Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Taking Responsibility (Personal Inventory Taking)
I drag a long bag behind me. It is filled with excuses for why I have not fulfilled my potential as a writer, teacher, colleague, father, husband or any number of other roles I play in this life.
Voices in the bag lament that I had to work too hard at teaching, had to put in too many hours, too much energy, to really focus on a long writing project, the one that would have solved all my problems, redeemed me. The voices point and blame my original family for lack of support and opportunity, my wife for wanting me to be a better provider than artist, bosses for lack of release time or promotion or recognition for work done as low rung lecturer. They remind me that I inherited depression in my genes and live under its shadow, live in constant company of the black dog. The voices say too that it is the system, the state decline in funding for education, the lack of value seen in the humanities. The reasons for me failure are legion, complex, deeply rooted in my life narrative.
Yes, it always other people's fault if I listen to voices in the bag, the voices in my head, the voices I have composed to explain away my unhappiness with my lot in life.
But, if I am honest, I see that the place I am at is the result of my actions, is the consequence of choices and behaviors, and that I have gotten exactly what I "wanted" on some some level, self-sabotaging as that might be.
I chose not to pursue an MFA, not to work with mentors who might have helped me toward greater success as a writer. I chose to spend time with family and friends and this lovely desert. I chose to ride bikes when I could have been studying or writing.
I chose life over art, gainful employment over sacrifice for creativity.
It's hard to look back on a life and not feel some regret or to fall into the trap of coulda-shoulda-mighta. And I confess that I do that, but I also see how dishonest it is.
What it comes down to is that I did what I did and that there is no going back to change any of it.
But I can start here, where I really am, and begin to pick up the pieces of a half-lived life and assemble them into something that looks like calm, peace, energy, and presence.
Since I can't be anything other than what I am, I might as well make peace with that.
So here I am, somewhere in my 59th year, a teacher, a pilgrim of sorts, a clumsy beginner. I toil in obscurity and scribble out little truths as they come to me. A light has begun to show the way and it reveals a truth behind the shadows, the demons, the habits of thought. The rest of my life is up to me. I am learning to accept the consequences of my behaviors and decisions.
That process is slow, circuitous, and recursive, like writing.