Everybody Lives

The last thing I remember before I was jolted upright and out of bed was seeing a top-ten list — maybe it was books or maybe it was songs or albums or movies or TV shows. All I remember from the dream is seeing the title of the No. 2 item:
Everybody Lives.
Everybody Lives!

There are so many things we have to go through in life, but it’s life — Everybody Lives!
Nobody lives forever, but Everybody Lives!
Everybody gets a broken heart sometime, but Everybody Lives!
Bad stuff happens and sad stuff happens, but Everybody Lives!

I can’t say why that thought galvanized me, but galvanize me it did. And maybe it’s silly to make a big deal about it, but dang it, I’m excited.
We have to live through so much to get where we’re going, but we live every minute of it, and that’s the beauty.

Everybody Lives!

I don’t even care what was No. 1 on the list.

Still time

As usual on Monday, the WordPress algorithm offered three “Related” posts for people to explore if they were intrigued enough to read further after my musing “Meta Physics.” See them there, down at the bottom of the page, if you read that far?

One of the options this time was a post I posted on Dec. 30, 2021, as I contemplated the year ahead, the waning number of years ahead, and what I wanted to accomplish in the time allotted to me.

The post was called “It is time,” and I riffed off the memorable moment, in the history of this place near the shores of Green Bay, when defensive coach Kevin Greene took talented Clay Matthews aside and told him, “It is time.” Moments later Matthews made the play that all but sealed his team’s Super Bowl victory. It was indeed time to rise to the challenge, and Matthews came through.

That day just before the beginning of 2022, I wrote:

I’m into the fourth quarter and it’s a tie so far, or perhaps a slight lead. I’ve made a touchdown or two, maybe a field goal, but the end is not far away and the W is not quite nailed down.

IT IS TIME. Oh, yeah, I’ve written some books, even sold a few handfuls, I’ve blogged more than 500 straight days, picked up some followers, got a couple dozen email readers whom I rarely regale.

IT IS TIME. What is it I want to say? Entertain – Enlighten – Encourage. Meh. My mission statement/vision consists of three wandering generalities. Let’s be more specific.

I want to encourage people to use their brains and common sense and take initiatives. Encourage people to act with fearless freedom and not let busybodies and bullies run their lives.

I want to enlighten people about what came before – fun but semi-forgotten books and songs and TV and radio, and thoughts like Wallace D. Wattles’ “you are a creator, not a competitor” … 

I want to entertain and give the world adventures, stories that do all of the above and a few thrills and chills and spills — but after every chill a warming, after every spill an ascent.

Those thoughts are a little more focused, and here I sit a half-hour after starting to write, a little hesitant, a little inspired, and not sure what to do next. 

“Just get started.” Who said that?

It is time.

Ah, these 21 months later, much has transpired and I’m still not satisfied with my progress along the way. However, I realize now that dissatisfaction is normal and probably even healthy. Who wants to sit back and say, “Ah yes, I’m satisfied now, I have accomplished everything I set out to do”? At that point, nothing would be left to do except pass on to the great beyond.

Better, I think, to reach the point where I’m called to the great beyond and think, “Well, I had more to do, but I guess I can be content with what I managed to get done.”

That said, I am still a little hesitant, still a little inspired, and still not quite sure what to do next.

And a little voice is still saying, “Just get started.” After 21 months I recognize the voice. It’s me, of course.

It is still time.

What it all means

Everything is meaningless, some say, and still we search for meaning. To concede to meaninglessness is to yield to despair. We need a purpose. We need to be moving and preferable forward.

Ahem: You, with the “Everything is meaningless” banner. Define “meaning.”

Gotcha, didn’t I? As soon as you define meaning, you bring meaning into existence. It’s a dilemma, a conundrum, a fly in the ointment.

I took the above picture of Summer and posted it to Facebook with the caption, “And after you have flipped the corner of the area rug and rummaged underneath, you are left with the question: ‘Is that all there is?’ It must all mean something, mustn’t it?”

Summer then went to her ottoman and lay down with her head on her paw. At first I thought she might be in despair about the meaninglessness of it all, but then I thought no, she looks satisfied and content. She had dug under the rug, and that fulfilled what she was meant to do. It was all she needed. 

At that, the sun came out and she sighed, and it was all good.

– – – – –

UPDATE: “Write one thank-you note.” I managed three! “Write one paragraph of Jeep.” Done. “Write one paragraph of (other unannounced work in progress).” Done.

On the road to dreaming big

I am working my way a second time through Bob Goff’s book Dream Big, but this time I’m doing the exercises he recommends along the way. He starts with three big questions: Who are you? Where are you? What do you want?

Who am I? A guy who likes to string words and sounds together as melodically as I can. Where am I? Stuck. What do I want? To get unstuck.

In answer to one of Bob’s prompts, “Are there some recurring themes in your behaviors and choices?” I wrote in all-caps, “PEACE. NONVIOLENCE. PUPPIES.” 

Being less glib, I recognize that a recurring theme in my behavior is what Steven Pressfield calls Resistance — a reluctance to move my dreams ahead — to finish my work, to get better at my musical instrument(s), to learn my craft — not so much the craft of writing, but the craft of shipping it out to willing customers (and I keep shaping that thought in terms of “customers,” rather than people who share my love of words and stories and songs. I suspect that’s part of the problem.)

It’s not that I don’t think my stuff is any good — the three novels-in-progress are the best I’ve ever crafted, but something pathological in me won’t finish them. Am I afraid that even my best isn’t good enough for the world? That would be so silly, and I don’t believe that’s the issue.

I suspect I have a touch of agoraphobia. Red was so worried that I might become a hermit that among her last entreaties to me was not to be one. I do tend to retreat into myself on a routine basis. I identified with the character in my friend Linda R. Spitzfaden’s novel The Other Side of Everything who wanted to step outside but was unable to do so for reasons no one could understand.

I want to finish my novels and go out into the world and be the wordsmith and podcaster and novelist and singer-songwriter who have always been lurking in my soul — I want to be Ray Bradbury and Judee Sill and Uncle Warren and Paul Harvey and e.e. cummings. They are in there, bursting to leap out and show the world what they’ve got. “I got the Resistance and I got it bad,” each of them says in turn and then goes back into hiding.

Another unfinished project is that I have struggled to sit down and write thank-you notes to all the people who sent me condolences or came to Red’s funeral two months ago. I wrote a note to myself Sunday night: “GET UNSTUCK. Monday: Write one thank-you note. Write one paragraph of Jeep. Write one paragraph of (other unannounced work in progress). Buy stamps.”

OK, that last one was everyday life trying to sneak back in. Everyday life is my favorite excuse for the recurring theme that I know what to do and I just — won’t — do it. “Yumping Yiminy, Uncle Warren, break out of the damn rut and be who you are!” I concluded my journal entry.

I’m pleased to report that before I sat down to post this Monday morning, I wrote my first thank-you note, I wrote several short paragraphs for Jeep Thompson and The Lost Prince of Venus, and I wrote several short paragraphs for (other unannounced work in progress). It’s not much, but it’s a start, and if I rinse and repeat every day, I think I can start dreaming big again.

Amazing and sometimes silly

During my dismaying 19-hour internet outage over the weekend, one of my “as long as I can’t burn my eyes out staring at a screen” activities was hanging two motivational plaques above and below the clock that I see when I look directly up from my writing desk.

“Today only happens once — make it amazing.”

 I found that a couple years ago at a Chase Stone Barn artists sale. It cost $5, and I felt I was stealing at that price. The one drawback was she didn’t do anything in the back to make it hangable, so I installed a thingie to hang it from a nail — botching the job the first time; I mean, how hard is it to drill a hole and attach a thingie exactly in the middle of a plaque? You measure and drill — and that’s how I was reminded of the old saw, “Measure twice, cut once.”

“Be silly sometimes.”

Life gets to be serious business. I can never find the exact quote when I need it, but someone once said (something to the effect of) there is nothing so serious that it can’t be seen as ridiculous. It’s true, and sometimes you just have to be silly. That’s where Monday’s post came from — I was so frustrated not being able to do the work I usually do online, I decided to write from the perspective of someone so accustomed to being connected that he is lost and afraid when the connection is broken. It was serendipity that the internet outage was restored while I was writing the piece, so you got to experience my relief in real time.

But you have to be silly. A dear woman, who spent a handful of years as my wife a long time ago, once showed up at my door during a trying time wearing Groucho Marx glasses and mustache. It warmed the chill and lightened everything for a while — ah, the power of a smile and a laugh.

The clock itself, by the way, is Side 2 of the immortal Will the Circle Be Unbroken album, the side that begins with “Tennessee Stud.” When I saw that clock in the crafter’s shop, I had two simultaneous thoughts: “How ghastly that anyone would deface a classic record like that!” and “I have to buy this!”

I’m not sure there are two better bits of advice side by side: Today only happens once; make it amazing. And be silly sometimes.

Make it so!

Surviving without essentials

I don’t know if this will ever reach anyone, but if it does, know that life without the internet is excruciating but not impossible. Eighteen hours now without a reliable signal. 

Fortunately I kept a supply of paper and pens and pencils from olden times, and I was able to sketch out some ideas and write notes to people that may or may not someday see the light. I was able intermittently to use my phone as a personal hotspot, but other people must have had the same idea because response time slowed to a crawl. The cellular company must be having fits.

I went out to cut the lawn for a while, but we are having record high temperatures so that became unpleasant fast. So I came back in and took care of some stuff I had been meaning to do, like hang the motivational plaques above my writing desk (photo above).

I moved a large tower of shelves — it held stereo units back when those were a thing — out of the office and into the living room, replacing a small bookcase, and moved the little bookcase into the office, giving the dogs and I more room to maneuver around my desk.

With no streaming to be had, I listened to a couple of CDs and LPs. It was like living decades ago when if you wanted to know what was happening in the world, you had to turn on the TV or radio and wait for the news to come on. How did we survive?

The internet company still says “There’s an outage in your area, our techs are aware and working on restoring service,” but what does that mean? I suppose it’s not like food and water are running out, but how long can I live without a steady flow of information and gossip? My mind is going blanker by the minute. Or wait — is my mind getting clearer? It almost feels like it, but that makes no sense. 

I just pulled my phone out of my pocket to see if anything has changed in the last three minutes — why do I do that? OMG, when will the nightmare end?

If you never hear from me again, I want everyone to know that — Wait! Did my email app just ding? Let me see — It’s back! It’s back! Thank the Lord almighty above, I can assimilate again. 

What’s this? Here’s a Facebook ad for a local listening session coming up in my area about how to improve broadband service. How did it know? How did it know?!?