What rankles my heart and kills my soul is the thought that I might die one day saying “If I had” or “I could of done/been” blah, blah, blah. These are not things that should be part of my vocabulary. Nor should they ever come from my mouth, but the disgusting and disappointing truth is that they do.
They do because sometimes I find myself staring in the mirror at an unfamiliar face wondering why I must be my own worst enemy and my greatest critic. They come from lips that look like my own and are seen by eyes that resemble mine but cannot really belong to me.
No, they cannot belong to me because there is something in them that I don’t recognize but then again I do. I see life experience. I see age. I see time. I see lines that never existed and I see someone standing next to me. He is not the arch nemesis I just mentioned, he is my hero.
He is the me I want to become and strive to be.
It Is An Identity Crisis
I choose not to look at this period of my life as anything but a moment in time. And the experiences that I have now are not going to define me. They may shape some parts and affect some pieces but by no stretch of the imagination will I lay down and let the bus run me over.
That is because this is not a midlife crisis. This is not a time where I run out and buy a sports car and find some 19 year-old girl to keep me warm. I had the 19 year-old girl and her slightly older friends. I did that when I was that age and I am not him any more. I am good with that.
No, this is an identity crisis where I am working out a few kinks. I am looking hard at what makes me want to wake up in the morning and what makes me want to stay in bed. This is a quest for joy and fulfillment. This is the moment in time where I point my compass in due south or maybe it is north. Doesn’t really matter as long as it is in pursuit of those things that I already mentioned.
Wired has a great interview with Joss Whedon that caught my eye for a host of reasons, but what I really paid attention to was the part about writing rituals.
Wired:Â Do you have writing rituals? Do you work on a computer? Do you have to be by yourself? Do you put on music?
Whedon:Â I do listen to music. Movie scores, exclusively, because itâ€™s all about mood and nonspecificity. I love the way modern movie scoring is all about nonspecificity. You know, if I shuffled the tracks fromInception, I challenge you to tell me which is which. But â€¦ you feel incredibly heightened during all of it. I donâ€™t know what Iâ€™m very excited about but Iâ€™m very excited. Or worried. Or sad, Iâ€™m not sure which, but itâ€™s all happening. And thatâ€™s really great. Whereas, you know, your old-school, very theme-specific music, which is the kind I like to actually use in my movies, is useless to writing.
Wired:Â Can you listen to music with lyrics?
Whedon:Â Only if itâ€™s supervapid. Very beautiful and supervapid and Iâ€™m not listening to it. Itâ€™s been like two albums ever, and I donâ€™t even want to say what they are because itâ€™s embarrassing.
Wired:Â And does it have to be in a specific place, or can you just go somewhere and type?
Whedon:Â I need to create that space.
Disclosure: I purchased a few tracks from the Inception soundtrack right after reading this. The answer to why I did it is quite simple. There are very few times where I don’t listen to music and if I am writing there is a guarantee that something is playing.
Music helps set the tone and when I do my best writing it is usually accompanied by some sort of soundtrack or song that makes my heart ache or my toes tap. I know, it sounds goofy but that is just how it works.
One of the best parts about being a forty-something is that I don’t have to prove a thing to anyone but myself. That means that I won’t try to reinvent the wheel unless there is a need. I really enjoyed Inception so this was a timing sort of thing for me.
In some ways you could talk about it being a sign from the universe. It was sort of innocuous. Just a little reminder to old Jack about the movie and what it made me think/feel and want to do.
A Blogging Identity Crisis
The 17 long time readers know that I don’t believe that you have to be a niche blogger to be successful, but they also know that my focus and voice have evolved over time. That evolution continues. This is an extended period of growth. I am doing a few things now that are going to impact the future of how I blog. I think they are going to be good. I see positive things coming from it.
I have very few regrets in my life but those I do have are huge. The goal now is avoid making more. The goal now is to do my best to take my shots and if I fail, well I will have tried. It is easier for me to live with the knowledge that I got caught trying to steal home than to say that I was left on base because I waited for someone else to swing the bat.
Debbianne May 7, 2012 at 10:02 am
I dig what all of you have to say here. Carpe diem! I took my own midlife crisis by the horns and starting prioritizing my own needs and desires, pursuing the bucket list, and it’s made me a better person by far. I’m convinced that lightening up, keeping out of the drama, letting everyone off the hook and following your excitement are the keys to happiness in this life!
Amy Turner May 5, 2012 at 3:08 am
Hi Jack, hi all,
I just want to share this quote I found from Facebook: I remembered it easily after reading all the exchanges here.
“Sometimes we need to stop analyzing the past~ stop planning the future~stop trying to figure out precisely how we feel~stop deciding with our mind what we want our heart to feel~Sometimes we have to go with…..whatever happens-happens.”
I don’t know about you guys, but this has made me feel kind of better, more relaxed somewhat. I hope it helps.
V-Grrrl May 4, 2012 at 2:19 am
I don’t listen to music when I write, and I like to write using a desktop, not a laptop.
I hear you about feeling there isn’t any more room for wrong turns, but I think we will make them anyway, despite “passion” or “intention” or “mindfulness” etc. The trick isn’t not to make mistakes; the trick is to accept that you will and learn to recover, learn, and move on.
Jack May 4, 2012 at 4:10 pm
I use a 17″ laptop with a full size keyboard. It makes a huge difference for me. I have big hands and I hate typing on the little ones.
Anyway, I agree that the wrong turns will come. The “hope” is that we learn from them and that we find it easy to move along.
Stan Faryna May 4, 2012 at 1:55 am
I’m listening to your YouTube link for the Inception.
I’m thinking of what Bill Delaney said in his comment above. How there’s no room for wrong turns. And I can’t help to think that there’s plenty of wrong turns ahead for me and how I want to say there will be none. I’ll have none, thank you. But there will be some.
Now I’m listening to Claude Debussy’s Reverie. That’s how long it took me to write honestly with you (and everyone else here). That’s a sumbich as Bill Dorman would say.
It’s a sumbich that honesty doesn’t flow like a river for me. You’re lucky if you don’t have the same problem as I do. I have to bring it one bucket at a time. Actually, it’s more like bringing it with an empty Coca-Cola bottle – the plastic 2.5 liter. Filling it takes time. I have to sink it down into the river. And the pouring it takes time too.
And now I need another song. Already? Yeah…
So I searched YouTube for the term, hope. And doing so, I put our questions to God. I ended up with this 8 minute movie which may or may not be an answer from God:
Jack May 4, 2012 at 4:09 pm
We are all in slightly different places. You and I are a bit younger than Billy. I think in this case it provides a bit more latitude for mistakes, or so I hope.
That video gives me lots of ideas. Whitefeather has me thinking but I am not sure that I can properly articulate it.
Sometimes it is good to sink down into the river and just….be.
Jens P. Berget May 3, 2012 at 9:25 pm
I am listening to inception as I’m writing this. I had to download it as soon as I read the first sentence about the soundtrack (I use spotify). The movie was awesome, and it feels like I still remember every detail in it.
I certainly understand how you feel about life. I’m looking for a midlife crisis, since I turned 40 a short while ago. It might be one, not sure, but I’m changing focus, and next week I’ll start growing my own vegetables in a green house. And I’ll be focusing more on writing and exercising (running).
To me, it’s important that the blog reflects who you are, and the mood you are in. I want to be on a journey when I’m reading your words, into your world – fiction or not.
Jack May 3, 2012 at 11:39 pm
It is a fantastic soundtrack. I really like it. It is stimulating without being distracting.
That greenhouse sounds fantastic. I bet your kids will really enjoy it. When it comes to the journey I am definitely with you. I want to create something like that in all of my posts.
That is pure magic.
Harleena Singh May 3, 2012 at 8:34 pm
Happens to the best of us Jack!
The questions you ask yourself so often or the situation and confusion that often comes across, happens to me also sometimes. But I guess we just fight those thoughts with positive ones and move ahead – isn’t it?
Yes, I love to work with music too, though more of the softer instrumental kinds in the background, though when I am writing for clients – there’s just silence that gets me thinking seriously 🙂
And we all do have regrets too, though we try getting better each day and try to sort out those things which are in our hands. We know for sure how well your focus and voice have evolved over time, and am sure it’s going to keep getting better each passing day. 🙂
Thanks for sharing more about you with us. 🙂
Jack May 3, 2012 at 11:36 pm
What do you like to listen to? I am always interested in learning what music my friends listen to. It sounds like it depends on what you are doing.
Jack May 3, 2012 at 11:37 pm
I am curious now. What sort of music do you like to listen to? It sounds like there is a difference based upon what you are doing.
Billy Delaney May 3, 2012 at 6:56 pm
Oh! JackB my latest blog post might be something you should read. It is like the shadow of this post.
Jack May 3, 2012 at 11:33 pm
Billy Delaney May 3, 2012 at 6:52 pm
It’s not a crisis, it a reconning more like!
The boat has sailed, the course is set. decide things now that make the course worthwhile.
No one is make us do anything. We talk ourselves into doing things we think people expect us to do.
I took my wife across Europe, and around the States. She got sick, really sick, and says those days of rough and ready made the last years bearable.
I’m with you, and now at 56, I don’t have room for more wrong turns. So…
We don’t do them, if we even suspect they are coming.
All my best to you.
Jack May 3, 2012 at 11:32 pm
The boat may have left the dock but the sails are completely unfurled and tiller manned by seamen who know how to deal with whatever comes.
I get the feeling that you have done a very good job of dealing with the rocks and storms as they come. Can’t avoid everything, but you can be semi prepared.