Midlife Makeover

My wife and I are undergoing a midlife makeover. Some of it is brought on by massive upheaval, some of it is brought on by zeroing in on personal passions.

It is difficult to tell where the line between upheaval and passion begins and ends. Perhaps in that life review a soul undergoes upon transition we’ll find out it was all part of a significant plot point and there was no line at all.

I’m sure hundreds of thousands if not millions of others are also undergoing the upheaval/passion play in their lives. Uncertainty reigns. Excitement glimmers (for what could be). Fear mounts (for what is lost). Resources collapse. There is no clear road ahead, you have to bushwack your way there.

We are already two-and-a-half years into our life makeover. We jettisoned the house first, and spent a year and a half searching for a new home at half the price, from within a storage unit — it was a condo, but all of our belongings stacked to the ceiling lent it a storage-warehouse chic.

Our business has suffered so many rounds of losses that my friend Russell two days ago compared it to the movie Zulu, where a cohort of soldiers is thinned further and further by overwhelming assault waves. I personally feel like the character in Monty Python and the Holy Grail who loses — one by one — each of his limbs and still continues the fight: It’s just a flesh wound!

But for those of you who are going through it also I can tell you this: by facing each crisis and taking action — whether it is effective or not — sweet relief will come your way, in the most surprising of ways. 

What Ann and I have also discovered is that if you keep zeroing in on your passions, somehow, some amazing how you will find yourself ever nearer the target — even as your losses mount! Even in the maw of great financial turmoil I am more convinced than ever that life belongs to those who crave to live it in their fashion.

When I was in my twenties I once picked up a business-suited hitchhiker with a briefcase. As we were driving and talking for some while he opened up about his experience in Vietnam. It was as if this were the first time he’d been able to admit this out loud: that he’d never felt more alive than he had back in the Vietnamese jungle. He’d been determined to feel every sensation. There was nothing he wasn’t taking in — as a matter of survival. He was a million open sensory points.

In his case he was passionate to live, yet upon leaving the battlefield had not found an equal passion. In our case, we are moving toward our passions in the midst of collapse and life becomes all the more dearer the further we travel.

When Russell mentioned the Zulu analogy I had a hearty laugh followed by a wan snort.

“Thanks,” I said, “weren’t they all wiped out?”

“Noooo,” Russell replied, “that’s the thing, a few survived — the Zulus sung out a tribute to their tenacity and left them in peace.”

And I swear that’s how it will be if you zero in on your passions regardless of the mayhem in your life. I’ll prove it over the next few years and update you in these articles from time to time.

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Why I encourage you to curse like a sailor — from a foreign port

In today’s say-it-all society it’s all been said. Regarding the f-word, the c-word, the b-word, the mf-word, the ho-word . . . the relish is gone. Once it felt good to just let your language hang out naked and raw from time to time. It meant something. The perfect profanity at the perfect moment is like a flame darting off your tongue. It sears.

Inane profanity 24/7 is just a bad sunburn that won’t quit.

Now when someone utters f**k or sh*t, it generally signifies a brain refusing to do its work, a brain in sleep mode. The brain is a calibrated instrument for discernment, and for communicating that discernment. A brain that refuses to choose phrases that elicit meaning and instead spews forth terminology that is knee-jerk meaningless is an insult to other human brains.

I’m here to encourage you to learn to curse like a sailor — in another language. Preferrably one not spoken often here.

Spanish won’t do. In the southern U.S. everyone speaks it, or at least knows how to fling a zesty frase or two around. But German, oh! Bull Sheize! Hölle! Crappen! It sounds vaguely naughty, but cryptically so. (Translation accuracy not implied or guaranteed.)

So what’s the merit in foreign language expletives?

The freedom! The expression! The ability to say it — obliquely. The side benefit is if your kid picks it up, what the hey, he’ll only seem uncouth in Germany. Or Nigeria. Or Basque country, or wherever you string your curses from.

Don’t relegate your brain to that dead zone where you communicate nothing through an artillery barrage of the trite. Sure it’s a return to civility — and many of us would rather be thought a rogue than refined — but it’s also a sharpening of your mind, the only tool you have for navigating this world.

My take: Use that brain! Be specific — actually convey a nuanced meaning — or go foreign. At least let our brains try to puzzle it out.

A final note: As in everything I write, my admonitions are for myself. It may seem as if I’m writing to you. I am. But I also use you as in one, one’s brain, one’s language — a way to generalize. Really a way to say me.

Or more on pitch: Evan, stop effing around and start speaking on a higher plane or you’ll be the ruination of your eight-year old! And your brain.

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Keep it in until you can’t

A few weeks back I was interviewing Lori Saitz (zenrabbitcookies.com). In the middle of a far ranging conversation we stumbled upon a discussion of the conflicting advice you get when you are setting a new path for yourself, a new goal.

Frequently you will hear this: say it out loud to as many people as you can, so that you harness the sheer weight of social pressure to keep you moving toward that goal. Or better yet, establish an accountability partner to keep tabs on your progress.

Then there are others who will advise you to keep the dream in your heart, lest others trample the idea too soon with their own opinions. This scenario makes sense in this way — your desire is born of your experience and could not possibly have the same import to someone else unless they are closely aligned already to that particular dream.

Let’s say . . . oh, some newbie fifty-ish dude wants to start up a blogsite. Were he to yak around town about this there might be some who would question his sanity. What are you thinking?! You’ve got a raucously bad business environment! What is that going to lead to?! What a waste. You think you’re contributing?! What have you got to contribute? Leave that for the fey intellectuals . . . .

But, same fresh though now slightly dejected fifty-ish guy talks to his thirty-something friend who already has a blogsite going — that would be you Travis Thomas (read his blog by the way) — and suddenly it is the coolest way to make a contribution without breaking a sweat.

My synthesis of these two seemingly conflicting strains of thought is this: Keep it to yourself until you can’t!

I’ll give an example that I gave to Lori. When I first started writing the book The World Is Freaky Beautiful two-plus years ago (yes, there’s a book . . . this website is its spawn), I told no one. I’m not even sure my wife knew. Perhaps she thought as she’d enter the room and I’d slap the laptop shut, oh it’s come to this, internet porn. And then perhaps she thought this, yay, now I’ll get to shower alone sometimes.

Because I spent eleven years in New York City where everyone my age then was an actor, a writer, an artist, a dancer, a musician, a somebody creative and alive! — I quickly learned to go the opposite direction. I wouldn’t allow myself to talk about being a writer — not even for seduction purposes, cuz you know how exy-say writers are in New York City — unless I’d actually written the day before. I tired quickly of the writers who hadn’t written in five years and the musicians who never seemed to practice and the artists who drank hard after a hard day of not creating art, you know how difficult it is to keep good art in all day.

Because of this I speak to no one when I begin a project. Until I can’t help my dang self! Until I’ve gotten so far into the new thing that no one can stop me. Because by this time I’ve got momentum, baby, and ain’t no one gonna stop that train.

Which is why I’m not blasting this blogsite out to anyone till I get a few more articles under my belt — then nothin’s gonna slow this blogtrain down . . .

Posts with a similar theme

And one to grow on
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My ABCs: Always be creating

A few months ago I took on a new power mantra: Always be creating.

I use mantra loosely here, in the sense of a phrase that becomes a personal motto through repetition, even a mission. I don’t mean it in its tight definition: a sound or phrase focused upon in meditation.

Though if the personal motto becomes pervasive . . . mind-uttered frequently through one’s days and weeks . . . the effect is similar.

Sue-Bee-Doo, a friend of ours, once commented that if you create things you never need to worry about money. She’s an artist and she was speaking about having control over her life.

Her point: the artist who creates rather than dithers will always find a way to income. It may or may not be grand, it will fluctuate, but it will always be sufficient.

She was saying that creators control their destiny.

Creators aren’t only artists. Or entrepreneurs. If you hold, as I do, as millions do, that our thoughts create, then we are all creators — and this is the way I am addressing it here.

Always be creating is far away from Always be working or even Always be doing.

This afternoon Zane, our eight-year old, was at play in the mud beside the pool with his cousin Lily, also eight. I was there on the other side of the dinky mudhole they were fashioning, and as is my way, I enjoyed being there but not being intrusive at the same time. I would be required from time to time, but otherwise what a revelation to be privy to their interactions as they forgot about me.

At one point I considered doing something else — possibly jotting notes to write you here! — but I considered what I wanted to create at that moment, and that was an immersion experience with these two.

They had their own jazz going and you could only grok it by being utterly attentive.

Always be creating is an imperative. It requires engagement, though not necessarily action.

It implies that you should always be conscious (ABC again!), choosing the experience to create. The experience you desire will dictate all else.

I now ask myself often: What am I creating?

Am I creating a worthy experience?

To ask “What am I creating?” or “What do I want to create right now?” is clarifying!

It keeps purpose and experience pure, aligned. It doesn’t mean I have control of the universe. But it does mean that given the existing environment — the existing dynamic — I can decide this: how do I wish to participate?

Even in constricted circumstances — we’ll use my recent life as an example in mere seconds — you have the ability to craft how you experience it.

We have a business in shock and turmoil, ever since the market meltdown two and a half years ago.

By considering this concept — that I am creating my experience in every moment — I free myself from reacting only. I can’t tell you how sweet this is when you face financial destruction. Or any bad thing of a seeming magnitude greater than you are.

There have been numerous times when all soul energy went dim . . . and I would find myself enervated or scared or crushed. Yet, if you choose to experience it as adventure, one that may or may not turn out well, you are freed!

Not from the turmoil, but from despair. And that freedom brings possibilities which may lead to actions which just might oh mighty might bring something new to fruition . . .

Creating is contributing.

Contribution is service.

Service is God expressed.

Serving is the way to true wealth and all that is good.

Wayne Dyer asks: How may I serve?

To him, the Law of Attraction works thusly. When you consistently ask “How may I serve?” then the Universe reflects this back to you, asking of Itself: “How may I serve you?” And goodnesses are heaped upon you.

Creators create.

Creators nourish the new.

Creators bring forth.

Creators are too busy to be concerned with the inconsequential.

Creators create!

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What I learned about fitness on the road

Sanity is rhythmic.

I’ve been off the road for almost a year now. But before that I was driving 12 to 14 hours a day, sometimes more, for a year and a half. I’d be gone for two to four weeks at a time, back for five to ten days, and then off again. It was a consequence of the financial meltdown and the way it affected our art gallery — plus our fervent desire to keep our employees hired.

That’s another story, and not an easy one. What might have been adventure in my twenties was anguish nearing fifty — I had a six then seven year-old at home; I had a wife there who turns me on to this day.

This is not about that time except for this: It dawned on me early that this was not the vibrant lifestyle I’d been striving for in my recent adult decades. It was easy to spot the other drivers out there; most of them fatted up like penned calves quickly. It was evident I was heading into that same body-fat percentage zone after the first couple of trips.

At first I tried the logical thing — to exercise at the end of the day, in some forlorn hotel with oily carpet. Or it could be a walk around that desolate hotel at 9 pm, circling around five, ten times to get in twenty to thirty minutes. That didn’t work. By then you’re too exhausted, too achy, or you can’t see or its rainy or cold or buggy or all of it. Plus you’ve got to get up at 6 am and run the roads again.

5-minute exercise breaks
If you’re driving 12-14 hours a day and you don’t want to look McMuffinish then you’d better get yourself active. And if you think you’re gonna do it when you pull in exhausted at 8 or 9 pm, then you skipped the ancient dictum “know thyself” along the way.

Here’s what I discovered: Do it in quick chunks — microbursts — throughout the day. Five minutes at a time.

I started coming home from several-week trips buffer and leaner. My wife joked that had she known the road would be so good to my physique then she might have sent me packing earlier, during the good times.

Everyone can exercise 5 minutes at a time every hour or two. At rest stops, gas stations, restaurants. And I did. It was a heart-pumping joy. I’d climb back into the cab of the van invigorated.

In the beginning I’d duck around the side of a building, or into the back, as if I were committing a shameful act. Sod that! I just started doing my yoga moves and push ups and knee bends right there — at the gas pump, at the restaurant sidewalk. People in pickups might give you a sideways glance but this is what I found. People in shape approve, even applaud (in my mind of course, but they would given a different setting). People who aren’t are, well, flabby — and they wish they had the discipline to be you. I’ve had people walk by and tell me so.

At the end  of the day I would total up my 5-minute workouts and voila, 20, 30, 45 minutes of exercise had been had!

A beneficial consequence: I was more alert for driving. Suddenly the aches that had developed so quickly disappeared.

A secondary realization was this: if you ache, then you’re not moving enough — in enough different ways. When I hit the road it was as if I’d contracted instant arthritis. Unexpectedly I had joint pains that fairly bellowed. Upon entering into my 5-minute micro-workouts all those pains vanished.

Recently I brought that rhythm into my current workday. A quick 5-minute workout every hour or two. It’s actually easier because there’s so much more available to you in your regular life. On the road you only have your vehicle and pavement, maybe a strip of grass somewhere.

Yet there’s an interesting psychological component in standard life I didn’t expect. When you are driving 12 to 14 hours a day, you must make it happen every hour or two — there will be no other time available. In your regular workday there is a time seduction — you fall under the spell of I-Can-Do-It-Laterism. It’s an illusion! Shake it off!

Once you accustom yourself to taking five-minute exercise breaks in your everyday life — it becomes far more dynamic than on the road. You can take a quickie walk — can’t always do that on a lonely stretch of highway with nothin’ but venomous snakes for miles of desert (the signs say so if you’re out west, west starting with Texas).

You know the terrain on home terrritory; there’s nothing to figure out. You can utilize your exercise equipment if you’ve got it laying about at home. A  five-minute fitness splurge is exquisite! It’s a no-boredom-guaranteed intensity.

One of my favorite routines that can be done anywhere is this: 15 slow pushups in a row, broken by an arch Downward Dog, then followed by five more slow pushups. A dozen yoga leg poses that challenge your balance, a dozen all-American knee bends — because I’m nobody’s true disciple — ending with 20 up and downs off your toes/balls of your feet while standing straight and tall, arms up in a triumphant V if you dare!

You can take that into your non-driving day, that micro-burst ethos. You have the time! And I guarantee you, you will accomplish more, feel better — and your wife won’t send you on the road to get that fine bod. That sleeker self will be yours for the price of a more enjoyable day.

Vitality can be yours five minutes at a time.

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Delicious spaces in a busy day

 

1. The moment you wake up
2. The moment you get into your car
3. The moment you arrive at your destination
4. The moment you close your eyes for one minute at your desk
5. The moment(s) you repeat the above
6. The moment you close the bathroom door
7. The moment someone says “I’ll be with you in a minute.”
8. The moment you hang up the phone
9. The moment you step away
10. The moment you have to wait for anything — a stoplight, a bridge, a doctor’s appointment . . . .
11. The moment you stand in line at a store
12. The moment you get situated on the bus, the shuttle, the subway, the train . . .
13. The moment you step into an elevator
14. The moment you take a moment for yourself, outside . . . you don’t smoke, do you? Well, then take the time a smoker takes! Take a break, go outside. Instead of sucking in airy ash, you get to take in a lungful of wonderful.
15. The moment you get home
16. The moment you tuck your child, your lover, your dog in for the night
17. The moment you turn off the lights for bed
18. The moment you get up to pee
So many people say they have no time to pause, yet if you take one small minute — repeatedly — to close your eyes, breathe fully and exhale to limp several times, you’ll have replenished yourself in a measurable way.
The day is full of small spaces ready to be yours, even in the midst of hubbub. Claim these times of regeneration and you will ultimately claim the rest of the moments of the day too.
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