There are eight million artist stories in the city. This is mine. This is “I Just Felt Like It”.
Walking past the dining room table this morning I saw a book sitting near my wife Susan’s chair. This is the name of the book: “A Year Of Living Consciously”, written by Gay Hendricks. The sub title is “365 Daily Inspirations for Creating a Life of Passion and Purpose”. On the back of the book there is this statement: “’A Year of Living Consciously’ teaches us to relish the journey that results in greater self-esteem and emotional literacy, achievements that can only come from leading an examined life.”
Sounds good. An examined life. Self-esteem. Emotional literacy. I should probably read it. Maybe open to today, read today’s entry, see what emotional literacy may be waiting there for me.
Gay Hendricks has a PhD in Psychology. It says that on the back of the book. That’s cool. I know a number of people with PhDs, some in psychology, some in Marriage and Family Therapy, a bunch from San Francisco I got to hang out with, even “supervise” a few years back. I, on the other hand, do not have a PhD. I do not have a Masters. I do, I am proud to say, have a Bachelor’s degree, and as it took me seven years to earn it I hold onto it proudly. Well, I hold on to it figuratively because I abandoned the actual piece of paper in an old girlfriend’s basement in Lowell, MA during a quick move from a painful brake-up. Yes, it is obvious I do not have an advanced degree.
What I do have, however, is an inclination toward living unconsciously. Truly. (That is an expression my old Lowell girlfriend used often – truly). Anyway, for about 20 years of my life I leaned toward mental numbness with the assistance of alcohol and various pills, powders, and pieces of psychedelic-enhancers. But that didn’t do much for my self-esteem, and I believe nothing for my emotional literacy. Answering “Duh” to every question asked of me, while drooling slightly, leans toward emotional mental midgetry. That’s okay, though, because a little over 30 years ago I left that life behind. Especially when people started saying this to me: “Your best thinking got you here.”
A number of years ago, maybe around 20, I began another journey, this on a path of greater self-awareness and understanding.Listening to tapes, reading books, going to lectures, participating in groups. I got psychological training up the wazoo in my ongoing field as a human services worker and administrator. Personality tests, listening skills, team building. Awards, raises, acclaim. My Bachelor’s degree made much of this possible. I’m grateful for that. Grateful my antics and repeated withdrawals at Salem State College were tolerated. Perhaps, even, chuckled at behind my back.
Then, about eight years ago I began making major life decisions less consciously. They were less thought out, less analyzed, less logical. It was more that I had a feeling about them. That is it. I made many of the most important decisions in my life just because I felt like it. You know that saying, “It sounded good at the time”. Well that was me, and I regret none of it because at the time was the only time there was. Intuition and adventure began to take charge of my life, me often scurrying down the path trying to catch up and see what was going on. I took a vacation to California and when in San Francisco to visit a friend I stopped into a place and talked about working there. Because I felt like it, it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Three months later I was offered a job and two months later I got in my car in Massachusetts and drove three thousand miles, where, in fact, I got to meet all those smart PhDs. Then I drove back 18 months later and kicked around for a summer walking on the Cape Cod Rail Trail. Daydreaming. Not long after I was running an AIDS housing program in Ptown, and a year later, on not much more than a whim, drove again across the country to here, Portland, where I type this. A year and a half later leaving a 35 year career and a high-paying job to make a doo wop CD and start painting. And now, again because I felt an idea to make cards from my art, I sell greeting cards on-line, and at a little table in front of my house.And I guess anywhere else that comes up as a good idea. Where the little voice from within tells me to go.
The fact is now I have a brand new goal, and it is this: I want to live a week of living sub-consciously. I want to let my feelings, and not my conscious thinking, lead the way. For instance, I had the thought the other day that I should buy a day pass on the Portland transportation system and take the Max, and the trolley, and buses all over the city all day, just to do it. I did not act on that thought then, but it is stored somewhere below conscious thinking. And in my week of living sub-consciously when a thought like that one pops up from wherever those thoughts pop up from, I will do it. I will follow advice that makes no sense – no conscious sense.
“You’re going to Portland, Oregon, driving across the country, you don’t even know one person, you don’t have a job or any job prospects, you have never stepped foot in the Northwest, you are 59 years old, leaving family and friends and your support system and everything you know?”
See, I can do this sub-conscious thing. I already have. More and more. So I set a public goal right here, right now. I want to devote one entire week, all seven days, to living directed by my sub-conscious. Maybe in September. All my decisions bubbling up from somewhere within. And everything I do I will do for one reason only.
Because I just felt like it.