He died.

Well, not right away. It was a process that took time, several twists and the unexpected.

Sitting on his front porch, relaxed in his wicker porch swing, staring blankly into that much-belabored middle distance, a stunningly fast minivan-sized shimmer barreled at him from his right.

Several years ago, in Bali, our porch swing guy was known in a wonderful circle that included tourists from several Asian countries and myriad belief systems. And these strangers loved him. As he strolled through touristy parts of Ubud or Leguan, people stopped him to photograph him or be photographed with him. Individuals, couples, families, groups all extended the same honor to him. In multiple Balinese temples, Asian tourists queued up to be photographed with him or to photograph him.

“Interestingly, I never saw them photograph another Caucasian nor did any Caucasian photograph me.

“They treated me like a saint incarnate. Several temple guardians blessed me then invited me to sit with them as they performed their rites. I saw no others treated thus.”

He was just a guy. Older than the average American inner-city male American, healthier than many (genetics and all, no real fault of his), average height and build. College-educated with a degree that was just fine on paper but had no real monetary value in a work setting.

His life was a muddle. He tried to straighten it out, but he sputtered enroute to success. He had a story every time that he would tell himself to bridge the rift between his life and his dreams.

Today he would tell himself it was exhaustion from his job and the two-hour commute. Another day he was distracted by thinking about the yardwork that needed done. It did not get done because of the endless tiresome prep work that would delay it. Find the tire gauge, plug in the compressor, stretch the air hose, air up the lawn tractor tires. His life was an endless barrage of minutiae that tangled his time tirelessly. And kept him from moving forward.

“He shot himself. He’s dead.” A fantasy of revenge and self-pity that he reverted to in those moments when he realized he was going nowhere. “I won’t suicide out. I will strive to be great.” He kept saying that and he meant it. His single letter of rejection was a sign of triumph indicating he made a valiant effort to be great once. Submitting was an effort for him.

“I need a success. I can build on one success. It will give me the confidence to drive on, to commit to that one focus. That one success will make it all better.”

His whiny mantra seemed legitimate until someone looked closely.

It is true; he wrote well and daily. If not prolifically, at least daily. That was his commitment to the Muse. And that was all the farther he took it. He had deadlines to meet. Always an excuse: “My job kept me busy; I am exhausted after my commute; The dog ate my homework.” He made promises to editors and never called them back and did not deliver.

He chose to fail.

He wrote 10 minutes here, 20 minutes there. He wrote longhand. “The tactile experience of a cerebral enterprise,” he bragged. Tactile experience my flabby behind. It gave him another means by which he put off any effort to be a success at a craft and art he professed to love. He was able to prolong the process long enough to miss deadlines, to garner sympathy from his mate and friends.

Transcribing to a useful format failed to occur. “I have no time, it is no use, etc.” The defeat was palpable.

“Don’t worry, Sweetheart, you’ll get there. Keep trying; it will come together.” Benevolent words meant to console, inspire, encourage. Spoken to a self-pitying narcissist who would find more ways to embolden the psychic vampire that resided in him. He constantly teetered on the brink of becoming whole within himself. Teetered.

He ignored the words of the mage from so many years ago who admonished him to take off his legs and jump into the sea of life and swim toward the greatness that the Universe offered him. There was always an excuse.

“I don’t make excuses. That is a habit of people who want to stay less than great, who are afraid of moving beyond their little, constrained lives. I have legitimate reasons why this just isn’t working. I don’t have the time to give that is needed to be a rich and famous author. I must work to provide for my family. They cannot live on my dreams.”

He was good. He could imagine and write; he could write well. He chose excuses, dreams, and accusatory thoughts toward others. Others who would give their eyeteeth to see him grow a pair and step out in faith to fulfil a God-given Path, to share a gift that so few are given. A gift that so many appreciate and desire.

The adage “Caffeine: you can sleep when you’re dead” did not apply to him. He always had a legitimate reason to take a nap. This morning, awakened long before dawn, he thought only of moving from his conjugal bed to his easy chair in the living room and playing a game on his phone and taking a nap until midmorning. All good, all legitimate, all an ongoing pattern of failure.

“I was there in failure mode for a long time. And I danged near stayed there. That Saturday I woke up long before dawn. I fully intended to go lay in my recliner, play a game or two on my phone (word games so I could pretend that I was learning while I played) and take an hours-long nap. I had to walk past my desk on the way to the living room. My laptop was still propped open from a few days prior and for some reason it stopped me. I picked it up, took it to my easy chair and started writing a story about a procrastinating author. 

“Before that morning, I wrote two or three stories directly onto the computer. I valued the tactile experience of writing on paper until I realized that morning that I used handwriting as an excuse to delay and ultimately to fail to get stories out into the world.

“I spent a few hours with that procrastinator story that morning instead of napping, shopped it around to a few local weekly papers and one of them picked it up. That was super cool! The old me got that one success he wanted, and it drove him to become me.”

The shimmer was about there.

Still placidly unaware of its approach, the author smiled across the landscape that his wealth provided for his family, his friends and himself. His community had a safe space large enough for celebrations that benefited the needy, the children and his church.

Borne away by the shimmer, Elijah’s chariot, he died.

May 06, 2023 03:26

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