One of the things I’ve heard in recent years that has stayed with me the most was Barack Obama discussing politics on WTF with Marc Maron. He described politics as like an oil tanker (or similar, don’t @ me if my memory on the actual vessel has waned) and that change couldn’t be 45 or 90 degrees as the vessel is too big to turn like that. You need to change course one 1 or 2 degrees and over time a real change of direction can be felt.
I feel like as I’ve gotten older and so many of my ways and habits and views have become ensconced in my being this is the realistic expectation if I want to change. Maybe this is something I tell myself, maybe Obama told himself this too, but it resonates and feels in my experience to tell the truth of how hard it is to change those things I don’t like about myself or wish to change. Maybe I tell myself I am changing and that I am on the road to being ‘better’ (whatever that means) and that lapses and diversions are to be expected because so much of me is automatic but often I feel like it’s all just an excuse. It’s all just a bullshit cover for the truth, which is that I am stagnating and I have no clue and nothing to say and what I had was never much to offer in the first place. There’s comfort in the Obama view of politics when transplanted to ageing and trying to remain creative and productive but I’ve never been good with comfort. I don’t trust it.
It’s in the gaps that the doubts creep through and there are a lot of gaps presently. I’m waiting to hear about the selling of my feature film ‘Wilderness’. Someone is interested and said they will be in touch. But it’s a wait. We aren’t a priority and I get that and we shouldn’t be, but the negative always overpowers the positive and in the space between then and whenever it whispers consistently that I’m a fraud and that the movie sucks. I’m waiting to hear about my book proposal. The third time I’ve sent it out and in truth the first time I feel like it will engender a conversation. The first two were dream publishers who I had no real history or contact with. Pie in the Sky stuff. It feels like only now is it going off into the world with a real shot of being developed into a real live book. But it’s a wait. I’m writing this listening to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ Push The Sky Away and am reminded that my wife and I have a book chapter pitch out in the world that we haven’t heard back about, regarding the two Nick Cave music documentaries and grief. We wait. And what should be positive - the fact is that all this stuff could go my way and regardless I’m proud of the thinking, development and execution of all of it - feels negative, feels like stagnation.
Objectively I know I’ve improved in ways I wanted to - as a husband, a father, a colleague - but small minor setbacks feel like knockouts. I’ve gotten better at getting back off the mat and realising the blows weren’t match-ending but I am still uncomfortably capable of self-flagellation and self-pity and the dark thoughts that maybe I shouldn’t think about writing a book, or making a new film, or taking on large-scale podcast projects, persist. Who cares? Probably no one. Maybe I should just slow down to a crawl and do my job and do the bare minimum and enjoy my life. (I do enjoy my life. Vastly. And therein lies more complicated guilt. )
When I was young I could turn on a sixpence. 180 degrees. Without a care, without fear. But it is different now. I can feel it. Life is different. I am. It takes longer and I have to dig deeper to find the courage and reserves of fuckyouness that saw me through so many years and dissenting voices internal and external.
I can’t extricate a lot of this current wave of creative anxiety from the fact that after 10 years I am doing Filmstock, the film festival I co-founded and co-directed with my dear friend and collaborator Justin, again. It can’t help but feel like going backwards. It can’t but in part feel like a step back and mainly it’s scary because it’s a step back into a geographical location and group of people that feels like my past in a way I never thought could or would happen.
Ridiculously too I feel like a failure. Like I haven’t achieved success in ways that I know aren’t valid but feel like they matter to an indiscriminate, non-specific (unreal?) other. I have not sold my feature, I haven’t written a book, I am going back to do a thing I quit doing 10 years ago. It doesn’t matter that the truth and the context is different, some days, today, it feels like I’ve not moved on and not done anything. I know. Ridiculous. But real.
Why write this out, self-pity or self-promo? No one cares. No one reads. I know.
It never stopped me before, that thought. I also thought blithely, the way mediocre white men do, that if I said it folks would listen. And they did, and really they do, I am really lucky. I am writing it because another thing I heard on a podcast that resonated (I hear a lot of things on podcasts that resonate - hence why I am researching them and do one). It was the 1000th episode of WTF with Marc Maron and he and his friend/collaborator/producer Brendan were talking about the show and how they did it and felt about it.
It became clear if it wasn’t already that it was good in part because they did what they wanted, what they fundamentally and instinctively believed was right for the show. They shouted fuckyou to everyone and stuck to their guns. This is what I’ve always done (to a lesser degree but successful nonetheless) and I’ve made films, and forged an identity as a film critic, and taught, and created a podcast and am being a family man, on my own terms (in delirious collaboration for most of those things admittedly - i’d be lost without Justin, Dario and of course ultimately totally Beth and Tessa and Bailey).
I’ve decided my own paths and been fortunate to be able to walk down them. The accrual of life and rejection and sadness and understanding has an impact on everyone and I am no different even as I am so much more fortunate than the vast majority.
I just need to acknowledge that. I need to value myself and see my worth and my achievements. I did a little bit of this on Friday in a tiny way and was really proud of myself, for saying ‘hang on, I can do this’. I need to do it more and hopefully not be a dick about it. I worry about my beingadickness a lot. I want to keep saying fuckyou. Nicely. To myself.
Thanks family, friends, podcasts, for helping me turn my big old tanker 1 degree.