The Tree Peony Flowers
April 30 — May 4, Luzern, Switzerland
Seasonal Memoir #72 (Last one!)
Why is it so easy to lose “religion” once you leave the tent? Society’s influence? Some perverse aspect of human nature that subconsciously gets one off the true path to happiness?
Seeing clearly one’s priorities (as they would be designed in a thought experiment), or discovering the true sources of contentment, only seems possible after several days away from the grind: of work, of idleness, of the Pyrrhic victories of satisfying consumptual desires. Why do we spend so much time grinding? What does the 25% of extra time or money actually give us? Diminishing returns, for sure. I admire those who have the courage to make just enough to provide for their family, and then pay it back with being present for them. (Perhaps some people don’t really want that time at home after all, if they are being honest. For others, it’s ego.) For me, while I love my job, the lack of balance between work and homelife is a constant source of stress and guilt. When will I have the courage to say, “Enough”?
I had the pleasure of being back in the US for Zach’s final high school tennis match and for his graduation from high school. Amherst-Pelham Regional HS traveled to Hingham for the quarterfinals of his divisional bracket. Coincidentally, nearly thirty-five years ago, I was going toe-to-toe with Hingham as a member of my own high school tennis team. Cool! The boys, after a 2-hour bus ride, put up a good fight.
Watching a loved one play competitive tennis is a hundred times more stressful than being on the court yourself (obviously, for lack of control). You hang on every point, contain your frustration with bad form or missed calls, and agonize over losing streaks. Zach played well at #2 singles and won the first set. Up 3–0 in the second set, the wheels then fell off, badly. When he came up for air, he was down 2–5 in the third, and Tina and I felt awful that this would be the way he ended his HS tennis experience: a total collapse.
But then he rallied, making it back to 5–5. Because nearly the entire crowd was pro-Hingham, and because his own teammates became more interested in the snacks than rooting him on (attention span of teenagers), Tina and I made a point to praise him after good play. He grinded, had a chance to go up 6–5, but eventually fell 5–7 in the third. Both players high-fived each other, after nearly 3 hours on the hot court, and having earned the respect of everybody present. At 5-all in the third, I had already come to peace that I was super proud of Zach, and the result was irrelevant.
Zach’s graduation was a few days later in the Mullins Center at UMass, and it was a lively affair, given the nature of the kids and culture of the community. We’re proud of him, like his sister, and look forward to seeing what they both achieve in life (hopefully, happiness!). Sadly typical of graduations at many American high schools, there was a pall over the day, as a member of the class had died a few weeks earlier in a car crash, leaving several others who were in the car bandaged or limping across the stage to get their diplomas. Some things never change.
This post brings a close to the 72-edition Seasonal Memoir, a challenge I gave myself at the very beginning of my transition from Dubai to the US to Switzerland, during this gap year before heading to India for our final international adventure at our dream school. If you paid close attention, I often posted late, somewhere between a week and even a month after the mini-season mentioned in the title. Why? Because writing is hard! (Especially when holding down a full-time job.) I’m glad I did it, however, and I hope my kids can look back in the future and get a little glimpse into my life, mindset, and beliefs from May 2021 to April 2022. Journaling is a lost art, but writing stands the test of time, and is a legacy.