“I thought the secret of life was obvious: be here now, love as if your whole life depended on it, find your life’s work, and try to get hold of a giant panda.”

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If Eleven Little Death‘s protagonist Jacob Will was much of a reader, he might have come across this quote from Anne Lamott. And if he did, he might have recognized its significance as he drove across the country with a giant, chromium yellow panda bear as his silent companion. But as fate would have it, he’d learn it the hard way. #elevenlittledeaths

What is love?

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In 1993, the Trinidadian-German Eurodance artist Haddaway released the club song What is Love? And what does that have to do with Jacob Will? A lot it seems. To him, love eventually led to hurt and he was afraid of that. That was just one of his issues.

On his quest to commit eleven little deaths, he saw first hand what love really looked like – and it wasn’t at all what he knew. But he did know it was genuine and right. #elevenlittledeaths

“Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.” Ernest Hemingway

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Truer words have never been spoken. They’re especially poignant as the trip middle-aged Jacob Will was embarking upon was a solo endeavor. And it would be safe to say, Jacob did not love himself.

This journey was also laced with no small amount of irony as what precipitated it was the suicide of Jacob’s best friend. Just like Hemingway, who he was to encounter later on. While Jacob was not intent on his own suicide, he did have to commit eleven little deaths of his own. What would Ernest have said about that?  #elevenlittledeaths

 

 

 

 

Put the bottle down and step away from the wall.

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After hours on the road in his attempt to commit eleven little deaths of his own, Jacob Will stopped at the first liquor store he found. Not so much to quench his thirst or to imbibe, but upon a realization, he was determined to commit the first of these deaths right then.

But did he have to buy such an expensive bottle of Champagne to do it? More importantly, what did he do with it if not drink it? And what happened afterwards?

#elevenlittledeaths

What’s love got to do with it?

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Not a thing until Jacob Will discovers it for the first time in his middle-aged life. The funny thing was he wasn’t even looking, much less considering it. It took the death of his friend and the request to commit eleven little deaths of his own to find what he’d been missing. It turned out he’d been missing a lot and the road showed him that.

He lived alone in his life in the worst possible way: within himself. No one could touch him. It would take death for him to find love… and a life. Neither would be what he expected and both would change him.

#elevenlittledeaths

Two out of two fortune tellers say…

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Amidst his travels in attempting eleven little deaths of his own (really himself), Jacob Will visited a fortune teller. Not because he thought he’d find any answers, but strictly for entertainment. He was not entertained.

Nor was he when he tried his luck with the machine version. There was an unanimity of opinions. But would he heed their advice?

#elevenlittledeaths

Driving Miss Crazy…

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Trying to find one’s self is about as confounding as choosing which highway or exit to use when there’s no specific locale in mind. There are so many choices. For better or worse, each decision will have it’s own consequence. You could find yourself in line at a Taco Bell (nothing wrong with that) or at a linen-covered table at the Ritz-Carlton (certainly nothing wrong with that either). Either way, it’s your move.

It’s been said the journey is far more interesting that reaching the final destination. Jacob Will might argue that point. Patience has never been a strong suit of his and it will be tested in his quest for his eleven little deaths. Until he truly understands what’s at stake, he won’t realize what’s he’s been missing.

Joseph Campbell (The Power of Myth) has spoken about the transformation of the consciousness and it’s effect on life. It’s now time for Jacob’s transformation to begin. #elevenlittledeaths

 

 

 

Not a hero – not by any standard measurement.

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A hero was not how Jacob Will would ever describe himself. Growing up, he didn’t have the heroes young boys normally had. Since sports were not a thing he was interested in, it didn’t matter what records were set by athletes, they held no attraction. Likewise movie stars, though he did, as most boys at a certain age, fantasize about the unattainable females he saw on the screen.

Though, embarking on his journey of middle-aged, self-discovery, he was in one way a hero – though not in the mythic realm. But more in the sense of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey, that of an adventure: enduring, maybe prevailing, but coming back changed – transformed.

Unlike Homer’s Odyssey, there were no Sirens nor Scylla and Charybdis to contend with. But he would have to experience life, his own rocks and hard places, as he hadn’t yet. Would he survive? Only his Eleven Little Deaths will determine that.

“Watching my life go by”

“Watching my life go by” is a song by the late musician Michael Hedges, written from the point of view from the back seat of a station wagon. The lyrics, posted here, are a good description of Eleven Little Deaths protagonist Jacob Will’s life.

As a child traveling south on vacation with his parents, Jacob remembers stopping at a Stuckey’s for his father’s favorite nut bars. It’s only one of many things he’ll think about now on his journey in search of himself. He’s missed a lot of things in his life. And maybe now he’ll stop watching his life go by and start living it. Click this link to hear the song.   #elevenlittledeaths

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Everyone sees their life a different way
Saviors even come on different days
Bleeding his colors into several shades
But I am a prisoner caught in the flesh, red-handed
Watching my life go by
I’m watching my life go by
Watching my life

Nobody knows how close “together” means
Love is a race we run at different speeds
Pacing ourselves to deal with different needs
But I am a spectator
caught in a crowd of laughter
Watching my life go by
I’m watching my life go by
Watching my life

Somebody help me find my way back down
There’s nobody left for me to lap around
Everyone’s breaking past my speed of sound
I am a dictator
I keep my soul surrounded
Watching my life go by

I’m watching my life go by
I’m watching my life

Say “no” to the map or where the hell do you go when you don’t know where you’re going in the first place?

And where do you go when you’ve been instructed not to use any maps, GPS, and if you’re inclined to make a right turn, go left instead?

That’s the conundrum facing Jacob Will as he embarks on a life-changing journey. In one sense, he’s been held back from the school of hard knocks his entire life. But now, school is open and his graduation is in doubt. #elevenlittledeaths

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