My friend John Blase received a letter from his 90yr old self, and he invited me to do the same…
I like you. You’re sure to like the man you become, but it's important for you to hear that I enjoy the man you are now. It's a powerful temptation to perpetually believe some future triumph or distant decade will signal your arrival. Winn, you've already arrived, two firm feet planted on solid ground. You're here. You're living and loving. Go with it.
This isn't to say you won't be arriving more, becoming more solid, more true. You will. But don't worry about getting there. Fretting over your story means you'll think too much and toil too hard. You've been writing long enough to know the contrived dribble that splatters on the page when we strain to make something rather than live something. Whenever you're pressing, it isn't believable. It isn't believable because it isn't true. Be true.
I encourage you to live attentively. Watch for the places where your heart is most tender or your anger most righteous. Watch for your tears. Watch for your laughter. Tune in to the yearning for slowness and quiet. Perk up when you want to punch a fellow in the face. Don't judge the right or wrong of a thing too hurriedly. Live from leisure. Curiosity is your friend, but curiosity needs room to breathe. I don’t know if an idle mind is the devil’s workshop, but I do know a leisurely mind is the soul’s friend. Remember when Ken shared his belief that we need to move toward the pain? Definitely pay attention to that. Don't be afraid of suffering. Don't be afraid of loneliness. Don't be afraid of making your mark. Don't be afraid.
I know all that appears a tall order. Let me help a little with the fear. The boys will know they're loved. They'll wrangle with some of the doubts you hoped they could avoid (they didn't kill you, did they?), but they won't doubt your love. They'll remember your tenderness more than your impatience, your presence more than your absence, your good more than your bad. Love truly does cover a multitude of sins. Speaking of fear, you'll also be glad to know you won't fight your darker demons forever — for a while longer, but not forever. It's not that you'll rally to an epic showdown where you vanquish what torments you; you're simply going to grow tired of the merry-go-round. One of these days, you'll wave down the operator, hop off and go for an ice cream instead.
In other words, you're going to become more and more the man who, in all the right places, learns not to give a shit. It's a strange thing that the good men learn to care more and, at the same time, to care less. You'll become scandalously tender, but you'll hold your tenderness and your strength with such openness that it doesn't require validation. Remember when your pastor told you to get comfortable keeping your own counsel? You will. You'll trust your wife and your sons and your friends, believing that others' good eyes and good hearts will sometimes see more clearly than your own. But you won't give credence to the people critiquing your life or your work or your way. You, Winn, won't give a shit.
And your sketch-of-a-dream comes true, complete with the worn tweed jacket and the worn books and the worn friends. You and Miska spend the next decades pouring the flames on love. The two of you become quite the spectacle. Your love weathers the seasons. More than weathers, it flourishes, love and laughter run wild. You grow foolish together, and you love others well. Keep listening to Miska. She hears things. She sees things.
Keep writing; you're heading in a fine direction. Don't spend an ounce of energy trying to tap into the flavor du jour or run after whatever it is everybody’s running after (I still don’t know). Like the song that’s been working on you says — don’t build your ego on a hungry crowd. Just keep being true, and generous. Tell us what you see.
I like you, Winn. You'll like you too. Might as well start now.
your 90yr old self