How are you living your dash?

Over the weekend I went to a celebration of life for a member of my wife Debi’s “adopted” family (Debi has known them for almost 40 years and lived with them for a time in her teens). This was for a lady who lived life fully from all accounts and pretty much lived each day for that day.

The gathering was unique, we sat on hay bales along a lazy creek in a dusty desert horse ranch, birds being birds, horses being horses and kids being kids. Even though there was sadness, there was life going on and a feeling by all that this is what Lynn would have wanted. Prayers were spoken, memories shared, the riderless horse of US Cavalry fame was led by and her art was displayed. Afterwards the family (and adoptees, and there were a bunch!) all adjourned to the family home nearby for what was really a family reunion. Some, like nephew Mark and clan, had traveled from Pennsylvania or like niece Jenny and her husband and daughter, from Los Angeles to be with 4 generations of family. Pictures were taken, stories told and the healing began.

Another unique occurrence was the family dinner afterwards. Lynn worked at a small local casino (this all took place in the semi-hinterlands of  Nevada) as a shift supervisor and was loved and respected by all there. To honor her, the casino treated the clan to a private buffet. Unfortunately there was a power outage (major wind event in fire parlance), and the food selection was odd to say the least (tasty but odd. With the exception of  the salad bar, it very much resembled the hor dourves selection at a Chamber of Commerce mixer!) but their heart was in the right place and it gave the family more time to socializie and took some weight off of her sister who was organizing all this. It also was as unique as Lynn was and will provide for some smiles when enough time has passed.

The main point of this post however was the poem read during the ceremony. It’s called “How Do You Live Your Dash” or simply “The Dash. It’s either by Cindy Fisher or Linda Ellis (you ladies fight it out, I’m just the messenger) and it goes like this:

I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
from the beginning to the end

He noted that first came the date of her birth
and spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
was “the dash” between those years

For that dash represents all the time
that she spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not how much we own;
the cars, the house, the cash,
what matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left,
that can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
to consider what’s true and real
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger,
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect,
and more often wear a smile
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read
with your life’s actions to rehash
would you be proud of the things they say
about how you spent your dash”

What more can be said? What will they say about you when your time comes? I like to think that I haven’t done too bad. How about you, how have you lived your dash? defines this as begin over, begin where one left off, carry on, carry over, go on with, pickup, proceed, recapitulate, recommence, reestablish, reinstate, re-institute, renew, restore or take up. You get the point.I am going to continue from where I left off, or actually back a bit. I slipped into the conventional way of job hunting and sent out a ton of resumes (interesting synonym there, resume; a compendium of your work life used to find a new job. Resume; to continue on or restart), made a bunch of cold calls and sifted through thousands of web pages, all with no success. I tinkered with starting a new business but then CAL FIRE beckoned again so I switched gears, picked up more classes/certs to try and score higher on their testing process and went back to work for them in 2010. When I was again laid off at the end of fire season ( I volunteered to take the hit so as to be able to take even more classes. That was a bad idea), I focused on getting classes I couldn’t get on duty in hopes of scoring even higher and making permanent. Then they changed the rules.

So I am back here again. This time with a new plan, or a modified version of the old plan. I am going to work social networking/media to enhance my visibility, look for new ways to look for work while also using the old ones that didn’t work so well before but I have to cover my bases.

However… I am 55 years old. No one in the fire service is going to hire a 55 year old probationary firefighter (and I can’t physically beat out some 19 y/o kid!) and it is rare for a department to do what CAL FIRE was doing and hire officers off the street.  In addition, there are lifer sales guys out there looking for work so the odds aren’t good there either. On top of that, there is “this economy” where even the best of the best are on the street and have been for 2,3 and even 4 years. So the odds of me finding a good paying job are slim, and a good paying job that I would enjoy and respect myself in the morning, even slimmer (I know someone has to offer you “fries with that” and it is a “job” but still…).

That brings me to the second part and that is to reinvent myself. Wait! At 55? ARE YOU NUTS? No choice! No job, limited savings and besides what does every red-blooded american middle manager do when (s)he finds themselves in my spot? Become a consultant! The idea has been perking for a year or two but CAL FIRE looked like it was going to pan out and working a related side business is a big no-no so I just let it simmer. Well it’s time to get cooking (pardon the pun but hey, I’m a bit of a foodie so it works). So I will be blogging here about job hunting, and fulfilling my requirements to look for work but will also be throwing out fire related information as well while developing a new website and a new business as a Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) Wildfire Preparedness consultant. With the growth in rural/suburban living in the “interface”, changes in climate, and cutbacks in the fire services, maybe just maybe this will work. Stay tuned folks.