The Insidious Art of Self-Betrayal

When I was in college I had a friend who had a friend (call him Joe) who was going to UCLA. He was pre-Med. His grandfather, father, and older brothers all preceded him – they went to UCLA, graduated from medical school, became doctors. Plus, during their school years none received less than an “A” in any class. With brilliance and perfection, they successfully navigated the life path that was set before them.

Joe was following in those mighty footsteps. That is, until his Senior year when he received a “B” in one of his classes. Distraught and unable to face his father and brothers with the blemish on the family record, Joe bought a gun and put a bullet between his ears.

While this is tragic enough, the story is even sadder – Joe didn’t even want to be a doctor.

A gifted illustrator, Joe wanted to be an artist.

While this is an extreme example, how many of us betray our true path in life? How often do we co-opt a dream to satisfy some external pressure or expectation? How often do we lay down our life for the sake of pleasing someone else?

I’m not talking about the courage of a soldier sacrificing his life so others might live – that’s heroic and different.

There is nothing heroic about forfeiting natural gifts, or the plan associated with those gifts, so that others might be pleased.

Obviously there are practical concerns. We all need to take care of our families, meet obligations, earn a living. That’s good. But, depending on the survey, 50-75% of the workforce either hate their job or are looking for something new.

If we’re working for a paycheck, then we also should be seeking our true calling – especially if we hate the job we’re in! The problem is that we often do not know the true nature of our calling.

In the first section of my book (shameless plug) I have an exercise that’s helpful in seeking out and identifying our calling. It focuses on the stuff we enjoy doing, we’re interested in doing, and that we’d do for free. Quite often you can take on your calling while you still work to pay the mortgage. All you have to do is give yourself permission to move forward.

Moving forward – isn’t that a big part of an authentic life?

I wish my buddy’s friend at UCLA would have given himself permission to not be a doctor, to pursue his art. And, I’ve met so many people who carry something dead inside because they aren’t living their calling. Maybe it’s time to take a deep breath and quit betraying themselves.

 

 

Be Bold

I was blessed at an early age to have received encouragement from some great teachers in and out of school. My English teachers in high school (Jack McNaughton, Mal Mackey, Ron Schmidt, Linda Spinelli) helped me to cultivate imagination and instilled in me a desire to seek freedom through putting words on paper.

Concurrently, a family friend, Richard King, would read my stuff and compare my work to Rod Serling. Richard was a professional songwriter with some serious chops, so I took him seriously – and was thrilled by the comparison.

I wanted to be the next Stephen King.

So I spent the next ten years writing bad horror. Short stories and a couple of novels. I collected rejection slips and shared complaints with writer friends about how editors worldwide needed to visit their local optometrists because they seriously lacked vision.

Then I began a long journey of writing ad copy, marketing communications, magazine articles, newspaper columns – business writing paid the bills. I also dabbled with different styles. During my late 20’s and 30’s I read a lot of Ernest Effing Hemingway, Jack Kerouac and William Gibson. My writing improved, but still wasn’t where I wanted it. Something was missing.

More years passed and, while in the process of learning about ADD, something clicked. I began writing differently. I went deeper into my soul. I actually thought what I was writing – whatever it was – was beginning to read differently.

I’d found my voice.

The first half of my writing life I spent imitating those writers I read and admired. In the tradition of master-apprentice I copied what they did, applied their techniques and styles, and created imitations of their work. When I finally let them go I discovered that hidden beneath their technique was a clear and persistent voice that belonged only to me.

It wasn’t conscious. It simply was.

The more I wrote, the more pronounced it became. Freedom was at-hand.

There is something bold and liberating about sliding into your authenticity as a writer or whatever kind of Creative Type you may be.  Just let it go and the flow will find you.

Let it go and Be Bold. No matter what, your authentic voice is what’s important. Look for it. Care for it. Give it free reign. There is nothing more satisfying.

I owe a great debt of gratitude to my teachers for giving me such freedom at an early age. They helped me to stretch and explore, and then guided me in helping me give my chaos form. That’s the essence of the creative process.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my teachers these past few weeks. Just want to give credit to Jack, Mal, Ron and Linda. They helped me set sail on a lifelong quest to give expression to my soul, and not be fearful of spilling blood on the page.

Fables of the Reconstruction

Ever been in an argument with someone in which you both become so entrenched that there doesn’t seem to be a way out? It’s like a wordy treadmill, rolling over the same old points of view, beliefs, accusations, and any other point of contention – endlessly churning, like rear wheels spinning in red mud.

Maybe you come to a sort of conclusion, or at least a mutual agreement to stop arguing. No winner no loser. Afterward, there’s an incompleteness in the gut that even pralines and cream ice cream can’t comfort. You carry it with you for days, maybe. There’s inner discord, an out-of-sync vibration.

When you re-visit the scene of the crime, there’s something missing. A hollowness that won’t be filled. Forgiveness mouthed from a clenched heart is insufficient.

You realize the relationship can never be the same. It’s a fable of reconstruction.

Often we’ll try to re-create what was. But, what was has passed. What’s needed is something new.

That’s the soul of the creative process. A thing cannot be re-made. The attempt can only be like Frankenstein’s monster. The semblance of a stitched together man. Instead, we must accept that what once was is forever broken and un-fixable.

As Creatives, we take broken things and make something new. Maybe this is why creativity can be so messy. There is no reconstruction. There is only deconstruction and then starting from scratch. Sure, you build upon the knowledge, but the hands-on dirty work reaps something new.

That’s hard in relationships, We carry the broken bits with us wherever we go, with whomever we connect.

Maybe we need to re-gesso the canvas. Clean the brushes. Imagine a new painting. Create something new versus reconstructing something tired and trite.

 

Re-connect, Re-construct, Reconcile.

Maybe you haven’t noticed, but Creative Types, people with ADD, and other oddballs can be a bit idiosyncratic.

We tend to have a different outlook on life, maybe have difficulty connecting with our internal editors, maybe we can also be somewhat difficult.

All true. We definitely have a perspective. And we’re not always the best team members. Someone has to blaze trails, right? This personality trait often works well in art, but doesn’t always work in relationships. God knows I’ve had my trials – and have been a trial to countless others. Funny, I’m a very social person – I like people. But I also have mastered the practice of isolation.  Frankly, it’s getting to me.

So, this year I have decided to re-connect, re-construct and reconcile with people. The monastic life just isn’t working anymore.

Let’s see what happens. Can I maintain my abnormality and also have meaningful connections with normies and abbies alike? Sounds like an interesting experiment.