From as far back as I can remember there were two things that I had had hammered into my brain:
1) you are nothing unless you are being productive
2) you are nothing unless you are viewed as successful and proactive in the eyes of the world.
Looking back on my life thus far, I see the great gifts that buying into these two random and tyrannical beliefs has provided me. This work-or-you’re-useless regime did, however, require the overlooking of certain luxuries: the luxury of recreation. The luxury of peace. The luxury of following my nose. The luxury of surfing and the luxury of daydreaming without the voice of what have you DONE latelyâ€ť coming in like malevolent muzak on an elevator speeding down to a workaholics anonymous meeting in the basement of my brain.
And so it is with this knowledge of all the tribulations and subsequent gifts that came of this single-minded approach to life, that I walk full steam ahead into early retirement. Ah. Even as I write it my sphincter loosens. Though I must qualify this by saying that what I’m describing is my sixth retirement. there have been others. The first one lasted only a few months before society’s tireless message of bigger-more-better-faster had its’ teeth in my calendar.
My first retirement was after the tour that followed the release of my record jagged little pill. I was spent and overwhelmed and in the middle of the most blessed crisis I can remember. I had always had pictures in my head of where I was moving toward, whether i was envisioning being in the studio, or being on tour, or writing, or traveling or serving in some way. These prophetic mental images guided me as a parent would a child across a crowded street and I came to rely on them. But at that time, following the swallowing of the truth of my no-longer-anonymous-to-the-extent-that-I-used-to-be-ness, the pictures disappeared. It went black. There were no visions of my future then. No photos of me in istanbul. No photos of me in the studio (a particularly scary vacancy in my mind’s eye as my inspiration to write was one thing I always returned to when shit hit certain fans). No photos of me with children or husbands or on adventures.
And the sound of my stopping was louder than any mix I’d had in my ears onstage.
I remember asking my friend at the time whether it might be an indication that it was time for me to die.
Cuz I thought no pictures=death.
I continued the quest in the only direction that was left: inward.
I questioned who god was to me, who I was, why I felt constantly driven to work a la fingers-to-the-bone. I knew that I was in for a whole new way of living -one that required me to jump off a cliff with no guarantee of a non-rock-to-the-skull landing. to my surprise I found it to be a fascinating fly-a-licious jump: filled with unknown and yet untasted adventuresâ€¦
the more I focused on how liberating not knowing where I was going could be, the more I realized how fear-filled and faithless I had once been.
Deep into my first retirement I was introduced to this luxury of time. and what did I do with it? I stretched, conceptually and literally. I wrote a list of all the things I wanted to do to make up for lost time:
I learned how to snowboard.
I smoked a couple of joints and did mushrooms in the woods.
i read fiction (imagine!).
I read all the consciousness raising books I could get my hands on.
I met new people.
I nurtured friendships that were cobwebbed and forgotten.
I reintroduced myself to my family.
I broke up with my boyfriend.
I went to India.
I decorated my house.
I declared that I’d never write another song again. (my friend tim’s reaction to this statement was cool. let’s go eat lunchâ€ť. his reaction changed my life and I wrote a song that night, in accordance with the law of no-shouldâ€ť-means-maybe-in-this-freedom-you-just-might).
I volunteered in orphanages. and food banks and performed at benefits.(before my third retirement, which there is not enough time to write about, I realized that the tyrannical rule had simply gone from you’re not of any value unless you’re workingâ€ť to you’re of no value unless you’re contributingâ€ť–same strap, different hand. More on this later.)
I’d begun mastering the art of following one’s stomach signals: whether it directed me to sit by the ocean or send someone who I’d been wanting to thank a big check or a love letter. I came to enjoy the freedom in falling and the bliss of the effect of saying noâ€ť. and I realized what time really is: a series of moments of now. all that living in the future, and all those thoughts of the past had been the real robbers of this luxury of time. my inability to see the flower on the way into my house (which now stops me dead in my tracks) or the dolphins that play just in front of my balcony was the real denier of joy.
I am now becoming what I had envisioned elderly people to be: someone who is charmed and touched by the gloriously mundane goings-on of a typical day. I realize now that retirement doesn’t mean the end of output, the end of expression, or the inertia of contribution, but rather the beginning of these same things, expressed from a place of inspiration rather than compulsion, lack and shouldâ€ť. I now see retirement as a state of mind, and my level of willingness to surrender into it has become my gauge for how faith-full I am.
a gauge of my faith in freedom and abundance.
and faith in a life led by the gut.YES! fuck me if I’m wrong but this is how I’d prefer to live. this is the place I’d prefer to make decisions from. this is a luxury that none other, in my opinion, can come close to. one that doesn’t require non-stop productivity, and only requires one thing: a genuine and ruthless commitment to truth and peace. and so it is on this note that i walk toward my 6th retirement, moving ever-forward to a time where my talk can be walked and where the continuum of being burnt out and procrastination stagnancy meets pointedly in the middle.