Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Hard Self-Appraisal: Where Am I In Reinventing Myself?-- Journal for Sunday

I read a blog recently (Blue Truck Red State) that challenged gay-marriage activists to stop complaining and rally to something really important....the law about to be passed in Uganda that will criminalize homosexuality.  It was a passionate post on an urgent issue.  Having written on these pages about same-sex marriage in the U.S., I felt chastened at first....and then thought harder...and wondered just what someone like me could do to effect change in an unfamiliar culture, a dangerous part of the world, if I have been unable to persuade my elected representatives to protect me here.  Do I have the mettle to commit energy to this cause? and to health care? and to Afghanistan? and to abused women? abused animals? global warming?  hunger? education?   

My concerns are like those of a blogger who wants to weigh in on finally depletes one's energy for ANYTHING.

Sometimes I get discouraged and think I'm fooling myself.  Do I have what it takes to become an individual with something fresh and new to offer the world?  Re-invention is a long process, if you let it be one.  Can I just walk out on my job and declare that I will make my way in the world as a writer?  Or travel to  remote parts of the world to lend my hands and heart and mind to protect rights or help build and provide basic needs to devastated areas?  And yet again, don't these opportunities present themselves right here in the US? even in Illinois?

What are the things that concern me?  Well, lately, everything.....and the issues that matter to me in my immediate world don't always have the gravitas I would like them to have. And then there's the day-to-day activity that sweeps you up like a speeding car.....(not all of it unenjoyable...I happen to love spending time with friends.... but it's the housework, the bill payments, the shopping, the car maintenance, the job duties, and the other "necessary" activities that don't allow time for creativity, or activism.)  

I read exhortations from others to follow causes, all of them worthy, all of them meant to help others whose lives are far more desperate and needy than mine. What exactly do I want?

I'm reading "The Alchemist" for a book discussion, and while I think it's a fair-enough story, I find I'm resisting its message, that one always has the ability to follow a dream, create a Personal Legend...and I resist it for practical, and sentimental, reasons. Is it foolhardy to dream new dreams at the half-century mark?  Can I leave those I love to pursue these dreams, even though the people in my life may all support me with all of their hearts?  Can I abandon family members and friends to illness or loneliness to become a recognized figure in the world, and feel good about my achievement?

Hard questions.....That come up from time to time.....

And I have concluded that whatever it is I choose to do, whatever new skill I learn, wherever I travel, or move to, or whatever new work I may pursue, I can't completely cut myself off  from my immediate life...I can rally to important issues, but not all of them...I can show support, but have to admit some limitations....and do what I can do best, or invent a way to live that is most productive and that is most satisfying. 

I have to TRUST that if I create a legacy in my chosen ways, that others will likewise follow their consciences and do the same....that they will attend to the immediacy of those things that I also find important but lack the practical resources to realize firsthand.

And you know...It's okay, for now...!   So I will study my languages, write my fiction, travel, work with sheltered animals, and throw my full support (either with words, money, or muscle) to any other issues I or my friends find essential...and create, like a writer fashioning a good novel, the great things that will follow.

And for the Ugandan gay community.....I will commit as many words as possible to raise awareness of this horrible state of things....and help in any way I can....and will continue my support  for our right to marry our partners right here at home.

Keep your eyes here as the new year approaches!


  1. Tom, I think the only way we as writers can hope to have any impact on the issues affecting us is to use those gifts that we have been blessed with to the fullest extent we are capable. I know that you are passionate about a lot of causes, but as you said you don't want to be spreading yourself too thinly here. Pick your battles and wage a war of intellect and reason and win people over to your side of the debate. There's no point in lying down in front of a tank. You just become a short-lived, heroic smudge in history. But your that small candle to help remove the shrouds of ignorance...that is your weapon. Long after you or I are gone, our words will still be here, inspiring others to hopefully follow a similar path.

  2. Thanks for the kind words, Tom...I hoped this post would shed some light on my rather complicated feelings, and how I'm resolving them...and that others would take some comfort in them, or get fired up even. Your support is appreciated!