Wednesday, March 13, 2013

almost being alive

I've always found music to be one of the best therapists that you could ever hope for. No matter what is going on, there is a song for that moment. And the very existence of that song means that someone, somewhere went through some of the same joy or pain as you. It's a beautiful, universally connective thing. There is nothing more unifying to me than going to a concert and standing in a sweaty cluster in the middle of a warehouse, singing my guts out with some complete strangers. For a few fleeting moments, there are no differences between any of you. There is no conflict. Just beautiful strains of poetry passing your lips as you reflect on the simple fact that you are alive. 

Often, there is no other way for me to express what I'm feeling than to put it into a song. Granted, most of these songs never make it past the walls of my room, but they serve their purpose.

A couple of years ago one of my good friends and I were in a little acoustic, indie-rock outfit. We just played a few small shows around our local community. One day, we were trying to write some new songs to play at an upcoming show. Morgan, my bandmate, asked me if there was anything I wanted to write about. It was silly, but I had been having these reoccurring dreams that I couldn't figure out. 

In the dream, I was walking down a quiet, dark road at night. I was carrying luggage and my guitar case in my hand. Lining the road were these nice, older houses that had all of their lights off, except for porch lights. I kept walking up the road, minding my own business, intently making my way towards an empty train stop platform. Every few minutes, I would check my watch and look over my back, as if I was anticipating no longer being the only person around anymore. I climbed the stairs of the train platform and set my stuff down, still looking around somewhat anxiously. Suddenly, I look up and see the train blowing into the stop. Despite it's loud approach, the entire place still felt empty and silent. I look around one more time, let out an exasperated sigh, grab my stuff and board the train headed out of this quiet hell. 

When I finished telling the story to Morgan, I remember her kindly smiling and saying "You're not alone. You've got us, silly." Her and her husband, Si, are two of the raddest, kindest people in existence. I'm beyond lucky to know them.

We sat and talked about the dream for a while. I like to akin the whole thing to the fact that, as long as I can remember, I have been searching for the right person to meet me at the train stop. But it also shows that I'm not afraid to get on that train alone. I suppose in life, we have no choice in the matter. My senior English teacher called me a 'hopeless romantic'. How poetic. If she only knew how right she was.

What I realized through this is we aren't meant to be alone in this life, but you have to be willing to go into the fray on your own. It's a mind over matter type of thing. Your heart is going to cry out for fear of loneliness, but your mind has to treat it as a wound that can be overcome. Some people are going to be blessed enough to walk to that train station hand-in-hand with the one they are meant to take the journey with, others won't. 

We titled the song, that came from that discussion, Carbonesque - meaning having the same characteristics of life. I like to think it is because the dream, that still comes around from time to time, is a personal challenge. If you had to go through this world alone, would you quit walking or would you gather your things, breathe, and step forward into the unknown?

Here is the song. I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

into the fray

When I was little, my dad made sure that I had the privilege of playing little league baseball. I wasn't ever the biggest kid, so in many respects, it was the sport I could play without getting too hurt (at least, that was the thought).

As I grew up in the game and the other kids were allowed to pitch, the game that I enjoyed playing (a.k.a. - picking dandelions, rolling in the dirt (because your uniform has to be dirty to prove you have played), etc.) took on a very different and frightening role. Now, a trustworthy coach wasn't lobbing pitches over the plate for you to hit them, some wild-eyed, crazy-haired kid, that you knew as the school bully, was flinging a hard, leather-wrapped ball directly at your head for fun. At least, that's what it initially felt like.

Eventually, the fear of taking a good, old-fashioned beanball to the dome was not the first thing on my mind every time. As time passed, I began to love the game again. The smell of the freshly-cut grass, the sun beating down, the thrill of being a part of something that is bigger than you, and striving for a fleeting moment of glory - it's all part of the game. I think on those fields, early in my life, was were I learned confidence, but I also learned how to hurt and to take defeat.

I was notorious for being so upset about striking out or making a bad play, that I would burst into tears. It wasn't a selfish act, I honestly would be distraught over letting my team down. Sure, I wanted to personally succeed, but I also feel like the game of baseball gives itself over to a team effort. A well-placed hit or diving play may salvage that last moment and give the team a victory, but there are 9 innings of intense moments that lead to the end, and they all have to fall into exactly the right place.

This is why baseball is just like our lives.

We are all striving for something, and we may be scared to death of what may come next, but the only way that we can hope for success is to stand in there, plant our feet, trust ourselves, and swing away. Plus, life is always much more purposeful when it is about more than you. Taking on the purpose of bettering society, providing for a family, giving someone hope - these are all the types of things we need to invite into our lives - I know I do.

Recent events have made me afraid of stepping up to the plate in some areas of my life. The imposing thought of failure likes to try and stop me from even getting ready to take a swing. I know better, but the heart is fragile and it needs a pep-talk every now and then.

I had a movie recommended to me by a friend, that kind of took me by surprise. It was the movie, The Grey. Now, this is not a movie to watch if you are in need of a pick-me-up. It is definitely a downer-type of movie, but it poses some very amazing questions about our own feeble existence. I won't break down the plot for you, but there is a pretty incredible scene I want to describe. Liam Neeson has just been through hell basically, with a companion just dying in his arms. He collapses on the snowy bank of river, completely ready to give up, and stares up to the sky. He calls out with most of his fleeting energy, "Show me something! If you give me anything, I'll believe in you for the rest of my days!". The sky continues to pour snow on him, as he sits there alone in silence. In this moment, after what he has been through, he has every right to quit. Just sit there on that snowy bank and let his breathing slow, let hypothermia take over and let death come - the only thing that is certain to arrive. But, then he does what most would not, he stands back up. He begins to move with purpose back into the woods, in a hopeless quest to find shelter, to find hope. So, I ask you, what drives us off the banks of our lives, when we should quit?

Take your feet. Step up. Swing away.