Decline

[I drafted this poem in my journal on August 8 2001, and while I no longer feel the anxieties that plagued me at that time, these words have never really left me. I’ve made some changes, but have retained the majority of that original draft.]

I refuse to be the anti-hero
of a mid-budget Hollywood film
about a mid-life crisis afflicting a man
who’s decided he hasn’t been fulfilled.

I am not sure how I got this offer
but I decline this nomination
for Best Actor
simply because I’m not where I want to be.

I’ve won and I’ve lost.
I have thing I’ve always wanted
and felt joys I never anticipated.
And also found myself in situations
I had always wanted to avoid.

No, I’m not where I want to be.
But I am not The Pretender.
I am not Willie Loman.
My life is not a rejected draft for the script to “American Beauty.”

I refuse to accept the paradigms bestowed on me
by Hollywood
by corporate America
by elitist critiques of middle-aged men
by radical critics of the system and its lackeys.

My life is not my credit limit
or my equity
or my bank account.

I refuse to be judged by the
amount of time I play with my kids,
or how frequently I
tell my wife I love her.

This might be just a psych job
to get me through today
without biting somebody’s
head off.

(Which isn’t a bad thing, mind you.
The psych job, that is.)

Yet I also see
and it is good to remind myself occasionally
that I need to live
my life for myself.

And I need to figure out
what living for myself means.

Either that, or work on my
acceptance speech
for Best Actor
in a mid-budget Hollywood movie
about a man suffering a mid-life crisis.

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4 thoughts on “Decline

  1. WOW! I’m certainly glad you penned and posted this poem. It is such a graphic portrayal of some of the boxes and expectations some stages of life seem to force us into. A word of advice from an older woman who has indeed faced many of these life crises and felt herself to be not ‘in the box’ of expected norms. Brother can I offer you a gentle challenge. Write down WHO AM I? Honestly assess. KNOW YOUR OWN IDENTITY. See the uniqueness of your own life journey with all the warts and wonders then from that place ask ??….can I write, live, work, achieve from this perspective and move forward with an absolute assurance that the BEST is yet to be?
    Probably I should not have commented but the poem touched something deep in my own memories. A mid-life analysis of life can project you into a very worthwhile older life! May it be so!

    • Thank you for your comment. I drafted this poem fifteen years ago when I was in a much different place, both physically and spiritually, than I am today. Writing this poem was actually important in helping me get to where I am today, and posting a revision to my blog was my way of acknowledging the power of this medium.

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