Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Setting 2014 Free

2014 was a good year. In the grand scheme of things, they’re all good years, the ones that you have. But squinting shows you peaks and valleys. This year for me, personally, saw many peaks, a few valleys, but I found those valleys to be in the service of more peaks. If it was all peaks you would need to get your head checked, or buy a lottery ticket. Valleys are necessary--it's all yin and yang, reaping and sewing, needing the bad to know the good, and vice versa.

In 2015 we will see our family expand, our hearts expand. I will not spend tonight worrying about a corresponding expansion in our wallet. I have plenty of time to get that worrying in, and maybe in setting it aside I will make some bold discovery--like it is unhelpful, and that maybe I should put it aside more often. We expect too much of ourselves, which is why we’re so disappointed all the time. I cannot will myself to stop worrying, to shut down timeworn functions of my character at the drop of a hat, at the demand of a fleeting whim. I cannot shut it down for good, but maybe an evening is not too much to ask.

I am looking forward to playing Chutes and Ladders and Candyland with my family tonight and just having a good time. Tonight is only for fun. No writing, no thinking, no expanding my horizons. No utility, no scheming, no mulling my options and moves. Candyland. A martini. A New Year's dance I will commission my three & four-year-old sons to perform.

2015 will be a good year. They're all good years, the ones that you have. As long as you don't squint.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Life Summed Up in a Tweet

It doesn't happen often, but when life can be summed up in 140 characters or less, it shall be preserved here at We Need The Eggs.

I Wish I Had This Kind of Passion

And if you're wondering if I'm being serious or not--yes, I am. There are countless times when I wish I could cry, but no tears come. It's a good tool to have--being able to mourn things properly.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The End of Thought

I was sifting through some notes and I came across this one from 9 months ago. I am particularly proud of it because I wasn't sure if I wrote it, or if I had copied it down from someone wiser than myself. Yes, that is the height of conceit, but I'm just saying I am extremely committed to this non-dogma thing. Certainty is the end of thought!

"In art, music, politics, never tie yourself down to one viewpoint. Stay airy and above it all, make all of the suckers regret committing to a position & defending it passionately. Much easier to defend not defending a position."

Certainty is not a bad place to be. I'm certain that I love my wife and kids, so I don't need to spend time thinking on and pondering the alternatives. I'm not certain that conservatives are right about much, or anything, much less so liberals, so, I'm sorry to say, much thinking is to be done over their frequently poisonous ideas. Although, thankfully I have discovered that politics is much less important, much less central to my life than talk radio & the television news cycle would make you think. Politics are important, but they come after the importance of developing my topspin in tennis, mowing my lawn, cleaning my garage, writing a book--this list goes on for awhile, "thinking about politics" checks in at about 103, but I won't bore you with taking you all the way there.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Cocktail Party: The Stuff of Nightmares

You have no idea how much anxiety this image produces in me.
I’m going to a cocktail party tonight. This is not my thing. These make me seize up like an engine without oil. But I have had some good moments, some victories at these type of things a time or two.

I once talked with a conductor of a local orchestra.

At cocktail parties, this is how it works for me. Get to the party. Grab a drink right away. I squeeze this drink way too tight, and take a sip about every 8 to 11 seconds. I scan the crowd for someone who looks as sadsack as me. I never find them; I am the worst. I am the party’s sole loser. I am the only one with issues. Everyone else is talking, look, they’re talking. But I can’t do it. Oh, I can’t do it. I can talk, but once I get out past word 8 or 9 . . . things start to get pretty dicey.

By this time I’ve finished my drink, so I go back for drink two. Going back for drink two is awesome because you get to stand in line. I have a task! I’m DOING something! I’ve legitimized myself! I pick the longest line. I notice other people trying to catch my eye. They want to talk while standing in line. I refuse. I’ve EARNED this, dammit. The whole point of these parties is to talk to other people--you can’t force me to talk when I’m already so engaged in my task.

So anyway, I strike up a conversation with a conductor. I don’t remember who approached who. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce that most likely it was he who started the conversation. Anyway, it was an interesting conversation. I asked him all about what it was like to be a conductor. I was surprised to find out that there were a lot of similarities to the way I think about writing. I asked him question after question, kept him talking--that is how I survive cocktail parties--keep your mark talking. The more flapping they do, the less psychological hyperventilating I do. The conversation ended with him giving me two tickets to an upcoming performance. I felt very validated as a conversational partner.

Speaking of conductors. I took my wife to the Seattle Symphony once (I know I sound amazing, but it was only once, never again, and it was only because I was worrying she might think about leaving me if I didn’t do something fancy now and again). We saw Rachmaninoff. Is that how you talk about a symphony, does that work? Anyway, it was occasionally pleasant, but it was also interminable. Once you have heard ten minutes or so, I am not really sure why anyone would need more. Obviously they didn’t agree, because it had to have gone on for over an hour. But at the end, right after it crescendoed into its climax, a guy from one of the first rows yelled out, “YES!”

I had to think that made the conductor feel pretty damn good.

So that is how I do cocktail parties. And that is all I know about orchestra conductors.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Instructions For Today

The life you planned—it doesn’t work out. Not necessarily. Maybe not at all. Maybe you’re supposed to follow your passion, which will lead to success. Maybe your abundance of passion will never get you there because you just don’t have the talent. You don’t know. I don’t know. Your future isn’t waiting to be discovered. It isn’t waiting. Your future doesn’t depend on you. Not solely. There are so many factors beyond your control: biology, DNA, weather, governmental policy, corporate policy, the decisions of others, the decisions of your parents while you are a child, when your tire will blow out, which person the serial killer selects, where the lightning will strike, who will be put in your 3rd grade class, which university will accept you, who will cross the yellow line when you’re on the other side, etc. I apologize for the embarrassingly incomplete list. Your future will largely be determined by forces outside of your control—you are your only chance to do what you want. It may not work out, but you have no alternative. You are the largest tool in your toolbox. 

The world will enact itself upon you. Whether the future is written or not makes no difference to you—it looks the same from here, from the present. A large, unflinching question mark.

Do you play it safe and become an accountant? Do you roll the dice and play your guitar night after night before an audience of a handful? I don’t know. The people who know the answer and give it to you with unflappable confidence, I don’t think they’re very helpful. I think they mean well, but they’re not trying to help, they’re trying to comfort. There is a time for everything, but 24/7 comfort leaves you fat, complacent, unambitious. 24/7 comfort leaves you nowhere. But comfort is nice, and countless are content to spend their entire lives there. That’s ok. We weren’t all called to ambition and achievement.

The human drive is a mysterious and unknowable thing, built on a framework of conscious and unconscious desires at raging war among themselves. For a lifetime. Why do I want what I don’t seem to have? Why do I get a little of it, then run from it to comfort? There will always be mystery. The point isn't to solve all of the mysteries, you can't do that; the point is to get comfortable with mystery. Instead of always trying to push them out of the car, learn to put their seat belt on for them.

The life you planned—it may not work out. You may choose the wrong road and not know it for a lifetime. You might get halfway there and stall out—lot's of people do. But not trying, holding back for fear, keeping your options open—these are forms of suicide. Suicide that draws itself out, day by day.