The Second Third, Week 40: Put Up or Shut Up

This will be my final Second Third post. I had planned 52 – one per week of this 36th year of life – outlining things about myself that I hoped to cultivate or cull, change or discover, in the years between now and age 70, when I enter my third Third: the long glide to age 105, which seems like a good age to wrap things up. However, over the course of the past 40 weeks or so, I’ve noticed something: these posts are adding up to summary of The Jim In My Head (TJIMH) – the best version of me I’ve been able to conceive of, a man happy, convicted, faithful, healthy, and (most importantly) deeply content.

I used to think I was not TJIMH because he is perfect and I am not, but in the course of the last few days I was struck with a revelation: TJIMH is not perfect. He merely tries harder. I am not TJIMH because I have never tried to be. Never, even for one day, let alone many days. I have become a better husband and father (two important aspects of TJIMH) in the past few years because I decided to be, and made changes in my life to do so. I am out of shape and sore, an unpublished poet and an incomplete novelist, an occasional fisherman and infrequent hunter, because I don’t push myself in the same way. I am dissatisfied, not with the hand I’ve been dealt, but with how I am playing it.

When I was younger and tried to teach teens to write well, I used to quote Shakespeare’s Macbeth (admittedly completely out of context): “Be bloody, bold, and resolute.” Today, given the political sensitivities of even my new my job, I am painfully cautious what I publish on these pages. When colleagues in my new workplace ask what I want to be, I laugh, shake my head, and say, “Well, if I didn’t have a family to feed, I’d be writing fiction.” I’m almost apologetic, and I told a new friend the other day that it’s tough to commit extra time to completing a novel that “may never amount to anything.”

Bloody, bold, and resolute?

My last post was about getting in shape physically. This is about getting in shape mentally – and not wasting time and energy on activities that don’t make me a better writer, husband, father, man. I am a writer, and I am going to complete a novel. I don’t have time for another dozen navel-gazing Second Third posts. Got a problem with that?

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