For Auld Lange Syne, My Dear

December 29, 2010

At the end of each December, we in the first world feel compelled to reflect, introspect, and project into the future. We think about the past 365 days, and all the nouns and verbs that have filled them.

Our linear human sensibilities provoke nostalgia over another measured segment of a relative concept. We think back on all the promises we made ourselves 52 weeks ago, and how successfully these goals were met. Realistically, we could pick any day to start over. To get a new job, a new lover, a new home. We could select any of the 364 “other” days to begin our diets, stop procrastinating, or spend more time with the kids.

But something about this singular date 1/1 incites within our ambitious little souls an urge for improvement. Something about this mid-winter’s day– after the excitement of the holidays has worn out it’s welcome, and the guests have all gone home– causes us to think about who we’ve been and, more importantly, who we want to be.

The word of the day is Resolution.

What can one do to be more, or different? What changes can be made, starting January first, to improve our lifestyles? To become better humans?

I spent the first 6 hours of 2010 inside my head. Sitting at the wheel of my car in a parking lot, with a friend I’ve had since highschool. We talked. And sat. We listened to one of my favorite Grateful Dead shows, loudly, and opened the moon roof in the snow. I thought about who I was sitting with. I thought about everyone I was not with. I thought about Phish launching their drummer from a cannon in Miami, my car, and the strides I made in 2009. I thought about work, about my family, and how long it had been since my last drink. And then I made some resolutions.

Stretch more, drink lots of water, and be nice to your car.

That was it. Those were the best, most reasonable resolutions I could envision for myself. Being more limber, hydrated, and ready for action. Baby steps.

Here, in the final stretch of 2010, there is no doubt in my mind that this was a personally successful year. I kept all my resolutions, and then some. Early last January, I began spending time with a man whom has, many times over the past 12 months, been the sunshine in my otherwise overcast Rochester sky. In the spring, I started this blog which has, to date, well over 5,000 hits. In the summer I saw a bunch of shows, and began a large-scale writing project– which is still very much underway. In August, I was blessed with the opportunity to visit some friends in Colorado, who are some of the most wonderful and inspiring people I know. I’ve lost ten pounds. I’ve only been sick once. I feel good about myself, inside and out.

And now, a year after sitting stagnant in my blue Subaru (which got 4 new tires and a new head-gasket in 2010) in a parking lot in my hometown, thinking about Phish and the world at large; I am getting in my car and driving to the biggest city on the east coast to see one of my favorite bands with friends from all over the country. For whatever negativity and complaining occurred (and I know I’m full of it), I feel overwhelming gratitude toward everyone and everything that has pushed this year toward it’s culmination.

For 2011, I am resolving to create more structure in my life outside of the 9-5. Join a yoga class, or a team (kickball in 2010 did happen), or volunteer some time. Getting in the habit of doing things I enjoy. I’m also promising myself I will write more and sleep better. That’s it.

Drink responsibly. Get home safely. Love and appreciate the life you’ve been given. Happy New Year, see you all in 2011.

“If you believe in peace, act peacefully; if you believe in love, acting lovingly; if you believe every which way, then act every which way, that’s perfectly valid – but don’t go out trying to sell your beliefs to the system. You end up contradicting what you profess to believe in, and you set a bum example. If you want to change the world, change yourself.” [[TomRobbins.StillLifeWithWoodpecker]]


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The most important part of a movie about my life would, without a doubt, be the soundtrack. The joyful noise which accompanies my daily happenings is much more than just auditory stimulation– to me it is closer to oxygen.

Steady beats melt my heart; ripping guitar solos wriggle their way wantonly through my grey-matter; and the first drop of a funky baseline is damn near erotic. I am not a musician, yet music is my life. I cannot read a scale, yet I would give up food before tunes.

Growing up, I recall (quite literally) falling asleep in front of large speakers on more than one occasion. My father’s audio collection was years in the making, and impressively diverse. Music was fed into my small ears even through the womb. Everything from Black Sabbath to Eric Clapton. From The Doors to Devo; The Grateful Dead to the Talking Heads. I digested it all. Every last Genesis, Zeppelin, and Yes album. I knew the Jimi Hendrix Experience before I was ever truly experienced. I had my first rockstar crush on Kurt Cobain by 7 years old.

My mother, for her part, lives and loves the blues. Robert Cray, Muddy Waters, and BB King all populate her collection. Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young bring her back to hazy college days, and Stevie Ray Vaughn often helped her clean the house.

My father’s passion for music infected me in ways it took years to even realize. He and nearly all his friends were musicians– or at least makers of music. During my childhood, music was more than just sound. It was smiles and laughter, it was being with friends, sometimes it was even a coverup for the arguments. Music was there when I went to bed. There when I awoke. Music was there for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.

All this exposure to sweet melody has created volumes in my head. Certain songs are part of certain volumes– each vividly dredging up a period of time. For instance, I recall in great detail the winter the Dave Matthews Band released their monumental “Under The Table and Dreaming Album.” I played violin in school ensemble. My father had a fantasy of us in a DMB-esque family band. We listened to that CD over and over for months and, to this day, I remember every lyric to Ants Marching. It’s hard to hear the album without being taken right to that time, that place.

And that is, of course, just one of many examples. As I reflect, my life is rich with musical milestones. Weeks, months, and years flash by to the right album or song. Memory and sound intertwining.

Someday, I will compile an actual soundtrack. Like a Quentin Tarantino film, the musical accompaniment of my story will be eclectic, ironic, and emotional.

The soundtrack to my life will undoubtably tell more story than any trivial literary composition ever could.

Where words fail, music speaks. [[HansChristianAndersen]]

Time Turns Elastic

July 23, 2010

I struggle daily with what I believe. It changes by the week, with the stars, and typically without warning.  It is not so much my fundamental or moral beliefs as it is general perspective. It’s as though I can have a whole new outlook in the blink of an eye.

This leads me to believe I am a fickle example of humanity; which is sort of upsetting, although I can’t really seem to pinpoint why.

The tides of time impact everyone differently. I believe some level of personal conflict is derived from my unstable perspective on the passage of time. For me, time is a confusing combination of math and memory. I have difficulty addressing past events in a very accurate sequence unless I write them down. Some seconds feel like decades. Some days like weeks. Some years feel like months.

I often wake up 3 months ahead of myself, convinced I’ve just put in a 9 day work week. Many times, my hour has 83 minutes and my nights last whole lunar cycles. Some days seem to end without starting; and the years shuffle convincingly, like a magician’s well-worn deck of cards.

With the time/ space continuum perpetually in flux, it becomes hard for me to manage reality and my emotions about it. As a result I really try to address things as they happen, and like to resolve things before I blink my eye and discover several years have gone by. When I leave things unfinished, I have a tendency to not come back to them. I need immediate answers. Conclusions help me complete a scenario so I can file it away. The longer situational paperwork sits on my mental desk, the less likely it is to ever find it’s proper drawer.

In some cases, my brain gets stuck in a bermuda triangle. An infinite loop. Time keeps moving but I can’t move with it…

I know only that I am gaining knowledge and that I look differently than I did last decade. These are my primary indicators of progress. Where dates and times seem extremely important to some, I just can’t get them to all stand in line. Some days the numbers on the clock seem to enslave me. Others, they send me into a nostalgic swirl of self-evaluation where I lose my present to the past.

And nobody promises the future.

Defer no time, delays have dangerous ends.                                    [[HenryTheVI.WilliamShakespeare]]

The people I’ve known are beacons of light. Every one of them, a star– shining with varying intensity– in the night sky of my life; guiding me through the existential galaxy. Constellations of lovers, friends, and familiar faces; reminding me where I am going, how far I have come, and always, always, how to get home.

From the people who have left heavy footprints in my heart, to those who’ve merely brushed shoulders my aura, every one of them has made it real, made it worth it, and made me who I am. Without the electricity of other humans, I truly feel that this life would be meaningless.

I try my best to be all these things in return. It hardly feels like enough, sometimes. The compassion I have been fortunate enough to witness in my fellow humans is nothing short of inspirational. The collective spirit is bouncy, flexible, and incomprehensibly strong.

There are times that we call upon others for their frankness or their clemency. Times when we need an honest opinion, a helping hand, or just a sympathetic ear.

There have been times in my life where a hug has saved me.

There have been times when seeming strangers were actually the best friends I had.

One phrase I have given a lot of thought to is one I hear with incredibly frequency in the English language: “Just remember to breathe.”

I have given this sentiment a good deal of thought because it is so baseline simple, yet so profoundly elegant, that it really does merit at least a footnote in our mental manuscript. This advice is most often given to another person when they confide in us that their lives are becoming unmanageable, or out of their control. Be it relationship woes, stress at work, or financial difficulty, everyone gets to feeling overwhelmed on occasion.

When you break it down into just language, reminding another person to breathe is such an absurd thing to do. Breathing is one of the things we’ve been scheduled for on reflex. One of the few things humans should hardly ever have to think about. Yet, when I find myself in over my head, bogged down with negative though, that simple reminder somehow helps put things in perspective.

Just remember to breathe.

In the modern era, where a full time job is hardly enough, where we’re all are on-demand 24 hours a day, and where everyone expects the extraordinary, it truly can be difficult to lose sight of any purpose. As I always say, in reference to the legend of Sisyphus, it feels like rolling the boulder– you get to the top, and it all tumbles back down. Every time.

An inevitability.

There are points when this cycle becomes too much, too maddening. When the day-to-day has us ready to scream, cry, rip out our hair. Where the menial tasks begin to take over our lives and we are ready to just throw in the towel, call it a day, and give right the hell up.

Because if the car has a flat tire, the bank is calling again, you’ve been sick for a week, and the dog peed on the floor– what is the point of living, anyways??

Just remember to breathe.

This cliche’d pattern of sounds uttered from just another mass of rapidly replicating DNA is somehow consoling. It’s the lowest common denominator, breathing, it’s quite literally what keeps us alive.

But more than simply being a reminder to another human to continue their maintenance, it’s an expression of your desire for that person to stay alive, and in the moment. One breath at a time. The one thing we have to continue doing regularly, every day, is the one thing we hardly ever think about. An action we take entirely for granted.

Above and beyond it’s straightforward implication, “just remember to breathe” is a reminder of the connection between all living things; it is a suggestion to slow down and appreciate the ebb and flow; it is a prompt to surrender to the machine and, if only for a moment, to remain in the present, focusing on what one really needs. This reminder is a mainstay of Eastern religions and meditative thought, not for nothing.

In spite of what the news man tells me, humanity has not left me roughed-up along the side of the road after prom quite yet. The altruistic instincts, the sweet sympathies, and the constant cascade of loving energy I feel tells me that being part of the greater network is worth it. If I can provide for others even a small fraction of what they provide for me, I would consider this life a success.

Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again. [[L.FrankBaum]]

Momentous

April 19, 2010

In my short stint on this watery blue sphere, I have come to realize that the most monumental events in life do not occur on schedule. They are not organized or denoted. These memorable moments are not penciled in, nor do they come with a guest list, map, or itinerary.

I have yet to experience a birthday as illustrious as my first concert. I have yet to walk in a graduation that I recall as vividly as falling in love. In my head, there area vast number of moments that changed me forever. Some so brief, they flash by almost subliminally.

And I feel the feeling I forgot.

In an instant, a smell, a taste, a sound, can bring it all back. That time. That place. That second where everything felt so… infinite.

Being 14 on a winter’s day, walking the streets of suburbia with Nirvana in the DiscMan. Steely greys, desolate landscape. This place is a ghost town. Flash. Being 5 and watercoloring in the cool early morning sun of a summer’s day. I’m at a Fischer Price picnic table drinking a Mott’s apple juice box. An innocent. Flash. Being 19, rolling in the grass of a summer music festival. Belly full of wine, air smells of fried food. Spinning dizzy, smiles, kisses and dirt. Flash.

No video, audio, or photographic medium could ever capture the essence of these times. These moments could not be bottled, framed, or uploaded. They were not planned or anticipated. They just were.

Fully and completely lived-in moments. Times so well-placed and familiar, I often revisit them in my head, like dogeared pages of a favorite book. I can go back and be there. If only for a second. Times so beautiful, so sensory, I can hold them, they can make me cry.

Sometimes I think we forget to live for the moments we truly live in. We get so caught up in the necessity for documentation, organization, and fanfare, that we let these little existential pearls slip by unheralded.

It’s a simple thing to misplace your sense of wonder.

You are told a lot about your education, but some beautiful, sacred memory, preserved since childhood, is perhaps the best education of all. If a man carries many such memories into life with him, he is saved for the rest of his days. And even if only one good memory is left in our hearts, it may also be the instrument of our salvation one day. [[TheBrothersKaramazov.FyodorDostoevsky]]