When I was a kid, my hair was usually cut very short, at near crew-cut lengths. As time went on, hair styles lengthened a bit. I think there are people who go through life seemingly without breaking a sweat. Although I've learned from the Edwin Arlington Robinson poem "Richard Cory" that some of these people actually seem to glitter when they walk, but unfortunately later put a bullet in their heads, I've always known people who live life without the apparent glisten of perspiration.
As hair styles lengthened throughout my childhood in the 60s and 70s, the television was full of products devoted to hair control.
At first, one used a concoction called Bryl Creme, which managed hair by suspending it in a greasy translucent compound--a compound similar in its action to the fabled "There's Something about Mary" scene, but rather less intimate.
By the late 1960s, though, the television, ever devoted to our comfort and luxury amid reports of the Vietnam War, episodes of Bewitched, and Sunday talk shows about campus unrest, began to promote a product called The Dry Look. The Dry Look came in an aerosol spray can. I believe it was produced by Gillette, which utilized manly looking models to promote its products. The Dry Look permitted one to aspire to hair which remained in place, without the need for tranfixing gel. The commercials were themed "the wethead is dead!". By using this aerosol hair spray, unruly longer hair could be tamed without breaking a sweat.
It's a side road, but I should share that my own experience with the Dry Look was not so promising as the commercials. The Dry Look certainly functioned as an effective hair spray. However, unlike Richard Cory, the only glitter I ever exude when I walk is the glitter of perspiration. A strong romp on the playground, generating strong perspiration, somehow interfaced with The Dry Look product to create a kind of peroxide scent not as conducive to suavity as the television commercial implied.
I'm struck by the phrase "we are what we pretend to be", which
arose in my mind from a point which marstokyo has made at various times (although I've defined the phrase out of context to her points). Over the last few weeks, I'm starting to feel like the fellow in the Popeye commercial "I yam what I yam".
Did you ever play the Game of Life? I often did. In that game, one spins a numbered wheel, and runs one's car across a board filled with endless fortunes and misfortunes, and some choices. Shall one go to college? Shall one go into business? When will one marry? How many kids can one have? How much money will one acquire? The game had two different themes--on the one hand, everybody who played pretty much made it through the game in one piece. On the other hand, individual fortunes varied a lot, depending on whether one landed on the doctor square or the teacher square.
Real life does not bear all that much resemblance to The Game of Life. We have many more choices, and we weigh the virtue or vice of our choices at the end by much more than "did we have many children?" and "how much money did we make?". Certainly, we spend time on things other than "can we retire to Millionaire Estates?".
Nonetheless, as in the Game of Life, we all make choices, based upon the square upon which we land. We start from such different places on the board, and with such different social and genetic make-ups, though, that we cannot consider ourselves comparable to one another at all.
Lately, though, I've been thinking about the notion of working to maintain the life that I have. As any reader of this journal will know, I spend a great deal of time frittering away at diversions
and hobbies. I believe I "inherited" this trait from my father, who worked harder than almost any man I've met when I was a child, and yet maintained a fascinating array of hobbies, ranging from history to gemology. I find myself as I sit here now with a solid weekend of things I'd need to do just to "catch up" on my hobby tasks. Yesterday I worked, and today I found myself unable to do much besides rest and watch the glorious snow falling.
I'm a daydreamer, and my daydreams are not particularly novel or unique. I imagine taking up hobbies at which I become expert, in the way neighborhood amateur naturalists and local historians do.
I imagine writing novels and poetry, making absurdly awful but fun music, and exchanging mail art. But no matter what fancies I have in life, I come to realize that the dice I've actually thrown in life, in terms of "work", are different dice than the many-sided dungeon and dragon dice of creativity. I've molded myself into a particular form of attorney, who does a particular set of skills, and I've now been earning my living that way for some 18 years.
As I wrote in my user bio, I am an attorney trapped in an attorney's body.
I'm not knocking hobbies, or trying to write, or LJ, or amateur creativity (Heaven knows that the silliest post I've put on LJ thus far advocated only amateur creativity). But at some point, I do begin to notice that I can't spray myself with material from an aerosol can and somehow acquire some cool look that I don't really have. I have a set of chosen paths, and I can vary them if I choose. But the fact that I could choose different paths doesn't mean that I will choose different paths, nor particularly that I should choose different paths.
I forebore from new resolutions this New Year (other than some for my journal, many of which I've already broken), because I know what it is I have to do. The steps required of me to maintain the things I value in life are brightly-defined, like those lights which run along the runway. I just need to land the darn plane.
I love that part of the movie Broadcast News when the network executive asks Holly Hunter's character if it isn't wonderful being right all the time. Holly Hunter's character begins to tear up, looks at him, and says "no, it's awful!". I've never suffered from being right all the time, but I do suffer from the related malady of knowing what it is that I need to do.
When all the daydreams spin their most pleasant cobwebs, I can imagine a world of things that I'd love to see and be. But the world of things I have already is a world that requires me to practice simple virtues, like hard work, organization and compassion. It's these things, not the high-flung fantasies which can occupy my hobby life, which define so much of what lies ahead of me.
Even in my hobby life, the things I need to do are so often things from a Horatio Alger book. I promised myself that if I finished the nanowrimo.org novel, I would self-publish it. So now I must finish the proofreading. I wanted to pass out the odd CD of a
recording session with electric footballs fields to nervousness folks and friends. So now I must get it sent off to print up, and then finish the labels. It's so much easier to daydream "what if" than it is to "do what". At least it is for me.
The coming weeks are weeks in which I want to revel a bit more in what I am, and in working to maintain what works in my life. I'm a pretty responsible person, but I want to be more responsible.
I want to pitch in a bit more, and daydream a bit less. I want to move from "gee, that would be nice" to checking things off my "to do" list.
When I was 17, my father would repeatedly say to me "get your head out of the clouds!". Now I feel that I must say that to myself.
It's not that I believe that I can "get my head out of the clouds" and suddenly look like the suave, handsome man in the Dry Look commercial. It's that I've come to realize that what I am is something different, and that it requires my participation to maintain that real life.
In my mind, there are relatively easy commandments to follow--simple things about compassion and hard work and working off a to do list. I want to avoid getting distracted from those things.
I want to connect more, and fret less.
I don't pretend that generalizations about what I need to do are any better than daydreams. The funny thing about life is that one can only do what one dreams by stopping the dreaming and just doing. I am a master of brainstorms and ideas--but sometimes I need to be a master of pen to paper, stamp to envelope, and items checked off the list of things to do. It's a bit like those "zen of tennis" things--one does not imagine how nice it will be to win game to love, one instead says "this is the ball coming. I am here with the ball. I am one with the ball. I am hitting the ball. There is the ball, going back over the net".
I don't feel much frustration that I am only what I am. My frustration is instead that I am not better at what I am than what I am. I'm a pretty focused guy, but what I'm seeking now is focus.
This focus, more than Bryl Creme, will help me grease my personal engines, and work to "earn" some aspects of the life I want to have.