I’m convinced …

I’m convinced that I’ll never write anything that matters if I never see anything that matters. And I spend the bulk of my day fighting traffic and having to hear about how dangerous this thing is:

Image

And doing work that people only care about long enough to put it in their performance reviews.

So I’m supposed to then come home and write amazing, poignant, riveting, soul-shattering songs and sonnets? And I wonder why it doesn’t come.

I really thought going back to school would be the answer. But all it’s going to do is create more problems. I really should just find something else to fixate on.

Maybe I could save the world by creating a safer filing cabinet stool. Then we can all finally stop living in fear.

World peace and cures for AIDS, cancer and hunger will come right along behind it. Like a perfect line of little baby ducks.

How’s that for poignant?


Sacrifice

Well I certainly can’t concentrate on this other work I’m supposed to be doing, so I might as well do something productive, if only productive in the sense that it may help clear my head a little. Maybe.

Perhaps what I should do is actually make a list of what I’d like to do. Just that. What I’d like to do, without speculating on what I actually can do, or have the time to do, or the education, or whatever other walls I keep running headfirst into.

These are not in order of priority. They are in order of what I’m thinking about and typing.

1. Be successful musically. I don’t know exactly what this looks like. But I know I don’t have the American Idol notion of “making it big time,” with a big record label contract and people to do my hair for me. I don’t see a tour bus or an arena full of 20,000 fans, and $50 ticket sales. I see it being somehow sustainable, but not necessarily (and not likely) glamorous. The small bands we’ve fallen in with recently–all the Whitmores and the Brown Birds and those type of performers–I see it more like that. I would be more than happy with that.

2. Continue writing, and improve my writing. This will lend itself nicely to item 1. And I’m trying. Maybe I can try harder. But I come home from this soul-sucking asylum and I just don’t feel like I have anything left. The ease with which I could just come home, drink most of a bottle of wine and fall asleep on the couch actually scares me. I’m so exhausted by it mentally, which then manifests physically, which then spirals back down into this depression that I just can’t seem to shake. The depression that, unlike in high school, now seems to be too deep to write from anymore. I can’t figure it out, and I don’t know how to fix it. But the songs come if I coax them enough, so I’m doing my best with that.

3. Continue building my instrument skills. I don’t spend as much time on this as I’d like. I’m not making excuses. Some of it ties into item 2. Some of it is just fear–looking at how good I’m not, how good I want to be, rather than the progress I’ve already made. Pairing that with my fear of running out of time. And instead of motivating me, it seems to cripple me–overwhelm me. Again, these are not excuses. This is just me taking a very honest look at my mental processes and reporting what I see. Looking at it and being honest about it may be the only way I’ll manage to change it.

4. Leave the city, and the corporate life. It’s not for me, and I hate it. I really, actually, fully, completely hate it. I don’t want to be in this lifeless, overcrowded town anymore. I don’t want to be around the consumption and the materialism and the arrogance anymore. And the traffic and the smog and the McMansions and the crime and the poverty and the wealth. I’m not so naive as to think that moving to the country will make these things stop existing, but at least I would be away from it. I want to be somewhere real, doing real things. I want to physically work hard to build and create things. To create my home. I want to be out in nature without having to drive 200 miles to get there. Because that’s the only way my creativity will survive. I need the quiet. I need the peace. I need the space. The concrete way of living that, ironically, has absolutely nothing to do with concrete.

5. Be self-sustaining. This is vague and broad, and maybe just a combination of the previous four things. But it specifically emphasizes my desire to not work for someone else, and instead create something that sustains itself. Is that following the music? Is that running some kind of apocalyptic off-the-grid, solar-powered farm? Is that designing and building some other kind of business? I don’t know yet. I get these ideas–ideas that seem really feasible–but somehow or another I seem to tear them up before I even get them out of the box, and here I sit, 11 years, 1 day and counting, at this same damn job, and no closer to leaving it. No, in fact, with the raises and bonuses and benefits, I feel myself more and more tied to it every year. The studio idea really appeals to me. I have this great little picture in my head of a nice little place out in the country somewhere, with a home-built studio, where I might actually have the skills to do more than push play and pause. But I fear the part where that’s all I do. In fact, that seems to be the resounding theme in all of this, in all of my depression and anxiety. I don’t want to silo myself into one thing at the exclusion of all other things. Because I’ll miss out on something. And life is so desperately short, I’m realizing more and more clearly everyday. And the thought of letting something that really matters to me pass me by breaks my heart.

6. Go back to school. I’m if-y on this one. At first I was all excited. I’ve never been happy with the degree I chose in school, and I’ve hated the mental stagnation that started when I left school. And the idea of finally pursuing something that was different from anything I’d done before was so exciting. Then I got worried about the money, and about how that would just tie me to my corporate job that much more. Then I thought I’d look at it again after the summer tour. Then I realized that I’d never be able to do both. And that, between school and day job work, I’d have less time for other endeavors than I do now. And I was probably as surprised as he was at the searing jealousy that I felt when he said he’d just go out and play music and create with other people if I was too busy with school. That’s not to say he’s not right. It’s just how I felt. Logically, of course he should do that. That’s who and what he is. And I would never do anything to keep him from it. But I guess I know the intimacy that has to occur between people who create together. And the thought of sharing that just undid me. I’m telling myself that that’s a prime example of me overreacting. That it’s not logical. That it’s wrong to feel that. Maybe it will fade. I don’t mean to be this way. Sometimes I wish I could just dive into the deepest, purest lake you can imagine, clean all of this off of me, come back up and start over as a better person.

7. Marry John. Have a family. Notice, this is not me saying “get married and have a family.” I’m not looking at it that way. All my life, I could take or leave marriage–I really didn’t see the point or the benefit. And having a kid was never something I wanted. In fact, it was something I decidedly did not want. But this is different. The love and connection and understanding and trust and commitment that I feel with him is different than anything I’ve ever even imagined. Nothing has ever felt more right than being with him. I never knew there was a single person in this whole world who I could connect to this way. Who could understand me. And it changed everything. Suddenly the fear of not being able to have a family with him–getting past the years that I’d be comfortable trying that–took hold in a way that was so much stronger than I ever thought possible. I know how fast the years go now. And looking at 30 in a few short months just kind of felt like the tipping point. So I started pushing the marriage thing. I was wrong to do that. I swore I wouldn’t do that, and then I did it. And I felt hurt that he didn’t feel the immediacy the way I did. Maybe it’s because he’s already done that before. Maybe I felt the immediacy more because I haven’t. Maybe the hurt I felt was short-sighted. He’s right–the time we have now will be gone too soon, and we should just enjoy it now.

In a way, that was like a light switch for me. I’d been so caught up in thinking about what I wanted to have that I wasn’t paying attention to how things already are. No sense getting in a hurry. I love our life the way it is. It made me feel peaceful to think of it that way. But the fear of lost time still creeps in, and I’ve been feeling stuck lately because I can’t seem to reconcile the first six items on this list. And then last night the words were out of my mouth before I even knew they were coming–having a family. And then all I could do was cry about it. I know that would require a lot of changes. I’m not exactly in a hurry–despite what my “third-life-crisis” and so-called “biological clock” might suggest–but I don’t want to miss the chance.

Nothing on this list is an answer. But the noise in my head was more than I could bear, and I hoped that just getting it out and looking at it objectively would help quiet it. And I think it has somewhat. I’ll try to just keep perspective and keep it together more. Because there’s no sense in projecting my fears on anyone else.


Armful of Stones

Starting to feel a great fatigue from all the noise. All the commotion. Am I ever going to feel at ease again? Will there ever be quiet?

I have all these fantasies about leaving the chaos. Getting away to somewhere quiet and simplifying my life even moreso than I already have, but I really wonder if it will actually happen. Time just keeps getting away, sneaking past faster and faster. My head is never quiet. No matter what I’m doing, I need to be doing something else. Not want. Need.

I feel like I have my arms full of stones. And the one I need is always on the bottom. And everyone else is always asking for one. But they won’t just shut up and let me find it before asking for a different one. Nor will they think for a moment about whether they even need any of them at all, or what they’re going to do with them when they get them. Nor will they even remember one from the next, or appreciate them. And they’re getting all chipped and scuffed because I keep shuffling them around and dropping them on the ground. And if I could just have a minute to get them all in some kind of order, it would all go a lot better. But there’s no time. There’s never time.

And I really just want to drop them all, and say f*ck it, deal with your own damn stones. But they’ll still be there. Because life is an armful of stones. They’re what we collect along the way.


Matter

Feeling tired. In a way I feel I deserve and am not sorry for or worried about. I worked my ass off the last few weeks. Working on the recordings and artsy bits of our new album and merchandise, nailing down two huge projects at work, watching the world from the ever-scrutinizing eye of my ever-active mind, revisiting orphans of song ideas, taking care of a home and a relationship. Figuring out how to do what I want to do in my life. Getting down to the wire for recording. Work’s about to get insane. But tonight I will just listen to the way his guitar plays in tune with the train that visits nightly, and not worry that I’m not doing anything that “matters.” Because even in this passive light, it matters. It all matters.


Bliss

Communication. It’s so important and yet it feels so impossible sometimes. I still feel like there are walls that I can’t break down. Doors I’m not supposed to open. Things you write about but don’t talk about, which only furthers the walled off isolation that I perceive but can’t seem to break through.

All this highly-sensitive shit? I wish I didn’t have it. Because then I wouldn’t be able to pick up on these things and none of it would bother me.

I wouldn’t feel this helplessness. This unresolvable frustration.


The Next Chapter

01/05/12

When I finished college in ’05, I got a degree that I thought would do two things: 1 – Keep me close to my creative endeavors (at the time, writing) while 2 – helping me land a job that actually paid well. Well, ‘2’ happened, but sadly, I knew before I ever graduated that ‘1’ was probably out of the question. On my last day of class I walked out to my car and felt empty. What the fuck do I do now?

I made up my mind to go back to school when I knew what I really wanted to do with my life–not to get some other checkbox degree. (Mom, I’m sorry, but I will never go back for that MBA. It’s just not going to happen.) For whatever reason, I just assumed that would be in two years. Well two years came and went, and now it’s been almost seven, all of which has been in a stagnant, corporate setting that is so far removed from anything even resembling reality (let alone creativity and substance), it’s not even funny.

During the two years I was supposed to be figuring out what to do with my life, I was making more money than I ever had, gained 45 pounds, and cried all the time. I just couldn’t figure out why I didn’t fit. Why this life, where I’d done everything I was supposed to do, in exactly the right way, felt so wrong.

Around ’08, I said enough was enough. I had been playing music some and enjoying it greatly. I made the decision to throw my all into it, lost 35 pounds (I kinda liked the last 10), and decided that I was just okay with not fitting this mold. That change didn’t happen overnight, mind you. It’s been a multi-year endeavor.

And I’ve clung tooth and nail to my creative life, despite the exhaustion that so often came from the manufactured stress that runs rampant through the alternate reality of the corporate job. The stress that tries to kill it out of you. It’s nothing close to easy, but every bit of it has been worth it.

I’ve recently decided to take an even more active role in all of this. I’d grown tired of life “happening to me,” or waiting for the so-called “right time” to do something. There’s never a right time to change everything and start over. It’s always going to be hard. I think that’s how you know it’s worth doing.

So I’ve changed a lot of things–big, huge life things–and while people are quick to offer up their opinions and judgments about it all, positive and negative alike, I know I’m doing right by me. And that’s important. Sometimes the most important.

And in continuing that, I’ve decided that I need to go back to school. I may have finally figured out what I want to do when I grow up. So here’s to the next chapter… :-)

http://online.fullsail.edu/degrees/music-production-bachelors


Status Update

10/09/2011

So today I find myself enjoying a much needed day off, listening to rain that hasn’t let up since it woke me late this morning, following the first full night’s sleep I’ve had in several days. Though that’s certainly not to say that the last several days weren’t wonderful.

Thursday morning I woke up at 4 a.m. to drive to Austin for the day job. I’m not going to say that the training seminar was riveting in any way, but I’m so glad for the day that it afforded me. There’s really nothing quite like driving in the country in the early morning before the sun comes up. It’s the only thing that makes me want to be a morning person–standing on the edge of the day, feeling all the quiet energy that’s all just moments away from springing to life. And for 150 miles I had nothing to do but enjoy it. The sun rose in my rearview mirror, and I felt completely alone. But do not confuse “alone” with “lonely.” This was a very powerful solitude, and the uninterrupted time with just my thoughts and the slow-waking morning was cathartic in a way I often overlook.

The sunrise was softened by a light fog that grew visible at the same time I began to see the blackened remains of the forest fires that plagued the area only weeks before. If I’d had time, I would have loved to have just stopped and photographed the morning. It felt special. And I felt like I alone had a front row seat for the whole show.

I left Austin at a little after 5 that evening, once again watching the sun hang in my rearview mirror, with the perfect light creating the most spectacular shadows on the hills. I had the strangest sensation that I had opened up the day, and then zipped it closed behind me. These are wonderful moments. Moments that are so easy to miss if you forget to look. And I really think most people do forget.

I spent Friday afternoon working from home and getting ready to drive to Bryan for a show. I had to smile at the fact that I was sitting at home doing corporate work while being dressed for a gig. The two are amusingly incompatible. It’s funny to me how often people comment that I am so different in the two settings. I don’t really feel that I’m different–just that there’s really nothing for me to express at the day job. And that’s not to say that there’s anything specifically wrong with the day job, but honestly, it benefits from a lack of expression. We are expected to abide by templates and guidelines; creativity is not exactly useful most of the time. Looking at it otherwise is just an easy way to become frustrated.

Another 90 miles on the road, and we got to Bryan early in the evening with a full night of playing ahead of us. I love playing the First Fridays festival out there. It’s outdoors, with lots of foot traffic, and the people are so nice. We set up to play in front of a small music shop–very fitting–run by some of the nicest people you’d hope to meet. The night was a good one. I like the we way we catch people’s attention. Especially little kids. I don’t usually know how to interact with kids–I missed that day, I think–but when we’re performing, they always dance. The young parents almost always hand the kids some money to put in the tip jar. A dollar bill looks huge in a three year-old’s hand. I always smile. They look so happy.

During our breaks, people always talk to us. They fall all over themselves about John’s guitar playing or the stompbox or the vocals. Everyone has their favorite part. Regardless of what they’re focusing on, I think they’re just caught up in the fact that it’s something so different than anything else they will typically hear. We’ve had an uphill battle in convincing people who haven’t heard us that we’re not just a sleepy little acoustic duo. But once people listen to it, they know there’s something special there. Some combination of talent and energy and expression and an unmistakable chemistry and trust that’s been there from the beginning.

We played for some three hours before the Jimmy Buffet/top 40 cover band started up down the street, and we conceded the fight. Some guys running a barbecue stand down the block invited us over for food, so we started the break-down-and-load-up process (thank you, Emily and Chad, for the help!). The streets were closed off so we had to cart all the gear down the street and over some railroad tracks. One of us (I won’t say who) had decided that 4-inch heels were a good idea that night. It got interesting.

The half-ton of gear safely in the car, we went and hung out with the barbecue guys, bullshitting over a few beers until I saw the time and decided we should probably head home. My plan was to stay awake to help John drive. I made it about 10 minutes, then woke up about 30 miles outside of town, just long enough to complain about the horrible stretch of outlet stores that we always pass on that drive, and was out again. Sigh. I mean well. :-)

After far too little sleep, Saturday made its entrance. Over much-needed coffee, I finished getting all the music set up for the wedding reception of my dear friend Melissa. John threw a much smaller portion of our gear in the car since, in addition to running sound for the wedding, Melissa asked us to perform a song, and I began the unnecessarily complicated process of Getting-Dressed-For-a-Wedding.

We arrived in Angleton around 3:30 and got the gear set up to play. I was excited about the song we were performing. It’s an old song that was performed at her grandparents’ wedding in the 20’s. We had spent quite a bit of time reworking it into a format that we could perform well, since it was originally accompanied parlor-style by piano with operatic vocals. I rearranged the structure, wrote a couple of lines, and changed one of the verses into a chorus. John composed a beautiful accompaniment on the banjo, and the result is something that was far more beautiful and sweet than I’d set out to create. I was much more nervous performing that song in such an intimate setting than I’ve been at any other show we’ve played, even the early shows where I used to have to take off a day of work and kill a bottle of pepto-bismal beforehand. Ah, those were the days…

Despite me being a nervous mess, I was very proud of our performance. More to the point, I felt that we provided something very special to someone who has been a better friend to me than most. Sometimes–probably a lot ot times–I don’t express my feelings well. But I think this was a great way to let her know how much I care about her, and how happy I am to see her begin this next chapter.

We got home at an hour that felt much later than it was, and had some prosecco in Melissa’s honor. I slept more last night than I have in some time, only waking when the rain picked up. It was such a foreign sound. I really can’t remember the last time it rained for more than just a few minutes.

I’d like to think there’s some symbolism here. Like maybe things are starting to grow again, like maybe there’s a new chapter for all of us.

Or maybe, it’s just rain.

Either way, following a weekend full of music, love, creativity, hard work, and many, many miles on the road, it’s really just fine by me. :-)