I posted this two and a half years ago, and am re-posting today in honor of the 100th birthday of the legendary Norman Lloyd: “If right now wasn’t the best time of my life — financially, spiritually, emotionally, health-wise — I probably couldn’t write this, but there are four acts or phases in the life of a gifted or at least driven samurai-poet-artist, and two of them are hell. Well, one and a half.
The first is called “my life hasn’t quite kicked into gear yet but it hopefully will, and if it doesn’t I’ll be flirting with varying degrees of misery for the rest of my life.” (A LexG subcurrent reads the same but has this addendum: “And I so can’t stand not being there that I’m going to drink/compulsively chase girls/smoke pot/gamble/shoot heroin to narcotize the pain.”) I was in this phase until I was 25 or 26, and even after I started to climb out of it things weren’t so great. It didn’t really get good until the late ’80s (when I got married and had kids) and early ’90s.
The second is called “it’s happening and it’s great, but I know it could all slip away if I don’t stay on the stick and work hard and eat right and stay away from the bad habits…I know things’ll be hard anyway from time to time, but I can roll with a downturn or two.”
The third phase is called “yep, this is really working out pretty well…steady as she goes, good writing happening, business is somewhere between plugging-along and thriving, sons are doing great, nice comfy abode, travel year round, cats are healthy, terrific motorcycle-sized scooter to buzz around on, booze is history, good eating habits, enjoying great-by-U.S.-standards wifi (which is substandard by South Korean or Japanese standards), anger issues at their lowest levels ever, great-quality streaming on 60″ Samsung, relatively lean, no pot belly and most of my hair hasn’t fallen out,” etc.
The yet-to-be-experienced fourth phase is called “my life is fine but the really good years are more or less over in terms of career and good money and pretty women and general excitement, and henceforth I’m looking at a kind of slow, steady-as-she-goes downhill slide. True, the spiritual serenity and and the life-wisdom stuff are peaking now and that’s beautiful, but my days of real electricity and occasional triumph are over.”
The first act is the worst (I’ve been there — it’s awful), the second is good and bad in equal portions and the fourth act is probably not as bad as it sounds — i.e., at least you have your laurels to rest upon.
There’s a fifth phase, of course — “Let’s see, I’m 88 now and I need to wait for the guy to come at noon and replace my wheelchair wheels, but in the meantime there’s a lot to read and my cats love me and I can alway stream a superb film whenever I want and it sure is nice to have that package of Depends sitting in the bathroom just in case,” etc.
Come to think of it, this may be worse than the first act. At least you’re in the game when you’re young, miserable and unfulfilled. At least you’ve got a chance to get lucky or strike a vein of some kind. In phase five you’re pretty much finished unless you’re a novelist or a painter or an online columnist, or unless you’re lucky enough to be Norman Lloyd or somebody on his level.
“…and it’s all over much too quickly.” — Woody Allen, Annie Hall.