“Love thine enemies, for they are the instruments of your destiny.” – – Joseph Campbell
I quit drinking alcohol shortly before I turned 32 years of age. I also took great pride in telling people that in all of the years I drank, I didn’t get a single DWI. However, I did sort of forget to include that I didn’t get my license and first car til I turned 33. Details, details. Anyway, I do fondly remember that ’86 Nissan Pulsar NX. I loved that li’l red car! I also have etched in my memory the fact that the very first song I heard on the radio while driving was “Follow Your Bliss” on KQRS in 1990. I also remember being amazed to learn that the song was written and performed by the B52s. No matter, it became my new theme music, and ironically, I was soon also introduced to the world of Joseph “follow your bliss” Campbell himself via the PBS Power of Myth series.
It’s taken me a mere 24 years to heed the calling of the song and Mr.Campbell, all the while encountering the “enemies” that he’s referring to. The fact that I’ve been writing and/or intending to do so for a living for approximately 40 years speaks volumes about the aforementioned foes. As trite as being afraid of success can sound to me, I really have no other explanation for it, other than the accompanying non-existent self-esteem that prevented me from doing just about anything enjoyable for any length of time for many years. Another contributor is the family philosophy that the world is hard place to be, and one works for a living, preferably doing manual labor.
There are three solitary activities that provide me with, or more accurately, generate bliss flowing through my fifty-seven year old veins. One is running. I’ve done a dozen marathons, have another coming in October, and still would really like to test my limits all the way up to a 50-miler one day. Performing music is another, although my real love for it includes playing for an audience. The foremost is writing. Whether or not my writing is received well is sometimes a non-issue. I certainly want to be read, and of course it would be very difficult to earn a living sitting here at my laptop and not having anyone view my work, still I get an amazing amount of gratification from completing a piece of just about any kind of writing, sitting here by myself and putting my thoughts down on paper. The simplicity of basically regurgitating life experiences with 26 little characters and their accompanying punctuation, at this stage of the game anyway, provide me with a joy and contentment that spills out over into just about any other of my activities.
On the other hand, the obstacle course I’ve needed to navigate to get this far has been very interesting. I effectively talked myself out of even remote possibilities of making it in the music world by chanting “I’m not good enough” over and over again like a mantra for years until I believed it. These days I rather enjoy my singing voice and the way I play my guitar, and for sure have great sentiment attached to some of the songs I’ve written, with songwriting being an invaluable vehicle for expressing and purging emotion. In short, I enjoy how I perform and love playing for audiences. While I don’t lose any sleep over it, I do occasionally muse about what things may have been like had I believed in myself sooner. My final point on it these days however, is that while the likelihood of having my picture on the cover of the Rolling Stone anytime soon is pretty slim, I get a tremendous amount of satisfaction and joy from playing. Now is now, in regard to music. And everything else, really.
I’ve taken umpteen aptitude tests since 2001 and have been told for mysterious reasons that, per the results, my bliss would lie in being a respiratory therapist, a math teacher, or a chemical dependancy counselor, Among other things. I decided to pursue the latter for a while, and have yet to figure out the other two. I have zero interest in being a respiratory therapist, and if there’s such a thing as a “mathaphobe,” that’s me.
The driving force and catalyst that is finally getting me into the writing world is a spirit that is demanding expression, confronting, blasting through, going around, or doing whatever is involved in dissolving obstacles. There is a heavy component of forgiveness, that is to say a long time practice of viewing shortcomings and transgressions past and present as “grist for the mill.” These are the blocks that need to be removed: the parts of me that when forgiven, are in effect “looked beyond” after having been viewed with a more loving perspective. Once my internal enemies have been loved, I notice that they were there to be useful for me all along. Whether or not I think of myself in a positive or negative light is ultimately irrelevant – – they’re opposite sides of the same pole. Once I begin to accentuate the positive of any “lack” situation, I get the gift of noticing that I can transcend both positive and negative. The opposite poles have been there to provide me with inspiration if I only give them attention that way.
So, “I’m not good enough to write for a living.” “There are way to many obstacles that will prevent me from making a living at writing.” “Why even bother with such a glutted market?” Bullshit. All of these (and more) are the internal fantasies of an insane ego. There is no excuse for me to not meet and ultimately live with bliss as my companion. While I’m hardly Victor Frankl or Anne Frank, I grew up in circumstances that often included what could easily be described as atrocities. I’m still here. I’m surely not in the woeful situations many are, starving, living on the street, living under a daily threat of death. I’ve been gifted with a relatively level playing field from which to create my lot. The main thing my enemies have taught me is that they are illusory. No matter what form my chosen blissful activity takes, the same gremlins are there to tell me that I don’t deserve that particular form. It’s the inner enemies that I’ve come to love, indeed to lick my chops at sometimes at the thought of how happy I’ll feel once they’re transformed into the Love that they truly are. It all depends on how I look at it. Speaking of triteness, everything is Love. There is nothing else. I just sometimes choose to look at the world through shit-colored glasses.
A few weeks ago I wrote about my late friend Paul, and didn’t include a piece of the story that now seems apropo. Connected is a conversation I’ve had more than once. The repeat conversation I have includes talking about people I don’t like, even though I’ve never met them. A hatred for celluloid images, but what can I say? My ego will seek out anything to project its wrath onto.
So, back in the proverbial day, I developed an intense dislike for Eric Clapton because he swiped George Harrison’s wife. I knew none of the details, and obviously didn’t know either of them personally, but this was George Harrison, for chrissake! I seethed underneath whenever I heard the name Clapton. Then one year he and Patty Harrison came to the cities as Clapton was playing at the old Civic Center in downtown St. Paul (yes .. . there was once life there). They visited Town Center and the Berman’s store where my friend Paul’s sister Mary worked. As it turned out, Mary and Patty struck up a pretty quick and strong bond. So, whenever Clapton was in town, Patty would go to Berman’s to visit with Mary.
It was in 1983 that Clapton had a date scheduled once again at the Civic Center, so Patty and Eric and their entire entourage went dutifully at Patty’s request to visit Mary at Berman’s. As fate would have it, Mary was working at the store alone that day when she got the call that her kid brother had died. As Mary frantically called to find relief help so she could be with her family, Eric, Patty, every one of the entourage stayed to console Mary until she was able to leave about three hours later. No doubt they had sound checks and other professional obligations that were set aside. What became more important to them is that they be with their hurting friend. Though I’ve never met him, Eric Clapton became my friend that day. I had unwittingly had an initial experience of learning to love my perceived enemy, with absolutely no inkling that this was the route to following my bliss. I imagine it may come off a bit odd to Mr. Clapton if I relayed all of this to him, but I still would like to thank him one day for being with my friend at what was truly her darkest hour. All of this has been in my imagination from the start, just like Einstein said. If I can bring myself to let love into my “loveless places,” even for a little bit each day, that is the road to my bliss. Eric Clapton has led me to writing. So did my parents and the rest of my family. So have you who are reading this, and I thank you so much for doing so, because it ties the cords of our respective realities together. I’m fifty-seven years old and loving Life like I never have before. I am indeed following my bliss at the behest of the dream that has called to me so loudly for years, that I finally reached a point where even a seemingly infinite number of “enemies” could not drown it out. I beg to differ with the late, great Lou Gehrig. He was not the luckiest man in the world. That would be me. And finally, to anyone reading, I implore you: please, please don’t ever stop dreaming.
As before, good stuff Michael. You are most definitely good enough, if not more so! Keep it up. Very important to call yourself on those internal negative messages. Thanks, man.