Sometimes everything at once. Sometimes just the sky.
Mary Chapin Carpenter.
I fuck up a lot.
I try. I fail. I try again. I stop trying. I regroup. I attract some of the worst people on the planet and work to process how they don’t represent the masses.
On occasion, I win, I learn, I grow. My biggest issue is I’m not grateful enough for the flowers, the victories, the end products. I’m loving the seeds but minimizing the impact of the blooms. There’s something noble about toil and decadent about the results. I am no longer impressed by decadence. The effort turns me on.
Jordan B. Peterson in 12 Rules For Life – An Antidote To Chaos, wrote – “Perhaps happiness is always to be found in the journey uphill, and not in the fleeting sense of satisfaction awaiting at the next peak.”
The dirty stuff learned through toil and experience means everything. Happiness is in the ‘grit’ as my friend Byron Kidder calls it: At the crunch beneath a footfall an idea forms, a road is begun. One word leads to six, then ten. Then a page. As my friend Randy Lemmon garden-expert extraordinaire says:
“It’s all about the soil.”
Life is a robust mixture of experiences – sorrow shadows, bullshit rules that society deems honorable but as we age make no sense, boundaries crossed, beautiful offerings, misfit gifts if unwrapped reveal lessons when needed the most.
Let’s face it – life is finite flesh & blood dichotomy – what you put into it can grow beautiful. However, you best know the weeds and kill them quick.
Otherwise, they take over.
As I focus on lessons learned, lived, loved, (hated at times), I realize how these tenets align, allow me to re-focus on what’s important.
That damn flower. I’ve finally found comfort in inevitability; that flower is gonna die. Can’t do a thing about it. I’ll enjoy everything about it while it’s here. I take notice how light accentuates grooves in the pedals at low sun; I can observe, sort out without mental drift, how and why it has a reason to exist (so I can enjoy it, others can, too!).
In the quiet times, when it’s just me and the sky, I document observations, write script dialogue, have colorful conversations between my ears. I ask questions to the 25 trees at the homestead. Depending the direction they sway, answers are revealed. And yes, they sway when queried. I also know whether it’s a no-stop-go. Or just a stop. Trees are nature’s Magic 8 Ball. I’m convinced.
Here are the 11 things I know. You have your personal doctrine. I have mine. They’re not up for disagreement or discussion. Doctrines serve best those who create not criticize them. Share yours. Write. Follow.
Writing is inky-swear oath to yourself.
Not everyone deserves forgiveness. You however, must forgive yourself.
Listen it’s rare, but some people do not deserve a free pass. Their intentions are untrue. They seek to use, inflict damage upon others. They follow a script that serves only them. It’s fine if duped. You’re human. I say let the universe deal with these types. They’ll never be happy, never learn. Until karma finds a way to strike them, they’ll live their lives and not give a second shit to setting yours back.
Life is a 50/50. 50% shock, 50% awe.
If you don’t have chaos, you don’t have change. If you don’t change, you die. Or worse. Get stuck in a life you hate. Learn to weather the shocks, enjoy the awe. What’s the alternative?
If you’re gonna a hater, be a good one. If you’re a lover, be a great one. If you’re hated, make sure you’re really, really reviled. If loved, make sure it’s the best love ever.
Love and hate is fire and ice. Both burn. Both can motivate. Both can kill. Be the best at both. Leave your mark on others. Burn them or freeze them. Nothing in between.
Love is infinite. Humans and technology block the flow of it.
Adults manifest mind-garbage. Over time, a multiplying, rotting dump of negative experiences must be bulldozed aside with each new person met. Ultimately, the debris is piled so high and deep, you can no longer bulldoze it. Instead, you’re consumed by it.
What I’ve noticed is that garbage people always leave a little bit of debris with you after they’re gone. The flow of love, the give-and-take of understanding, empathy, suffocates and dies among the rubble. Technology, especially social media has the ability to accelerate the build-up of garbage in the dump.
Be comfortable sitting in the back.
All throughout elementary school, high school and college I had to sit in the front row. I have no idea why. I believed my focus on the lessons would be better. I considered all who sat in the back as slackers and losers. Nobody taught me that. It was just my perception. Boy, was I wrong.
Sit in the front, die from myopia. Sit in the back, see the big picture. Feel less pressure. Yea, I sit close to or in the back. Sitting up front is too narrow a perspective for me now.
Consider the lack of magnificence a mark of virtue.
Want to feel small? Focus on the sky. Twice a day, 25 seconds. Just when you think you’re the shit or “all that,” vastness of the never-ending injects poison into an ego. It’s a freeing “I can die in my driveway and the waste management dude can cart me a way,” kind of feeling. Don’t perceive this as negative. Far from it. Humility realigns focus on how to be a better iteration of a human. It allows you to give yourself a free pass, shake who you were at another time. Any other time. Who you were doesn’t matter. Who you are now means everything.
As Rick Warren said:
“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”
At all costs, avoid the “Dust People.”
Dust People. My term for the darkest breed of narcissists. Those who use others for career advancement, sex and social status. They do nothing but lie and blame to divert from their true motivations. All the while, they create the ultimate relationship escape plan. They always have prospective new lovers (suckers), waiting in the shadows.
Once Dusters have fed off their victims, once their fake game is up, they shake ’em off (like dust from old jeans), move on to the next and newest conquest. Ostensibly. the lethal pattern continues. They morph into the lives of new love/lust connections until their true self is revealed, thus leaving another victim shattered emotionally and/or financially.
I’ve been immersed in the trials of the Old West -New Mexico Territory specifically, as preparation for a screenplay – “The Rifleman – Origins.” The back story of how an ordinary farmer and rancher named Lucas McCain became a legend. The Rifleman was a hit television series from the late 1950s through the early 1960s. The saga of a proud father who alone raises his only son Mark McCain.
In the brown-dirt land of New Mexico Territory the parameters of law are newly forged. Boundaries between life and death are easily blurred and crossed with devastating consequences. Lucas’ noble intentions to begin a new life, revitalize an abandoned ranch and keep his son safe in the middle of this tumultuous period, are frequently tested.
Lucas’ stalwart friend, father figure and new lawman in the town of Northfork is a creased and lean former gunslinger with his own healthy share of sleeping demons.
Micah Torrance, known equally for his sordid past and change of heart due to personal tragedy, had friends in high places like Granville Henderson Oury, a well-known American politician, lawyer, judge for the New Mexico Territory and fierce soldier who managed to survive the Crabb Massacre of 1857 where 100 Americans were killed after an eight-day battle with Mexican forces.
Micah and Granville fought side-by-side through several bloody skirmishes. Granville personally handpicked and deputized a reluctant and skeptical Micah to protect the recently-organized town of Northfork which in Granville’s view, was to become the West’s shining example (experiment), of how the law can protect and help citizens thrive. And as Micah would lament – “Big Ol’ Granville usually gets what he wants.”
It’s amazing how much I learned about dust, yes dust, writing this monster. Dust could be feared as it was associated with drought and drought portends ruin. The abrasive nature of dirt and dust had the ability to rot clothes, rip bare skin, which made it important for cowboys to dress and protect accordingly. Scarves, heavy canvas, denim and tartan long-sleeved shirts.
The irony is Micah is a reluctant lawman; he possesses little faith in humanity and grapples with why he should bother to protect it. “Just let people do what they do, it’s no concern of mine. If they do or don’t figure it out, they’ll die, just the same.”
It’s feigned optimism and protective care for Lucas and Mark that motivates Micah to take Granville up on his offer to galvanize and protect Northfork. Perhaps they remind Micah of his own son and grandson slain by vengeful Apaches.
I’ll share some dialogue between Lucas and Micah when it comes to dirt and dust:
After a six-month drought, the abandoned Emerson Ranch, three miles north of Northfork, appears dead and hopeless to Lucas McCain. He bends his lanky frame at the knees to observe a single flower that grows from the dust. The dry powder he picks up to rub between his fingers disappears easily into the heat. Lucas looks up and across what’s left of worn fences, dirt-blasted barns and a wood and stone structure that would be home for him and Mark. Micah is behind him. Purposely silent until the quiet was 10 minutes too long.
Well, the price is right.
I should be paid to take it.
Yea, if life worked that way it wouldn’t be called life or whatever this shit is we go through.
The dust. It’s in my nose. My clothes feel like they’re rotting from the inside out because of it.
The dust is in your head, Lucas. Turn this into something. Get out of your head and into the toil. Nothing stays the same. The rain will come. Your head will clear. Your thoughts will clear, Lucas Boy. The earth will show you what it can do. You’ll build something here. For you and Mark.
Lucas (finally stands from his crouched position)
It’s tough for a man to think clear in the dark, Micah.
The dark is no bother to me. I ain’t afraid of it. Can’t get to the light if there isn’t dark first. I bet when the sun comes up over that ridge, it’s a sight to see.
Lucas (looks over at Micah and smiles lightly)
You trying to sell me something that isn’t for sale, Micah? (Silence). Alright. I’ll give it a thought.
Micah (gestures over to barn entrance where Mark is smiling and waving to catch the adults’ attention).
Looks like Mark already has.
Yea. I was afraid of that.
There’s a point we all must make a choice to cultivate dirt and make it something better. Dust people you cannot change. You must detect and walk.
Or you’re going to lose so, so much.
Recognize every person you meet is not the best or the worst. Just something in-between.
We are marginal at best, mired in the comfort of status quo. The best and the worst of people have lots of energy to share. It’s fine to spend time with those in the middle. They’re on a path to best or worst and exciting to listen to, understand what drives them to move from the middle to the outliers. I also find it fascinating what keeps them mired in middle. Is it security, fear, complacency, low T?
There’s a point you’ll be afraid of the dark and joyfully anticipate the light which follows.
You’ll appreciate the light all the more when the dark is behind you. Enough said. You can figure this one out on your own.
Life is 110% conflict – 109% with yourself.
Our minds and egos create alternative lives of “what would happen if,” that have nothing to do with the present state. Whatever we fight internal or external, we are drawn to or own a piece of it.
Until you find out and destroy what you’re contributing to the battles, they’ll never cease. One party needs to drop the weapons. If smart, it’ll be you. If not, you’ll continue to fight imaginary wars and lose all who are close to you.
Bad experiences are unwrapped gifts that provide lessons only when opened.
I’m not a big fan of the “everything is a lesson,” mantra. A lesson should mean I don’t repeat the same mistake or if placed in a similar negative situation, I respond differently. I’ve had many bad experiences but few lessons. It’s fine as the opened gifts are exponentially greater than the ones I continue to leave unwrapped.
We all have rules, subconsciously or on our sleeves for others to see, we follow every day.
In this society, at this time, your spirit is in constant jeopardy. Make sure your ingrained tenets aren’t major catalysts for the death of it.
Dedicated to “The Rifleman” co-writer and “Mister LA,” Kelly Raymer.