Your Process Is Your Destination

Forget your schedule. There is no schedule. The destination isn’t your destination. There is no destination. And the journey isn’t your destination, either. The process is your destination. The process is the process, and it is what you are doing with your life. Think of the number of days you have and how you spend them. Each day that you spend is a deposit into your memory bank, your experiences, and your skill set. Each day you spend brings you one day closer to your death and marks another step you’ve taken in your life. 

Are you enjoying the process of each day? Savoring the morning cup of tea, spending those few moments muttering sweet nothings to your dog as she nuzzles her face into your chest, reviewing your charts and the slow progress of sights and sounds and emotions they represent. This is the process. It’s the way I’m choosing to live my life. Taking the solitude of each morning. Feeling the independence of it. Taking one step closer to death in a deliberate manner that builds my level of experience, my skill set, my appreciation for the things I know and have accomplished and the things I don’t yet and may never know, and the challenges before me that I will conquer and those that I will never summit. This is my process, my journey, my destination, my life.

I woke one cool morning in Virginia in December. The sun had not yet risen, and I had sweat myself damp in my sleeping bag. Rosie slept in comfort or in a chill or in boredom or in a Zen-like state that only dogs know while I dressed and warmed the water for my tea. It was December as I layered on my clothes. The date doesn’t matter. What does matter is that it was one of those cool mornings when the steam rises into the air from the still-warm water, and the rockfish are out there on some ledge, over some live bottom, waiting for the current to sweep their meals to them. What matters is the process. The ritual of seasons and the ritual of mornings.

I had planned to leave that morning. Pull up anchor in the faintest hint of light, idle out of my private anchorage like a ghost through the rising steam, and make steady progress on my journey toward my destination. But that morning, with my hat pulled over the tops of my ears and my favorite jasmine tea, when I turned the key, my starter only whirred helplessly in place, failing to engage the flywheel, start my engine, and send me journeying through the steam. This would be the morning that my process took shape. The process of regaining the independence and the self-reliance that I set out to find and that I had lost somewhere along the way by diminishing myself. By relying too heavily on other people. But trading in my old life of practical capabilities for a softer life of reason, logic, and middleman status.

When the engine didn’t start, and I realized that my control over the process was only a fleeting, tenuous grip, I gained a little of the Zen-like understanding Rosie had so clearly mastered. She has a master. She does what I do. And she makes the best of it. She doesn’t control her own destiny, but she makes the best of the process of her life. She controls how she responds to any situation she finds herself in. Frequently, she finds that control by napping.

At that point, I did not control the process. I controlled my reaction to it and nothing else. That’s all we get. I gave up on the notion of leading my destiny along a path that I saw laid out before me. Instead I made another cup of tea, shed a layer of clothing in response to the rising sun’s warmth, and busted out the tools. 

I sipped my tea and remembered that, damn it, I used to rebuild automatic transmissions and that starters are comparatively simple pieces of machinery. So I took that dude apart. And I found a broken roller clutch. And remembered that I’ve built monster trucks and that three batteries wired in series can create an impromptu stick welder. And that a coat hanger will serve the same purpose as a 7011 welding rod in a pinch. And that by welding the entire clutch housing together with batteries and coat hangers, I can fix my starter, take some semblance of control over my situation, and take a major step forward along my process of journeying toward my destination without ever pulling anchor and moving.

That afternoon, by the time the acrid smell of burnt metal started to clear from my nose, and the red sun hung low and lonely in the cloudless sky; and the cool of the December air pushed me to pull my hat back down over the tops of my ears, I regained a lot of what I had lost. I also found something that I never had before. Or maybe I lost something unnecessary that I had and was better off without it.

Either way, I rejoiced in my control over the process of dinner. I listened to Bob Marley and the Wailer’s Confrontation album, drank a plastic cup of wine (Or four. We’re friends, we can be honest.), chopped onions and minced garlic, and made a big pot of black beans and rice. Rosie lay in the last rays of the setting sun, making the most of what life offered her, her black fur drawing in the last heat available before a cold night. 

--by Sean McCarthy