Thursday, June 21, 2012

What Do You Live For?

When I write lyrics,
I feel like my words are trapped.

The line break there was completely unintentional. It was just one of those things that happens when you’re typing. Less intentional than a typo. More like a Freudian slip of a finger that got excited without being asked to, like a dog when you accidentally drop the word “walk” into a conversation he happens to be listening to. Perhaps I should apologize to my finger as I would a dog, No, I’m sorry boy, not right now.

The voice you hear right now isn’t quite my own. There are echoes in it, echoes of Neil Gaiman and Patrick Rothfuss. I am ok with this. They are echoes I want you to hear when I write, along with Orson Scott Card, a dash of Heinlein, and some trimmings of Hemingway. When I write lyrics, I want you to hear a little Collective Soul, a tea/tablespoon of Our Lady Peace, spiced with Rob Thomas and seasoned with Jason Mraz, Train, and Joshua Radin. Of course, I just want those things to bring out the main flavor. . . I want you to hear me.

My problem then, stems from two sources. The first, which may render the second null and void, is my favorite critic. The problem with him is that he’s just about as good for me as drinking too much the night before, or singing karaoke in a smoke-filled bar when I have to get up at 7 for work the next morning. He’s a pretty good critic, he’s had a lot of practice. He’s been following me around like a bad hangover my whole life. He needs to work out, he’s fat from all the negativity he’s fed on.

The second problem? I feel like my words are trapped. I run in this endless cycle of themes and words that beat their heads repeatedly into my haphazard rhyme schemes. Destiny. Fate. Shadows. Silhouettes. Moment. Me. You. Love songs written through the lens of fiction, folk and faerie tales, mythology. My critic is discontent. He says I can do better. He points at Collective Soul, Our Lady Peace, and Jason Mraz and says. Look at them. Look at what they can do with their words. I want to scream in his face, STOP FUCKING COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS. Somewhere, a skinnier, not-quite-malnourished wolf in the background whines discontentedly and paws his empty food bowl. It’s hard to remember to feed him with the other so demanding, so strong.

I haven’t always been hard on myself. I meant to write the opposite, that I have always held myself to these expectations that I keep failing to meet. The absolute of it ran into a wall at my sophomore year of high school. I remember how much I worked to study French. It only seems like work in retrospect, because I know I didn’t notice back then. It was just how I studied. How I met the goal set before me. I miss that sense of effortless effort. It just was, and it was just what I did and how I did it. It may have even been fun. I can’t remember, that part of the memory is obscured by the mists of passing years. I think it was. A lot of the things that grew up to seem like work were just things I did for fun to pass the time when I was young. I wrote my first attempt at a story when I was in elementary and middle school. Only once since then have I had an attempt at fiction break the page count record I set then. I love writing. . . but it isn’t so effortless now.

Perhaps it is simply the lack of practice. The drowning of imagination in the worry and care of being an adult. The attempt to slog a path through a bog of life that has never had a clear one for me. I am where I am now simply as an effort to survive. Career doesn’t have much appeal to me. Corporate life has much, much less. Where once we worked in tune and time with our bodies and the earth to make it through our days, now we cast ourselves into meaningless factories of information and profit.

When I write lyrics,
I feel like my words are trapped.
My life lacks purpose.
I need more meaning than God,
I need a higher goal than heaven.
I am still floating
or trudging or slogging
through one of the boggy sections
of the river of life.
The water is clearer than it once was,
but the day is still young
and the fog that rose from the cold night air
where it touched the warmth of the water
(or was it the warm air on cold water?),
that fog still lingers and I can’t see
even to where the river bends.

A purpose gives people a lodestone, a compass, a North. It is a north star, a guiding light. There must be more to being than simply being and more to a journey than a road that is both path and destination. If I am to simply be, than why be at all? Not being is unacceptable. The fog-ridden bog I am in feels like not being. I am like the plant I keep on my counter in my apartment. It is alive. It is strong. It can’t grow. It has fed on nothing but water for over a year. There is no soil for its roots. No nutrients. Just subsistence. Survival. That plant and I have a lot in common. We both want more. More. More. I want more.

A friend of mine went sky diving recently. I thought the idea of it would leave a bad taste in my mouth, the way the idea avocado and cheesecake does. It was one of those things I could never imagine myself doing. I don’t enjoy jumping off of high things. I don’t enjoy the battle inside myself between fear and action. She made her experience sound so beautiful, so freeing that I don’t know anymore. If the opportunity arrives, I may not be able to say no.

And secretly, so secretly, if the opportunity arrives, I hope it doesn’t come when the moment will be defiled by a private desire that my chute won’t open, that the next car will claim what I refuse to, that some terminal disease will steal me from the world early. That tiny dark voice is not me. It doesn’t belong to the man I am. It doesn’t belong to the man I want to be. But it comes from the dark forest into the clearing of my soul, and lingers on the edges. How I wish to walk further down the river, and be swept away from this piece of darkness inside of me.

The sky is blue. I am not sure I see it.
The sun is shining. I am not sure I feel it.
But out in the sun and sky is where I want to be.

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