Monday, July 25, 2011

The Meaning of Life

"The razor's edge...we all walk it at some point."




Life is all about change.
That's no secret.
We should be changing everyday if we are to grow as human beings. We don't need constant radical change, because that's not cool. There's got to be some semblance of stability in the life if we are to be healthy enough to experience positive change. See how that works?

But there are times in our lives when radical change does occur through no fault of anyone or anything other than time catches up. In my case, my oldest son, Jack, is about to turn 21 in late October, and my lease on the apartment I've had now in North Albany for six years will expire on the same day as the young Turk's birthday: October 31...Halloween.

What all this means is I am now faced with not a choice, but choices. Let me back up a bit here. Six years ago, my second wife and I split up amicably after only 36 months of marriage amidst some serious life choices (there's that word again) that we could not begin to agree upon. But just to give you a hint, she wanted to pursue more of a life in the suburb and grow a family (when we agreed to tie the knot we also made a pact: no children. But she changed her mind!).

She also was pressuring me to leave the novel writing business and to get a real job since I was going through a terrible publishing dry spell. Her parents were relentlessly angry with my decision to continue writing novels, especially after putting up the money for a down payment on a house in the burbs (a down payment and a house I never asked for).

Knowing the situation was impossible, we decided a split would be better now as friends than to have an acrimonious one down the road. However, we shared a daughter who'd become the light of both our lives. Despite my pursuit of all things literary and my itchy desire to travel and gain new experiences both as a journalist and novelist, I wanted that little girl in my life. That in mind, I begged my ex to simply pack up the baby and join me on my adventures. But she would have none of it. So my sons and I left our home, and at her father's insistence, she had the locks changed.

Fast forward six years: Recently, my ex approached me with her desire to pull up stakes and move to California where she would be with her best friend and start a new clothing store. She's unhappy here and desperately wants to get out. Would I stop her from leaving? No, of course not. I just want her to be happy too. Would I follow her there? Would we perhaps reconcile and try to fix our broken relationship?

For a brief moment or two, I actually panicked and at one point broke up with the woman I was seeing since, how could I not follow my ex and our daughter to Cali, even if I have no desire to ever live there? My heartstrings were not being pulled, they were being torn out of my chest.

But then things calmed down, and my girlfriend took me back, and I began to realize that I have no control over my ex and her decisions. I also came to realize that if she wants to pack up and leave that's what she's going to do. My opinion on the matter isn't going to make an ounce of difference. We could always work out visits with our daughter. Heck, perhaps our daughter would like to come live with me at some point. Perhaps spend the summers with me. Time will tell.

But now, I have other things to consider.

My 17 year old son, Harrison (Bear), is still living with me. He's left school in the pursuit of seeing the world and writing his first novel. He will earn his GED, but his desire for a classical education is for now anyway, put on the back burner. I believe he's going to do very well. He has talent. Real God given talent. But much like Larry Darrell in The Razor's Edge, he's not at all comfortable with doing things just because you're expected to do them. He needs meaning behind his actions. He needs to know the meaning of life.

So, to make this too long story shorter: I have some choices here. I can either grab a new place to live in the country, further down south but within proximity of where my girlfriend teaches at a local college, so that a train ride to New York is only two hours. Or, I can rent an apartment in New York City where I feel I should be, as a writer. Or, I can move to Europe for a little while which is even further removed from NYC than California, only far way cooler and far less snottier.

In the meantime, Bear and I will head to Italy this week where I've rented an apartment in Florence for the rest of the summer. I need to do a little more research for a couple of novels I'm writing. The good news is that my job allows me to live anywhere that I want. Good sales on books like THE REMAINS, THE INNOCENT, and MOONLIGHT FALLS will ensure that. So does my ongoing relationship with StoneHouse/StoneGate Ink. But the bad news is that choices can be hard to make sometimes. However, it beats the hell out of 9 to 5, work, TV, bed...work, TV, bed.

I'm hoping the answer will come to me in Italy next month, maybe while jogging along the Arno in the park, or while sitting outside the Duomo sipping a hot espresso. Or perhaps while climbing some steep terra firma in the Tuscan hills. Perhaps the answer is right before my eyes: a nice place in the country not far from Albany which still places me in excellent proximity to NYC and only 6 hours to Europe.

No matter what decision I make, I will be writing very hard. I'm 47 now, in excellent health, and have reached a point in my life where I have even more time to see the world and to immerse myself in foreign countries and cultures, sort of like the ones I've already experienced in Africa, Russia, Turkey, China, and God knows where. Like Bear, I need to figure out the meaning of life. I need to see the Great Pyramids and Machu Picchu. I need to float down the Amazon in a raft carved from a tree. I want to wander the Saharan desert and I want to go on safari, and I want to photograph the famine in Somalia and perhaps the civil war in Libya. And I want to teach my sons and daughter how to do all all of these things too. I want them to know that there is a life outside of the suburbs and that there is real meaning to it. But that life has to be lived before the code can begin to be cracked.

Whether I succeed in doing any of these things will be up to me. The choice is mine. It always has been mine to make. But there is sacrifice in some of these choices. My split from my second wife is perfect evidence of that. But we only go this route once, and we all deserve happiness.

The other day my ex told me she still doesn't know what she wants in life. She's 44 years old and planning a move to the Pacific coast and she doesn't know what she wants. I feel for her. She's not alone. She's a very sweet person and an even sweeter mother. My problem, I told her, is that I've always known precisely what I've wanted out of life. And that can sometimes make a man appear to be selfish. Or why don't I just call it like it is: The pursuit of the perfect life is indeed a selfish pursuit. And yes, at times it feels like I am walking barefoot along the razor's edge. A good life takes great change and choice and sacrifice. But 'll be damned if I can't live any other way.