A couple of weeks ago I started reading and listening to Mathew McConaughey’s autobiography called Greenlights which he penned at 50 reflecting on his personal life and career. It’s a remarkably put together book with lots of notes from someone who keeps a journal and documents their thoughts which is something that I do a lot so I can relate.
It’s not the typical biography and it reads more like a guide book to living which is material that stimulates me a lot.
According to him Greenlights mean go—advance, carry on, continue. On the road, they are set up to give the flow of traffic the right of way.
In our lives, they are an affirmation of our way. They’re approvals, support, praise, gifts, gas on our fire, attaboys, and appetites. They’re cash money, birth, springtime, health, success, joy, sustainability, innocence, and fresh starts. We love greenlights. They don’t interfere with our direction. They’re easy. They’re a shoeless summer. They say yes and give us what we want.
This is a book about how to catch more yeses in a world of nos and how to recognize when a no might actually be a yes. This is a book about catching greenlights and realizing that the yellows and reds eventually turn green.
It’s very relatable and I’m often amused by how the human experience is relatively the same for most people regardless of their geographical location or period in history. The need to live a meaningful life transcends culture, race and wealth.
I’m a movie buff. I love watching film and taking time to understand the actors and people behind the art. Back when magazines where still envogue I always made sure to buy film related magazines like people and GQ to stay in informed with the latest news so I have a lot of favourites in Hollywood but Mathew has always been an odd one for me.
I was never into the texan accent coupled with his swaggering aura especially during the time he did a lot of romantic comedies. A Time to Kill and Two For The Money were probably the only movies of his that had made an impression on me but over the years his performances have grown in leaps and bounds.
He found a new formula which he aptly describes as the McConaisance, a renaissance of sorts and has delivered banger after banger from True Detective, Interstellar, Wolf of Wall Street and his Oscar winning performance in Dallas Buyers Club.
I’ve noticed he’s to white people what Jay-Z is to black people. A guy who is effortlessly cool, charismatic and relentless when it comes to getting what he wants from life which really draws me in as a pragmatist living in Zimbabwe.
What I admired most about him is he’s not a typical white dude. He embraces all races and in his book he describes getting his first film break from waiting tables in a Black restaurant and bar he frequented with 90% Black clientele. As someone with deep working class roots he wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty and do the hard work required to succeed and he was duly rewarded for his efforts.
In the book during confusing moments in his life he often travels into the wilderness to find meaning with detailed tales of his time in Africa and the Amazon jungle and he reflects about the human connections and lessons learnt from being amongst fellow human beings and not the usual safari shit that most westerners assume is Africa.
The most admirable quality of his is that he marches to the beat of his own heart and does not apologise for living. As his mother taught him “Don’t walk into a place like you wanna buy it, walk in like you own it so it’s very apparent he’s a person who is very confident of his own abilities.
This is what I try to subscribe to and I started this book during a really confusing time in my life.
It’s unfair that life is unfair and I was growing bitter over some unfair experiences that where cramping my style and progression and this book truly helped me to release that tension.
I was losing my faith in God and my natural balance and was a book written by someone who experienced quite the same albeit at a greater scale.
Sometimes just knowing you’re not alone in what you’re experiencing is enough to put fire in your belly again.
In his words “Sometimes we don’t need advice. Sometimes we just need to hear we’re not the only one.”
There’s a period he felt lost when he had been hit by the train of New found fame and success. He went to a monastery in a remote location to find himself again coz he could no longer look himself in the mirror with a straight face. He professes “ I’ve tried to be a good man, to not lie and deceive myself, to be more pure of heart and mind, but I am full of lust, objectifying other people and myself. I do not feel a connection to my past nor see the path to my future, I’m lost. I don’t feel myself.”
The weird thing is after pouring out his soul he was astonished by the response of the priest when he said me too. I also deal with the same issues which really made him stop feeling sorry for himself and being too judgemental of his actions.
That’s the effect this book has had on my life. I’m not sure where I am spiritually coz some of my misfortune made me feel like someone up there had forgotten about me yet I’ve found myself praying again and playing archived services from a deeply spiritual period of my life in Bulawayo.
I’ve stopped judging myself harshly and I’ve allowed myself to just live and ironically I can feel the stars lining up for me in a marvellous symphony of super convergence. Business is starting to improve and opportunities are popping up and my confidence is back. It’s unbelievable. Since losing my dog last year everything had been going down hill and I couldn’t catch a single meaningful break yet here I am having my own renaissance in a challenging year.
The most important theme he addresses is dealing with loss. I feel I’ve experienced too much loss in my life from my Mom, my Step Father and other people and when my dog died mysteriously it felt like a cumulative bereavement. I felt for someone who never complains and keeps going, it was just too much to bear.
For a while I lost my faith and it probably had a knock on effect on everything else. How he addressed losing his father was refreshing and reminded me of my own experience after losing my Step Dad in 2016 who had kept my world together after losing my Mom.
I remembered how tough I had to be afterwards and as he aptly describes… That was who I was supposed to be again and in a way it was a great reminder to not forget myself.
Lastly the aspect of romantic relationships was the most stimulating because I’ve been on the search for that one person to build a life with. I know I probably have one year left of single life but these things are elusive and can’t be forced.
It may not seem so but I’m really tired of doing this life thing alone. I need a new set of problems. There are times I genuinely wonder if I’m on anyone’s worry list. Like if something bad happens to me, will anyone care.
I’m entering the business end of life where all the experience has to be converted into tangibles. Children, a house, a farm and a brilliant backyard for a pet. The next 18 months of my life will be critical and I want to be within touching distance of my dreams by December 2023.
But as they say, the best laid plans always turn to shit. Interesting to note he dealt with the same anxiety. As he was trying to figure out whether to become a lifelong bachelor or get married as he put it he quit trying so intentionally to find the perfect woman and rather, concede to the natural selection process of finding her, her finding him, or not.
So he quit looking for her and then, she came.
That’s kind of the trajectory I’m on. I’ve just stopped searching and forcing things and I’m just gliding and having a great time. I’ve got numerous options and I think I’m just going to live cautiously till the right one finds me.
He says the arrow doesn’t seek the target, the target draws the arrow
We must be aware of what we attract in life because it is no accident or coincidence.
The spider waits in his web for dinner to come.
Yes, we must chase what we want, seek it out, cast our lines in the water,
but sometimes we don’t need to make things happen.
Our souls are infinitely magnetic.
As he succinctly puts it : “We’ve all encountered those people, who, out of the corner of our eye, from across the street, at magic hour, appear astoundingly attractive, even God- or Goddess-like. The way they move, the way the light hits them, invokes reverence and awe. The IMPRESSION.
And then we got a closer look. Damnit. Letdown. Good from afar, but far from good.
Some people will never be more attractive than in that first impression, from a distance, in that light, at that time, in that way we saw them, when our hopes became highest and our wish fulfillment was fully leaded. They will never look better than in that initial, fuzzy-edged glimpse. The impression. The WIDE SHOT.
Some relationships are better in a wide shot. More impressive in the impression.
Like in-laws. Best to only see on holidays.
Like neighbors. It’s why we have walls and fences.
Like that long-distance romance that fell apart when you moved in together.
Like that summer fling that only lasted through August.
That friend that became a lover that you now miss as a friend.
Like ourselves when we’re a fraud.
They’re better from a distance. With less frequency. With less intimacy.
Sometimes we need more space.
It’s romance, it’s imagination.
Distance is the flirt and the wink, it’s frivolous, it’s mysterious, a fantasy. A constant honeymoon because we can’t quite see it, we aren’t quite sure about it, we don’t quite know it.
It’s a fuck. It’s detachment. It’s separate. It’s public. It’s carefree. It’s painless. It’s for rent..
And we like it that way, because sometimes it’s better with the lights dimmed.
About 3 weeks ago I met someone like that. She ticked all the boxes from the instant I met. I’m a sucker for aesthetics and she was the total package, the fire emoji 🔥 as my brother put it.
Despite my options I momentarily went into exclusive mode for her. I was smitten. Just when you’ve given up on humanity you meet someone who lights a fire in your heart and you feel like you’ve known them all your life. The chemistry is effortless and you’re over there thinking, what did I do to deserve this?
It was nice while it lasted but as Mathew put it, some people are better from a distance. It was just too good to be true and in my quest for the truth I was a bit of a judgemental asshole but you gotta be vigilant with potential partners. You cannot just take people at face value just because they make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
I feel odd now and a bit disappointed. It was a false alarm but perhaps in the grand scheme of things I got to learn and grow in some way.
My philosophy on life is that the best days are always ahead of you. I never allow what has passed to dictate my happiness and I always look forward to new experiences.
They say there’s always ‘The One’ just until you meet the next ‘ONE ‘ so I’m on to the next one and living objectively again, letting life flow and carry me forward. Mayhaps that special person is just around the corner or is still years away. Who knows.
We’ve all encountered those people, who, when we look them in the eye, when they’re right in front of us, in broad daylight, appear astoundingly attractive, even God- or Goddess-like. The way they move, the way the light hits them, invokes reverence and awe. The DEFINITION.
And then the closer we look. Wow. We take flight. Good from close, better close-up.
Some people get more attractive, have a greater impression on us the more we see them, the closer we look, in that light, at that time, in the way we see them, when our hopes are highest and our wish fulfillment is fully leaded. They will always look better the more clearly we see them. The definition. The CLOSE-UP.
Some relationships are better in a close-up. More impressive with more definition.
Like the woman whose photograph doesn’t turn you on, but in real life she does.
Like our children.
Like our spouse.
Like a best friend.
Like ourselves when we’re authentic and true.
They’re better up close, with more frequency, with more intimacy.
Sometimes we need to be near.
It’s love, it’s literal.
Closeness is the quiet moments together, the pain shared, the beauty seen, the honesty. It’s authentic. It’s reality. A constant relationship because we can see it, we’re sure about it, we know it.
It’s making love. It’s attachment. It’s togetherness. It’s private. It costs us. It hurts. We own it.
And we like it that way, because sometimes it’s better with the lights on.
I hope to find my lights on person soon but I’m not chasing or forcing things. I’ll let the target draw the arrow so to speak. 🎯
There is so much to quote from it but I’ll just end the post with a few of my favourite sections.
“Create structure so you can have freedom.
Create your weather so you can blow in the wind.
Map your direction so you can swerve in the lanes.
Clean up so you can get dirty.
Choreograph, then dance.
Learn to read and write before you start making up words.
Check if the pool has water in it before you dive in.
Learn to sail before you fly.
Initiation before inaugurations.
Earn your Saturdays.”
We need discipline, guidelines, context, and responsibility early in any new endeavor. It’s the time to sacrifice. To learn, to observe, to take heed.
If and when we get knowledge of the space, the craft, the people, and the plan, then we can let our freak flag fly, and create.
Creativity needs borders.
Individuality needs resistance.
I’m an optimist by nature, my eye is high, I have hope, and the man I want to be sleeps in the same bed with the man I am, in head, heart, spirit, and body. I don’t always enjoy my company and for good reason.
Even when I’m out of tune, off frequency, having trouble feeling any traction or viscosity between my being and my actions, or, alternately, when I am so lost in the music that I am unaware, my best self is always there, and he will start the Socratic dialogue sooner than I choose to hear him and long after I want to, because he’s insatiable.
I, of course, eventually do hear him, then the challenge becomes, to listen. Once I do, and stop pitting fate against responsibility, truth against fiction, sins against who I wish I was, selfishness against selflessness, mortality against eternity, I learn, and then begin just being who I am, and doing what I do, for me—not for anyone else and for everyone else at the same time. For me and God, together. Then I realize I am responsible for fate, fiction is truthful, a sinner and saint I am, an egotistical utilitarian as well. I’ll be mortal forever.
The first step that leads to our identity in life is usually not I know who I am, but rather I know who I’m not. Process of elimination.
Too many options can make a tyrant out of any of us, so we should get rid of the excess in our lives that keep us from being more of ourselves. When we decrease the options that don’t feed us, we eventually, almost accidentally, have more options in front of us that do.
Knowing who we are is hard. Eliminate who we’re not first, and we’ll find ourselves where we need to be.
Boundaries to freedom
We need finites, borders, gravity, demarcations, shape, and resistance, to have order.
This order creates responsibility.
The responsibility creates judgment.
The judgment creates choice.
In the choice lies the freedom.
To create the weather that gives us the most favourable wind
we must first remove that which causes the most friction to our core being.
This process of elimination creates order by default, therefore rendering more to go toward, for instance, and less to back away from.
We then embrace these affirmations because doing so brings us pleasure and less pain.
So we cultivate them until they become habits, and form our constitution,
then they proliferate and become emanations of our essence.
This is where true identity is born.
We fool ourselves in freedom if we think it means getting rid of the constraints around us.
This is the art of livin—of self-satisfaction—in a thread of lineage with our
past, looking forward to our future, we need to deal with our present,
Before my trip to Australia I was never an introspective man. On that trip I was forced to look inside myself for the first time to make sense of what was going on around me.
The life I had left back home in Texas was summertime year-round. “Most handsome,” straight A’s, dating the best-looking girl at my school (and across town), a truck that was paid for, and I. Had. No. Curfew.
Australia, the land of sunny beaches, bikinis, and surfboards I never saw, gave me the ability to respect winter. I was on my own, for a full year.
Yeah, I was forced into a winter. Forced to look inside myself because I didn’t have anyone else. I didn’t have anything else. I’d lost my crutches. No mom and dad, no friends, no girlfriend, no straight A’s, no phone, no truck, no “Most Handsome.”
And I had a curfew.
It was a year that shaped who I am today.
A year when I found myself because I was forced to.
A year that also planted the seeds of a notion that continues to guide me: Life’s hard. Shit happens to us. We make shit happen. To me, it was inevitable that I was staying the entire year because I’d shaken on it. I’d made a voluntary obligation with myself that there was “no goin back.” So I got relative. I denied the reality that the Dooleys were off their rocker. It was a crisis. I just didn’t give the crisis credit. I treaded water until I crossed the finish line. I persisted. I upheld my father’s integrity.
And while I was going crazy, I kept telling myself that there was a lesson I was put there to learn, that there was a silver lining in all of it, that I needed to go through hell to get to the other side, and I did. We cannot fully appreciate the light without the shadows. We have to be thrown off balance to find our footing. It’s better to jump than fall. And here I am.
The future is the monster
not the boogeyman under the bed.
The past is just something we’re trying to outrun tomorrow.
The monster is the future.
The boundaries not yet crossed.
The challenge not yet met.
The potential not yet realized.
The dragon not yet tamed.
On a one-way collision course with no turning back,
the future, the monster,
is always waiting for us and
always sees us a-comin.
so we should lift our heads,
look it in the eye,
and watch it heed
You ever choked? You know what I mean, fumbled at the goal line, stuck your foot in your mouth when you were trying to ask that girl on a date, had a brain freeze on the final exam you were totally prepared for, lipped out a three-foot putt to win the golf tournament, or been paralyzed by the feeling of “Oh my god life can’t get any better, do I really deserve this?”
What happens when we get that feeling? We clench up, get short of breath, self-conscious. We have an out-of-body experience where we observe ourselves in the third person, no longer present, now not doing well what we are there to do. We become voyeurs of our moment because we let it become bigger than us, and in doing so, we just became less involved in it and more impressed with it.
Why does this happen?
It happens because when we mentally give a person, place, or point in time more credit than ourselves, we then create a fictitious ceiling, a restriction, over the expectations we have of our own performance in that moment. We get tense, we focus on the outcome instead of the activity, and we miss the doing of the deed. We either think the world depends on the result, or it’s too good to be true. But it doesn’t, and it isn’t, and it’s not our right to believe it does or is.
When facing any crisis, from Hurricane Katrina to a family emergency, to the profound choices we have to make in life, I’ve found that a good plan is to first recognize the problem, then stabilize the situation, organize the response, then respond.
You ever get in a rut? Stuck on the merry-go-round of a bad habit? I have. We are going to make mistakes — own them, make amends, and move on. Guilt and regret kill many a man before their time. Get off the ride. You are the author of the book of your life. Turn the page.