I woke up today and thought to myself for the first time in my entire life: I can write a book.
I’m not saying anyone will read it.
I’m not saying it will be good.
I’m not saying I have any good ideas. I don’t.
However, I can write a book.
I believe that because of what I’ve been able to do here. It’s a productivity thing. I’ve been averaging north of 1,000 words a day for close to a half year. You can fill a couple books with that many words.
There are people in this world—amazing, creative people—who splatter good ideas all over the place. These are how successful businesses are made. How great movies and television shows are made. How the most delicious food is made. And how the best books are written.
They start with ideas.
And that’s kind of a problem, because…
I Never Have Good Ideas
Case in point: My 10-year career as a newspaper reporter prior to my layoff in late 2009.
I could write a decent story when news was happening. Piece of cake. Event X happens. I write about it.
Same’s true of this blog, really. Some life event happens. I write about it.
Easy. Don’t have to think about it. Just tell you what happened and how I feel about it.
With the news, I just had to tell you what happened.
But some days, I had to come up with “enterprise” stories. That means, I have to dig. Find an angle on some random thing and manufacture a good story out of it. Those were my most-challenging days.
The same is true here with my daily blogging efforts. If I don’t have something specific to report on, I have to come up with some enterprise idea. I try to resort to what’s top of mind, when in doubt. To document the journey as best I can. And this is what I’m thinking about.
I Want to Love Myself Again
I stood in the shower first thing this morning. Hot water stinging my neck.
I thought about something I read before bed last night about how a man changed his life by making “I love myself” a personal mantra. By truly learning to love himself again after the rigors of adult life had stolen his innocence.
And then I got to thinking about how shitty I feel sometimes. About how I felt awesome as a kid. Every day. Even with my parents divorced. Even being alone a lot.
I felt great. I was sad when people died. I was sad when one of my best friends moved away. I was sad when I had to say goodbye to my dad after summer and winter visits. But I was also resilient. Bounced back quick.
I smiled. I was positive. I was kind. I was friendly. I loved.
I loved my family. I loved my friends. I loved myself.
Then adulthood hits. Christmas stops being magical. No one cares about your birthday. You lose touch with all your friends. You don’t go to huge parties with a hundred people anymore. You don’t get the same attention from the opposite sex that you used to. Your hopes and dreams begin to die as you watch other people achieve things and wonder what they have that you don’t.
You make bad choices.
The sins pile up.
Your insides get poisoned.
And then you frown a little more. You laugh a little less.
You darken. On the inside.
I’ve spent most of my adulthood believing this phenomenon happens because we have the wool pulled over our eyes as children. We’re innocent. We don’t know how ugly the world can be. Most of us—the really fortunate ones—don’t experience extreme tragedy and hardship as children. Those moments tend not to arise until we’re wading through adulthood. We thought we’d have life figured out once we got here.
Then we arrived. And we feel less ready than ever. Less confident than ever. More unsure than ever.
The clock ticks a little bit louder now.
Tick, tick, tick.
The bottom of the hourglass constantly filling, reminding us that time isn’t on our side.
Then we feel sad.
We search for meaning.
Believers ask: Why me, God?
Some believers stop believing because of this. Why have you forsaken me? I guess you’re not really there at all.
Non-believers say: I told you so. Nothing matters.
Some of us die hopeless and alone.
But not all of us.
Because maybe I’ve been thinking about this all wrong. Maybe the wool wasn’t pulled over my eyes.
Maybe I just really loved myself as a child. Respected myself. Took care of myself.
I chose good over bad. I was physically fit. I got plenty of sleep.
I had friends. I felt purpose going to school. I had goals and hopes and dreams.
But mostly, I had love.
Meant to Be More
I think I stopped loving myself after my layoff.
When I would lay around all day, unshaven in sweats and a t-shirt watching TV with my two-year-old son at home while my wife went to work.
It was a new kind of worthlessness.
I don’t remember how long my wife put up with me, but I should be grateful for whatever amount of time she did.
How could I expect her to love and respect me when I didn’t even love and respect myself?
I came close to getting it back.
In 2011, I started eating right and working out every day. I lost 30 pounds and became physically stronger than I’d ever been before. People would always compliment me when they saw me. That’s always an amazing feeling.
My confidence soared.
I was offered and accepted a job in June 2011, right around my son’s third birthday. I was now making significantly more money than I’d ever made before, plus I had income from my freelance writing business.
I thought I’d finally beat back my demons at that point. Everything felt really good. Back on track.
And then in October, just a few months later, the bottom fell out again when my father-in-law died suddenly. We had dinner with him. He was the same amazing guy and grandfather he always was. Then we left. And got a phone call the next night.
Then my life spiraled out of control.
I lost everything that mattered to me when my wife walked out the door on April 1 of this year.
I fell hard. And I’m still on the floor. I just fake not being there sometimes.
And I was reading that book last night before falling asleep. I love myself. I love myself. I love myself, the guy repeated over and over and over again.
He faked it for a while.
But then the message finally started to sink in.
I love myself.
He started to believe it, because we can trick our brains.
I love myself.
Then he started living like he loved himself.
Took care of his body. Took care of his mind. Took care of his soul.
Because he loved himself. Genuinely.
And then everything changed.
He felt happy again. That really pure happiness we feel as children. Not fake happy. Not drunk happy. Not drugs happy. Not sex happy. Not money happy.
Real happy. And then all the other pieces of his life fell into place, too.
This idea makes sense to me. You say we can’t go back? We can’t have what we lost?
Maybe we can. I’ve never bothered to ask. I’ve never bothered to try.
What if life didn’t ruin us? What if we just stopped loving ourselves the way we did when innocence was all we knew?
And what if starting again is how we get to where we want to go?
Can’t hurt to try.
It’s okay if it feels corny. It’s okay if it feels fake. It’s okay if we don’t believe it.
Because if we just say it enough times, we’ll start to believe it: I love myself.
An Idea Machine
That’s what I want to be. A guy who has ideas. So I can write something that matters.
And to have ideas, I need energy. And to have energy, I need to feel good. And to feel good, I need to love myself.
I like the hot shower first thing in the morning. Some of my best thinking happens there.
I want to work out. I want to look and feel good.
I want to be good even when no one’s watching.
I want to be a better friend, father, son, grandson.
I want to be financially responsible.
I want to write a book.
I’ve always wanted to write a book. For many years, my ultimate fantasy was to sit in a movie theater watching a film based on something I’d written.
As I aged, becoming more interested in the things that make human beings do human-being things, I began to gravitate more toward non-fiction.
I like simple stories. Few characters. Emotional heartache. Forbidden lust. Poisoned hearts. Ruined lives. Healing and forgiveness. Redemption. Or stories of greed. Deceit. Or simple comedy.
I like complex stories. An EMP attack. The world goes dark. Society breaks down. It’s everyone for themselves. What’s a husband, wife and two kids to do? When the cops don’t come. When there’s no more grocery store. Or pharmacy. Or hospital. Or military defense. Or anything.
I like ongoing stories. Like great television shows or novels with reoccurring characters.
I like books that offer solutions to problems. Books that help human beings become better versions of themselves.
I need to pick one and try. Because I finally believe I can do it. And that’s a big step.
But first I need energy.
Physical fitness. Spiritual wellness. Reduced stress.
And I’ll get that by treating myself with the love and respect I feel for those who matter most.
I love myself.
I want to take risks.
Take my shot.
Because I miss that happy kid from all my old photos.
And I intend to find him.