Living Halfway With Alex Woodard
Why do people obsess over the illusion of “someday”? What is it about it that makes us believe that what we have now is going to be better when we get to that point in life someday? Singer-songwriter and author of Living Halfway, Alex Woodard, talks with Katherine Twells about his life journey and shares his own experiences that made him realize that sometimes, surrendering what you think the plan is going to be is the route we all should learn to take on. Alex emphasizes the fact that although our actions and life decisions impact how our lives turn out, we don’t always have control on how things are going to be and that life’s surprises can sometimes be life’s best gifts to us.
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Living Halfway With Alex Woodard
Finding Your Groove On The Road To “Someday”
The song called Living Halfway was written and sung by my guest, Alex Woodard. The song and his latest book by the same title talk about the courageous journey that we all need to make to that future state we call someday. As we know, someday is a moving target and it can have us miss everything we are experiencing in the present moment. For Alex’s journey, it took him from an unrealized dream to one of using his music and service to others. The ripple impact of his work has been tremendous.
He has toured nationally behind three critically acclaimed albums, earning prestigious industry nods, and shared the stage with some of the most popular acts. His book and album package, For The Sender, features his story of release and redemption woven through songs written about real-life letters. His latest book takes you on a very personal life journey filled with both humor and heartbreak.
This endorsement by Sean Watkins, Founder of Nickel Creek says it well, “Heartbreaking as it is hilarious, heartfelt as it is tough and as much an indictment of the modern self-help ethos as it is a celebration of what the genre is actually aiming at.” The journey Alex takes us on is deeply personal, completely original and 100% worth the price at the door. When Alex is not surfing in his beach town, North of San Diego, he lives with a big dog and two bigger horses in the mountains of Idaho. I hope you will enjoy my conversation with the very talented Alex Woodard.
Alex, my friend, it is so nice to see you again. I’m so grateful that you took the time to talk with me.
I’m very happy to be here and could make this happen.
Letter From Emily
We met years ago. I have known you now for several years. You came to our Nashville Summit, which was amazing. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house after you were done with your talk. Some of the people reading this have been in that room and remembered that. A lot of people reading don’t know the story and the background. I want to start broad with can you ground everyone reading with your story and how you got to where you are now?
The long short story of it is that I was a singer-songwriter for a long time and marginally successful. I did better than most but not as good as some, which is a theme for a lot of us. I got to this point in 2008 where we’d had a video at number one on CMT, which is the Country Music Television station back when that was a big deal. I thought that I would be opening for Kenny Chesney by the end of the summer and that we would be playing arenas. The way that life works, that didn’t happen.You will probably never know the impact that you’re having on other people. Click To Tweet
That summer was particularly hard for a few reasons. It was the realization that things weren’t going to unfold in that music world like I thought they would at that particular time. Because of that, I had lost the first record deal and the only record deal I had. My best friend, which was a black Labrador, died all in the same summer. Right around that time, I was dredging the swamp of who I am and what am I supposed to do. Is it not this? I’m doing the wrong thing. These thought patterns we tend to get into when things don’t go the way we think they should.
I got a letter from a woman named Emily. Emily worked in a furniture store in Connecticut and was a fan that I didn’t know I had. She wrote me this letter that said that she thought my songs were pieces of myself that I was giving to other people and that she wanted to give me a piece of herself. With this letter to me, she sent me a letter she had written to her soulmate. Her soulmate had died a few years before. Every year, she would leave him this letter about how she was doing. This letter that she sent to me wasn’t sad. It wasn’t a heartbreaking tearjerker thing. It was more, “This is where I’m at and this is what’s been going on with me. I hope it’s okay with you wherever you are and I miss you.” It was beautiful. She generally leaves it in a special place for him. This particular year, she sent it to me.
I thought I was so moved by it and a guy who was living in my back house that had sold a kajillion records and one Grammy, done everything that I hadn’t done. He was a good friend. His name is Sean Watkins. He has a band called Nickel Creek. I showed him the letter and we wrote a song about that letter called For the Sender. It’s about how a letter is like a prayer and that it’s more for the sender than the receiver. I sent it to Emily and that one song about one letter evolved into this project called For The Sender, featuring these Grammy-winning platinum-selling artists in my neighborhood that we all hung out together. I recruited them and we wrote songs about other people’s stories. I wove that into a backstory of a book and created this book-album package called For the Sender.
That’s where that one song about that one letter turned into. From there, it ballooned. I got a three-book deal with a publisher that is well-respected in this self-development world. They are called Hay House, which started it off. That book showed up in Wayne Dyer’s mailbox. A woman who was at a show I was doing picked the book up and happened to be his publicist and sent it to him. That book, For The Sender, the first one ended up being the inspiration for Wayne’s last book before he died.
Over those years, I went on the road with him. He became a mentor and this father-grandfather figure. All sorts of special things unfolded, which is how I met you. There were all sorts of lessons in there for me. I had to let go of this dream that was about me and started doing something for someone else, which is what I talked about at your CMO Summit. Once I started doing that, this whole other world opened up. In the book, I talked about how all these years I have been walking past this room in my house that I didn’t even know was there with the door closed. That one letter from this fan I didn’t know opened the door into that room, which ended up being light, airy and beautiful. I’m still in there now, which I leave sometimes but I always try to get back to that room.
Alex, what I love about your story and what I have always loved about it is there is this idea of surrendering what you think the plan is going to be to something to greater wisdom and destiny. There are a few things that I wanted to call out from your story that is the whole idea of the fame and the success of how culture would call it when you initially started out on your journey. We never know the impact that we make fully on people.
The Moment Of Surrender
That letter from Emily was evidence of maybe there wasn’t a packed concert hall but you were touching the heart of people who got your vibe, what you were doing and the authenticity behind your work. That is a beautiful message for everyone reading to realize that you don’t have to be this giant thing. You are having an impact by showing up and doing what you do. If you would share that moment in the hotel that I would call your surrender moment and how was that pivotal? Share that memory.
It was that summer I was playing for these the same venues where I had maybe gotten quite a few people in the door. I was getting much fewer people in the door. I went back to my hotel after one of these shows. It was in Chicago. I walked into the room and threw my stuff down. I went into the bathroom to take a shower. I looked at myself in the mirror, which we often do. We do that every day but these fluorescent lights of the bathroom in a hotel seemed a bit harsher than the lights I see everywhere else. I looked at myself in the mirror and then with the flip of the switch of that fluorescent light, I was older. It was immediate. It was very ungrounding because I was seeing myself in the mirror for the first time as someone completely separate from who I thought I was.
I remember I was looking at myself and looked away. I looked back at myself again and nothing had changed. I went to bed that night, laid there, stared at the ceiling and remembering this thing my dad had told me, which was, “Don’t be an old man in a young man’s game.” He told me that when I first let him know I was going to be pursuing this music thing. My folks were quite conservative and they had a different set of ideas about what I should be doing. It’s not that they didn’t let me pursue this. Part of it was they didn’t understand it, part of it was that they were scared for what might happen to me in that world and part of it was they might have wanted me to be a pilot in the Air Force.
That mantra of, “Don’t be an old man in a young man’s game,” played over and over my head because I felt like I was. That was a very pivotal moment for me because that did crack me open to looking at other options and ways of being in the world. I came home and I got that letter. I was already opened up to letting go of what I thought I should be doing. I had a song that I would play all the time around then. It was on an album of 2006, I thought I’d Be There By Now, and I did.
Laying in that bed, I thought I would be. Not only that, the career was one thing but I didn’t have a family. I wasn’t married. All my peers were already on this whole path that I wasn’t on. I had given up. I have been with a few great women that I could have spent my life with but this path I thought I was supposed to follow didn’t allow it at that. As a result, I’m sitting there laying in a hotel room in Chicago, staring at the ceiling, feeling like I’m an old person in a young person’s game with nothing to show for it, not even a dog anymore once she was gone.
That was an extremely pivotal moment. I think about that sometimes even now because we all are getting older and I have written a few books since then. One of them that hasn’t come out yet, takes a different approach because there’s a Bob Dylan song called My Back Pages that The Byrds covered. The line in there is, “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” I love that and I feel that way but in that hotel room in Chicago, I definitely did not.
We could imagine the scene. You describe it very well so we can see it. Every one of us can think of a moment in our life where things shifted for us and maybe it was exactly like your situation if we were so focused on something happening and it wasn’t. You are in a job that is not you and you don’t know what to do. You are in a relationship that’s not right and you know you need to change that. It’s like you are out of alignment. Yet the moment of break down is required in order for us to breakthrough. I wish it were easier.
It’s not comfortable.Social justice is not an American problem, it’s a global problem. Click To Tweet
Shaped By Chaos And Breakdown
We have to go there first. We were talking about the state of our world. With the pandemic, the dynamics of social justice, I feel we are in this collective like PTSD. In some ways, I have talked about this with some of my other guests on this show. How are the chaos and the breakdown going to shape us moving forward? Have you thought about this over in 2020 from your own personal journey or your journeys of your friends through this time?
Yeah. I definitely have. I have a lot of conversations in the shower with myself about this. I think that there are silver linings everywhere. We had this verdict in the Floyd case. People politicized things. That has been happening since the beginning of time. It’s nothing new. I was talking to a friend about this. I don’t know if you have ever looked at newspaper headlines from the 1700s, which are out there. It is fascinating. These are like the Boston Herald at that time. Everything is scandalized. It’s crazy.
Nothing has changed. We like to believe that we are the first ones to be experiencing so many of these things as humans. Not only with humanity but in this great experiment that is America. It’s so much easier to get the information now. With the internet and all these different sources, it’s in your face all the time. Our struggles have been the same for a long time. They are nothing new. We can move forward against these tides towards changing things. I feel we are in some ways.
I look at the earlier 2021 with the Capitol storming. I believe in many years people are going to look back at this moment and be like, “How did they get through it as a nation?” We had so much happening. We had a super divisive president and we had this pandemic that no one knew what it was. When this thing first hit, it was like, “The world was shut down,” because we didn’t understand what it was. Now we have a little more knowledge about how it operates and maybe, hopefully, we have learned some lessons about how to handle this better.
For me, I think that the main thing here, which I have talked about with friends of mine and in the overall context of history. What I’m hoping is that especially with the social justice thing, this pandemic though, the economic and the mental health squeeze, all these side effects basically that to this pandemic they are in some ways worse than the pandemic itself. I feel like the important message here is our combined humanity. Meaning regardless of your race, gender, sexual preference, identity, whatever it might be, there is humanity underneath all that. Connecting back to that is what matters. We got to that a little bit. It reminded me of 9/11 when it happened, which I’m old enough to remember. After that, there was this coalescence of the American ethic. I don’t know if you remember but Bush climbed up on top of this pile of rubble with a megaphone. I was like, “I wasn’t a Bush fan but it wasn’t.” I was watching this guy. It was incredible. The country for a while felt like it came together.
I saw a little bit of that with the pandemic on a worldwide basis. People banging on the pots for honoring healthcare workers everywhere. It had started in Italy. There are these little glimmers of hope that humanity would win. That is what we’re trying to accomplish with the social justice piece. We are trying to get to the point where I don’t see you as black, white, green, yellow or anything. I see you as human. That’s what we’re trying to get. The path there is a little messy but I feel like it always has been messy.
There is nothing that we are dealing with now that people haven’t dealt with in some way since they came on to the planet, granted it looks different. We have the internet. It’s incredible a lot of this technology. Those things have changed but the underlying human struggle hasn’t. That’s always been there. Maybe we have better tools now to try to fix that but as a country, we are so young. I think we forget. You and I were talking before about the American experiment, too. We forget how young we are and we don’t have all the answers or we are trying to figure it out as we go. I feel consciously optimistic that we turned a corner in 2021. It sure feels different to me than it did in 2020.
Imagine in the summer of 2020 with all the social unrest and this pandemic. People with no real leadership in terms of getting us through this thing. That was rough. I’m not a political person. I voted for my dog, Stella. I wrote her in because I couldn’t choose. I can’t so I’m going to vote for Stella. I did. I voted with the things and the issues I knew, my local government and stuff. On the presidential level, I was like, “I’m voting for my dog.” That’s to tell you that I’m not an incredibly political person. I’m more of an observer of human behavior. The politics especially like the last couple of years. You can go down a kajillion rabbit holes with that and still not get an answer.
The whole idea of the path is messy. There are silver linings. Your story, all of our stories in personal evolution because this is what this is. We have a collective evolution. We have a personal evolution. Things are happening in our lives. They go wrong. We learn. We are like, “The wrong direction. Note to self, don’t go there. Let’s try this.” We keep trying to elevate our consciousness. The social justice conversation, I know for so many of us it’s been, “What did I not see that I now need to see? How do I need to build a bridge?”
You talked about an interesting dynamic. We went from this shared adversity like the post 9/11 feeling when the pandemic hit. Everyone was like, “Are you okay?” extending into when the George Floyd horrific thing occurred. It blew everything back apart again. Here we were navigating so many emotions, disconnected from each other physically, then through culture. All of a sudden, we found ourselves in this massive stew of challenge. It just required all of us to look at ourselves, our actions, our world. How do we make sense of it? We are still doing it.
We are starting recovery. Meaning we are recovering from the pandemic. That’s going to be years in the making but we are starting to see. You alluded to it as a shift in how we look at our fellow men and how we look at the plight of social justice in this country. The thing that bears mentioning is that this is not an American problem, the social justice thing. It is a global problem and it’s easy to point to us because we are loud as far as the country goes and how we have treated people of color and minorities since the inception, which is certainly well-documented and not awesome.
On a global scale, it’s been going on for centuries. Some friends of mine will remain unnamed but I can think of 2 or 3 now who live in Europe. They were born and bred there. They are the most racist people I know. They say things where I’m like, “Stop.” That opened my eyes to the fact that this isn’t an American problem. This is a human problem. It’s been going on for a long time since we were running tribes and didn’t like the other guy. Still, it requires something, which is the way to combat and help with this plight is on the personal level.
I believe that in a lot of ways. Not only with social justice but you are on your own personal evolution and how you are looking at the ways in which you deal with yourself, your family, the guy next to you in the supermarket. That is where the real power here is. I don’t think it’s in a broad, social reform. It begins with the individual. That’s where the real power is. It’s in your taking responsibility and accountability for your beliefs, be they flawed or not and then making a change. It’s not in reading some article in The New York Times and commenting on it. That is not how you do it.
Alex, it’s starting close to home. Let’s go back to looking in the mirror. When you are looking in the mirror that day and you were assessing your own life, you have to keep looking in the mirror and looking inside. The more we do our inner work to understand what are the filters, what are the lenses that we look through then we all do that and we get better. I want to go deeper, something you talked about this idea of humanity.
For anyone who has not read any of your work, I want to say you are an exquisite writer. I would encourage everyone reading to pick up one of your books. We are going to talk about your latest book, Living Halfway. For The Sender books, your ability to talk about vulnerable heart-based issues but with humor. I’m laughing one minute and I’m crying the next minute. You have a beautiful way with words. I want to pivot now into that idea of this common need of the human heart. We were talking about the divide that exists throughout but we are all trying to get there. Let’s talk about your latest book because it’s a story of your life and how you have realized so much. Fundamentally, we are all seeking joy, connection and gratitude. What were you hoping to accomplish by sharing so much of yourself in this latest book?Real power is taking responsibility and accountability for your beliefs and making a change. Click To Tweet
I figured that there’s an old saying that somebody told me once in songwriting about, “Don’t tell me how you feel, make me feel it.” Don’t tell me you’re sad. Set up a story where I feel it. I carried that into the writing with For The Sender stuff and then with Living Halfway, it started out as another book, which I wrote under a pseudonym because I felt like it was quite a departure in terms of the voice in the book.
I imagined this late 50s lady with not a lot of teeth living in a trailer park somewhere working two jobs, trying to get by, chain-smoking and looking at this world around her going, “What the hell is happening here?” It’s what you and I have alluded to, complaining about the Instagram girl two doors down who is always taking selfies and complaining about people being on their phones all the time. That’s not how it used to be when I was growing up. What are these people doing? I imagined that. I wrote a series for all intents and purposes of rants from this lady living in a trailer park.
I got to the point when the book was done, people had read it and Wayne Dyer had passed away already. I was walking around the back of my ranch in Idaho. I heard a seagull came over the ridge. He looked down at me and he reminded me of Wayne because his wings were this big, bold guy. I heard Wayne’s voice be like, “You know what? That lady is you,” so you better own it. That’s the kind of book that Wayne would have loved. He would have thought it was funny. I went back and I took the pseudonym off. I put my name on it, changed the title and infused way more of my story in there.
The reason I did that, what I hoped people would be getting out of it, was first of all connecting to this surface observation, where we are with our digital addictions and ridiculous behavior in some ways. It’s funny to talk about and point out but also to tell my story so you could connect, as a reader, the dots between what I was seeing in other people and what was in me, too. A lot of times, what we are complaining about in other people is in ourselves.
That’s what Living Halfway ended up being. It ended up being this midlife memoir/social commentary piece that people seem to resonate with. Part of the book mentions this guy in a gray T-shirt that I keep seeing all over the place. This isn’t a spoiler alert but Living Halfway is the first of a couple of books. This alludes to what you are talking about. I like to draw this distinction between our bitter angels and our better angels. Our bitter ones are the ones that look around outside and see everything that’s wrong with everything else without doing a lot about it ourselves. Our better ones lookout with a little more compassion realizing that the lens we are looking through probably has way more to do with us than it does with the person we are judging.
Living Halfway is a bit more of the bitter angel and the character in that, me, sees this guy in a gray T-shirt here and there. That’s the better angel. That guy is in the second book, which I’m about done with now. The second book is the story of the same day but told through the lens of this better angel as opposed to the bitter one. Both of them are me. We all have that. We all have this voice happening in our heads all the time that we don’t always say out loud.
I just said it out loud because I know the reason, I can do that is because I know that’s not the only part of me. There is this whole other part of me too, which I want to share with you in another book. That’s part of me and it’s part of all of us. We all have that little voice, looking at something, judging it in a way that we probably know we shouldn’t but whatever we’re judging in any way. We do that. That’s human. I felt like it was okay for me to do that because I have this whole other side, too. I know myself well enough. I’m not bitching about what I’m seeing on the street.
There’s a whole other thing happening here so that’s the evolution of that book that came out. I’m happy to see it’s doing pretty well in terms of people’s response, which is another thing, which is extremely important. You and I think talked about this before and this goes for anybody reading. The degree and the impact that you’re having on other people, you likely will never know. You won’t know unless they say something generally. I send out an email whenever it hits me. I like to write a story about something that’s happened in my life and I send it. I don’t know if anybody’s reading that unless they respond. I got a response from some guy named Scott who said, “You don’t know me but I wanted you to know that I love what you do, I read all these things and you are being heard.” It was like he was reading my mind. I was like, “Scott, where are you? Let’s go have a beer.”
I read your stuff, Alex. I love your blog.
Thank you. I’m guessing you are reading it. Who knows? In your daily life, in your work, wherever you are working. However you are interacting with people, you are having an impact that you might not hear about especially if you’re doing things in the name of service and helping other people. You might not get that direct thank you or the direct I see you and I appreciate what you are doing. That doesn’t mean that it’s not having a deep impact. It matters. We are so used to these days getting this instant feedback on social media. You get a like right away, you get a comment or somebody follows you or whatever. All this instant validation, which is ridiculous and isn’t validation but that’s a whole other show.
What you’re doing every day with real people definitely matters. I can’t say it enough like how you carry yourself, speak to people, respond to an email. This is an overused cliché word but it’s about being mindful about that kind of thing. Making sure that you are being your best self, that you are being that better angel. You had to look in the mirror. The first question you asked, you have to understand the person that you want to be. If you are not being that person and if you don’t feel like you are that person yet, it’s okay. We are all on this journey.
What matters, which I talked about in the presentation I did for you at the CMO Summit was that your actions are what matter. You can start every day. You can start doing something better. There’s nothing that says you can’t. It doesn’t matter where you are and what you’re doing. You can be reading this on the subway in New York and there’s somebody sitting next to you that drops a dollar. Pick up the dollar and give it to them. That’s what I’m talking about. It’s those small things that end up mattering. It matters to the greater good but they matter to you too because those small moments end up becoming your life. That’s what you string together into what your life looks like. We have gotten away from that, unfortunately, a little bit with our focus on social media and the digital side of the world.
That’s not to say you can’t use it for good but it definitely lessens the in-person connection. I have social media and as an artist, that’s another discussion. We are told that we have to have that platform because people need to be able to find us and people need to engage. Those are all buzzwords that don’t matter and don’t mean anything. I’ve been at it for years. At my level, it didn’t help me engage with people. I have a website. If you want to go to it, you can go to it and sign up for the stories and check out what I do. If you email me, I will email you back. That is how we can start a conversation and engage with each other.You can start doing something better every day. Click To Tweet
To me, that feels way more authentic than doing it via a curated post. If people want to find us, they can find us. If people want to Google me, you’ll find me. The cost of social media to me outweigh the benefits. It comes with a little asterisk because I know it does do good in the world in ways. There are ways that even Twitter, which has become toxic. There are ways in which that’s a powerful, good platform in spreading information quickly when it needs to happen in an emergency. It can be powerful in that way but still, it’s gotten away from what it was intended to be as social media. It definitely makes us as people not “connect” like we think we are doing.
You have talked about the bitter and better angels and all things have their gifts and their curses as well. We have never been more connected digitally. It allows this conversation to reach someone across the world, which is beautiful. Yet we are overwhelmed with information. We have become more ADD because the content is overwhelming. We are taking in so much content. We are navigating very interesting times as we try to take the good and not go down with the ship with the other part. Life is a series of choices so whether you are picking up the dollar on the subway or are mindful to look at a barista making your coffee, look them in the eyes and go, “Thank you. Have a good day” versus being immersed in your phone.
How present are we to each other? These are all questions that some of what social media has done had us compare. It’s a comparative culture. One of my other conversations with W. Keith Campbell was talking about narcissism and how social media people create these unbelievable lives and stories. You think, “What am I doing? My life is not that exciting.” The competition is with yourself. Am I better today than I was yesterday? You will make yourself insane whether you are a company, a business or a team and constantly comparing to everything else. You have to be the best of who you are, what your gifts are, what is your path and journey in this life are.
A comparative culture thing is a big part of the Living Halfway book. It is so unhealthy. One of the reasons it’s unhealthy is because a lot of times it’s a brand, a company or an individual. What you are comparing yourself to isn’t real. You are comparing yourself to a curated version of something else. You are not comparing yourself to another brand. You are comparing yourself to their best version that they are putting out there for everyone else to see. It’s the same thing on a personal level. You appear on Instagram and they look younger, happier and more fulfilled than you. That’s most likely because they have chosen the right photos and has very little to do with their actual life.
We all know that from experience. That is becoming in all conversation now. I know people who have incredible Instagram profiles that are the unhappiest people you will ever run into. You look on their phone and it looks like they are killing it. The comparative culture thing is so dangerous because you are not comparing yourself to reality. Even then, comparing yourself to reality isn’t the greatest idea in the world. You should be comparing yourself to yourself. As you said, “Am I better today than I was yesterday?” It becomes about turning that gaze inward and trying to figure it out.
I think all of us have a gift or a talent or a propensity for something that we do more special pretty much than anyone else. All of us, regardless of, creed, anything, all have a gift. I’m not an NBA basketball player, which I talk about in the Living Halfway. I am this short dude in midlife. I’m probably not going to be playing for the Spurs. Chances are good but I can do something that maybe one of those guys can’t do. Maybe I can communicate my story in a way that touches you in a way that they can’t. We all have these gifts that we can develop and these talents. That’s what we need to be looking at. We need to be looking at, “How can I contribute to the world in my own special way?”
Focus, grow and develop that. That’s where the real change lies, I believe. On the social justice front, it’s about encouraging all people of all colors, creeds and nationalities, not just in this country, everywhere. Encouraging them to find that gift and then helping them share it with the world. Whatever that might be. You might be a great barista. That’s what you love to do and you’re good at it. That’s beautiful. Do that and share it with people. There was a great saying that, “Whatever you are doing, do it with grace, beauty and love and your life will reflect it.” That’s a long-winded way of saying that we all have a gift. That’s not too woo-woo. It just is. When we come out of the womb and we are wired a certain way a lot of times and we got certain abilities that other people don’t. They have certain abilities that we don’t. That’s what makes this whole thing work when it works.
Living For The Moment
When you are in the presence of someone who is living their gift, whatever that gift is, you feel it. You can feel that energy. They are there doing their thing. They are in alignment and it’s amazing. I always tell my sons. I’m like, “There never has been and never will be someone exactly like you.” What’s your fingerprint? It’s a beautiful thing to know that and that’s why we have to stay out of the whole comparison piece because it’s so dangerous. Something else I wanted to ask you about because I know we have talked about this in the past and even in the book like Living Halfway, we talked about living halfway to someday.
We are inexperienced. We are human. We fall, learn, stand back up and move forward. We are all going through this crazy messy walk that we have talked about. Why do you think we are so focused on this illusion of someday? We don’t know there isn’t a someday. It’s right now. It’s not one day when I have the perfect relationship, house, job or body, fill in the blank then I’m going to feel peaceful. It’s about now and the moment. Talk about that because that’s something you’ve woven throughout your messages over time.
I have. First of all, it’s difficult to blame anybody aside from yourself. When you are younger, there is so much modeling going on. There is so much we get from our media culture. I grew up in the ‘70s and early ‘80s and watching Little House on the Prairie. You get all these models of what things are supposed to look like. You don’t understand at the moment that these are storytellers who are trying to get their season renewed. You don’t understand that and you think that’s the way it’s supposed to be. A lot of the reason we think about someday being better than now is that we get that programmed into us in a way.Social media makes us not really connect like what we think we’re doing. Click To Tweet
Part of growing up is realizing that none of that is real. I have been talking about this with a friend of mine a lot lately about this clichéd notion of how age is a number. That’s all it is. If you can wrap your head around that and embrace it, things change because there isn’t a someday anymore. There are no rules. What someday suggests is a set of rules. If this then this. If you have the perfect body then you are going to be happy. If you have a baby then you are going to be happy.
If you have that one job that you need a promotion for then you are going to be happy. There is a certain if then, which is a rule. It’s so ingrained in us, we perpetuate it. We tell each other this story. It happens for all of us. I still struggle with it. We all struggle with it. I still think, “I don’t have a family, not by choice, it didn’t happen that way. I got a dog and a bunch horses, chickens.” It hasn’t happened that way and maybe I’m supposed to do that.
This will answer your question entirely. A friend of mine who is someone that we have been talking about where he is a carpenter and frames houses. He’s good at it and happy. He goes through his life. It’s like the barista that loves making coffee. That’s him. I was talking to him about this, about having a family. He has two beautiful daughters and a wife. He is the guy that you would want to hate because you are like, “What the hell?” That’s the ideal. Here’s the answer to the question. We were talking about that and how that had happened for me in that sense.
He said, “You want to know how it happened?” I said, “Yeah. How did it happen?” He’s like, “I just happened to meet somebody who I could see living the rest of my life with that I didn’t want to live without. I was lucky that I met her. We stayed together. One day, we had a kid. She was pregnant. We weren’t trying. We weren’t not trying. We weren’t doing IVF and all these different things to try to make it happen. It happened.” It happened to be with the person and then we had this other child who is healthy and now here we are. It all started with me doing my thing and running into the right person, not having any expectations and then, “We are pregnant. That’s cool.”
Taking it as it came, instead of setting this ideal. He’s not the guy who was like, “I need to have this in my life to be happy. I need to be married. I need to have the perfect partner. I need to have two beautiful kids.” He wasn’t that guy but because he was living his life with his own values and doing his own beautiful things, these things fell into line for him. That’s how it looks for him. He was like, “It doesn’t have to look like that for you.” He’s like, “Do you want some advice?” I said, “Sure. What’s the advice?” He’s like, “Don’t worry about it.”
He said, “I’m telling you. If you meet the right person, awesome. If she happens to get pregnant, awesome. If none of that happens, awesome.” He went back to banging nails in the back of the bedroom back here and it stuck with me. That was a guy that was not living for someday. Yet what he created is what a lot of people’s ideal is of someday. He got there by doing his thing and being himself. The thing that got me was his comment about the main thing in this whole family deal. The main thing is meeting the right person. If you go through your life with the right person and no family, that’s awesome. If you have a family, it was that kind of thing. It dialed me back to thinking about that’s what I incorporated into Living Halfway in terms of the idea of someday.
It’s because nobody told me that kind of thing when I was younger. Nobody told me that as long as you give of yourself to the world, the best you can, be authentic and be honest like that’s enough. Whatever else happens, happens. My buddy’s name is Rory. I should make some creed, like a Rory creed or something because it was so true. We just don’t get taught that when we’re young. I don’t want to lay too much blame on media but so much is the media like movies, which are now getting a little more honest, which is cool. Television and the internet now for a lot of kids and movies and that kind of thing. They set these things up. This is the story and this is what it’s supposed to look like. If your story doesn’t look like this yet then something is wrong that’s not the case.
Culture has a very loud voice. Your own personal Buddha, Rory, with his wisdom right there is so true. Maybe instead of trying to meet the perfect or best person you want to be, you want to be the best person. I look at your life. You don’t have that family dynamic but surrendering into the flow, all kinds of beautiful things have been born through your music, your writing and Emily and all the other Emilys that have been impacted by the journey For The Sender. You see that going back to we all are on our own journey and it’s unique to all of us and that’s what’s beautiful about it.
Giving And Living The Best Version Of You
Alex, I have one more question I want to ask you but I want to share this line from your book. Not only does it help everyone understand your beautiful use of words but a little bit about you. This is towards the end of Living Halfway, you write, “My favorite Leonard Cohen lyrics say that cracks are how the light gets in, which I’ve extrapolated to mean that cracks also let the light out, I’d imagine that my own cracks were letting my light out into the world, a lantern glowing on a rocky peninsula for others fighting the storm,” which I think that’s an example of how you use your words. You have already shared a lot of wisdom from what you have learned. In closing our conversation, are there any final thoughts when you think about your journey that you would have shared with the younger Alex or for people reading? Any other final parting words of wisdom from what you have gathered?
There’s a part in that Living Halfway book where I see this younger version of me before all these stories I’ve told in the book have happened. I’m in bed and I’m sleeping peacefully. I’m looking at myself as this younger self. I asked myself that question and wonder if I should wake him up and tell him what’s coming and say that these challenges are coming your way. I end that chapter by saying he is sleeping so peacefully. It’s what I said in the last sentence. For me, I don’t think that would tell my younger self anything.
I feel like I have gotten to this place in my life now where, which it’s a weird word but I am happy. I feel like I’m giving my best self and my best version of this, whatever gift I have to the world. I wouldn’t have gotten here without everything else happening and had I known it was coming, I might not be here. I might still be working in Boston at a mutual funds company in a cubicle. I have given that a lot of thought as far as what I would tell myself.
That is what I would tell your readers, too. That is what I would tell my kid if I had a kid. That’s the advantage of being older now is that ends up happening for me because I’ve seen the other side, meaning that like a lot of my peers, a lot of my friends have already had children and their kids are in high school now. I have seen the whole circle, the whole cycle and how my friends have changed as parents based on what they have learned.
If it happened to me, my approach with my kid, which ostensibly would be my approach with my younger self as a kid, would be protective for certain things. Also, you have got to let them fall. My next book, the sequel to Living Halfway, is all about that. I have got these pictures of myself from when I was 2 to 8. There is always something wrong with me. I have got a black eye. The one I found, I have got a black eye because I fell up the stairs. My mom would write down in the little Polaroid thing what I did. One of them is me at three falling off the stairs, which is nothing itself but I fell off the stairs and CPS would have been called immediately these days because my eyes were huge, black and gnarly. I’m pointing to the wrong one in the camera because I’m trying to get sympathy but it can tell you a lot.
Anyway, there’s that and I’ve got a picture of me. I broke my arm the day before Easter when I was five because I closed my eyes in the alley on my bike with training wheels. I ran into a wall and broke my arm. I fell down the stairs instead of up the stairs. I have this divot above my eye still from that. It’s one of the main points in the next book because I fell a lot. I love my parents. They are incredible. They are both still alive. That is another story. They let me fall. They didn’t run to pick me up quickly to make sure I was okay. I am grateful for that because if I hadn’t had that happen, I wouldn’t have been able to stand up and learn to stand up over and over again. If I had anything to say to my younger self, I would keep it to myself and let that younger self fall and do his thing. I don’t want to encourage my younger self to go jumping in front of a bus or anything but at the same time, these lessons, it’s a theme of what we are talking about. Our own personal journeys are not wine and roses. Things are messy and that’s life.
There’s a great poem that is in the next book also that talks about how a bird needs to fall slightly to test its heaviness and trust it before it flies. That’s so appropriate to us. We tried so hard not to fall and we’re afraid of his heaviness and weight. The heaviness is proof you are alive. The heaviness means you are here, that you are strong enough to carry it and you can fly. That’s the beauty of this is that we get so bogged down in the weight without realizing maybe this weight is here to help us and is part of it because you have your burdens. I have my burdens. We all have something. We all do. We call them by different names. That was a big theme of For The Sender stuff. Everybody’s got something, we just have a different name for it.
It’s said the loss of your child, not you but the loss of somebody’s child, that might be, the loss of my mom, which is happening with dementia. We have completed what looked like on the outside as different problems or weights but at their core, they are all the same. The real challenge in life which ends up being a gift is to use those burdens wisely. We all have them. They are not going away. You can’t get rid of them. If it’s not one thing, it’s going to be another.
To your point, without them, where would we be? How would we shape our character and ourselves? I don’t remember who said this quote but my mom would repeat it often. She says, “Be kind because everyone is fighting a great battle.” As we move forward to keep co-creating this world that we are all living in, it requires kindness, us doing our own work. The human journey is an imperfect journey. There are gifts in that imperfection. For most of us, if we honestly answer the question, would you go back and change anything?
A lot of the people I know say no because even the bad times shaped them into who they are now and who you are now. Alex, I want to thank you for having the courage to put so much of yourself, your vulnerability and your stories into the world so that other people can see not the social media persona but behind the curtain of the messy human experience that we are all on together. I appreciate your friendship. I appreciate your talent, your music, your writing ability and the conversation. Thank you.
Thank you for having me. This was awesome. Hopefully, we can do it again someday.
I have noted you said that’s a whole other conversation. I have logged maybe 4 or 5 other conversations to have so definitely to be continued.
It was good talking to you.
About Alex Woodard
Alex Woodard is a singer-songwriter who has toured nationally behind three critically-acclaimed albums, earning prestigious industry nods and sharing the stage with some of today’s most popular acts. His book and album package, For The Sender, features his story of release and redemption woven through songs written about real-life letters.
His latest book “Living Halfway” takes you on his personal life journey filled with both humor and heartbreak.
When he’s not surfing in his beach town north of San Diego, Alex lives with a big dog and two bigger horses in the mountains of Idaho.
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