Friday, January 13, 2017

Falling Back (November 2013)

I made use of the extra hour tonight. It's 2am. I'm not sleeping. I've been sitting at the piano in my quiet house like I did when I was a teenager. Back then, I'd light candles and hover my hands over the keys, hoping for divine intervention even though I was fairly sure that God didn't exist (or if he did he'd pretty much ignored me or would be way too busy to intervene with a 13 year old's desire to start songwriting when she couldn't even play by ear and had no ideas, just this strong almost physical desire to create). I thought if I just sat quietly with my hands somewhere in the vicinity of the key of C, something, anything would come through the silence, seep through and move my hands like a Ouija board. It never happened. It was sharp and such a tug that I remember the physical ache of the need and then the disappointment. Like I'd failed. Like something in me that was deep rooted like DNA was calling and I couldn't hear. So I let it go, forgot about it. I, instead, began to date songwriters. Or at least crush out on them. First was Jon Goodman in high school. The boy with the most incredible baritone voice. A superstar of a high school singer. A songwriter. We never 'dated'. He didn't seem interested in me like that. But one summer I thought something shifted, I went away to a summer program for the Arts, a kind of prestigious thing that I'd auditioned for and bartered God with everything I had to get in. Jon had gone the year before and he was clearly so far more talented than anyone else in our school, hell, in our State, that just by being accepted I felt a bit closer to the stars. That summer, he wrote me a song. I still remember the first line. It started with "She left for Spain today, seems time has left me too". After he went to college, I lost touch and didn't really see him anymore in my life. A few more songwriter-crushes until one day, when I was about 25 or 26, a few songs of my own fell out awkwardly. Something moved inside of me and trickled, then about 5 years later, it started spilling out like water. It still feels clunky and slow to me. Never fluid. Never easy. It took picking up the guitar and wading through a completely new instrument to hear what was happening in the silence.

So, tonight I sat at the piano, playing a few of my songs, awkwardly, clunky and rough. Then I tried to play a few songs I knew. It was slow and I had to think too much, translate frets to keys, but it got easier as it got later and later. And then a friend sent me a song and I had to learn it and play it. And now I feel like I wish I had three days of nothing to do but sit at the piano and play until the current runs smooth and clear. Right now there's rocks everywhere.

I envy my friends who started writing when they were really young. I always feel years behind. Which is why it doesn't matter that it's 2am and I need to wake up early to get somewhere important to my soul - my kind of church - where I find God -- or what I feel is more like a current of wind or water than a blonde human with blue eyes on a cross. It's not just about quiet for me. It's about really early morning or really late at night quiet. There's an electrical hum and a fearlessness that comes from being half-awake. Hovering hands over a shapeless idea. If I catch even a corner of it in this weary state, maybe when I'm awake I can make sense of it. 

Like saying "MacBeth" outloud in a theater, I wonder if I'm about to be struck down for writing 'outloud' this mystery. It's the thing that makes me feel most insecure. Most vulnerable. Most terrified. Most joyous. Most hateful. Most despairing. Most blissful. Most alive.

Most in the current.

p.s. and for the record, I'm glad that boy in high school didn't return my crush, as that maddening ache started something far more important inside me than any slow-dancing Prom date could promise. 

p.p.s. he really was the most incredible singer. Probably still is. Wherever he is in the world.

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