Meditations

Recently I was reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Talk about the definition of you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. He had so much stuff figured out over 1800 years ago. We’ve had these books he wrote forever and yet…

There were many passages that resonated with me. I liked the one about living in the past.

No one can lose either the past or the future – how could anyone be deprived of what he does not possess? … It is only the present moment of which either stands to be deprived: and if this is all he has, he cannot lose what he does not have.

–Marcus Aurelius

Yeah, I know the stoics are getting a lot of traction these days, especially with men. But I think that is because they are some wise words that are needed in some crazy times. Men aren’t taught to be men anymore. Maybe they haven’t been for a while. When I think of a man, I think more of Atticus Finch than I do some guy with truck nuts on his lifted square body Chevy. People who set about doing what needs to be done, using their brains instead of beating their chests. I grew up in a place that was very man’s man oriented. Mostly these men worked a hard job, came home, sat on the couch and told everyone not to bother them, and fell asleep in their underwear watching TV. On the weekends, they would stand around and drink Bud Light with their pals and worry about whether or not their sons were “queer.”

The women in my town also worked. Then they ran their homes. Took care of the kids. And someplace in the middle, usually one would cheat on the other and they would all pair up with somebody else at the bar. It’s a small town. You have to be civil, since you are definitely going to wind up having to be around one or several exes.

People in all sorts of places I have lived have just always found a way to fall into drama. They are always fighting with someone, screwing somebody over, hurting themselves or each other. People feel an obligation to make each other’s lives hell, and I can’t figure out why.

I can’t figure out why whenever I do something that makes me happy, like go on a trip or do something for myself, I’m expected to feel guilty about it. Like that isn’t for me. It’s for anybody else but me. I no longer subscribe to that kind of silliness.

I am the person I am. I am not the culmination of the bullshit I have endured in my life, but I have been tempered by it. These days I do what I want and honestly, I haven’t found it any harder than doing what was expected of me. I don’t have a great history with doing what was expected of me. There are so many billiion of us on the planet, with most of us subscribing to some sort of social construct. In America, you might be familiar with: Choose life…

Go to school, get good grades, get into college, get into a relationship, find a job, get married, have kids, take a vacation once every year or so, save money for retirement, spend a day a week catching up with friends (usually drinking), get divorced, go wild for a bit, experiment with alternative lifestyles/get really into church, go back to school, remarry (usually without doing anything to fix yourself), get divorced again/or just compare your first spouse with your current one forever, wear socks with sandals, wear matching jogging suits with your second spouse. Have some sort of surgery that limits your mobility. Live vicariously through your children who are doing nearly exactly what you did. Get frail. Wish you had done more when you were young. Die.

See how easy that is?

Well, I chose not to choose life. I chose something else. I chose peace.

Which sounds great, but I still have to eat. I still scramble each month to meet my financial obligations, and I still have rough days like today.

This morning started off at 7am. I got up, noticing the light outside was nice. I loaded Penny up in the car and started driving. We stopped along the road to Steamboat several times to take pictures. I’m working on building my portfolio, but the thing I keep running into is it seems like that sort of work is part of a tightly knit network of people who don’t want anybody else in the treehouse with them. I am struggling with knowing how to break into it all. Some days I think about giving up. But the work feels good. I was happy to be up this morning early to work.

The writing has stalled briefly. The paid work has overshadowed it just a little and though I just want a day to sit down and edit and work on my book, I keep wondering what the point is in all of it. I post cool stuff on social media that only a handful of people see. I write things on my blog that even fewer people read.

Who is going to read my books?

Maybe I should quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock?

But one thing I do always remind myself is a bad day of writing is better than the best day at a day job working for someone who would replace you within two weeks of your death. Within a year, nobody would even know you sat in that chair for fifteen years. Watching your life tick tick away on that clock on the wall.

No thank you.

Some days I just have to give myself a little grace and know that I’m working. Maybe my rewards are just further down the line. I can only control what is happening now, and I shouldn’t worry about the future, and I shouldn’t be saddened by the past.

Here are some shots I took today. I’d like to think my photography is getting better.

Time to face the strange ch-cha-changes

I’ve been waking up early in the morning lately. Partially because I’ve been going to bed at a somewhat human hour. The days are getting shorter and soon the nights will be longer than the days again. The leaves in the mountains are just beginning to change, with those fiery reds and oranges and yellows shimmering on the aspens. Soon the mountainsides will look like they are ablaze with color.

The fields have subsided again to the golden brown of autumn already and hunters are stalking elk with black powder rifles and bows until the true insanity of hunting season starts again. Orange is the new black.

Sorry I have been remiss in my posts lately. I’m still playing catchup right now and hopefully I will have a lot of good stories and such to post both here and at gettingoutmore.org. As usual, I will post the things going through my mind, the gooey emotional meanderings and thoughts I have been experiencing, all the heavy stuff.

I want to talk about chasing. And trying to find that balance in life. I know the things I talk about are hardly the discussion for polite company amongst strangers, but I feel like if you’ve been reading my posts, we’ve somehow crossed that threshold a while back. Thank you for continuing to read. I just hope my thoughts resonate with my friends and readers and you find a kind of comraderie here.

Anyway. Chasing. I don’t want to bloviate about my trainwreck of a marriage, but I will say that for a very long time, I bought into the idea that I had to put my life on hold to embrace the prescribed way that married people have to live. Instead of adventures with a companion, I was toiling away at a job, never breaking even, buying too much crap for Christmas and birthdays for kids, and watching the world pass me by year after year.

When I got out, I understood the things that I was missing. Sure I had hedge trimmers and lawnmowers and I knew how to fix an eave and replace a gutter and spackle walls and hammer in flooring to improve a house that hardly ever felt like home, but I had almost no idea or sense of place in the rest of the world. I was piped everything from cable news or the internet. I watched travel shows and took whatever bullshit Rick Steves or Tony Bourdain was feeding me for gospel. But I was still hungry.

I was also hungry for human connection. I had my kids, half the time, but that was a continuing battle, just as it was when I was married. The only difference between this battle of wills in parenting was I had about five miles distance separating the kids from their mom every other week. It was all still the same game for her.

So, I chased that ever-elusive thing called a relationship in my off weeks. In the beginning, I was myopic because anyone would have been better than the person I had left. Even if they weren’t good for me. It was hard lessons, which took years. Finding someone, trying to incorporate our lives together, looking past the fundamental differences, and then watching things fall apart, regardless of my efforts. Believe me, I was good at lost causes. I held my marriage together for years. It was my superpower. It was a talent I have since taught myself to abandon. But that chasing sure as hell beat the war of attrition I was fighting with my kids. At least at the end of the day, I had something for myself that someone who hated me so much couldn’t take away.

The kids are gone now, and so are the women I had been pursuing. What remains is almost stark in comparison. I have the rest of my life. With me in it. Just me. I’m not chasing anyone. I’m no longer participating in the Greek tradgedy of parallel-parenting with a clinical narcissist. What remains is my own ambition to build a life for myself. I have resources such as my ability to write, my desire to learn new things–like photography–and now that I no longer have these other distractions, I am trying to figure out what to do with the resources I’ve got at my disposal.

How do I make it all come together? How do I turn these things into money? I’m about 25 years late to this game. I have to say it is not easy. There are days it feels like this is exactly what I need to do. Like I am following some sort of plan and things are falling into place. And there are times I think, dear Lord, I’m going to starve to death.

But those days when I wake up and the sunrise is shining purple on the hills, igniting the clouds, and the air is cool and crisp, I think I could get used to living like this.

And even the nights these days have felt much less cold and empty and alone.

The neat thing is sometimes you glance back to where you have come from and you actually see the progress you have made. It is encouragement enough to keep going. Even if things are so much different now than they were three, five, eight years ago. In many ways, it is so much different than your expectations. And in other ways, it is more amazing than you could have dreamed.

I’ve lost a lot along the way. Friends. Family. Lovers. A whole way of life. But I’ve gathered new experiences, met really cool people along the way (you know who you are!), and learned who my true, ride or die people are.

Everytime I go someplace, it takes me further away from who I once was, and closer to becoming someone new. I can’t help but wonder if one day, I will have lost myself entirely. Maybe that’s the whole point?

The Juice

I’m up tonight for a different reason. Other than the cup of coffee I had at 9pm, I picked up some assignments today and have a few days to get them done. I’m trying to discipline myself better on getting the work done earlier than the day of the deadline. I’m excited to do these. There is a certain thrill of getting assignments when you A) don’t know when you’ll get more B) Don’t even know if these will sell. But unlike July when I got so few, it is nice that there is at least some work out there.

But now my mind is spinning on how to write them. Steeling myself to get as much done over the next couple days as possible to free up my weekend, and well, there is the elephant in the room for me.

I haven’t worked on the book much over the last couple weeks. I’ve been too busy with other things. At the end of the day, I find myself scrolling social media or bombarding friends with TikToks. Last night I did sleep though. I slept seven hours solid for the first time in a while without antihistamines, a nightcap, or even listening to ASMR videos on YouTube. Part of that is probably that it is cooler.

The leaves are starting to turn. I think it is going to be an early Fall this year.

I need to get my files sorted on my computer for upcoming photo shoots. The Fall colors up here are amazing. I can probably improve storage space by deleting a bunch of pictures, or putting them on my backup drive. Which I will probably do in the next few days or so.

The challenge I face tomorrow is knowing I have three assignments to write and I often find it hard to get motivated enough to just freakin’ do it. I almost always feel better when I am done, but the worst part is the waiting. Then the edits, which might come several weeks later. It leaves me second-guessing myself and my abilities. I don’t necessarily agree with some of the clients who send back requests. I think much of it is based on what their analytics come back with as far as SEO optimization suggestions. That doesn’t always make for better writing, or interesting content.

But like the pteradactyl on the Flintstone’s says when they use him like a record player, ” MAWWH! It’s a living!”

Tonight I’m nervous about starting the assignments tomorrow. I hope like Hemingway says, “As long as you can start, you are all right. The juice will come.”

I would really love to do some writing for me tonight, which is the whole reason I even posted this. I’m hoping to get my head out of the place where I have to be to write content for customers, and instead focus on my own story, which has been sorely neglected as of late.

Maybe all I need to do is start.