Tuesday, December 16, 2014

And that's how I got to Memphis

If you love somebody enough you'll follow wherever they go
That's how I got to Memphis, that's how I got to Memphis
If you love somebody enough you'll go where your heart wants to go
That's how I got to Memphis, that's how I got to Memphis

Tom T. Hall

Small Aside (Who starts with an aside?). If you don’t know who Tom T. Hall is, please find out. He’s an icon in my family. All of us. He was an enduring piece of our childhood. Listen to him. It will make you feel good.

Okay. Now. Small disclaimer. I was inspired to write this essay after watching the series finale of The Newsroom.  If you watched it you’ll recognize the song. If you didn’t, no matter. I’ll explain. 

One of the characters on the show carefully explains to another that “Memphis” in this scenario is a metaphor for how someone got to where they are supposed to be in life. In the song he follows someone there that he loves. That’s a good “Memphis”. For someone else it may be their children, their career, or maybe even a desire to return home again.

But you get the idea. It’s an explanation as to how you got where you are now. What was the driving force? The passion? The calling?

It’s such a great question really. And I bet a lot of happy people can answer it. 

I’ve tried. And failed. And tried.

I’m still trying.

But the question itself has a lot of meaning. Are you just plodding along in your life, or is there something you’ve always wanted to do? Is there someone you love with all your heart but can’t quite summon up the courage to take a chance on? Do you have a dream that might take you somewhere? If you can answer that, I suggest you don’t waste another second. Nothing else really matters that much. No one will be too impressed with a tombstone that reads, “he met his obligations” or “she kept a stiff upper lip.”

Who cares about that stuff??

We all do. Sometimes we all do.

And yet, we all have our version of Memphis as well. Maybe we’re already there and haven’t stopped to count our blessings. Maybe we haven’t looked back at where we’re at and all the work and time and relationship building we’ve done to get where we are.

All of our lives are somewhere at the end of a romantic comedy. The part where the movie is over and after the credits have rolled. When the couple doesn’t have sex all the time, and starts wearing sweatpants and gains weight and stops worrying about holding in their gas.

That part doesn’t sell many tickets.

I had a good chance to think about all this the other day when I was sitting in Auckland by myself in a bar. A man approached me, and asked me to join him and some of his friends. I politely declined.

I never politely decline.

It got me thinking about what exactly I was doing here in a remote corner of the world, 9000 miles from home, not really knowing anyone and flying pretty blind for the past six months.

And in that moment I thought of Bill Clinton. Not his women or love of Big Macs or anything like that, but something he said to himself when he had gotten off message during an election. “It’s the economy stupid.” Meaning, don’t get distracted by other things. Talk about the economy. It’s what’s important.

I had a similar talk with myself in that moment.

“It’s the people stupid.”

Meaning, everything that drives me as a therapist and a traveler and as a human being, starts with courageous interactions with other people. If I’m quiet, or fearful, or not willing to take a chance, I’m not going to be good at any of that, and for me it’s all tied together.

I quickly grabbed an armload of beers and joined the table. I remembered now. I’m here to dive in, not stand in a fucking corner like a wallflower. That’s where the experiences originate from. Getting past your fear, and reticence, and not regretting the hand you didn’t shake, the laugh you never had, or the adventure you didn’t take.  It’s why I have a lot of stories and have had a lot of fun. It’s how I worked up the courage to jump across an ocean in the first place. Chances, risk, a desire to take on a new world.

So instead of sitting around in a corner all night, I made a bunch of new friends and came away with a few great stories.

It reminded me what the hell I was doing here. In New Zealand. In Auckland. On this planet.

And that’s how I got to Memphis.

The newsroom- That's How I Got to Memphis