Trying to find a balance — keeping an even keel

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “On the Edge.”

My life, like most lives out there, is pretty hectic and crazy.  Adulting is hard y’all, and it certainly can take a toll on how I interact with those around me (and how I interact with myself, to be honest).  Staying centered is hugely important to me, especially because i am expected to set the example and be the voice of reason for my children and the junior people at work.

So how do I do it?  Music and alone time.  Seriously…it’s that simple.  I have certain bands that I know will always help loosen the tension I feel, regardless of what the cause of it is.  Mostly, if it’s been a helluva day at work, it’s Stevie Ray Vaughan.  I’ll turn on his slow blues, played on his signature ’62 Fender Strat with heavy gauge strings and just let my mind float away.  Any troubles I had are instantly lost in the smooth, sweet guitar played by such a virtuoso.  I can feel the stress melting away as Little Wing flows through my speakers.  When I finally get to Lenny it’s like I am floating through nothingness…and it’s a great feeling.  Trust me.

If it’s people, sometimes I’ll turn to a different kind of music.  Sometimes, it’s John Mayer’s more introspective songs, from Whiskey Whiskey Whiskey to Quiet, and others I turn to things like Eric Church’s Darkside and A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young.  Whichever way I turn, the songs are always mellow and (often times) deal with a man finding his way to a better place.  I crank the music, close my eyes, and am transported to a different place or a different time.

The best part?  It’s nearly free.  And at the end of listening to good music, there’s no headache, heartache, or hangover to deal with.  It’s only as expensive as the time I take to listen.  For me, it’s better than a trained psychologist or a friendly bartender.  It’s a gift, recorded some time ago by some who are still with us and by others who have long left this world.  The message in their music, however, is as relevant today as it was when it was written.  And I hear it…I feel it…and it soothes my soul.

Music to me is magic.  It makes me feel things my conscious mind had long forgotten; it can bring me back from the brink when nothing in my world is going right.  It just moves me…in ways that little else in this world can.

And I wouldn’t have to see you every night…

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Can’t Drive 55.”

Amneisa – Josh Abbott Band

Wow.  This is one lyric — indeed the entire song — that nearly anyone who’s ever loved can just feel  It conjures images of my first love, of those I’ve loved and lost, and those I’ve always admired but never had a relationship with.  It’s a song that talks easily of those universally understood feelings:  longing, loss, and love.

I think of two people in particular when I hear this song.  (Neither will be named here…I’ve got to keep some sense of dignity after all.)  One is a previous relationship, and one is a relationship that never was.  Both were in my life for a good amount of time and changed me in ways I still cannot truly understand; they made me be a better man.

So why would I think of them to a song titled Amnesia?  Well, because nostalgia is a bear.  And as I’ve said before, I’m quietly emotional, which means sometimes the way song lyrics are written puts images in my head.  Hell, if I actually understood it, I might make some money, right?

I am happy I heard this song though.  It’s one that reminds me that all people have these moments and that we all deal with them in our own way.

Musical Taste — How and Why?

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Papa Loves Mambo.”

Music is such a part of my life that I don’t think there are many times that pass without its presence somewhere.  I turn on the radio as soon as I wake up…find songs to listen to while at work…jam out on the way home.  Music is central to nearly everything I do, and it started at home.

Growing up, my dad listened to mostly classic rock and mom listened to mostly 80s pop music.  Through the years, their tastes ebbed and flowed; mom got further into the music of the 70s and country music.  Dad decided classic rock and blues were his go-to.  But, no matter the year or the musical phase, I can’t think of a day that went by without music in some form being played in my house…pretty much nonstop.

I began my musical journey in earnest in 5th grade when I tried out for the band.  My intention was to play saxophone (it’s a sexy instrument after all, and this was the height of the Kenny G craze).  However, the teacher noticed something (to this day, I’m still not sure what that ‘something’ was) and decided I should try clarinet.  I actually enjoyed it and stuck with it after we moved to Tennessee.  I continued with music or choir in some form until the day I left highschool.  But enough about that…let’s talk about home…

Games.  My dad played games with songs.  “Who sang this one?” was a common question anytime we were in the car.  A more common answer was “I don’t know, who?” followed by “no…Who sang it!”  (It was always a song done by The Who…and he loved to mess with us.)  This would go on for hours, but it got me to start paying attention to the people behind the music.  Of all the things I learned (or didn’t learn, as it were) from my father, musical appreciation is the absolute best.  It’s his fault I pay such close attention to song lyrics and the artists behind them.  It’s his fault I know every word to nearly every popular classic rock song in existence from 1963 and onward.

As I grew, I developed my own ear for music, but in reality it tended to stay pretty close to center (at least, in between what mom and dad both liked).  I liked the Beastie Boys and Red Hot Chili Peppers.  I liked Garth Brooks and George Strait.  I heard Nirvana for the first time and dreamed I’d one day play a guitar in a great band like them.

I no longer look for music of a particular genre; I’ve decided that there are two kinds of music and I should just embrace it.  There’s good and bad music…good music makes you really *feel* what they’re saying and own it.  Bad music can be catchy, but it lacks substance…and I just can’t get behind it.  No way, no how.

Today, I’m a huge fan of the blues and of acoustic music in general.  I listen to nearly anything I can get my hands on, but I still have a special place in my heard for the blues and for jazz records.  When you want to get onto me for liking so much music…remember to just thank my parents.

Yes, I’ve become my parents. How did this happen?

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “I’ve Become My Parents.”

I read this prompt and immediately laughed.  This is a conversation my wife and I have at least weekly.  “Shit, I opened my mouth and my father came out.  What happened?!?”

Well, we got old.  We had kids.  Yes, that was kids.  Plural.  We’ve entered that magical (maybe?) world of adulthood where we have to put the needs of some small people above our own.  We have to talk about poop and puke and all things in between.  We get up eight times a night to quiet the baby or to give him a teething toy.  We scoot over at 5am on Saturday when our daughters come downstairs and want to get in the bed with us because they had a bad dream.  We endure Dora the Explorer and The Backyardigans (who came up with that anyway?) when we’d rather be watching sports or the news.

How does this happen you might ask?  Well, it’s not like you just wake up one day and suddenly feel old.  It creeps in slowly, so slow in fact that you don’t even realize it until you’re standing in your house that you own talking to your kid about how responsibility and accountability are important aspects of being a good person.  You launch into a ten minute monologue about the merits of being honest when you do something and *WHAM!* there you are.  You’ve become your parents.  It hits you like a ton of bricks.

I remember not so long ago my biggest concern in life was whether or not I should eat real food or ramen.  Seriously, I was a bachelor and didn’t mind eating crappy food.  I made up for it by going out and by having nice clothes and a house.  Nowadays, the least of my worries is what I’ll wear.  I’ve graduated to the stage of life where my biggest worries and greatest successes all have to do with two (relatively) tiny humans who depend on me for everything.

So yeah, I get on the older one for lying and running in the house.  She hears about how important it is to do her best in all her endeavors and how she can be so great when she puts her mind to it.  After she goes to sleep or when I have the house to myself, I realize how much I’ve become my mother or my father (or at least a good combo of both).  It’s scary to think about it.

What’s more, it hasn’t really felt like seven years since she was born.  Where the hell did that time go?  I’m watching her grow up so fast that I don’t know what to do.  One day she’s sitting here barely speaking, and the next day she comes home from school talking to me about how we’re omnivores and cows are herbavores.  I’m not sure how to take it.  And, I feel even more like my mom and dad when I think that way.  They always told us how fast we were growing and how much we’d miss it when we were older.  Of course, like every teenager in the world, I thought they were full of it.  Turns out, mom and dad knew a thing or two and maybe I should’ve stopped and listened once in a while.  Who knew, right?

I definitely feel it now too when I go out in public.  I’m always getting Sir’d like I’m some 40-something guy who has done it all.  Then I think about it, and to these kids, I’m that guy.  They don’t know I’m in my 30s…they only know I’ve been around the longer than they’ve been able to function independently.  I have been in the military nearly 14 years; some of these kids were born in the mid 90s when I was already in high school.  Floors you.

We’re old people  When the hell did this happen?