Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Phases and Stages

Two songwriters I really admire were asked about their creative process. Bob Dylan was interviewed about his early years in Minnesota and Greenwich Village where he wrote such classics as ‘Girl from the North Country’ and ‘Boots of Spanish Leather.’ He was asked how he came up with those creative images. His answer was simple and to the point. “I don’t know” He answered. I was a different person back then. I’m a different person now.”

Canadian poet and songwriter, Leonard Cohen was asked how he was able to create such timeless melodies as ‘Suzanne’ and ‘Hallelujah’ and his answer was also very simple. “I wish I knew where to go for those great songs,” He admitted. “But I don’t know where they are.”

Phases and stages; we all go through them and most of the time we don’t even know it. Collectively, our lives come down to a whole host of temporary stages in life. From birth on, we segway from one relationship to another, one kind of lifestyle to another form of existence, one temporary situation to another temporary situation. Then we go on to something else and that past situation is forgotten.

Our lives are an ever-evolving constant series of phases and stages until they finally end one way or another.

From seventh grade through high school, I had a paper route in St. Paul. Twice a day, early morning and late afternoon, through all seasons, seven days a week, I would trudge through a cluster of apartment buildings and residential neighborhoods delivering the news. It became a part of my young life and I never took a day off in six years. It was what it was.

The U.S. Army was another stage of life, a phase in which I cut off almost all communication with the outside world and concentrated on making a comfortable routine within the confines of military service. Weekends were spent traveling off base or holed up in the library reading. There was no time for card games, drinking, carousing off base or pining for the comforts of home. Olive drab and khaki was my life for two years.

Living in Europe was pretty much the same thing once the initial shock of ‘this ain’t America’ wore off.’ I never saw it as a stage or phase but rather a situation, abet temporary, in which I had a job, public transportation and curiosity of about how the Scandinavians lived. The only thing missing were close relationships. In retrospect, that’s probably a good thing or I might never have left there.

As far as my working career goes, there were two really great jobs and two bad situations.

First volunteering at KTCA Television then working there as a producer-director from 1967 through 1971 was enlightening, exciting and educational. It provided the content for one of my latest plays ‘PTV.’

Working at the Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting from 1972 through 1977 was a wonderful experience. Both could have gone on forever but I cut them both short for (supposedly) better opportunities.

Two really bad jobs, one at the Catholic Archdiocese and another at a company called ‘Applied Management Science’ were terrible experiences. It was only after I escaped the confinement of those two prisons that I realized just how bad they really were.

In each instance, good job or bad, I had adjusted to the reality of my daily situation at the time and made the best of it. Unfortunately I didn’t have the insight to see any of them as phases or stages in my life. It was just my ‘present situation.’

The same can be said of a long period of multiple jobs from roughly 1980 through 2005 when I created and ran my own business in addition to working my regular fulltime job. Then adding on the responsibility of owning and managing two apartment buildings. We had two young children and I also felt a deep responsibility to be the father I never had. The responsibilities became almost overwhelming at times but somehow it was simply my life back then and more importantly, ‘something I needed to do.’

The same can be said of my addiction to running, abet ‘positive addiction’ that went from roughly 1964 through 2005. That was more than a phase or a stage. It was truly a lifestyle that I couldn’t shake even if I wanted to.

The same can be said for my present situation as a novelist, playwright, and screenwriter. It is my latest, perhaps my last, stage in my life. A phase that has brought me many sleepless nights, tremendous satisfaction, and comfort in knowing that I have accomplished what I set out to do many many lifetimes ago.

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