Pretty Corpse Blues
“Live fast. Die young. Leave a pretty corpse.”
…well 2 out of 3 ain’t bad
Here’s a question for you? When you spend your 20s pursuing adventure, whimsy and danger, half-expecting to die young, but then suddenly find yourself in your mid-30s alive, under-educated, with no real specialization to speak of, what do you do?
This is the cross-roads I find myself at: What am I? What is it exactly I do? How long will I be staying in this place that I now found myself in?
I’ve taken to skirting these questions with cleverness: What am I? => What do you need me to be!; What do I do? => Whatever it takes!; How long will I be staying here? => As long as it takes! And while I have felt like a bit of an impostor boldly delivering these nonchalant responses when queried, they do carry more than a little truth. A lot actually, and that’s the problem: the inherent truth behind what I’m saying rather than the facade of bullshit. It’s like I haven’t declared a major. I haven’t tied myself down and committed to anything. Throw the fucking dice already, Dre!
I have been many things in my time but I never saw any of them through. I did them long and hard enough to get some validation and recognition and acclaim (I’m actually very good at whatever I put my mind to), and that was good insofar as it taught me how little fame/acclaim/validation actually means in the grand scheme of things. But there are a lot of unfinished books on my shelf.
My resume is fairly diverse: retail clerk, infantry rifleman, student, warehouse worker, waiter, actor/stunt performer/film-maker, home-stager, yoga instructor, jewelry-maker/silversmith, camp counselor, freelance translator and editor and most recently, musician. When I look back on that list it bothers me; a lot of those things I did because they were the path of least resistance, or because they seemed an expedient way to get something I didn’t want to work for, or even because they just sounded cool to do. I have been feeling for some time that I need to dig deeper and maximize my potential, to spend every waking hour more productively, to take bigger risks and to make greater/more focused efforts.
It’s funny to touch on these themes now, almost two years after writing a post entitled “…When I Learn to Fly” where I outlined a plan to travel the world learning, doing work-aways, etc. It didn’t go the way I thought it would, especially that year and a half I spent in Germany, in a relationship, getting engaged, etc., and looking back I see that when I wrote that post, I was still so fucked up from getting knocked off my path when things didn’t work out with me and my ex. I had no idea at that time that the other shoe was about to drop on me in a HUUUGE way. When I say things didn’t work out with me and my ex, I mean that for me, God died. My highest value, the crux of all my ambitions, the cornerstone of my future happiness and meaning -it got yanked out on some Jenga shit and I was left teetering thinking that I was just swaying.
Now two years later I find myself out of another relationship but its different. I don’t know that I was ever as wide open as I was in the previous one. I always had this feeling like I was living someone else’s life after having been knocked so catastrophically from my own. Well, now I seem to be back on track, not as skilled as that original post predicted I would be two years later but no worse for the wear. A lot of deadwood had to be burned away over the past two years since that original post was written.
Most importantly I think I’m centered in myself in a way that I wasn’t before. I am no longer looking for the external validation that comes from women. I know that there is no salvation in the redemptive gaze of another. It is at best a distraction. I see the flames of my own personal hell in my rear-view in a way I never have before and truth be told, I kind of like it -I think the pressure is good for me. In the past I never really saw what was at stake but now I do and thankfully I feel up to the challenge.
When my “God” died and the whole structure collapsed I was adrift, but now I have a new highest value. I want to tell you what that is but its something like a block of marble that is still being carved, but its a beautiful, well-veined piece and its being carved deliberately and slowly by a master.
I can tell you that it has to do with embracing the role of the father -the bulwark against chaos providing habitable order for the ones I love, but it’s not just that either. It’s also the journey to that as well: the constant and never-ending self-improvement, the abandonment of destructive cycles of behaviour and their replacement with something productive. Doing the work essentially. Even if I never have my own family I want to keep that possibility open for myself because far too many times I have met the right woman but I have not been all that I could have been. I can remedy that.
There is something else too, like a joker in the deck that off-sets, complements and, when appropriate, supercedes the more methodical, logical and analytical approach: I have to keep trusting my intuition now as much as I ever did before -more even. (It’s hilarious because I was pretty adamant about that point in my post from two years ago and here I am still dwelling on it. Either I haven’t been pursuing that goal as intelligently/diligently as I otherwise might have or it is something which constantly needs work. Both I suspect…). In more esoteric terms, my throat chakra is still a little jammed up and I won’t be doing it any favours by simply just buckling down and colouring inside the lines. I have to speak my truth and pursuant to that, I know there are a few people who need to hear what I have to say. Perhaps in good time they will, but I won’t make their willingness to listen or lack thereof the defining criteria. Each day presents a myriad of opportunities for us to say “no” and set boundaries, to volunteer enthusiastically for something just outside of our wheelhouse, and even to make the risque joke that might divide the room. I’m taking these opportunities and getting out in front of the things I’m dreading rather than letting them find me.
One last point on my truth and my intuition: There is something I HAVE worked at consistently over the course of my adult life and never given up on, and that is wandering. I am good at it and the best day I’ve had over the last few months was my 24 hour layover in Panama City en route here to Nicaragua.
I was in a new place with everything I needed and only there for a short time. I don’t know if this is the type of way to live the rest of my life but for right now it speaks to me. So I’m going to pursue it, because I love it and because its what I’m good at.
I’m here. I’m alive. I hadn’t prepared for this, but fuck it, might as well make something out of the next 30 or 40 years. I hope you’ll join me for the ride.