Gotta get on the treadmill every day to start my motor. Just coffee and a bowl of oatmeal is not enough to fire up the furnace of body and mind. Maybe it never was, but then I used to exercise in the late afternoons after work, so perhaps it all came out in the wash to be about the same. Except I’m older now and discipline is not an enemy but a sacred thing for me these days. I need the stable thread of routine woven through my daily schedule or else I begin to feel loosely connected and then disconnected to others and to myself. Blogging is part of that discipline, so I am finding. It helps me collect and process my thoughts and then preserve them. Like fiber in my diet and vitamin B, blogging keeps me regular. That’s an odd thought but a true one.
Regular, not exceptional or deficient. Ruler comes from the same root word, you see. So to be regular is to be consistently the same. It wouldn’t do much good if, like Pinnochio’s nose, your ruler grew and shrank as you used it; nor does it do much good for your personality to shift and contradict itself as you go through your days. Blog Citizen, Be a regular guy. Offload your burdens or joys some way or another. And be steadfast about how you do this. Just be true to who you are, like Johnny Cash was. He had a voice like a Belgium drafthorse, but his persona overrode that neighing. Certainly he had a huge soul that shone out for others to see and feel. Even in his final days as his life ebbed away, he sang soulfully. His version of “Hurt” is epic… how can a song about injecting heroin be so spellbinding, like a solo crucifixion? The piano pounds like a hammer on a railroad spike behind his fifty grit sandpapery voice… And then everything just stops. That was a man.
When I was in England in 1973, two American singers were on the juke boxes in the working class pubs– Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan. How about that? Two voices that roared like fires in a coal mine. Both exceptional artists while remaining regular, personable voices, I think, as opposed to the glittery, over produced Elton John and David Bowie pop that played in the youth-oriented pubs. One old pubfly told me he liked American country music and western movies; the open, hopeful freedom in both seemed to promise more out of life. He was just a regular guy who went to the pub at the appointed hours, going home by foot at 10 p.m. each night. I stood out as the American kid away from home and probably looked skinny and skittish at 17. He and others were kind to me, gentle too. They gave advice and told me to visit in London. They wished me well in my grandiose journey. Was I irregular, then? And how about now? And if so, was I exceptional or deficient? For decades I had no conclusive answer as I floundered about in marriage, career, and family life.
Back in late adolescence if anyone asked what I wanted to do for a career, I’d answer without hesitation, “A writer. Yeah, I want to write.” I didn’t get past that vague statement and into what format of writing and what themes. Heck, who needs a plan when you’re on a roll and have two pints in your belly. Sappy love poems, sad letters, notable notes… nothing more than college essays and research papers. But along the way I’ve always heard, “You’re good with words. You have the gift of gab. You write well.” But I had no idea, just a swirling energized cloud looking for a place to touch down.
Somehow it became a comfortable truth for me, no longer an adolescent boast. Still, no clear path was evident until I began working with my counseling clients. I fell in love with language again as I witnessed the healing power of metaphor and analogy, imagery and parable in sessions. Later, I began “downloading” their stories on my computer after tough or triumphant sessions. My mind would burn with a fever until I committed the essence of their stories to the electronic memory of my computer. These biographical narratives or veiled fictions were not for anyone else’s consumption. The stories were like archaelogical artifacts that had to be preserved, so I thought. Like running on the treadmill and paying attention to my health, I incorporated writing into my life’s rhythm in the hopes of reaching a balanced buoyancy. Internally defined terms like regularity, discipline, integration, balanced, tuned, harmonized, whole, focused, etc. became important to me, and desirable. I did not need sexy, popular, cool, amazing, successful, cutting edge, sophisticated, etc. Those concepts have to do with performing for others. I’m done with that.
As I turn 57 this week, I want for nothing. I need nothing. In fact, I want and need less in many ways. I think about trimming and pruning the unnecessary and unproductive from my life. Less looks good to me. How many pairs of shoes does a man need after all? (Not exactly Tolstoy, here.) None when you’re dead. The question assumes that you have two feet. Not everyone gets two or keeps two. I do want quality relationships and a deep spiritual connection with God. I want to spend time with stimulating minds and positive people. Which is why my television viewing must decrease. Cretins rule there. I’m more interested in where my feet go than I am in Gucci leather coverings. Will my feet walk me steadily into good places, remaining integrated with my mind and soul? That is my new regular. Like 87 octane gas is regular. Anything less makes your car ping and knock, running like an antique garbage truck. Not for me. I hope to only pump the good stuff into me for the remaining days I have to live. Amen.