To All the Words I’ve Loved Before
“To all the girls I’ve loved before. Who’ve traveled in and out my door…” Willie Nelson
Years ago Willie Nelson wrote a song dedicated to all the girls he’d loved before. Thinking about the words conjured up memories of all the books I’ve written before. Of course the fact I have been cleaning out my file cabinet and come across many an unfinished tome might have had something to do with those thoughts.
So as I perused the unfinished manuscripts about old movie star houses in Beverly Hills, girls wanting to be eaten by a shark, the Viet Nam war and draft dodgers in Toronto, an escape with friends to distant places and even our cat solving a neighborhood mystery along with a few others I wondered what might have happened had they been published or more to the point had I ever finished them.
Looking back at the novel about draft dodgers living in Toronto I can see some obvious problems there. Like perhaps how do you write a book you know nothing about. Okay, so I know youth makes us stupid but why would I think that visiting Toronto on so many occasions would make me an expert on the Viet Nam war or living in hiding? Or even being drafted? Not quite up my alley and of course there is no way I could have ever finished that book. Oh sure I could have interviewed people who lived that life, and many authors have done well using that formula, I am not one of them however. I myself have always subscribed to the old adage…”write about what you know” and in my experience I understand why.
I must always feel passionate about what I write. And although at the time I am feeling excited about a book’s possibilities my energy level begins to subside when I realize how little I know about my character’s experiences.
So what does this have to do with anything actually? I’m sure there are many writers that have begun many books only to discard them when their passion waned, so why am I feeling particularly sad about these long forgotten tomes? And why am I certain the way I feel probably has nothing whatsoever to do with Viet Nam, sharks or even Cary Grant’s old home in Beverly Hills.
These unfinished books are merely another reminder of the passage of time and dreams never fulfilled.
Not to become too maudlin about the subject there are many sad things about aging aside from the obvious…aches, pains, loss, the hate you begin to feel for mirrors or any reflective objects.
I truly believe the excitement of new possibilities is one of the best things about being young. Those times when you were over the moon about a new project or adventure looming in the distance ahead. When you jumped out of bed in the morning filled with the joy of entering a new world of discovery and unlimited choices only you could make happen.
And now the only chance I have of leaping out of bed at breakneck speed is if someone nearby yells fire or an earthquake shakes me out.
Perhaps it’s that feeling I miss most. The high of a new day fraught with new chapters to be written, new lives to be led and new places to see. I mean of course besides the orthopedist office or dermatologist to find out what that new thing growing on your body is and what the hell?
About now you might be feeling as depressed as someone who can’t find a drug store open when they are pmsing for a Hershey bar at midnight. And no I’m not trying to be a downer here, but perhaps just nostalgic for the old days when I felt that anticipation of the leap into a new dimension, a new planet of the possible. Is there really a damn Multi-verse and how do I get there?
I am fighting the it’s-too-late blues daily but I’m beginning to get the I’m-moving syndrome. You know that place you find yourself in when you are moving out of your home and you need to replace a rosebush but you won’t buy one because you won’t be around to see it grow so you are in limbo and can’t move forward. You’re stuck in the mire of why do it if I’m going to move land? I hate that place. I hate not being able to embrace the new.
My parents refused to buy new windows. Oh sure their house was fifty years old and desperately needed them, but they were in their eighties and felt like why bother in a few years we’ll sell the house or be dead anyway. Hmm, maybe that’s where I got it.
Yep we all know someone like that. The why redecorate people or the why do I need a new dress people or the why travel in this scary new world folks.
As bad as it was before it’s worse now after the pandemic. I actually have friends who don’t like to leave the house anymore. So now even more are spending their life getting all their kicks from the new movie on Netflix or reruns on Hulu or heaven help us all the real housewives. Talk about an oxymoron, there’s nothing real about those chicks.
So why have I brought you down this sad Willie Nelson inspired path? Is it to remind us all how limited life becomes as we age or perhaps something very different? Stay with me here it gets better, I promise.
When I pulled out the books I realized something else after the depression lifted; each book is a new possibility; a new chapter to be written and something challenging ahead.
I can buy a new rose bush now or fix the windows or finish that great American novel because there is a huge difference at this age. This age. That’s right, although many unwanted things come with getting older the accumulation of wisdom is not one of them. When I was in my thirties writing about draft dodging I had no life experience to add to the discussion. How did shopping give me insight into the fear of going to war? What did I know about leaving home and starting over in a new place. Well I sure as hell do now.
Every book I began needed to congeal and coalesce and become its best self. Or perhaps I did.
What is the point of obtaining wisdom if we don’t use it to our advantage?
So what I’m actually trying to say here is that the dreams, plans and possibilities of youth are more exciting and closer to you now. Whatever you wished for fifty years ago you can accomplish more easily now, despite age and slowing down a bit.
You can paint that masterpiece, learn to play piano, write that self help book, tap dance, refurbish that cabinet, open that boutique or even take that cruise around the world. An old friend of mine just wrote a book about his experiences in the music business fifty years ago.
The best part is seeing it through the eyes of life experience and not the naïveté of youth.
One of the benefits of aging is the ability to see things clearly. Hindsight is indeed twenty twenty and maybe that’s why we remember forty years ago so well, but not last week. Seeing life though the lens of a lifetime of moments lived, lessons learned and loves given and returned or spurned is a beautiful approach to anything you wish to accomplish.
So now I’m settling in to reread that Viet Nam book while you all start that long ago abandoned project. I’m sure the next Jane Austin or Rembrandt is among my readers. Of course you are. Good luck and let me know how it’s all coming along.