What Jack Kerouac Can Teach Us About Life


I love Twilight Saga actress Kristen Stewart and I have loved the novel On the Road (Penguin Modern Classics) since I was a teenager, so I was biased in favour of this film before I even saw it. But when I watched it recently I noticed with new eyes that what Jack had taught me as a teenager and what he can teach me now are two completely different lessons.

The book is an exhilarating freedom-grabbing, lust-for-life, crazy journey about a passionate friendship, rattled out in lyrical prose that washes over you like jazz and whisky. As a teenager I was infatuated with Jack’s hedonistic enthusiasm, and so I planned to live life to the full and never to say no to anything exciting.

Lesson 1: Live a Life of Passion

Now that I’m a grown-up I notice that I’m already close to Jack’s age when he died. (A dead brother in childhood and an alcoholic father contributed to a tormented life of alcoholism for Jack.)

The story is a loosely disguised tale of the adventures Jack had on the road with Neal Cassady. He renames himself Sal Paradise and calls Neal, Dean Moriarty. Dean was “tremendously excited with life,” and constantly looking for “kicks”.

Jack (or ‘Sal’) writes;

“The only people that interest me are the mad ones. The ones who are mad to live. Mad to talk. Desirous of everything at the same time. The ones who never yawn or say a common place thing. But burn, burn, burn like roman candles across the night.”

As a teenager and all through my twenties I was also in love with people like this; the mad ones.

“Dean does not feel responsibility towards others. He does not know the concept. Then again he feels others have some mysterious obligation to support him. I find it unspeakably distasteful.”

Sal: “But Dean gives everyone a damn good time just being himself.”

“He gives the losers tricks!”

Sal: “Maybe that’s cause you’re not seeing what’s really holy about Dean.”

“Oh! So he’s a holy man now? A religious figure in your eyes? Oh Paradise. What I see in him is compulsive psychosis, dashed with a jigger of compulsive psychopathy and violence.”

It’s funny, but in my hazy memory of the charming and exciting Dean I didn’t remember him being so selfish, or abusive:

“Where’s Mary Lou?” (Dean’s 16 year old wife.)

“We got in a ruckus and she called the cops on me!”

Lesson 2: You Don’t Have to be Wasted to be Passionate

I know that sounds obvious but it took me many years to learn that one!

I love Jack Kerouac’s passionate, lyrical, poetic, rhythmic writing, his lust for life and his thoughtful spiritual musings.

“Who are we now? Are you gonna tell us Carl?”

“I know that I rely on my friends and my family for money. I know there’s no gold at the end of the rainbow. There’s just shit and piss. But to know that; that makes me free.”

Do you have to be a Kerouac fan to love the film? Probably. It’s about jazz, poetry and drugs on the road with the Beat Generation. It’s about a quest for meaning and belonging in life which very much appealed to the teenage me.

Now as an adult, having survived a decade of excessive partying in my twenties I made a note to myself: Don’t die like a Kerouac. (Mediate instead of drinking!) I spent a decade travelling the English canals in my thirties and began to write a ‘beatific’ account of my life ‘On the Cut.’ Jack wrote On the Road in three weeks, typing continuously on a teletype paper roll. I know now that writing is a healthier passion than alcohol, and I know that the way to write my own book is as one passionate, intensive, undistracted project.

Lesson 3: Growing Old is a Privilege

The book ends with Jack’s whimsical, lyrical musings…

“…and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.”

And here in Devon when the sun goes down and I watch the long, long skies over Dartmoor and sense the roads I haven’t yet travelled, and remember fondly the time my friend once said to me that my poems are a bit like Kerouac’s; and I think of all the people dreaming in the immensity of it; and the people that never grew old, the people I loved who died young, I think of Jack Kerouac. I wonder why his father drank and if his father drank before him, and I think of lives cut short by alcohol and dreams that never happened, and I know that I owe it to this world to write and write some more, just because my teenage self was once inspired by Jack Kerouac. Yes I think of Jack Kerouac…

What’s your passion?

What are you going to do with your brief time here on the planet? Pick something right now and tell me in the comments below!

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REALLY excited about this…

life3DOn New Years Eve I began what has turned out to be an ongoing project for January. I’ve been completing the exercises in Leonie Dawson’s yearly best seller, The Create Your Amazing Year workbook: The Life Edition.

I cried

‘Releasing’ the year that has just ended, I cried. I wondered if that is because they are such powerful exercises, or because I had some BIG STUFF I had to let go of this year? It might have been the Prosecco I was drinking… My New Years Eve was a quiet but bubbly celebration, with just me and this colourful workbook. Despite the crying, it couldn’t have left me feeling more positive about the year ahead!

Just the parts that sing to you

Some of it may be a bit hippy for some but I found it to be a simple colourful bit of healthy ‘releasing’ the old and welcoming the new. I couldn’t think of 100 things to do in 2014, but that’s OK. Leonie says “Fill it all out or just the parts that sing to you, (either is perfect.)” There’s goal setting, dreaming, list-making and collage-creating. The thought-provoking exercises are fun.

It’s become something I’m working through bit by bit and I’ve found I really begun to look forward to each little evening session where I grab some time to quietly muse over my plans, dreams and schemes. You can’t help but feel cheerful about all the goal setting and the other creative exercises when it’s all painted in such crazy beautiful bright colours with cartoon stars all over it.

Little Miss Sunshine plans her amazing life!

Little Miss Sunshine plans her amazing life!

Leonie says,

“The 2014 Create Your Amazing Year workbook & calendar is an incredibly popular & useful tool to help you plan out & make happen your most incredible year in life or business (or both!). Over the last five years, thousands of women have used this workbook with the most amazing results. It’s the best planning tool available to help you make your year your most exceptional yet!

Used by entrepreneurs, artists, mamas, creatives, coaches, teachers and women of all ages, the Create Your Amazing Year in Life and Biz workbooks are filled with dozens of pages of powerful worksheets & a printable calendar to help you create your amazing new year.”

Peggy says,

“There’s also a business edition, in which I will create my amazing business for 2014 – so watch this space. I’ll be reviewing that one too!”

If you’re ready to make 2014 amazing check it out now! Create Your Amazing Year – Calendar and Workbook 2014

Create your amazing life

Leonie Dawson

What’s holding you back?

DirectionThere’s so much that I want to do. I’ve got an exciting To Do list that’s all about creating things for my new business; written stuff, videos and artwork. Plus my own personal development stuff – things that I’m reading, things that I’m learning…

I recently went on some kind of ‘money mindset’ webinar and learned that my entrepreneur ‘type’ is dynamite! I’m creative and have tons of ideas, but now I need to organise my time. I wonder if I could do drawing and painting in the evenings, listening to music instead of watching telly?

I’ve read that I must commit to my dream: The dream that is my new reinvented life and reinvented business. But as of yet my dream is vague… How can my gifts help other people? Should I create motivational artwork, goal setting calendars and worksheets? I’ve only got a fuzzy idea of where I’m going with this; and yet I’ve written an e-course on goal setting. I suppose I just have to do my own e-course so that I can fine-tune my direction!

The weird thing is that I’m creating the journey that I myself need to go on; I’m creating the courses that I need! I keep surfing the internet like a magpie seeing shiny courses that I want to take… Courses about blogging, being creative, becoming an entrepreneur, online marketing, meditations for confidence, webinars about how to run an online business, and how to have a healthier money mindset. I discover inspiring online entrepreneurs and I want to buy their programs, yet something holds me back. Oh yes – the people selling the courses are saying I’m hesitating to invest in myself… But I can’t help thinking that deep inside somewhere I KNOW this stuff already! I’ve read a lot of books and done a lot of courses and you can keep learning forever without taking action.

I’ve already written the content for at least three e-courses. I love writing! But the next big step is to create the videos.

That is what is holding me back.

Sitting in front of a camera is scary and not as much fun as writing.

What is holding you back? Could you challenge yourself to do something that you’re afraid of?

Brave Me meets Scared Me

Brave Me meets Scared Me

Better than a bucket list

Any RoadSo, after admitting that I don’t know who I think I am, but I do know who I think I might like to be I decided to distil my hopes for the next year into a manageable To Do list. Then I decided to also think about why I want these things and how exactly I will get them.

What do you want? Why do you want it? How will you get it?
Be more confident, calm, improve self-esteem. I will be happier. My daughters will be happier. Self-hypnosis MP3Country walks.
Healthier body Live longer. Yoga, running, swimming
Healthier diet Live longer. Eat more fruit, drink more water
Publish a book Achieve a life-long dream! Schedule regular writing time

My list was longer but you get the idea. You could make one of these too. A good way to think about column 2, ‘Why do you want it?’ is to play a little game with yourself called, Why is that important?

More than a To Do list, I guess I would call this an Action Plan. It’s not better than a bucket list* really, it’s just different. This is my plan for Right Now. But making a bucket list at some point would be fun too!

I’ve already been working on these things, bit by bit, since I completed the exercises in my own e-course: How to get what you want, and want what you get. (It’s free.) I even made myself a reward chart to remind myself of why I’m doing these things. There’s no time-scale or pressure but I just give myself a gold star whenever I take action towards my goals. You could use an online tool like Joe’s Goals to do something similar.

But I like a printed one, stuck on the kitchen door that reminds me each day how well I am doing. It’s got a column for activities, a column for stars and a column for rewards. I just copied the rewards from my ‘What do you want?’ column above!

I drew it by hand on a piece of A4. It only took me 5 minutes. Are you going to make one?

*Things to do before you “kick the bucket”.

Do you know who I think I am?

IMG_1382I must confess that I am afraid. I am lost. I know that I want to start a new business, one that helps people in some way. I know that I need to write on this new blog that I have created. Because for years I blogged at The Real Life of a Narrowboat Wife but now I’m no longer living on a narrowboat. I’ve lost my identity. I need to reinvent myself. But I don’t even know what I’m going to reinvent myself into. At the moment I’m ‘in between’ my selves. I’m in my chrysalis.

However, I do know that if I wait around for my blog idea and my business idea to be perfect I will never get it off the ground. So, I bravely and honestly present myself here: Completely as yet un-invented. I’m at the in-between stage between Narrowboat Wife and The New Me.

I don’t know what to write.

So what if someone came to me now and said, ‘I’ve started a new blog and I don’t know what to write?’ I suppose I would ask them why did they start that new blog? And if she were honest then Scared Me, (also known as Other Me) would reply,

Because blogging is what I do. It’s woven itself into the fabric of my life. For the last three years I have absorbed like a sponge every bit of blogging information and advice that I can. I’ve been to blogging conferences and done blogging courses. I’ve become a professional blogger. I’ve always loved to write. It would just seem odd if I wasn’t blogging.

Challenges.

I started blogging at The Real Life of a Narrowboat Wife because everybody was always asking me what is it like, living on a narrowboat with kids? It was difficult and beautiful. There was plenty to write about. We were always having adventures. There were always interesting challenges to confront.

And now? What are your challenges now?

A lack of self-confidence and a lack of identity.

Who do you think you are?

I do know who I want to become. I want to be more confident, and improve my self-esteem. I want to get my driving licence (literally) and get in the driving seat of my own life again (figuratively). I want to take care of my body and my mind with yoga, meditation, self-hypnosis, swimming and running. (Maybe not all at once – ha ha!) I want to become healthier; drink more water and eat more fruit. I want to finish writing my book and send the first draft to a publisher. I want to offer personal development e-courses that help other women to find their own true purpose in life.  I want to live in a character cottage beside the sea. I want to run a business that makes other people happy, inspires people and gives other people the confidence to be themselves and achieve their dreams.   I want to be a calm and confident parent. I want to go on foreign holidays. I want to go on a hot air balloon ride! I want to take up drawing and painting again. I want to grow old gracefully and become wise.

So look at me now, in my chrysalis: And see my dreams. Somehow I will reinvent myself. And while I work out how to do it I will blog about it.

What are your dreams? What are your challenges? Are you in a chrysalis? What will you be?

Top 5 Life Lessons

5 Regrets of the DyingLast March I blogged about Bronnie Ware’s article The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying. It is a frequently re-blogged and re-read article about the life-changing concepts that she learned in her work as a nurse in palliative care. It had a profound effect on me and inspired me to write this To Do List (pictured). I still keep it as the screen saver on my phone, and use it as a daily reminder of what really matters.

Now Kate, who blogs at Kate Takes 5 has suggested writing your own top 5 life lessons and linking up to her Listography Linky. I must admit I can’t help borrowing from some of Bronnie’s suggestions to make my own list. So here’s mine.

Top 5 Life Lessons

1. Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.

This is a nugget of wisdom from the gorgeously quotable Oscar Wilde. To me, reinventing yourself is really about getting back in touch with who you were supposed to be in the first place. It is about remembering yourself.

2. Be brave.

Oh if I could give my younger self one piece of advice it would be this. Stop being afraid and just trust yourself!

3. Don’t worry so much.

When I was younger I was a fan of this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson (American Poet, Lecturer and Essayist.)  Sadly I just didn’t pay enough attention to it and continued to worry.

“Some of your hurts you have cured, And the sharpest you still have survived, But what torments of grief you endured, From evils which never arrived!”

4. Spend time with the important people.

Imagine looking back on your life and finding that you had been too busy for the people you love the most! In the past I have been guilty of spreading myself too thinly. I was a social butterfly and felt I was missing out if I wasn’t juggling dozens of friendships all at once.

I now feel that I’ve prioritised the people who are important. I have moved nearer to family and I visit my best friends whenever possible.

5. Follow your dreams

I know it sounds cheesy but I love to see people following their life’s purpose. I am so attracted to people who are passionate about something – whether that’s music, art or whatever. If I could give just one piece of advice to my daughters it would be follow your dreams. I even wrote them a poem with that as the title. Because some dreams come true. And I confess, like Kate I have been a bit of a barefoot, beaded hair hippie in my time.

listography-1There are no rules to Listography so if you want to join in just write your Top 5 Life Lessons post on your own blog and then linky it up to Kate’s blog. Next it’s nice to visit some of the other bloggers lists and leave them a comment.

What would be your Top 5 Life Lessons?