There are eight million artist stories in the city. This one is mine. This one is called “What Rod Said”.
I think, that is I have a hunch, that it is the insignificant things, something heard in passing, something glanced at through the window of a moving car, a same old same old moment, that become our guides, that are the shrubs blown back by a strong wind, revealing a never before noticed path, that nudge us just a smidgen this way or that. I heard one of those a long while ago and I heard it and I got it and I appreciated it, and it was nice and I could even have given it a 75, because it had a cool beat and it was easy to dance to. But it was just something else said a few times at a meeting, lined up with the 10,000 things said before and after.
Back in 1984 I found myself at 7 oclock on Tuesday nights sitting with some folks in a church hall in Winchester, Massachusetts. Pretty much every Tuesday. And this went on for a number of years. We would sit in a circle and read from a kind of how-to manual book and then talk about what we had read or how we felt about what we had read. One of the people in the first couple of years was a guy named Rod. Probably in his late 30s, early 40s, thick, wavy black hair and a black moustache, dark rimmed glasses. I couldn’t tell you what town he was from or how long he had been coming around or what he did for a living or if he had kids or what any of the details of his life were before I saw him at that meeting. But many times over those years, when the talking moved around the circle and stopped at Rod’s chair, he would say whatever it was he felt like saying that night, and then he would always say this: “I’m not who I could be and I’m not who I should be, but I’m sure not who I used to be.”
He said that every time. I was usually sitting next to a guy named Eddie Cheney from Peabody, he was a mentor of sorts to me, and he and I would look at each other and smile because it was good to be there and it was good to hear Rod, and hear him say that same old thing again and again. I’ve learned a lot of stuff over the years primarily because I have heard it said again and again. But what Rod had to say – in the whole scheme of things, in the big picture, didn’t seem all that significant.
A week ago Wednesday I was sitting in front of my desktop watching a webinar on Creative Visualization. In the end they were trying to sell something, but it was good to listen, especially to the enthusiasm for living life within your own vision. And at one point, while listing a step-by-step process for how to creatively visualize, the leaders stopped to make this point: before you do any visualizing of future goals, of the things you would like, of the people you would like in your life, of where to be and what to do and living your wildest dreams, you need to give thanks for where you are right now, and what you have right now, acknowledge all the gifts in your life right now. You can’t start anywhere else.
The next morning, after meditating and while sitting in the recliner and drinking coffee, I thought of what Rod always said – “I’m not who I could be and I’m not who I should be, but I’m sure not who I used to be.” The last 30 years of my life passed through my mind, where I started, where I am, and I could own what Rod said, really really own it, and I knew it was in fact quite significant.
Pictured are two drawings. The drawing on the right I drew a couple of weeks ago, and after I drew it I did what I often do, and began the critique: the nose isn’t right, the mouth isn’t out enough, the eyes aren’t quite the same, etc., etc. And then I thought about the picture on the left, from four years ago, when I first started painting. So I gave thanks for where I am right now, the artist I am right now. And I thought of what Rod said.
“I’m sure not who I used to be.”