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Feel While You Can, Let Your Heart Speak and Guide You

January 10, 2012

Good Morning, Macketeers,

I’m still listening to Supertramp, but I’ll be really nice and find something else to talk about. Fortunately, Roger Hodgson has thoughtfully provided me with a topic: Knowing Yourself and Following Your Bliss.

Okay, I saw about two thirds of you cringe there, and that’s fair. We’ve all been conditioned to think that our sole responsibility in this life is to make lots of money to give to our spouse and children. I’m almost certain there are people out there people out there for whom this actually works pretty well, because providing for their family actually gives them nearly all of the self-fulfillment they need.

The problem for me is, I don’t really know too many of these people personally, so I can’t vouch for that. Most of my friends are writers and artists and musicians, and have creativity as a major cornerstone of their mental and emotional make-up. Safe to say it can’t be the sole pursuit in their lives either, because none of my friends are even remotely wealthy (believe me, if they were, I’d have seduced them by now). As such, most of them have day jobs, some of them have spouses and children, and much of their non-existent spare time is spent trying to squeeze in an hour or two of writing or drawing or practicing their instrument.

I’ve always been the odd man out here, because I’m a bit of a loner, save for my agent and her wild jungle cats, and believe me, I don’t behave too much like a husband with children would. I haven’t been steadily employed in almost two years, and spend most of my time at this laptop, writing and planning what remains of our future. Five books later and I’m no richer than I was when I started, but I still have hope.

But none of that is really what I mean to talk about. You see, we all know that just making money, though necessary and occasionally even noble in its intent, can’t really be all we do. Sooner or later, even the most industrious of us meets with a crisis of faith in the principles we’ve set before us and starts wondering why we bothered. There really aren’t too many syed-in—the-wool Mr. Potters in this world; amoral creatures of greed and pettiness aren’t a permanent mental state just aren’t as common as the archetype would seem. Even they have their Ebenezer Scrooge moment. Kharma is funny that way.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of people out there doing petty, amoral things, but on the whole they’re not absolute bastards the way the movies teach us. Most folks aren’t that cynical. A few, I’m sure. Perhaps even too many, if it can be said that two or three of wealthy misers ruling the political landscape of a town, county of nation can be too many. But the important thing is, most folks believe they’re doing the right thing, however cynically mislead they may be. They actually believe their cynical point of view is merely well-informed horse sense, and that they’re mistreating people under their influence is teaching them a valuable lesson about how the world actually works. Don’t believe me? Try asking them, if you can get one of them away from their entourage and top notch security team. And if you ever do, you might want to be wearing flak armour, because you never know who might be bearing a grudge and a gun on any given day.

But seriously, the point of this article isn’t to talk about Rupert Murdoch or the Koch Brothers, or the irresponsible politicians they may or may not own. The important thing is, the rest of us have to find some way to get happiness in this world, and it almost certainly isn’t going to come from collecting massive wealth, because more than ever, we are excluded from that club. So where does a person go to find happiness when money fails to provide real happiness? Well, you might want to look over your shoulder and see what the little girl or boy you used to be happens to be holding, because that might be a key.

See, when we’re kids we get stuck trying all kinds of stuff we may or may not possess an aptitude for, and some of us *waves hand frantically* may have just been hopeless dreamers. It happens. But the thing is, somewhere in the midst of all that, we probably came across two or three things that really touched our hearts in a way nothing else did. They may not have been particularly practical things, and may have even been really annoying to parents and siblings (and Mr. Wilson, of course). But the thing is, that earnest little child may have unlocked a door inside of you that you’ve been deliberately passing by in your mind ever since, because everyone talked you out of spending time there.

Do yourself a favour. Next time you’re in that end of the house in your mind, stop by that room and see if your stuff is still there. If anything is missing, maybe see if you can pick up something on ebay and fill the space. Then, when you find yourself with a spare Sunday afternoon when the kids are away and the wife is out antiquing with friends, you can take out your old trumpet and put on some Davis or Armstrong and just jam a little until you get your confidence back.

Now, I’m not saying you should quit your day job and go out and find a big band to play with. But I’ll bet if you check out a few music forums (instead of, you know, checking the porn sites or whatever),  you can probably find a guy with a set of drums in his garage not too far away from you, and a guy with a stand-up bass or a keyboard and amp, and you can just set up and jam for an afternoon or two. Hey, if you’re any damned good, maybe you can go out on Saturday nights and perform at your local bar or naval club.

Or if art was your thing as a kid, you might want to dig out that sketchbook you never quite filled and start doodling, maybe come up with a few ideas you haven’t seen before and then go out and buy yourself a few pre-stretched canvases and put together your own little showing. Surely you’ve developed an eye for what looks good in the last ten, twenty, fifty years. How can it hurt? There are probably lots of storefront gallery spaces in the more Bohemian parts of town where you can pay a few buck to get your pictures put up, and maybe even make your money back selling one or two.

Advice to writers? Finish the book .Who cares if it’s crap? Really, you owe it to yourself to finish the damned thing and then see if it didn’t give you an idea for a better book. Then write that one. And if it’s any better, have a few people you love and trust not to bullshit you to read it for you. If they tell you it’s good, believe them and try submitting it to an agent or publisher. Or if you’re not sure, try joining one of those online writers groups and have them critique your work, and return the favour. You’ll learn tonnes more critiquing other writers than you will just staring forlornly at the drawer where you’ve been hiding your manuscripts all this time.

And for those of you who still dream of being a fireman, well, there’s always the volunteer department, If you can get yourself into shape and get accepted. Or if you’re physically unable, you can help man the phones. Support staff are important too.

The point is, it could be anything. Maybe you really always wanted to be a train engineer or a comedian or a pilot. The only thing stopping you is you (and maybe your eyesight; get your eye glass prescription updated, or, hey, Lasik surgery is getting better all the time. Go see your optometrist and see if you’re a good candidate). You have to decide for yourself what’s possible, and you have to give yourself permission to follow your idea until it becomes clear that you were either write or you were wrong. That could take some time, but you know, there’s no point putting it off any longer, because tomorrow you could wind up under a bus. Start when you know where to start, and not a day later.

Much of your personal happiness is going to be recovered once you’ve dedicated perhaps a few hours a week to seeing if you can still do those things you were trying to learn to do as a child or teen. Maybe you’ll find that, in the intervening years, that you’ve actually been subconsciously absorbing more information about your favourite pursuit and, after you get over the rusty bits, you’ll find you’re actually better at it now than you were when you were young.

The most important thing, even if you really aren’t very good at the first or second thing on your list, is to stop telling yourself you can’t do anything. Of course you can do something. You just need to keep looking. There is something out there for you. You may not be ready for prime time, but at least in the meantime you’ll be practicing your craft, learning to make better airplane models, building that dream train set you always wanted, cutting that album of music you’ve been hearing in the back of your head all these years… and nobody can tell you you shouldn’t waste your time. This is your life. It might just be the only one you get. What are you doing pissing about with excuses? Get on it!

You may have responsibilities, but if the people around you can’t see how unhappy you’ve been, and how very much you need time for an outlet, then maybe there’s one more thing you need to change in your life before you can achieve fulfillment. Or maybe something can be worked out. But if you’re going to make it work, you’ve got to commit to it and get determined to see it through, because believe me, sisters and brothers, if you don’t believe, neither will anybody else. Remember, it’s only a few hours a week. Who’s going to miss you so bad that they can’t spare you some time alone or with your new friends for a few hours a week?

And in the end, you may even prove to be so good at it, you can make your hobby or dream pay for itself and supplement your income while you’re at it. How awesome would that be?

Okay, I think that about covers it. Get thinking, and when you remember what worked for you before you started listening to other people too much, get the trumpet out of hock, dust off your jazz records and blow, baby, blow.


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