Dysfunction Junction

It’s not too much of a concern, but at some point in my self-development process I might actually get better at managing how my emotional responses lead to my actions.

I’ve been self-studying mindfulness for several years now. I’ve been meditating about as long. And like some kind of self-aware lab rat, I’ve been observing how these additions to my life have impacted my creative interests and artistic output.

Or approached another way: Can self-actualized and balanced humans still create viable art?

I suspect I’m not alone in having anchored my creative ways to that Dysfunction Junction within, that dingy place inside where I store my most painful, shameful, guilty memories.

So what happens when I—to continue the metaphor—move out those rusty cars full of stale regrets, shameful feelings, stagnant fears and clear the tracks?

And even worse to consider: do I keep that Dysfunction Junction operational because I’m afraid if I shut it down that I’ll lose my creativity?

I really don’t know how this will turn out.

The Destiny Is In The Details

Not to bore you with details, but a large thematic component of my novel in progress is based on family lore.

As part of my research I’ve signed up for one of those analyze your DNA/create your family tree websites.

Quick side note: My wife is a fan of the various TV shows—Who Do You Think You Are, Finding Your Roots—that traverse this same territory with well known actors, politicians, journalists, academics. I’ve watched several episodes, and while I get the intrigue, the discoveries hadn’t up to the past couple weeks scored an emotional hit.

Fast forward to now and my own revelations about the various family and DNA components that brought me here. I’m struck by the many, many stories that are knitted in my chromosomal past.

I’ve had to confess to my wife that I better understand the appeal of her favorites shows.

Another quick side note: Many of my ancestors were scrappers and farmers who fought for whatever necessities and comforts they could. I was part of the first generation to go to college, and I didn’t realize what a monumental feat that was based on my history. I took it for granted.

Looking over that familial history, it’s very difficult to shake the evidence - social class was destiny. Opportunities were scant. Education was always the one societal mechanism for potentially pushing that destiny aside. Many in my background didn’t or couldn’t use that mechanism.

Which leads me to my reaction about the college admissions scandal revealed this week. This is a class issue. It’s disgusting, it’s cynical and it’s ultimately not surprising. There are many others who have worked harder and suffered more for the their college educations than I have, so I won’t go there, but the audacity of entitlement that this scandal (which I’m sure has just barely begun to reveal itself) has exposed underscores what we all know and live:

There are those with means—those who have always had means—and there are the many who have to pick their way through corrupt systems and do their best to survive with whatever tools they have available to them.

Here’s to the scrappers.

A Ten Year Sleep - The Parenthood Blur

I don’t want to blame it all on my two children, but the past ten years have flowed unlike any other set of years that I can recall.

The clues are there every day: when I have time to listen to music, to watch a movie, to select a new novel to read—and of course any time I exercise or look in the mirror—that a number of significant years have passed in a blur and a rush and my context for nearly everything is 10 years out of synch.

Some days it’s like waking from a distorted version of suspended animation. The Parenthood Blur.

I’m surprised by my lack of emotional response to this realization. I hope this means that I have better learned to accept myself and the world around me. That I’ve adapted to the role of parent.

That all my passions and interests are combining into some massive and wondrous integration.

Hope is not a strategy, I’ve learned, but sometimes our lives align in the best ways despite our efforts to understand how we got here and when.

We Are Not the Normals

Whether because of age or circumstance, the place that writing--or really any creative act--maintains in my life has shifted, refocused.

I can now acknowledge that during my 20s, I needed others to acknowledge me as an artist, as someone different than the normals. Special because the writing I strove to accomplish every day set me apart.

I thought that's how artists of any discipline behaved.  

Now in my, ahem, mid-to-late forties, creative work and meditative practice are virtually synonymous, and the thought of being outwardly acknowledgement seems....odd. Wrong, even. The practice has become the reward, and I know that to be a creative person in no way separates me or sets me apart or makes me special. 

There are no normals. Just us. 

On Advice of Council

I used to be better about taking time out for purely aesthetic experiences.

Granted there are legitimate obstacles to doing that these days: I have two young sons, a more than full time day job, a home and family which are certainly blessings but they bring with them more responsibilities and tasks in a given day than I once had.

Days, as you all well know, have a tendency to flow one to the other in a rush if we don’t pay attention.

Still and all, I should like to be better about taking time out to listen to music, take in a film (do they still make films; not movies, like the kind that I take my kids to, but actual films?), read some poetry or spiritual texts and contemplate.

It’s not fair to compare my life now to when I was in college, or to those rough years immediately afterward when I was apprenticing my writing (and being absolutely broke in the process). And yet I do miss giving over entire hours if not days to creative, artistic and aesthetic experiences. I miss that primal hunger.

The world being what it is, chasing beauty while we can is essential.