Sunday, September 27, 2015

"I was born, I blinked ..."

You blink and summer, you sadly discover, has passed you by. Actually, it went by faster than a blink, which life in general seems to do, or so I'm discovering now that I'm a 51 year old guy. Time is now akin to sliding down that slippery slope. The descent isn't all that rapid, but you start thinking of things that you never thought about before (if you'll forgive the Yogi Berrasim, may God rest his soul).

For instance, you wake up one too many times at night to take a leak and what flashes through your brain is prostate cancer. There's more hair at the bottom of the shower drain these days. Gray hair. You're still exercising more than ever, but it sometimes leaves you more tired than energized, so you become a fan of afternoon naps (For the life of me, I don't know how folks with traditional jobs get through the day without a nap).

But there's a lot of good that comes with age too.

For the most part, I feel like I'm twenty-one. I eat what I want, drink what I want, go where I want, and, do what I want, within reason. I still get the high hard one up without help from chemicals, and, praise be to God, I don't think I've enjoyed a summer in recent memory where I haven't had even an ounce of women trouble.

Maybe I'm learning something in my dark middle age (it's not really all that dark. I just like the sound of that). Ten years ago this very weekend, my second wife, Laura, and I, split up. I moved out with fifty dollars in my checking account and a whole bunch of debt, and no publishing contracts to depend on. Now, ten years later, Laura and I are back together. I'm about to publish my twentieth novel in Jan. 16 (Orchard Grove, Polis Books), and I make a very good living at what I do. As for debt, I kicked it's big fat ass.

So how did I do it?

I worked hard at making some serious changes in my life that extended far beyond something as simple as quitting smoking or giving up gluten. I peered into the mirror, and I was honest with myself. Brutally honest. What I came up with is that your life is your own responsibility. No one is to blame for your plight but you. Not society, not race, not political affiliation, not your parents, not the police, not the welfare state...Not even God or the devil. You and you alone are the captain of your ship and you alone are responsible for its course.

So, yes, I have learned some things now that I'm older, the most important lesson of which is this: No matter how bad your situation is, you can change it. You can reverse anything, if you want to. Happiness isn't something you wear like a skin. It's a choice. In making the decision to be happy, you must make adjustments. Some of them difficult, like giving up a job you hate, leaving a harmful relationship, or packing up, selling your shit, and moving to a new state or country. But the changes are necessary if you are going to be happy (yes, in all the Eat, Pray, Love, sense of the word).

I'm reminded of an obituary that recently appeared in a US newspaper. It was written by the woman who was about to die, something for which I applauded her. In it, she wrote, "I was born, I blinked, and it was over." I've never forgotten those words. Nor should you. That is, you want to assume ultimate responsibility for the one life you live and its happiness.