There are eight million artist stories in the city. This one is mine. This one is “A Will, A Way”.
Back in the mid 1980’s my life took a change. I gave up the drinking life. I entered the non-drinking life. I mostly did what was said and changed my old playmates and my old playgrounds. I started hanging around with new people. I started doing new things. And I began to hear new things, especially phrases, words to help you do your best in your new life. Some were pretty common sense, some interesting, some curious, and some were troubling. Like this one: “Thy will, not mine, be done.” I want to talk about that phrase.
I have never been very religious. I mentioned that in another blog. I went to church some as a kid, with my parents, but nothing ever jumped out and grabbed me. In fact, the older I got the less interest I had in religion, and by the day The New York Times was head-lining “God is dead”, I pretty much could have cared less. I had a feeling that organized religions were part of the problem, that a number of people speaking for this religion or that were less than they promised. So the religion thing, and the one-old-man-who-is-God-in-heaven thing, didn’t fly for me. And then I found myself listening to people say, “Thy will, not mine, be done.”
I had a problem with the “thy”. Really. I thought why bother to say that, it’s stupid, it turns people off. So I didn’t go there, for a long time. At some point down the road, however, I came to believe that “thy” was just a word, and that it could be substituted with something like “the summer breeze” or “the Universe” or “Great Powhaten” or anything, or any one. Deborah Harry for instance. Deborah Harry’s will be done, not mine. Changing “thy” for something else got me over that hump. But it turns out that was the little hump. The bigger one was the whole phrase, and if I was now praying – which I was – and praying “The Universe’s will, not mine, be done” I guess I had to mean that. And I didn’t want to mean that. I wasn’t so interested in giving up my will to something or someone else. I was just fine with my will.
But time generally has it’s way. I began considering the fact that my will had landed me crashing on the couch of my younger sister’s apartment, with no job, no car, two trashbags of all my worldly posessions in a friend’s cellar, and no hopes or dreams, at age 34. That is where my will got me. So in time, and having spirited away the “thy” word, I began to say a prayer to The Universe that I was okay with another opinion, another suggestion, another way to live my life. And I came to believe that it was door A or door B. Either something else’s will for me behind door A, or my will for me, in back of door B. No door C. Just those two choices. And more and more, in subtle and even transformative ways, my choice was door A – Deborah Harry’s will.
This giving up my will thing absolutely and positively does not mean that I give up my right to choose or make decisions or take actions. Every blog I have written to date is chock full of stories about what I decided to do. My blog titled “Control” is all about that. If that sounds contradictory to me choosing door A, something else’s will for me, it is in fact not. Nearly all of the decisions I have made and subsequently written about are choices that have come to me. Or have turned up when I bounced off something else. You see, when I was drinking one of my favorite things to do was drink alone, say most of a fifth of gold tequila, and “figure shit out”. And act on those lushy insights. And take my will. Now I go for walks, or sit for 20 minutes in meditation every morning, or paint, and if something interesting comes to me I tend to follow that new path. I have a new verb – Hansel and Gretel-ing. Following bread crumbs left there for me.
So there it is. I quit drinking, I did different stuff, I heard different things, I got past the “thys” of life, and more and more I basically turned my will over to something else. It’s will, way more than mine, be done.
There’s just one more thing. I came to this conclusion back in March. This either/or thing – it’s will not my will, yes I get this job, no I don’t get this job, yes they hang my art, no they don’t hang my art, yes I have a place of my own, no I need to crash in your spare room – it ends up being either my way or the exact opposite way. Red or green. Black or white. But, that is not true. This is what I figured out, even without the tequila. It isn’t just MY WAY or the OPPOSITE WAY. It is – in fact – MY WAY or A BETTER WAY.
Whatever power there is that looks out for me, that leaves me bread crumbs, that has my back – be that The Universe or God or Blondie’s lead singer – there is always something in it for me, almost always something I couldn’t quite get to myself. I have come to know this. I have seen it in the rearview mirror, long after I have gone past what initially and immediately looked like bad luck, another bad break, just more piling on of unfairness. Where I am now – because of whatever happened, whatever I had to go through — is better. I have grown, even just a smidge, as a result. I am better.
What’s behind Door A isn’t just the opposite of what I want. It’s better than what I want. That’s my new thinking.