Friday, February 22, 2013

Get Over It

So, I wrote myself a theme for this moment in my life to power me through what it would be fair to call a rough patch, though I've taken it in stride.

Get Over it

Honestly, where do I start?
the holes are round, all I got is square pegs
still i insist on playing it out
to bake a cake you gotta break some eggs

that's how it's done so get over it
no other way, you best get over it
the cross you bare, you gotta shoulder it
to err is human, so just get over it

I've said and done some careless things
had my share of wounds that slowly healed
taking flight, but only angels have wings
enjoy the fall, the landing's gonna sting

that's how it goes, so get over it
dust yourself off and get over it
maybe this is not your fate, let go of it
it's another obstacle, get over it

Monday, February 18, 2013

Where Did It All Go Wrong?

Let me take a deep breath.  I like this song a lot.  At a time when I'd all but written off Oasis, largely because of the lack of empathy they seemed to generate, here came Noel with this pleading, melancholy melody and lyric.  Though the production was contemporary at the time, to me the tone and melody felt like something I might hear in the mid 80s, by Phil Collins or Mike and the Mechanics (think Home by the Sea or Silent Running).  Those where formative years for me in a major way.  It was when my parents divorced, so I was an emotional wreck, an 8 year old misanthrope dealing with my world shattering less than a year removed from the first death I can remember, that of my paternal Grandfather.  The fallout of these events radically altered the trajectory of my life.

I've written about how my body betrayed me, and I'm pretty sure I've written about the impact of my parents personalities on the formation of my own, but I skimp on details.  I neglect the things that make "belonging" and "conforming" so bothersome for me.  I am not normal, I just am not.  I am physically uncommon.   I'm Black, a minority group member, so there was already isolation as a result of being singled out among the majority.  I was the youngest of three children, the only boy, four years younger than my closest sibling, so I was the odd man out at home.  I had an antagonistic relationship with my sisters and mother, and my father was an Enigmatic Icon.  I ended up feeling more emotional attachment to my dog than my family, and then my friends outside of home.   I lost all hope of getting lost in a crowd of  people my own color by the time I was 13 years old and 6'2".  It was a wrap.  After that point I went from being tall for my age, to uncommonly tall, to abnormally tall.  So, my skin color and my height rendered me a physical minority within a minority.  Then there are the cultural issues.

Growing up in the early 80s pop culture was still the primary influence on kids.  It wasn't colorblind, but it was wide open.  Michael Jackson & Prince were Mega Stars, and shared the limelight with Madonna and Cyndi Lauper.  Eccentricity was the norm.  Boy George didn't seem like a weirdo to most of the 8 year olds I knew.  Then again, I thought Boy George was a nickname, and didn't realize George was a Boy for a good long while.  In my eyes Elton John and Billy Joel where the same guy musically, and I had no interest in either or their sexual orientations.  I'm Still Still Standing and For the Longest Time were just catchy songs.  I didn't care that Annie Lennox was ambiguous, the Eurythmics just had great songs.

There were a few things I knew for certain.  Cruel Summer by Bananarama was on the soundtrack of Karate Kid, and was one of the songs that came out when my parents separated and it seemed so fitting. Shout by Tears For Fears came out that summer too, as if sent from on high, to give me something to focus on other than the Sky Falling.  I remember seeing promos for Miami Vice's debut set to In the Air Tonight and playing a toy electric guitar I was given with its push-buttons, even though the track is mostly keys and drum loops until the the breakdown, save for those sweeping lead lines that I couldn't have picked out back in the day with my limited understanding of music.  There was so much melancholy in the music undercutting the glamour and flash of that day and age.  Leave it to Prince and The Police to put it completely over the top...  They made depression dance-able. They made it popular.  I would have to say, seeing the video, as well as repeatedly playing the 12" single of Owner of A Lonely Heart I found in my parents' record collection hammered in my understanding of what it meant to be solitary.  It was only through Hip Hop that I got a sense of vigilance and defiance about my own identity as a person. Maybe I could have found that in Punk Rock, but at that time I hadn't heard anything like that that would have appealed to my taste in music.  I was raised on pop, rock, and r & b through the mainstream media.

My fondness for the music of my childhood and refusal to let go of those tastes created a problem once the music world started to slide back into the old-timey tradition of "Race Music".  It can be argued that the return to music segregation was inspired largely by the popularity of Hip Hop & New Jack Swing.  Along with my move to a more segregated community, the expansion of the urban music market made it possible to completely avoid listening to pop music, which to many people my age & race, became "White" music.  As I learned more about embracing the cultural legacy of being African American musical prejudice became a habit, and it was only via tracing back samples used for backing tracks in a lot of songs that I got reacquainted/ reintroduced to the value of popular music past and present.  The catch is, in doing this, I alienated myself from my friends who weren't ready or willing to embrace something outside of what was culturally acceptable for young black kids at that time.  I ended up gravitating towards rappers who seemed to care less about fitting in, and more about finding things they liked.  This put me on the fringe of the subculture within a subculture.  By that time I'd found a few Black rock groups to dig and it became possible for me to breach the cultural-musical divide without breaching the racial one.  Living Colour, FishboneSeal  (my first taste of 90s electronica honestly), and Lenny Kravitz (which they actually played on Video Vibrations, which is where I first saw it one day, waiting for Rap City to come on after school!), were inspirations, albeit with limited exposure, if any on BET or Mtv in the long haul.

Those folks pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable made it possible for me to be a musical explorer.  I have to give some credit to the Video Jukebox for turning things on their head too.  They played Smells Like Teen Spirit so much I had to cave in and listen to "that one song" with the amber hued video at least once, and that was all it took.  I bought Nevermind on cassette but nothing else from the grunge era back in 91', my last year as a normally sized human.  After that I joined Columbia House and BMG, I ordered nearly all the Hip Hop cds they had in their catalog and then started working in on classic R&B and soul, and once I exhausted that, and had reached the zenith of my alienation, I went ahead and got two rock cds:  Jimi Hendrix - The Ultimate Experience & Black Sabbath - Paranoid.  I kept this music to myself, with no expectation that any of my friends would give it a chance.

Rock & Roll was a solitary thing for me.  My interest in it was a means by which to alienate myself from my peers, save for a few, although I did have a friend or two concede to liking Teen Spirit or Jeremy, the latter being an anthem of sorts given my feelings of alienation.  My rejection of norms in my artistic interests (I was still an avid comic book fan at that time and video gamer) coincided with my rejection of other stereotypical or characteristic facets of my identity.  I lost interest in competitive athletics, the local franchises, and anything exclusively marketed for a particular demographic I identified with that seemed cliche or corny.  I became aggressively contrary as a means to self-actualize in the face of disappointing points of identification from my childhood.  After spending two months bed-ridden and wheelchair bound after elective surgery was performed on both my feet by my podiatrist I got serious about believing in God and being a Christian.  Though it may be hard for some people to believe in this age of polarized political and cultural rhetoric, there was possibly no smaller minority among the social circles I was exposed to during high school than vocal Christians.  You did your thing if you believed in God or Jesus, but you did it quietly.

All of those choices pretty much pigeon-holed my prospects in my social life, and ultimately my future by merit of limiting my options in who or what I was willing to relate to, and vice versa.  It was a trap, one I couldn't/ can't escape without getting over myself.  But then came the "have it your way" age of instant gratification by way of the internet, complicating matters.  It allowed me to isolate myself further with more contrary choices in interests and activities.  It also made it more likely for others to have the freedom to make those same contrary choices with there being less stigma against them.  Coupling is hard enough, but it's infinitely more difficult if you limit your options by what you're willing to accept, and what you force someone else to entertain.  By committing so much of my sense of self to disparate cultural interests, I've made it so compromise isn't a choice, it's destiny, and "settling" is the outcome of courtship.  The more even-keeled, humble and thoughtful people of the world will have more forgiving views, but when things get rough, and something about the person you're with rubs you the wrong way, it's going to be really easy to think to yourself, "Maybe if I'd have kept looking I wouldn't have chosen to be with someone who has an issue with ________?"  In some cases that's fair, sometimes we do choose poorly for ourselves because we are haunted by our emotional baggage, or material/physical consequences of our choices.  It's a rough trade, this companionship thing.  With every choice we make, we add a panel to the maze that leads to our hearts and peace of mind.  When the things we choose isolate us from others, those panels are mirrors.

Friday, February 15, 2013

F!#*in Up - Definitely NSFW "Not Safe For Work"

I love that the guitar riff borrows from Born on the Bayou in the best possible way.  I love the the background vocals "Why do I???" pull from the best parts of classic rock on such a raucous tune. I'm not surprised that so many people call this song a personal anthem.  To err is human after all.  Well, this song wasn't on my mind at all this week, but now that the weekend is here, and the work week ended the way it did, there is No Other Song that bookends this week better than this one.  I call it "Road Rock", music to drive to, but given the subject, I'd call this "Speed Trap Rock", music to get pulled over to.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got...

I wish I had that kind of resolve, that kind of conviction, to be content and thankful for my circumstances.  But I'm undone by who and what I am.  That silly phrase that presages upheaval, "The Heart Wants What It Wants." gets the best of me every time.  What that entails is something that varies.

So, for the better part of a year perhaps, I've found myself drawn towards someone. I've written about her, about the precarious circumstances that have left me kicking myself for being so enamored.  You see, everything I know about my situation, about this person, tells me that I am beating up the wrong bush.  Part of it is brutal self-awareness of my shortcomings and flaws, part of it is an awareness of her and other people's perception of those flaws, or ignorance of them.  Then there's her circumstances, flaws, known and unknown to me.  My conscious and unconscious mind have both given me pause and kept me from diving headlong into murky waters that most would assume are shallow.  So why am I drawn?

The most troubling thing about this is, it's kept me mentally engaged on such a level that I can recognize beauty, attraction, sweetness, in other women, even a certain amount of chemistry of whatever sort, but the strength of those connections has yet to trump the lock that this situation, this woman has managed to (un)intentionally put on my passions.  True enough, the notion of the "Love Bank" is in play, and I can't think of any withdrawal that measures against the deposits she's made in kind words, appreciation, general good nature, and personal attributes that I find attractive, most of which I didn't even recognize beforehand because I always saw her as unavailable.  Once that perception changed, it was as if something had changed in my brain chemistry, and perhaps it did?  But what does that matter if my inner mind's eye sees the flaw in my fascination.

Since I've been single, and ready to make myself available (debatable if that latter part is true) I've been troubled by my lack of desire and motivation to advance my interest in anyone romantically.  As much as it feels like that has changed in this situation, it hasn't really.  But the feel of it did, even if it only seemed to do so in a situation that is about as untenable and potentially frustrating and wrong-headed as any I've been involved in before.  I have a knack for getting wrapped up in women who are either in the midst of emotional tumults looking for islands of serenity to gather their whits, aka the rebound guy, or a surrogate for a counselor in the form of an overly involved relationship.  I don't trust my taste in women for this reason, at least the emotional temperaments that draw me in and get me to lower my guard.   Sans that pull, I either accept something I'm not driven to pursue, and let it wither on the vine, or, in its presence, become a man possessed, fixated on something that for all intents and purposes seems like a fool's errand. I dread to find myself on a path to a circumstance I will be resentful of when contrasted with the things I'm seeking to avoid in life, especially when taking the relationships of the people I was raised by into account.

So here in this situation, this cluster-bomb of misgivings, I have emotionally latched onto empathizing for someone who seems to want to be loved, learned to cope with being denied, but probably isn't looking at me to be a source of affection and devotion.  But that hasn't stopped me from wanting something for her, wishing I could be the source of it, even if it seems like the cost of doing so exceeds what I'm willing to sacrifice when left to my own devices, clear headed, and released from the pull of my emotions.  The availability of an opportunity may very well be an illusion.  The difference between knowing better and doing better seems like a small span, but it's a vast chasm.

When you definitely are the wiser, but can't shake the urge to proceed forward down the treacherous path of a predetermined fate all the same, I guess it's fair to say you shouldn't be upset when you get what's coming to you.  The reality is, none of this would be a problem, even merit a thought, if in place of solitude and conjecture, confusion and projection, I just had someone I could always turn to, that always cared, that was available to me, whose time and attention I didn't have to compete for.  That would be a lot easier to pursue if I wasn't so wrapped up in this situation and everything it entails. The nebulousness of it all is suffocating.  I truly need the steadfast gratefulness and faithfulness sung of in this song.  I long to not want what I haven't got, as much as I value what I have, if not more so.

Friday, February 8, 2013

What Sarah Said...

I personally feel this is one the most incredible Death Cab For Cutie songs musically, and the sentiment is pretty powerful, though I can't say I am 100% on board with that position.  This short film I stumbled upon set to it is very well executed and puts a twist on the meaning of the song I'd not fathomed.  But the something said by a Sarah I met as a college freshman is on my mind, and they're nothing like what the Sarah of this song said.

Sarah lived down the hall from me, was roommates with one of the more outgoing girls in my Freshmen bible study, and of the four roommates, she seemed like the mellowest.  I didn't get to talk to her much, but would run across her because she worked at the hall desk where my mail was delivered and they sold Twix, my vice of choice.  I never really got to know her in those chance encounters, then one night, while transiting between buildings via a basement walkway just wide enough for people to walk single file, tucked in a stairway just in the periphery of my vision I saw a figure.  It being the middle of the night I was startled, but I tried to keep my cool and not flake out in horror.  I did a double take, and realized there was a girl sitting in that stairwell, which lead to a fire exit from the basement walkway, crying.  It was Sarah.

I asked her if she was okay?  She wasn't (obviously). In so many words her heart was breaking, because she'd been let down by a young man.  It was an incredibly vulnerable situation for her, but she'd known me well enough, and of me, through her roommate, to not feel threatened in confiding in me at that moment, and what did it matter, who was I going to tell?  Regardless, we had a talk, and I'm sure I talked to her about my unrequited crushes to show solidarity and empathy.  I was averaging one denied infatuation every two months.  It was a tough adjustment, being in a college with 1000s of  young women, instead of a apartment complex with maybe 4 girls near my age, and a high school with a couple of hundred, so many I'd known long enough to turn them off beyond repair.  Anyway, after that night we were more apt to have conversations when I ran into her at the Hall Desk, or she ventured out with her Roommate who attended my Bible Study ( who would join us and confide in us about her own heartaches ). 

At this point, Sarah, having heard me wax poetic about my life trapped in the Friend Zone, in the midst of me explain how it happens, my drift from friend to attached emotionally, looked me square in the face and said, "Will, don't get any ideas."  It was about as straight forward and sincere as can be, with nothing but honest directness. It didn't feel like a put down or rejection at all.  She just made it clear, we were friends, and for me it was exactly what I apparently needed and wanted.  For her honesty she became one of the favorite friends I made that year, because she was just an honest good soul, and shared her heart and mind in kind.  I found myself wishing more girls I knew were like that, rather than being afraid to hurt a guy's feelings, or uncertain about their own due to their own self-esteem issues or co-dependent tendencies.  You know, maybe some people didn't feel they needed to say it?  Fair enough, but I'd say those girls were fooling themselves or didn't want to own up to having their own reasons for feeding the ambiguity.

Sarah was awesome in my book, someone I wished more young women were like, and still do to this day.  We eventually fell out of touch, which was pretty common for most of the college friends I got to know through mutual grief.  I figure it was just a part of moving on from the pasts that were hurt by and grew wiser from.  On the one or two random occasions where we crossed paths later in life*, she seemed like the same, mature and empathetic person she was then.  That's what I appreciated about her that so many of my peers seemed to lack.  She had her head on straight, and was sort of grown in ways none of use weren't.  She was self-assured, which was a very valuable and admirable trait to impressionable kids new to college and life out on their own surrounded by thousands of equally impressionable peers.

Here I am in my mid to late 30s, working with people of various ages, but all of us Older than Sarah and I were back then, still struggling with directness, honesty, and empathy in regards to where they stand with each other.  It just makes me appreciate what Sarah said to me all the more.  She listened well enough to know I was weak, and needed boundaries established.  Doing so liberated me from trying to interpret where they were.  Few others got that.  Few still do.  Stop being afraid to define your terms.  You miss out on the beauty of true friendship, and ultimately true love, as a result.  A person with strong boundaries can be trusted, will have their boundaries respected.  That's sort of person that's the marrying kind, because they will let you know when you're welcome to give your all as well, and that's the kind of acceptance we live for, are willing to die beside, like Sarah said...

* I'm thinking she was a nurse at MO Baptist when my father was admitted there in the late 90s, which she mentioned when we'd ran into each other at a Quicktrip in Columbia MO???  For her to be in Nursing really brings adds a thread of synchronicity to this post I didn't expect.  What else is new?

Nothing To Say

Stuck in a mental rut? I don't know.  I've just been living, been open to feeling, experiencing, taking things in, from a safe distance.  But I keep getting closer, trying to make things out, get a sense of what's going on, getting the bigger picture by focusing in an the details.  That's all fine and dandy, but what if the paint's wet? Fire is pretty, but get to close...

So yeah, I'm in awe of the uncertainty of beautiful things in progress, of which I may play not part, wondering if I can contribute to their composition, if I am welcome to, and if that's a responsibility I have the character and fortitude to embrace and commit to.  The thing about "don't talk about it, be about it" is, well, the first rule of fight club is...