I started this website in 2005, four years after losing my job in corporate journalism. The idea in writing about re-inventing myself was that I might learn a thing or two — writing is a process of discovery — and perhaps encourage others who are considering doing the same, or who may be forced to do so by circumstances beyond their control.
With that in mind, I offer a tincture of advice and a glass of experience (the glass is half-full, by the way):
• Yeah, times are tough, and if the gloom and doom scare you, turn back now. Conventional wisdom is the kiss of death to dreams. And to those who say “it’s reality,” I would argue that it’s merely one version of reality – the media’s – and it reeks of victim theology.
• I have more serenity than I have ever had, which is not just surprising, it is miraculous. I owe this to Al-Anon, the 12-step program for families and friends of alcoholics. It has taught me, among other things, to turn my life over to God every day, and to refresh that surrender every time I am stressed or start obsessing.
I say surrender, because it means I am no longer in control, and that’s a good thing. Why? Because, as the Al-Anon saying goes, “It’s my best thinking that got me here.” Or as a friend of mine says, “We didn’t exactly fly in here on the wings of victory.”
Practically speaking, turning it over seems to invoke a mantle of peace rather like the Klingons’ cloaking device. What’s fascinating is that while you might think it comes as the result of changes in circumstances – a big contract, for example – that’s not true.
Serenity comes first, creating an envelope of tranquility within which changes take place. And while the changes are neither immediate nor profound there is gradual and unmistakable improvement, which can be a little unnerving. I spent a lifetime worrying. When I’m not worrying, it feels like the sky is falling. It feels like I’m not doing my job.
Serenity puts an end to that insanity, but it’s an acquired taste.
• Work is sporadic, and at times I feel like I’m walking a high-wire without a net. (See “serenity” above.) On the other hand, recent projects have landed closer to my passion, and I have the impression I’m moving in the right direction.
• I thought I was done with journalism when I got laid off. Thought I’d move on to other things, different things. Thought, to be honest, that maybe I was too good for it. But I’ve done some interesting newspaper and magazine pieces in the past few years and dealt with interesting and inspiring people. The payoff — well, the checks are nice, too — is that I’ve heard from readers who found the stories uplifting.
• I’ve also done more commercial writing and am reminded that being informative and compact is an interesting challenge. I like its open-ended nature: if you can write, there is no retirement age or limits on what you can do.
• When I worked at CNN.com, I was on my way to work one morning, and stuck in rush-hour traffic. I thought, “This is not what my life is about.”
My current lifestyle fulfills that promise. I take time for spiritual study and keeping a journal. I take a short nap after lunch. I often go to Starbucks to write and get a hit of humanity. I exercise regularly and hard. I go to meetings. I am also often working at midnight, and sometimes am awakened in the middle of the night by an almost fanatical perfectionism that won’t rest until a single word or phrase has been changed.
• I had some ideas when I started, projects I intended to pursue. They are still unrealized, casualties of a lack of confidence. Resolving that issue is fundamental, and considering that it took a lifetime to build, it’s probably going to take awhile to dismantle.
So I’ve begun what a friend calls “right-sizing” myself – rooting out the lies I’ve perpetuated over the years at great cost to my sense of self. I’ll share this inventory with someone I trust with the expectation that truth is the path to authenticity.
Which brings me back to change, which is where I came in three years ago. Change is what drives me. Now that I’ve found a process that makes it possible, I am more certain than ever that I can shed self-imposed limitations and enjoy a measure of satisfaction and even happiness that once seemed nothing more than a pipe dream.
• So the reset is that where once I was in denial, now I have hope and a realistic shot at authenticity. I don’t know what that looks like, but the adventure continues.
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