Five Lives of a Cult Leader: Soul Bites Blog is Back

If I had five extra lives, I would be:

  1. A Famous Actor
  2. A Virtuosic Musician
  3. A Psychic
  4. A Cult Leader
  5. Indiana Jones

Let’s talk about number four.

I have often said that my best life would consist of sitting around all day with others and talking god. If I were a cult leader—let’s specify here a BENEVOLENT cult leader—that’s exactly what I would do. I would have achieved a degree in divinity (to legitimize my cult), I would have educated and ardent followers, and I would sit around all day on a gilded lily pad talking god with them—theology, cosmology, the logistics of godhood, (especially that last thing—it’s my favorite!).

But I’m not selfish. All my educated and ardent followers may also have gilded lily pads and we would sit atop our spiritual bling comfortably and with light hearts—talking god—all day.

I would have a Vice Priestess (I have someone in mind already, sorry) who would do all the heavy lifting as far as finances and paperwork go, thus freeing me up for more lily pad time, more research time, more time for prayer, more time for oracle-ism, more time talking god.

I turned 40 last year in October and it is just now occurring to me: Why am I not living this life? Perhaps waiting on the cult part for now, but picking up, keeping, and holding close to my heart my gilded lily pad and those I could help create for others—the idea that I CAN sit around all day (almost) and talk god.

I am financially stable. All my needs and a lot of my wants are met. I have time time time. Why am I not living this life? Why am I not living this life when I’ve had set up for years now the perfect vehicle—this very Soul Bites Optima?

Strange day when you realize you’re not a salmon and yet you’ve been swimming upstream for years.

I was going to be this literary writer, you see. I was going to be this writer and have a career just like Charles Simic (my poetry hero). I was going to have a career just like his and produce, produce, produce poetry, poetry, poetry and sell, sell, sell. I was going to teach college courses. Medals were going to be hung around my neck. There would be cash prizes. Eventually I would be in a Norton Anthology.

People would say I was a “for real” writer.

I was going to have this illustrious literary career, you see…

For me, 2018 sucked nards. Big. Fat. Nards. (OK. I lost 192lbs and that was pretty awesome, but the rest was nards I assure you.)

While going through the last of the horrible depressions I went through last year, I realized something important: I was mourning the career I don’t have even though I don’t really want that career. I don’t want to be this literary writer like Charles Simic and all the rest. That isn’t my best life. Those are their best lives and gods love them for it, but that’s not what I want. That’s what the world says that I, as a writer, should want.

Maybe the not actually wanting it part was what was keeping me from having a full blown literary career. I’ve been published and all that jazz, but it was in dribs and drabs. Bright moments. Very bright moments, but nothing that lasted too terribly long.

And I mourned that fact terribly. I wailed and gnashes my teeth. I had nightmares. I spent long hours ruminating on what a failure I was at having the literary career everyone expects me to have at this age.

But how stupid can one 40-year-old be? Why wander alone in the cold dark for so long mourning something you don’t want instead of walking in the light of pursuing the thing you do want—especially when you have all the time and resources you need to pursue it?

Again, how stupid can one official initiate into middle age be?

But today I’m not down on myself for being dumb. I’ve got the lily pad on my mind, I’ve got its gilding in my soul, and my eyes off of all the literary prizes it is no longer important for me to have hanging on my walls and around my neck.

Which is to say: Soul Bites Optima is back—vigorously.

Come along to my lily pad and cult with me. You know you want to. I’ve got the best spirited Bedazzler in town.


About M. Ashley

Essayist and poet, my work has been rejected by some of the finest journals in America. Fortunately, it also gets accepted from time to time and has appeared in equally fine journals such as Word Riot, Inlandia, Brew City Magazine, and SageWoman among others.. In 2002, I was awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize for Vanderbilt University. For no good reason, I possess an unnecessarily dark humor which is why being third generation California Inland Empirian delights me so. My gods are weird. I once received $350 for writing a smartassed essay on “why the wise use of water is important in my daily life”. I am undoubtedly the Greek god Hermes’ special snowflake. I’m pretty sure I got into college via a series of fortuitous clerical errors. When I had to grow up and get a real job, I decided against it and stayed a writer. I have worked many odd—and I mean odd—jobs to support my habit: Commercial writer for country music hopefuls, resume massager, WalMart fitting room attendant and switchboard operator, telephone psychic.
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