Alan’s Practical Guide to Daily Existence, Western Edition

We see these memes come across our Facebook feeds from time to time–snappy-fonted lists of ways to live.  The most famous one I recall begins with “dance like nobody’s watching.”  I guess that’s a nice sentiment, but I know myself well enough to admit that I’m never going to do that.  It seems like advice for a certain personality type.  The anxiety that would accompany such an effort outweighs any potential reward. It’s just not worth it, i.e., it’s not practical (for me, anyway, and probably not for about 49% of the population).  The rest of the aforementioned meme rings equally impractical:  we’ve all been hurt by someone we love and will likely be hurt again; someone is always listening, unless you’re alone in a far wilderness; and life on earth, though sometimes grand, cannot honestly be called “heaven.”


So I made a list.  It’s too long to fit into a snappy-fonted meme, but each point felt necessary.  It was designed with all people in mind, regardless of creed.  I understand that some of these suggestions may not resonate with less individualistic cultures, but my intention was to root it solely in the modern human experience, as I have come to know it in first-world, western civilization.  Please comment.


Alan’s Practical Guide to Daily Existence, Western Edition


1.  Know that there will always be something out of reach.

2.  As often as needed, figure out who you are.  Operate from that place.  This may require courage.

3.  Moments of insecurity will come.  Instead of trying to overcome them, learn to weather them with dignity and grace.

4.  Everybody feels pain and loss.  Weather these also with dignity and grace.

5.  Learn to see the world with imagination.

6.  Search for the explanation; accept that you may never find a satisfactory one.

7.  Enjoy all of your senses.

8.  Realize that the majority of people mean you no harm; they’re trying to get through the day, too.

9.  Give.

10.  If you create things, share them.  Even when it feels like few are interested.  An audience of one is still an audience.

11.  If you do not create things, then nourish a love for the things created by others.

12.  Accept that the thing you’re good at may not appeal to very many people.  Then again, it may.  Either way, your personal satisfaction in doing it should not diminish.

13.  Remember that people who give advice are, like you, trying to figure things out.  Suspect anyone who claims to have all of life’s answers.

14.  Embrace the virtues of the social class* into which you were born.  Social-climbing is soulless.

15.  Let a landscape (or seascape, or cityscape) imprint itself on your psyche.

16.  If you demand space to make up your mind, allow others the same courtesy.  You cannot dictate another’s thoughts.

17.  Travel, as far and as frequently as your circumstances will allow.

18.  Try silence.

19.  Be sure that your words are your own.

20.  Remember that occasional loneliness is the price of individuality.


*explicit lyrics Dance Like...

Most People Don’t Know Who We Are

Everybody knows that there are millions of people in the world they will never meet.  Awash in our routines and daily interactions, it is easy to forget just how anonymous we really are.  Even the reach of many celebrities only extends so far.  For every big fish in a small pond, there is an even bigger small-fish in a big pond.  Wrap your head around that.

Feeling anonymous at a college graduation.
Feeling anonymous at a college graduation.


Thankfully, we do not need to dwell on our anonymity.  In most cases, all it takes is one person to make us feel special.  And if you have more than one, then you are well-off indeed.  Yet there are certain situations which make me feel a little more anonymous than usual.


Below is a short list of anonymity-affirming scenarios that I have experienced.  Many of them have links that illustrate my point (in case you do not feel anonymous enough already).  These are in no particular order:



1.  Seeing myself in the background of someone else’s photo.  This happens sometimes on social media.  We took our son to an Easter egg hunt at Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville.  I’ve met the pastor, but I wouldn’t say that we really know each other.  He posted a photo of the hunt on Instagram, and, sure enough, there I was, passing through the left side of the frame.


2.  Eating at a busy restaurant in New York City.  At Momofuku Noodle Bar in the East Village, they seated us at a long table with a bunch of strangers.  While this strategy may encourage interaction for some, it only ramped up the anxiety for this introvert.  By the way, if you have a negative view of introversion, you should read “23 Signs You’re Secretly an Introvert”.


3.  Hustling through a subway station.


4.  Seeing a longtime favorite band in concert.  Click here to read a prose poem I wrote about this experience.


5.  Attending a college graduation ceremony (see photo above).  This year, my sister-in-law graduated from college.  At the ceremony, my aunt-in-law leaned over and commented about how “all these people” (ourselves included) are just a “blip on the radar” of how many people there are in the world.  She was right, and I could not stop thinking that here were hundreds of people that I have never seen before, and they have never seen me before, and it is likely that none of us will ever meet.


In conclusion, I need to say that the intention of this post is not to make anyone feel insignificant or unimportant.  Everyone matters.  As mentioned before, we operate on an individual-to-individual basis, thankfully.  But I find that it is healthy for my ego when I remember that I am part of a very big world.  That there are millions of people experiencing life through their own personal lenses.  It’s not all about me.  So, here’s to anonymity.


My Renovated Website

Three years ago, I purchased a web domain and named it I labored through the construction of a very basic site on which to display paintings. Even though I followed a template, there was still a large amount to learn. It took weeks to arrive at something presentable. People who are able to build a site from the ground up are gifted indeed (Justin Bird comes to mind). This is clearly not my skill set, so I am content to make a template look as wonderful as possible. That said, Alan Drue:  Excitable Mind has undergone a significant facelift in recent weeks. Rather than rattle on about the changes made, however, I have decided to post a picture from my brainstorming session.

photo (8)


These days I use the site more for writing, especially since going back to school. But whether the intention is to show paintings or share poems, the decision to maintain my own web space is one that I am thrilled to have made. Not because I think the site represents fine design, but because it is all mine. No one tells me what to post. I am my own creative director. This is a freedom that every artist needs. Therefore, I have designated it not as a gallery or blog, but as an online studio. It is like the room at home where I do creative work, surrounded by all of the images and words and objects that inspire me. There is more about that on the “about this online studio” page.


Of all the features listed on the journal page above, I am most excited about “categories”. My posts are now organized by subject, and these subjects are listed in the sidebar. I like to imagine that someone checking out my site for the first time sees a category that interests her, so she selects it, and whether a post was published two years ago or two days ago, it will appear on the screen. Posts are no longer lost in the depths of the blog feed. I am similarly enthused about the social media share buttons. Not only do they look nice, but they make sharing easy. And lastly, Alan Drue:  Excitable Mind now has a mobile version. It loads automatically if one accesses the site with a cell phone.


So now that the renovation is complete, I am ready to get back to posting. See you on the web.