Tag Archives: Choices

A License to Live

“Les, that license in your wallet, that’s not an ordinary piece of paper.”

Within the first week of getting my driver’s license in 1995, I let a woman with two children in her backseat who had just crashed into my rear driver’s-side quarter panel drive off without calling the police or making an insurance claim, and I ran the front-right corner of my car into the back-left corner of a high school classmate’s car while backing out of my parking space at school.

No one had ever told me what to do in a car accident. It was probably only my third or fourth time driving alone. I was just worried about the kids. They were fine. I figured I’d drive home and my parents would make an insurance claim.

Doesn’t work that way, it turned out.

Oops.

My classmate Jill was in her car next to me when I backed my car out and spun the wheel too fast without clearing the front while leaving school my sophomore year.

I scratched her paint pretty significantly. She was really cool about it. I was really embarrassed.

“Les, that license in your wallet, that’s not an ordinary piece of paper. That is a driver’s license. And it’s not only a driver’s license. It’s an automobile license. And it’s not only an automobile license. It’s a license to live, a license to be free, a license to go wherever, whenever and with whomever you choose.” — Dean, License to Drive

Freedom. That’s what turning 16 and getting my driver’s license represented. Next to moving out of my parents’ house and into my college dorm room, nothing in life has ever rivaled the taste of freedom one feels behind the wheel.

I made the mistake with the mom who crashed into me because I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I made the steering mistake while backing the car out of the parking space at school because that was literally the first time I’d ever backed out of a parking spot with cars on either side of me.

I hope it goes without saying that neither situation has come even close to happening again. I’m generally pretty good at not making the same mistake twice.

20 Years Later

At 4:37 a.m. Central Time tomorrow, I turn 36.

There are so many parallels between that time in my life and where I now find myself. Rapid change is occurring. I find myself in uncharted life territory with so many new experiences to have and life lessons to learn.

Freedom.

Not freedom I wanted or asked for. But freedom, all the same.

What are you going to do with it, middle-aged guy?

That’s the question we all have to answer about the precious time we have. I mean, maybe I’ll live to be 80. I hope so. But I might not. A heart beat seems like a fickle thing. Many people younger than me have had them stop without warning.

What are you going to do with the time?

One of my favorite writers Austin Kleon always reads a few New York Times obituaries every morning. About the lives of people who don’t have a today or tomorrow to plan for.

He doesn’t do it to be morbid. He does it to every.single.day remember to live. We all have an hourglass constantly getting emptier with no knowledge of how much sand remains in the upper half.

Today better count.

Learn more. Do more. Be more.

Not later. Now.

The divorce changed everything. It’s because divorce changes everything. A little good. A lot bad.

All the sand in the bottom of the hourglass is just going to sit there now. Days that already happened. Will never matter again. Can’t matter anymore because the sand never flows upward, even if we shake it up a lot.

After divorce or some other traumatic life event, you’re just trying to tread water. Just trying to stay alive.

But it’s nearly two years later now. Life can no longer be about treading water. Now, it’s got to be about choosing a direction and going that way. About lifting the sail and steering as best I can.

I’m a little like that 16-year-old again. Capable, but unsure. Bound for mistakes and missteps. But climbing toward good things. Always climbing.

Because this birthday isn’t an ordinary birthday.

It’s my 36th birthday.

And it’s not just my 36th birthday.

It’s the 20-year anniversary of freedom.

And it’s not just the 20-year anniversary of freedom.

It’s a license to live. A license to be free.

A license to go wherever, whenever and with whomever I choose.

Let’s go.

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The Gray Area

gray area

I prefer things to be black and white.

Good or bad.

Right or wrong.

When there are choices to be made, life is much easier when common sense dictates the best course of action.

I believe I have a good sense of what to do in those situations. Sometimes I choose the wrong thing because of selfishness or fear or pleasure or impatience or a full moon.

But it tends to be me knowing something is wrong and doing it anyway. I can live with that.

Something is often black. Or white. And I can usually tell the difference.

Then there is all the stuff in between.

The gray area.

All Bottled Up

I am firmly entrenched in the gray area.

For several months, I was publishing a thousand words a day here. I almost never missed.

I always had something to say because I wasn’t afraid to write exactly what was happening and how I felt about it.

It mattered because other people got it. Other people have shitty, broken relationships and feel hopeless, too.

It’s important to know you’re not alone.

It’s important to see how other people deal with things so you can copy them when they get it right, and do the opposite when they don’t.

I felt a strong calling to do just that.

To do stuff. To feel. And write it all down.

To write mostly fearlessly. So what, I’m scared? So what, I was having trouble dating? So what, I don’t know what to do with my life?

My wife left and my life exploded into chaos that affected me emotionally, spiritually, physically and financially.

I was fucking pissed. You know, when I wasn’t crying or drinking. And I told you all about it.

And it felt good.

Because I’m so damn scared all the time. Here in my real life. In this body. When I can’t sleep at night. When I’m indulging in self-loathing. And doubt.

What am I doing? Why?

I’m trying so hard to determine what it is that really matters to me. And what doesn’t.

I’ve spent the past 13 years living for other people. Poorly, at times. But for other people.

And so much of that purpose went away when my family broke.

It’s just my son now.

What’s best for him?

Is it ultimately a well-balanced and happy father?

Is that the best gift I can give him?

What does that even look like?

I haven’t been able to write because I can’t write honestly without hurting or exposing people.

The truth affects my personal life in profound ways.

I’m dying to tell you.

All of it. Everything.

And not even for you. But for me. Because this is the best way I know how to work through things. To find myself hiding amidst all the shit and chaos swirling around inside me.

What matters most?

My personal, social, professional and spiritual life is at stake as I sort through the mess. Picking up the things I need to keep close to me. And tossing aside the things I need to protect myself from.

The Search for Black and White

I don’t have a preference. Things can just be whatever they are.

Black.

White.

No judgment.

I just want to be able to see them. Identify them. Know what I’m dealing with. So I can move forward with confidence and choose the right path.

It doesn’t have to look safe.

It doesn’t have to look familiar.

It doesn’t have to look easy.

But they can’t all look the same.

Maybe there are clues.

Perhaps little things hidden among all the gray.

The universe tends to be constantly balancing both sides of the equals sign in our lives.

I was so sad and angry and broken a year ago.

And now I’m not.

Now I’m not really anything.

The opposite of sad is happy. I’m not that.

The opposite of angry is peaceful. I’m not that.

The opposite of broken is whole. And I’m not that either.

I’m somewhere in the middle. Somewhere in the gray area facing major decisions that have no obvious answers.

No blacks or whites or colors of any kind.

Just gray.

Just uncertainty.

What Do I Know?

I know finding spiritual peace, emotional balance, overall good physical and financial health and social connectivity would seem to be the obvious pillars on which to rebuild the foundation of my life.

So with every choice, I need to ask myself what moves me closer to those things.

I read something from my favorite writer James Altucher yesterday.

Sometimes you read or hear things that speak to your soul. That make you feel like the words were meant just for you. Altucher often does that for me.

And I think I’m going to take his advice on this one.

From “How To Go Out At The Top”:

“At every fork in the road you have a choice. This is what I try to do now: I ask, ‘which choice makes me feel better?’

“Then I don’t think about it. Thoughts are too biased by evolution, society, our past, our neuroses. My only job is to ask the question.

“Then I take a breath. Maybe more. What’s my heart say? What’s my stomach say? Eventually, if I’m healthy in other ways, my body will tell me the answer. (maybe this sounds corny, but it’s what I do)…

“Choose the path at the fork where your heart goes on fire. Go down that path.

“Don’t look back.”

Okay, James.

We’ll try it your way.

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