooth sheet of ice appears as the Zamboni circles the oval of the rink. A fresh start for the next period of hockey.

Over time, and after realizing my resources may be too limited to complete my first life’s to-do list, I put more thought into it and came up with a new list. I’d so enjoy going to Madison, Wisconsin, to spend however much time it would take to have my friend Ruth Ann guide me through her house full of memorabilia from our college days. I’d like to walk on my friend Jude’s beach and be calmed by the ocean that has flowed through her body and her hands to produce deeply moving poetry and prose. With Julie and Karen in Milwaukee, I’d like to bar hop, drink cheap beer, and dance to late 70s disco tunes until our flabby, sagging bodies can take no more and we tumble to the floor, laughing hysterically. San Francisco calls where my friend Mo and I could stay up all night talking about families and children, and then the next day stroll through the bayside market sampling deliciously overpriced chocolates and cheeses. My parents have enjoyed a 57-year marriage in good health, and I want them to continue that for as long as they feel like they can – until they are ready to go; then I want them to go to sleep together and not wake up in the morning. Neither one of them should have to live without the other. I want my children to fully explore their passions to turn them into careers; and most of all, I want my children to recognize and grab onto true love when it finally walks into their lives. For me personally, I want to get to the end of my life and realize I have truly lived, not in hiding, not afraid, but wide open with all of myself exposed for everyone to see. With all of my impurities, scratches, gouges, and scrapes. I will be proud of them because they are a part of who I am.

But I still want to drive the Zamboni.

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