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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Strube

Michael Finnegan Begin Again

Ask, Seek, and Knock at the door. If it opens, walk through. If it stays shut, turn around and smell the flowers on the porch.

There was an old man named Michael Finnegan. He had whiskers on his chin-egan. Shaved them off and grew them in again Poor old Michael Finnegan (BEGIN AGAIN).

Remember this song? It goes on forever and gets louder and faster, a run-away train of childhood vocal pandemonium.

With each verse, the song proclaims all the ways Michael’s life doesn’t work out as planned. He catches crummy fish and throws them in again, climbs a tree and hits his shin-egan, gets thrown out and Wife takes him in again. Nothing goes right for this dude. At the end of every verse, Michael Finnegan must begin again.

Don’t you think Michael got tired of beginning again? Don’t you only have to begin again once?

Not according to this childhood fairytale. There are 4 verses that go in a cycle ad nauseum, the never-ending story of Michael’s flopped plans that help him begin again.

Kids love this song. Adults hate it.

So this is a blog post about beginning again. My least favorite topic.

If you haven’t caught on yet (and I’m not sure I even have), I’m in a season of beginning again. In America. In a home. In a job. In my 30s. In a second book. In a strategy for the first book. In staring at the clothes in my closet that I haven’t looked at in a year. In staring at the clothes in my suitcase, wondering if I can rock Chinese silk skirts on the beach.

In staring, in general.

I was texting with a lifelong friend the other day — the kind of friend that you’ve known since you were 4 and has seen you through multiple versions of yourself.  She sent me a Joseph Cambell quote. For those of you who don’t remember Michael Finnegan, maybe you’ll recognize good old Jo. Joseph wrote alot of scholarly words about fairytales — about the hero’s journey that underlies so many of our songs, stories, and myths. Here’s one of his anecdotes about the Native American journey of beginning again:

“As you go the way of life,

you will see a great chasm.


It’s not as wide as you think.”

Lifelong friend and I pondered these poems via Iphone technology. Our following conversation proceeded as follows:

Life Friend: I don’t think I’ve jumped yet. Me: Me neither. Life Friend: Maybe we did but there are multiple chasms?! I wish this dude would be more specific! Me:  Me freakin too.

(jumps are scary)

I prefer jumps more like this, especially once the technicolor bridge is safely constructed:

Sometimes you get the Crayola lego bridge. Sometimes you get the hippy rockclimber plunge. Either way, you gotta cross, at least according to good old Mr. Campbell and good old Mr. Finnegan.

Begin Again.

For me, the scariest thing about beginning again is mistakes. What if I begin in the wrong thing? What if I begin in the wrong place? What if I start this and it’s a mistake? It’s not what I want or need? Wrong, wrong, wrong, mistake, mistake, mistake. So, I don’t move. Literally, I stand still, frozen, a deerling in headlights.

There is a time and place to stand completely still, especially when you’ve been moving all around the globe for a longtime. It takes time for the soul to catch up to the speed of your body. I’ve been pretty still lately and, I must say, still is uncomfortable. However, in terms of beginning again, at some point, if you don’t move at all, your muscles begin to atrophy. Your eyes freeze open. You begin to smell and it’s awkward. Your mind takes over your body and you attribute too much meaning to every little action, as though your next step will determine (or screw) your whole life.

Poor old Michael Finnegan, begin again.

When I was little, around the time of life when I was singing Michael Finnegan, I had this little toy called Robbie the Robot. A Sharper Image gadget, Robbie was around a foot high and battery operated. He had a round head and a square tray table in his plastic “hands.” I would put something on the tray table and Robbie would “deliver” it to the next destination, which most often was Sister on the other couch. Granted, this was back in the day of the futuristic technology of 1987, where Dad’s cell phone was also a foot long and weighed six pounds, so very cool Robbie’s delivery methods were never speedy. He had no remote. He just had an on and off button. You turned him on, he moved until he bumped into a wall.  Exclaiming “whoops” in his tiny toy voice, he then did a 90 degree turn until he hit another wall. Eventually, geometry won and he would find Sister across the room, and we would all cheer. “Robbie is such a genius!”

Or Robbie just has two actions: (1). move forward until you crash (2). K-turn until you crash again…. or find your final destination, where everything hails you as brilliant

Today, I will try to learn from dear Robbie Robot and good old Michael F, who in the last verse, even has to grow fat and thin again, then he dies and gets born as him again, poor old Michael Finnegan, begin again. Michael rolled with the punches and Robbie turned his crashed walls into k-turns.  Both had to begin again every 4 feet or 4th stanza, and somehow, that made them endearing.

Hello 1987. Let’s begin again.

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