I recently saw the movie Being Flynn. It’s based on the memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, by Nick Flynn. The basic premise is, while working in a homeless shelter, Nick meets up with his estranged, homeless father. What follows is the poignant struggle of a son to reconnect that severed bond with a brilliant, grandiose and manic, father, who also happens to be a perpetually aspiring writer.
Transformational stories are uplifting and this certainly satisfied that criteria.
And so I came home and looked up the ‘real’ people. As many of you know, I’m an asker. I reached out and contacted Mr. Nick Flynn asking him if he’d be amenable for an interview. To my most excited surprise, he said yes.
Nick is a writer and poet. He clearly has the talent that never materialized from his father. One more fact to know in terms of his overcoming and rebuilding his life – his mother committed suicide when he was in his early twenties.
1. What personal qualities have helped you carry on and move in a positive direction?
It’s more of a support network that allows one to work through things. Friends and family, community. It’s a group effort. It’s recognizing the need for support systems. It’s something that’s actively done. You choose your friends and work on your family relationships and seek out those support systems.
2. Did you go through a period of self-pity; if so, what helped lift you out?
Everything is on a continuum. It’s not like you’re in it and then you’re out of it. Some days you’re in it and some days you’re out of it. When self-pity comes up you try not to water it and cultivate it. I don’t think it’s an emotional state that one should try to eliminate. It’s a continuum. That’s the model that’s more useful to me. It’s not good or bad. It’s part of me.
3. Was there a specific moment or epiphany that helped guide you to a better place mentally and psychologically or did it evolve?
I don’t think there was much of an epiphany. I’m not much of an epiphany type of guy. I put one day in front of the other. Cultivate the things that are more beneficial to one’s life than harmful. Again it’s a continuum. It’s not an ‘either or’. An epiphany suggests an ‘either or’; you’re either healed or you’re not healed. I think that’s harmful.
4. What are your coping skills that keep you afloat?
I meditate. Certainly exercising and eating right. All that stuff. If you watch bad movies or engage in destructive behavior, you’re not going to feel psychically sound. Everyone knows that and still does that anyway. You have to keep the balance right. I don’t meditate and exercise and eat well all the time. You just do the best you can. Sometimes you’re gonna watch the dumb movie.
5. How have you managed to rebuild your life through your difficult childhood/young adulthood?
The main thing for me is I quit drinking and doing drugs. That was the main change. It wasn’t an epiphany; it was more of a daily practice. That was a break from patterns like my father’s. That was a conscious choice. I had few options; it was that or die. For me that’s the main thing.
Everything is a daily practice. AA has that phrase, ‘one day at a time’. It’s basically the idea of being present in the moment. It’s a Buddhist idea – that’s what you have to do to write, to have a relationship- to see life as a daily practice. If there’s any sort of little message here, this is something I think about .
6. What advice do you have for people going through a difficult situation?
Cultivate those support systems. And that’s a daily practice too. Recognize that we’re all connected in many ways. That’s not so clear in the moments of suffering. But we need to try to hold on to that idea.
Thanks for stopping by.