Shorts

How to Live Life and other stories is a 99 cents Kindle Countdown Deal until June 18, 2016.

 

newhowtolivelifecoverHOW to LIVE LIFE

Catchy title, huh? Bet my book sells millions. Everybody wants to know how to do things better without figuring them out for themselves. We tend to be extremely lazy. We want to be told everything. We don’t want to risk the embarrassment of failure. We want to live life right.

Me? I’m a failure at everything, even what I haven’t done. Completely. Absolutely. Undeniably. The definition of the word is my name. My life sucks. Completely. Absolutely. Undeniably. That’s why I’ve decided to become a life coach. Tell others how to do what I can’t do myself. Wait a minute. Isn’t that what some call a teacher? Oh, well. Life is confusing. We all need a roadmap. Our values are based on a limited view.

Back to my new found profession. Life coach, extraordinary (strung out with a French twang so it sounds impressive). Sure there are legitimate ones, like witch doctors, but I’m pulling a scam, an honest-to-God hoax. Cash in on my many insufficiencies. It will be the ultimate sell-out. Failure is the key to success, my gateway to happiness.

There is an advantage. I’m a long-winded know-it-all. Obnoxious smart-ass if you must be blunt. Explain the process without saying anything, set up the sequel, which leads to the series. Pages of hollow words. No needle in this haystack, but keep searching. Find what isn’t there. Keeping putting that jiggle in my pocket.

Some may see this innovation as laziness, but, hey, weren’t all of the world’s great thinkers a wee bit slackers? Depends on what side you’re viewing genius from. In a world of quantity not quality, studs instead of geldings, we demand more. Not knowing what.

Hypocrisy abounds. Lurking and pouncing. Snarling and gobbling. We avoid the cliché caricatures—chain-smoking obese doctors, ambulance chasing lawyers, used-car salesmen—but not ourselves. People are people. We tend to say one thing while doing something else.

Stop. I’m being bitter. I’ve got to be serious, seriously. My self-worth is depending on me. Damn, what a depressing thought like I needed another. We’re supposed to go from point A to B on down the line. Hell, I’ve skipped whole alphabets then backtracked to spell failure. I’m being yanked between yin and yang.

I’ve got to make a list. Get organized. Make order out of chaos. Where are my sticky pads? My desk would look like a yellow forest. Okay, take a deep breath. Calm down. Relax. Humm…. Wish I knew yoga. Write down your thoughts in a rush, go back and clarify them later. How much later? What’s the correct amount of time—hours, days, months, years? What if it’s never? I need to set a deadline, something more definite than before death.

Be practical. You know what you need to say, just say it. Be precise, non wishy-washy. No beating around the bush; shit or get off the pot. Hell, I’m a hodgepodge of clichés. Is education the regurgitation of knowledge obtained for an exalted fee?

First, justify my qualifications as a loser. Need to make a list, which may number into the millions, match the stars, hairs on head, or sand on the beach. Thank Bill Gates for Word. No forests will be destroyed recording my achievements. Wonder if I’m related to Charlie Brown? I’ve never kicked the football either. Need to trace my family tree, might be a victim of heredity.

My mind flutters. I’m either ahead or behind my time or neither. Do dreams ever come true? Why can’t I color inside the lines? Why can’t I lead an ordinary life like everybody else? Isn’t normal the status quo or just a statistic? What’s the standard for life? Has anybody ever achieved it? Are we all pretending? Now, I’m babbling like a crazy person, bogged down in a circle of senseless questions, losing focus. I’m sure there are those among us who never lost their way, blessed with perfection. They all can’t be make-believe or science projects. These days one must be polished, animated, articulate, together—everything I’m not. We have evolved into breathing cartoon characters living in the pages of a glossy magazine.

Damn. Trying not to sound bitter, but probably am. The darkness inside engulfs like fog. Shit. Now I’m writing bad metaphors, breaking all rules of prose. My book will never sell full of crap like that, but again maybe so. Look at the bestseller’s list. Hype is everything. Superficiality sells. Now I’m just being catty. Quit bitching and start composing.

A good “how-to” needs to start with “how-not”. There’s so much to tell, I’m confused myself. Take a deep breath and remember the glass is half full. (Whoever coined that phrase must’ve been a fast drunk. Philosophy has dwindled to cutesy sayings on T-shirts and bumper stickers on cars.)

Begin with personal statistics. I’m average incarnated. Not even sure if my fingerprints are unique. James Smith, white male, black hair, brown eyes, 5’9”, 180 pounds, 36” waist. Live in Fairview, a name common in each of the 48 continental states, born during the height of the baby boom in 1957. White collar middle-class; wear a ten and a half size shoe. The particulars barely make a ripple. Most anybody could be me. Wonder if I have a clone in a parallel universe? Poor sucker. Sometimes life is cruel.

Why do I consider myself a failure? That’s easy; look around. (Started to say ‘no-brainer’, but caught myself. Despise trendy clichés. Think anybody who describes anything as ‘awesome’ should be struck mute for twenty-four hours. No, make that forty-eight. Also use of hand gestures as quotation marks should result in limb removal for the same period. Stop. I’m getting sidetracked, another annoying habit among many. The reader says, “Continue with your rant or rave or rambling so I may go on to a more interesting story.”  Whatever. Damn, another slip. The mute rule doesn’t apply to me hence the ‘Do as I say not as I do’ amendment, a universal out for lawmakers.

Pardon me. You looked without seeing the nonfulfillment in my life. That’s another annoying habit/pesky problem to add to the list (way into the triple digits by now):  Promising with delivering. Why can’t I ever follow-through, like folks do in basketball or golf, complete a single thought? Maybe I am hay wired? My life is a novel of fragments lost in the world’s library without an ISBN.

On the other hand (sincere apology to limb impaired individuals— clichés are chockfull of insensitivity and we pretend to be politically correct you know), maybe my dire straits aren’t extremely drastic? Perhaps I’m much a-doing everything, making Dolly Parton out of a molehill? (Addictions to camp, trite, and bad puns may be added to the list.)  Sometimes we over-hype. Make raindrops into hurricanes. Holler wolf. Whine about what isn’t there.

I digress aimlessly. Take paths meandering off to nowhere. Lose sight of the exit signs. No wonder my life is a wreck. I live next door to Peter Pan. I need absolutes, not abstracts, focus. Adjust the lens. Concentrate on what’s important. Zoom in on the essential. Become the light through the magnifying glass that ignites the ant.

Now I’m making progress. Identifying the problem is good. But isn’t good a point of view? Can something be both, change back and forth, or be neither? Black and white gets muddy and neither are primary colors. Damn, there I go pondering again bogging down. Quit thinking and find the solution. It’s the ultimate internal Easter egg hunt.

But what if there’s no golden egg? That’s silly, of course there is. A problem can’t be a problem without a solution; every fool knows that. Be logical. There is order in chaos. Remember life is a journey, every cloud has a silver lining, and other inspirational clichés tossed to the downtrodden. Link A to B on down to Z. Don’t take short cuts even though we’ve evolved into creatures of instant immediate gratification. Now has become too late. Life has been reduced to snippets composed on bumper stickers. Sonnets have become sound bites.

Wait a minute. Could that be the problem? The basics keep changing. We cut down the forest to see trees. Maybe, but I don’t know. Life is so confusing. How can I, or anybody else, get through it on my own?

Hum…forefinger tapping against head. Could it be we’re not supposed to? That’s why there are support groups. Need to look under the Yellow Pages for the one call ‘Life’. Nope, can’t find one, but that’s okay. After reading my book folks will know. I will know myself.

But what if I don’t? Am I, like everybody else, doomed without knowing? After all, nobody gets out alive. What a depressing thought. Think I read that on a bumper sticker. We tend to hold those and tabloids as a source of knowledge.

This leads to another question in this never-ending ripple besides the obvious, ‘Will it ever stop?’ Why was it started? What’s the point of being born? I’m sure better minds than mine still ponder this now and have since the dawn of time. I’m not supposed to know. I’m just an average Joe without any alphabets behind my name. Go to work, get my paycheck, and shut up. Drown in the flow. So why should I wonder unless I’m drunk?

What if the best anyone can do is the best that they can? Is that the answer? Is that the enlightenment I’m searching for, simple and complicated, absolute and abstract? You find that in fortune cookies, read it in Hallmark cards. No, there’s got to be something more, something beyond.

What God is?

I don’t know

And you don’t either.

No sex or race or color

Except in each other.

I’ll never finish my book, maybe it can’t be written. The only way to know life is living it. But the new name is, “An Idiot’s Guide to Living”. And I’m the biggest one of all.

About John Northcutt Young

I write. Remember making-up stories from spelling words in the fifth grade. A journalism degree followed. Thanks for looking. View all posts by John Northcutt Young

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