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Goodbye 2014 and Good Riddance

Boy will I be glad when this year is over. I don’t mean to come off as ungrateful, I know many things have happened to me to be thankful for but despite that, it has been the worst year of my life, by far. Among the good things this year has brought is the gift of sight, which I gave myself for Christmas this year, in LASIK surgery. Getting rid of the need of glasses and contacts has been a great joy. I will not miss them. Also, I have finally signed with a good manager for my music, Steve Phillips of Full Fidelity Productions. He and his resources will most definitely help me reach my career goals in music. Also, my strides as a filmmaker have remarkably exceeded my expectations. I’m so happy with the videos Unknown Prophet Pictures have released this year and especially my work as an editor. This has been a dream of mine since the first movies I remember watching as a child. I love the whole process of film-making from the ideas to the production to the editing to watching and everything in between. I’m so proud to be considered a part of such a wonderful realm of creation. I could go on for hours about all the good things that have happened to me and that I’ve made happen this past year but I still consider this to be the worst year I will ever face and I’m glad to soon be rid of it.

Most recently, on Thanksgiving I woke with a twinge in my lower back and left leg. By the afternoon the twinge turned into a sharp pain. I managed the pain by sitting with a pillow jammed under my lumbar but it still continued to get worse. By Saturday, I faced the daunting task of riding in my dad’s van in the 7 hour trip back home from my sister’s place in Wyoming. I made it about 20 minutes before I had to beg my dad to pull over. The pain was so intense, I was in tears. The problem was that it hurt to sit but it also hurt to stand and walk. My dad suggested that I lay on the floor of the van which turned out to be the only relief from this new found monster. I spent the entire trip lying on the floor like that. I had never experienced this type of pain and I just expected it to start to feel better at any moment. By Tuesday spending almost every moment lying flat on my bed, I finally decided to call a back specialist. They, of course, couldn’t see me until the next Monday. The research I had done clued me in that it was nerve pain on my Sciatic Nerve. I am extremely lucky to have the option of working from home on a laptop the company has loaned me and they were very supportive in my turmoil. Long story short, with a few doctor’s visits, an MRI, and now Physical Therapy the results is that I have a herniated disc between my L4 and L5 which is pinching my Sciatic Nerve for which I received a cortisone shot which helped but the Physical Therapy finally relieved my pain. 6 weeks or so of not being able to stand or walk let alone sit upright, plus I’m a side sleeper so sleep had been tough and slim. In the worst of it, it was the most intense physical pain I have ever felt and it was constant unless lying flat on my back. Of course the pain doesn’t stop there, with my high deductible Healthcare plan, the bills with take me down financially.

Close to the beginning of this year I had the misfortune of reconnecting with a girl from my past who ended up lying and betraying me on such a deep level that I no longer have the ability to trust the opposite sex even a little, let alone any desire to share their company in dating and relationship settings. It’s just not for me anymore. These days I believe in love and marriage like I believe in a million dollars. Do others have it? Yes. Could I work really hard toward it but likely never achieve it? Yes. Will I ever see it in my life? No, and I’ve made my peace with that. Much like being a millionaire, I do still think about it, maybe even write songs about finding it and I know how it could make the rest of my life easier, it’s just not worth putting effort toward it and it’s far from my priority. I’ve never really been motivated by money and now I’m no longer motivated by love; not romantic love anyway.

And of course, there’s the loss of my mom. I mean loss in every sense of the word. I am no longer the person I was before her death and I will never be that person again. My survival as of late has been contingent upon a certain level of numbness. It seems these days I’m cursed to either feel immense emotional pain or nothing at all and feeling nothing has been winning my attention. Christmas and the whole holiday season used to be my favorite time of year. This year I couldn’t even put up a tree for fear of this pain. No decorations. No lights. I did spend Christmas Day with my Dad and a few siblings and I was lucky to only shed a few tears. It helped that I was high off my rocker from the pain meds of my eye surgery a couple days before. I’ve said most of what I want to say in my last blog about my mom. I’m glad the daily random weepings have lessened. I know I’ll get through this. Time heals all wounds. I just am worried about who I will be when all is said and done.

This post was not meant to be the downer it has become. This is not meant to inspire a mob rally against 2014 as much as a brighter look ahead. 2015 will be my year. I know it will. Life has beaten me down and I’m still breathing. It’s not always fun to discover the level of your resilience but once known it sure can inspire a level of courage that you didn’t even think existed. Onward and upward, my friends. I’ve hit rock bottom and I promise you I will bounce back. You just wait and see.

Eulogy of My Mother

My mom died on Sunday, September 14, 2014 at 11:08 pm. This is my eulogy for her. I want to start off by saying this should not have happened. It’s not fair and I am in NO WAY ready for this. Read More »

Not So Serendipitous

Those of you who know me personally or have read my past blogs know that this has been a rough year for me. Dropping my optimism for realism, dealing with the loss of hope, and struggling to lose weight (I’m down 12 lbs, btw, woo!) to name a few things. Read More »

Loss changes who we are

I’ve been thinking a lot about loss lately. It’s been on my mind at some level for years but it seems to be the prevalent theme of my 2014. Loss, in my opinion, is the hardest thing we have to deal with throughout our lives. Whether that’s loss of a loved one due to death or a breakup or life circumstances, or loss of a beloved pet, or a job, or a friend, or even faith and hope. Read More »

Realism is King

Realism, I have recently discovered, is the only path to true happiness. Now before all you optimists and pessimists get all up in arms ready to tear down that statement, hear me out.  I know realism can be a cruel mistress and a hard pill to swallow but any kind of happy not based in reality is not true happiness. That’s all I’m saying.

I’ve recently had some overwhelming life experiences wherein I completely lost all hope. My entire life I’d been an optimist, always believing in dreams and looking at the positive in any situation, no matter how bad. Not really a bad way to live and maybe even necessary at times, but my life was completely inter-weaved with it so when I lost all hope, my life foundation was left with so many holes that it almost all came crashing down. Not to get too personal but I’d never had such vivid suicidal thoughts and plans to exit this shitty roller coaster we call life. 2014 has, hands down, been the hardest year of my life and it’s only fucking April. Then again, maybe I should be grateful. That kind of pain and belief system shattering has lead me to a deeper understanding of what happiness really is. It seems only through the trials of life can we find the strength to experience happiness in its purest form.

My best friend, now of almost 20 years, was always a pessimist growing up and me, the most naïve of all optimists. At times we’ve deluded ourselves into thinking he and I were a pessimistic realist and an optimistic realist, respectively, but really that wasn’t more than times where we had healthy run ins with reality and tried to assess our reactions. After a while, it became nothing more than a punch line. Here’s one of our favorite memes:

A few months back I read this quote by William Ward that has become more or less my new mantra.

I still had lingering remnants of hope clouding my perspective though. Not that hope is a bad thing but when you use it to shade truths about your life, it can be disastrous. Like if you really believe that other races are inferior, just hoping you don’t come off that way to people is not going to make you not a racist. Only in facing and excepting harsh truths, especially about ourselves, can we start to change them.

Embracing the concept that truth can evolve is both super hard to accept as well as tremendously beautiful. For example, the fact that I am 100 pounds overweight is an undeniable truth but whether or not that stays a truth my whole life or not though is up to me. Is changing truth easy or quick? Hell no. It would take me almost a full year of very hard work and self discipline to change this truth but how is awesome is it that we as humans have this power.

Realism truly is the only way to feel real happiness. A dear friend of mine’s marriage is on the verge of collapse and he is frantically trying to save it because he truly loves her with his whole mind and soul but sadly the marriage was built on lies, manipulations, and mistrust. For years. This is one of the harshest truths I’ve ever seen and yes, I’m definitely a bit of an asshole to tell him that but what’s the alternative? Does is really show my loyalty and support to help him believe in the fantasy that she’ll stay and everything will work out? Nope. That’s just setting him up for a bigger fall when it’s officially called off. The only way their relationship could survive is for both of them to embrace the reality that it’s broken. It would take years of intense hard work and therapy to mend what’s left. Do I want them to stay together? Of course. I love each of them deeply and hate to see them go through such hard times but my hope won’t change their reality. Only they can do that and it won’t be easy and maybe not even worth it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand fully the value of optimistic and pessimistic perspectives. I just know that in the end pessimists miss out on most of life’s wonderful experiences and optimists are constantly disappointed. That being said, these perspectives can be helpful and maybe even necessary depending on the stage of your life. I am a musician and I’m desperately trying to make a career in one of the hardest industries to make a career in. But when I first started and the many years before I could sing and play at a professional level, my optimism is what made me believe I could make it and to keep going. If I was a true realist at any point before the last couple years, I’d have likely giving up and pursued an easier or more “realistic” life path. Now, however, I have reached a point that it’s not my optimism that tells me I have talent as a singer songwriter, it’s my realism. My realism also tells me that I’m far from the most talented in this industry and that even some of the best never get a foothold and die trying. Because I’m no longer an optimist I don’t blindly believe I will for sure make it nor do I pessimistically believe I won’t. The reality is that I could make it and though I most likely won’t, music is too important to me to stop trying and my realism forces me to work even harder and find more opportunities that I would have without it because I know that the odds are stacked against me. Also, pessimism can protect you from being hurt too often or too deeply as is the case of this simple but honest and hopeful comic strip:

In all cases though, it’s important to at least eventually embrace reality and truth because without it all joy and happiness will be fleeting.

In my trek to embrace truth I’ve found that my tastes in life’s amenities is centered around realism as well. My favorite comedians are Louis CK, Christopher Titus, and George Carlin. The only type of music I can really respect is quite raw like with my latest obsession, Lake Street Dive. Even the movies and TV shows I gravitate toward these days are chuck for a realistic characters, like Silver Linings Playbook, Garden State, Good Will Hunting or ones with anti-heroes as the protagonist like Dexter, Breaking Bad, or Sons of Anarchy and I know I’m not alone is this because those shows all extremely popular.

I wouldn’t say I’m happy though, if you are wondering. My truths are mostly in the harsh category. I’m just glad to know that when I do feel happiness in the not too distant future, it will be real and lasting. I encourage you all to self assess your reality as I have done and come out all the better for it. Good luck everyone. Here’s one last fun poke of fun:

Songwriter: One of Life’s Great Callings

I always believed I'd be one of those people who at some point would meet a girl who would complete me and I her and we'd set off to take on all the many challenges of life together, as one. Most people marry someone they fall in love with and that's all fine, dandy, and lucky to have a 30%-40% chance of working out but every once in a long while you meet a couple that were so richly made for each, it's hard to see them as 2 individuals. I'm finding it difficult to let go of the belief that I would be one of those blessed romantics. I'm slowly starting to embrace that maybe my hopeless romanticism is solely built for writing songs. What a beautiful gift. I need to stop preoccupying my mind with thoughts of "where the hell is she?" and focus on being receptive to the inspiration that comes to a lucky few. I'm a songwriter. THAT is my true love forever. 🙂

The Soul of a Song

I had an interesting moment the other day that clued me into a phenomenon in songwriting that I hadn’t previously realized. I call this phenomenon the soul of a song. This may be true across the whole artistic/creative spectrum but as it relates to songwriting there is a point in creating a song where the soul is born and it is the most magical, sacred thing I have ever felt.

While people’s songwriting processes commonly vary, for me I’ll find a hook, a chord progression, or a musical idea that invigorates me and I play it over and over until the inspiration starts to flow. I rarely set out to write about some specific subject matter. This may sound hokey but I just let the music tell me what the song is about. I’m sure my subconscious manipulates the words more than anything but to me it feels external like I have honored the God of Music and he is now rewarding me with lyrics that are way beyond anything I could create on my own. There is work involved when it comes to meter, rhyming, story, and other poetic guidelines but it feels kind of like I’ve been given a vision of something grander than my own wants and desires and I must chase this butterfly of pure spirit. It’s delicate yet difficult. Inspired songwriting is like successfully trying to remember a good dream.

If I’m lucky, most of the time I write songs I get this moment of clarity that feels like I am in the right place, in the right moment, doing exactly what I was put on this earth to do and I tear up. Previous to the other day’s discovery, I thought I was just relating to the lyrics. Most of my songs are autobiographical so this made perfect sense. As I looked back on it though, these tear up moments came on all the best songs whether or not they were sad (though most of my songs are 🙂 ) so these tears had to mean something else.

I now know this is the birth of the song’s soul or life force. It becomes a living thing. This is why a lot of artists compare their work to having children. My revelation of this came the other day when I rewrote a song called “Hope and a Smile”. This song has a somewhat interesting history. I had the riff for this song for over a year before words came together and in that time I had worked through many melodies and lyrics, none of which spoke to me. I went through a bunch of rhythms as well, before I landed on this upbeat, bouncy finger-picking style that eventually became the foundation. I so wanted to honor this fun riff with a good melody and lyrics. After a long tiresome saga, I finally landed on an idea. I wrote it about the auction/meat market side of dating, especially dating in your 30’s. Women, in general, always  say they want a nice guy that makes them laugh but reality has shown that if you don’t have the right look, a great job, and lots of money you will likely be leaving the auction house of life empty handed. Don’t worry, ladies, I completely agree that men are the same way if not worse. Needless to say, I loved the lyrics. Some of the truest words I have ever written, albeit with a slightly bitter aftertaste, but through and through honest. Despite this long journey, there was always something unfulfilled about it. I wasn’t a huge fan of the melody. It was a bit simple and repetitive but I didn’t hate it either. I’ve played the song out a few times, with the band even, but the audience always seemed to zone out. I couldn’t get over the fact that something was missing. I was playing around with the chords and the hook the other day and stumbled into a completely new rhythm. Not just new to the song but unlike any other song I have written. I kept working through the riff with the old lyrics and melody which only needed minor adjustments. The soul was born. All of the sudden, the lyrics were alive, the chorus was catchy, and it opened up the previously instrumental bridge for me to write a more lyrics that strongly support the message. In the middle of all the hustle and bustle the tears came and the knowledge of what they truly mean was revealed to me. All good songs have souls and understanding this fact will inform all my writing to come. It’s very exciting.

Lastly, I will leave you with an amazing quote, not only to share with you a slight insight to my soul but I like how it relates to everything above. The soul of a song is a part of “life’s nectar” that he’s talking about.

"Singers and Musicians are some of the most driven, courageous people on the face of the earth. They deal with more day-to-day rejection in one year than most people do in a lifetime. Every day, musicians and singers face the financial challenge of living a freelance lifestyle, the disrespect of people who think they should get real jobs, and their own fear that they’ll never work again. Every day, they have to ignore the possibility that the vision they have dedicated their lives to is a pipe dream. With every role, they stretch themselves, emotionally and physically, risking criticism and judgment. With every passing year, many of them watch as the other people their age achieve the predictable milestones of normal life - the car, the family, the house, the nest egg. Why? Because musicians and singers are willing to give their entire lives to a moment - to that line, that laugh, that gesture, or that interpretation that will stir the audience’s soul. Singers and Musicians are beings who have tasted life’s nectar in that crystal moment when they poured out their creative spirit and touched another’s heart. In that instant, they were as close to magic, God, and perfection as anyone could ever be. And in their own hearts, they know that to dedicate oneself to that moment is worth a thousand lifetimes."
— David Ackert, LA Times

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