Inertia is a hell of a drug.

I have shared elsewhere that an important question we were asked at the beginning of our marriage was, “What do you want your home to be like?”

I turned 50 this summer, a natural place to pause and reflect. If I’m lucky, I’m probably halfway through my adult years (I don’t count childhood – think of that as season 1, where we were underfunded and hadn’t found the plot yet). My work is changing some in my day job. Personally, some things have changed, and things that once were dreams are now off the table. So, transitions.

And I’m asking myself some questions. A big one is, “What do I want my life to be like?”

Inertia is a hell of a drug. It’s easy to get caught up in the routine of the banal. The problem, as they say, is that you think you have time.

But the last few years have shown me that I don’t. Since 2020, over a million Americans have died unexpected deaths from COVID, a thing that didn’t even exist in 2019.

So, what do I want my life to be like? Am I happy with how much I work? The amount of time I spend with my family? My friends? Have I done work that makes me proud? How do I want to be remembered? Am I doing work that will lead to that? Am I living in alignment with what I believe?

I don’t have all the answers to those questions yet, but some things are slowly sifting to the top. I know I love doing this newsletter, and I love that I now make a significant portion of my income from writing. I love that I’m healthier than I have been in the last 15 years. I love that I am closer to my family of origin than I have been in 30 years. I want to keep those things.

But I’m unhappy about the clutter, both physical and metaphorical, in my life. The ways my people-pleasing tendencies hold me back. The times I don’t advocate for myself. I have a lot of work left to do.

It sounds trite, but the real work here is, I think, in asking the question in the first place. Then you have to decide if you want to do something about the answers.

Have you gone through a period of self-reflection and made changes as a result? I’d love to hear about it if you wanted to share. Just hit reply to this email.

Here are five things I thought were beautiful

  1. A digital visualization of John Coltranes’ masterpiece sax solo from his iconic album Giant Steps.
  2. I love things that do ordinary things but make them beautiful. Like this pavilion in Sonoma valley that is made of colored glass – 832 panels of it – and that makes a kaleidoscope of colors as the sun moves through the sky.
  3. The detritus people leave in books – bookmarks, receipts, photos, and so on – tell a story. Often, it’s one we just hop into and out of, as we don’t have the setup. In that way, these ephemeral pieces are more like vignettes than stories. Just scenes in a story we don’t know. The Oakland Public Library has a website where they share the cool, neat, and interesting things people leave behind in their books. I love this so much.
  4. The world’s oldest known song (that we can replicate).
  5. I love Dorothy Parker. Her street cred as one of the founding writers of the New Yorker is well known, and her writing was wide-ranging, but I probably love her poetry most of all. On the website managed by her estate, there is a collection of verse read by an older Parker that sounds weary and knowing. You should not miss Resume or Men.

Housekeeping

  • Last week, I messed some links up. If that happens, I will correct the web version of the newsletter, always found at the link at the top of the email.
  • Next week is Labor Day here in the US, and so I’m taking the day off. Y’all be kind to each other while I’m gone.

One of the links I messed up was for the new newsletter service I’m trialing. Here is what I said last week, with correct links: I’m trialing a new newsletter platform called Sendstack. It is similar to Substack but has much better privacy policies and has no spyware or trackers in the emails. The platform is in the soft open phase, and if it works, it has many of the features I would love to have in a newsletter publishing platform. I’ve been invited to join.

I’m hesitant to jump headlong into a new, untested platform with as large a list as I have, so I decided to create a test newsletter. Some things you only learn by doing them. The short version is that over the next six weeks or so, I will send a series of newsletters where I try to do various things, report on how it’s going, and outline my reflections on the platform. In other words, you get to be the test audience.

If this sounds interesting, you are the sort of nerd I am looking for. If it doesn’t, no hard feelings. I intend this to be a short-term project and will delete the list when it’s over. You can sign up here if you want to help me trial this new platform.

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