This past April my mother and I started having weekly phone calls. Every Saturday night at 10 o'clock I give her a call and we chat about recent events or whatever happens to be on our mind. It's something that I should have been doing for decades and even said as much on our first call. However, this is yet another one of those instances where "better late than never" is true; no matter how many years have passed since the last call, it's (almost) never too late to pick up the phone and reach out.
Yesterday one of the first questions that my mum asked was "How are you doing?". An innocuous inquiry that people will use to allow someone else to offer the initial conversation topics. My reply was quick and to the point: I'm feeling great. Better than I have in years. Maybe I should be sent to prison more often so that I can appreciate just how good people have it on the outside. Injecting a bit of humour into the start of a conversation generally creates for a more relaxed atmosphere, but the answer is wholly accurate. Despite the various struggles that can face a person at the start of divorce proceedings, I have enjoyed the past week immensely and feel pretty good. Aside from a 15 ~ 20-minute period of negativity on Thursday or Friday, my outlook on life has been remarkably positive. The 20 days of detention were certainly stressful and humbling, but the genuine appreciation I feel for my current freedom is absolutely refreshing. It will not be taken for granted.
So, with this in mind, on to the five things.
Hindsight on Dreams
During the final nights of detention, I would occasionally dream of returning home, only to wake up either as I read the front door or when I get to the mailbox just outside the front gate. Rather than see the inside of the house, I would see the inside of my cell. This was incredibly disheartening as I considered it a sign that I would never again return home. In hindsight, however, could this have been a vision of the future?
Dreams that repeat have often held a special meaning for people. In the Bible, the Egyptian pharaoh who released Jacob from prison did so after having his dream interpreted as a message that there would be seven years of bounty followed by seven years of drought. Thanks to the insight from Jacob, the people of Egypt and neighbouring territories were spared starvation1. Even today, there are numerous intellectuals who pay attention to the messages contained in dreams; particularly those that repeat.
Looking back at these unconscious visions, I do wonder if the dreams were trying to say "You will return home, but not just yet." This would certainly explain why I would wake up shortly before walking into the front door2.
Why Am I Here?
One of the questions that I've been thinking about since returning home regards my purpose in life. This isn't so much a "why do I exist?" sort of question, but more of a "what am I expected to do now that I have been gifted with a return to society?"3. There are a number of possible answers that have emerged from the recesses of my mind, and they all follow a common theme, namely …
Interacting With People
For the better part of four years I have been unable to interact with people outside the house in any meaningful manner. On April 12th, the family and I moved into this home and almost immediately became disconnected from the rest of the world. We would occasionally meet extended family, and I would have an opportunity to chat with neighbours while outside with Nozomi, but the interactions were always time constrained. However, as I am no longer expected to be a constant presence in people's lives, it has become possible to rekindle old relationships and also to build new ones. While I certainly lean towards introversion, there is something uniquely rewarding about meeting people, sharing ideas, and learning new things. This interaction also extends to calling family members more often, which has made it possible to learn about the people I grew up with but know almost nothing about4.
Re-Reading Important Books
Reading has been one of my favourite pastimes ever since I borrowed my first book from the library5 at the age of six. Over the last few years I've been reading books from people like Dennis Prager, Jordan Peterson, Bishop Robert Barron, and others. These books cover important and complicated topics and have helped guide me to be the person I am today. By going over these books again, there's an opportunity to appraise the decisions I've made, recognise what worked, learn from the errors, and re-examine the lessons to see whether they apply or not6. First were the two Rational Bible books from Dennis Prager, and I'm now in the middle of Jordan Peterson's first 12 Rules for Life book.
My goal is to continue reading books from people who are smarter than I will ever be in order to make fewer mistakes going forward. After reading the books that already exist in my library, I'll being expanding the pool of authors to better grasp the world we live in. I needn't agree with everything, but I do need to understand more perspectives in order to build a …
Plan for the Future
A number of people are strongly encouraging me to return to Canada. I still have responsibilities to tend to here in Japan but, depending on the final terms of the divorce, remaining half a world away from the nearest family member (that I'm allowed to see) seems illogical. My employer has been incredibly understanding and patient with me over the years but, as the global economy continues its downward spiral, they may need to downsize further7 in order to survive. If this happens, then I will need to act quickly in order to continue paying the mortgage, the bills, and everything else that creditors or society demands. So it is with this in mind that I am trying to collaborate with people to develop financially viable – not to mention ethical – software and services. There are four projects being discussed, all of which have potential. If just one proves to be somewhat successful, then it will become possible to pay the bills while also having the freedom to work from anywhere on the globe. It's a long-shot, but not completely outside the realm of possibility.
This past week has been incredibly productive with a lot of good communication with great people. Despite the challenges earlier this month, I feel positive and incredibly fortunate. So it is with this energy that I hope to transform the potential for good into something that is good. Given the patterns that are present in my life recently, this will not be a solo effort. There will be interaction. There will be communication. There will be learning. There will be disagreement. However, when it's all said and done, something truly interesting will have been discovered.
This is a gross oversimplification of the story, but the gist is mostly there.
What's odd is that my dreams had me walk towards the front door. I never use the front door unless with Reiko or the boy. If it's just me, I enter and exit the house from the side door connected to my home office. However, when I returned home on June 15th, I did use the front door. This was because there were three other people with me; two police officers and an interpreter. Entering through the side door would have been awkward as there wouldn't be enough space for everyone's shoes. Did the dream contain all of this information? Or was it just a figment of a depressed imagination?
Yes. I see my return home as a gift.
More than fifteen years have passed since I've seen most of the people in my family. People can change quite a bit in this time. My sisters have been mothers for most if not all of this time, and raising multiple children will change a person. It's good to have an opportunity to learn about them again, even if it's just over the phone.
The first book I borrowed was "Mr. Bounce", a short story written by Roger Hargreaves. It was borrowed from the library at the elementary school I attended in 1985. The things we remember …
There is no book that I read and agree with 100%. The things I disagree with, however, are often topics that I think a great deal about afterwards to articulate why there is a disagreement. A rational approach to reading and introspection makes it possible to better develop the self, after all.
There have been a number of downsizing efforts over the last year or so thanks to COVID, but it's gotten to the point where the next round of people will be those who cost the most and generate the least amount of income. The software I write now is not used by students or teachers, so the value I offer may not be worth the salary in the eyes of management.