Better to Grow

(Trinity): “Neo, no one has ever done anything like this.” 

(Neo): “That's why it's going to work."
- from The Matrix

7 weeks and almost 10,000 miles later I find myself back in the middle of the country, having driven all the way from Bellingham, WA to Yarmouth, ME before slingshotting back to the midwest. Sometimes, for amusement, I recite my stops while I drive just to see if I can remember where I’ve been - Bellingham, Boise, Salt Lake City, Denver, Colorado Springs, Salina, Omaha, Decorah, Chicago, Oil City, Philadelphia, DC, Shippensburg, Bethlehem, Milford, Albany, New London, Sharon, Syracuse, Becket, Boston, Yarmouth, Providence, Buffalo, Chicago and now back to Decorah. It’s possible that I forgot a few. Sometimes I also try to count how many months I’ve been living without an address - I think April will make it about 20 months, a little over a year and a half. And I wonder sometimes why it is that I’m living this particular way, if it’s necessary and if there’s any purpose to it. I can actually think of a few reasons why it’s a valuable and interesting experience - some relating to the practice of buddhism and groundlessness, and some related to the fact that for each and every one of us this life culminates in giving up every material thing we know, so why not get in a little practice while there’s still some free will involved. As interesting and spiritual as those are, I think the main reason I’m doing this is actually pretty simple: because I’ve never done it before.

The idea that I’ve stumbled into this way of being that I didn’t plan on, let alone believe I was capable of carrying out, kind of makes me scratch my head with bemusement. I mean, for most of my 20s and 30s I could easily check off at least 10 or the 12 symptoms in the DSM IV under “generalized anxiety disorder.” I’ve gone through phases where things got inexplicably worse, and also inexplicably better, which seems to just be the nature of anxiety. You want to be able to nail it to something you did, ate, drank, thought - mostly with the idea that if you can consistently avoid that thing, you will never have to feel this awful feeling again. But trying to grasp the cause of anxiety is like trying to hold onto to a slippery fish - for all I know it might be linked to astrology, the tides of the moon, my saturn return, some formless nebulous idea, some cycle I’m not even tuned into, or - nothing. Random. That’s a hard one to come to terms with, but I swear the longer I live with this the more it fits. It just happens, and when it does you just have to have some ways to deal with it - meditating, chamomile tea, reading, xanax, yoga, whatever. I’ve found that it helps if you can find ways to lighten up, take yourself less seriously, learn that you don’t have to perform perfectly in every situation, soften, and try to be forgiving and compassionate with yourself.

In many ways, because of this nervousness, I’m an incredibly unlikely candidate for the job of touring songwriter. Not so much the performing part, I don’t get quite as derailed by that as I used to - but the day to day stresses of negotiating different places, people, houses, kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, highways, hotels, the stress of just wanting to collapse into a familiar place and realizing that may not exist in your world right now. It’s this beautiful paradox, that the incredible and heightened sensitivity that makes it possible to see and experience the world in a way that translates into song and verse is the same sensitivity that makes lights too bright, voices too loud, normal situations overwhelming, that makes you exhausted and sets your mind to racing and churning out worst case scenarios while dumping copious amounts of adrenaline and who knows what else into your bloodstream.

The weird thing is - after living without an address for this long, I actually feel better and less anxious than I have in years. Which is a total paradox, but in a way it makes sense in that there’s this weird thing about anxiety and worry - it tells you that if only you can just feel safe, if you can avoid the things that make you uncomfortable, that you will feel better. But in my experience, the opposite is true - the more you avoid these things, the larger they loom in your mind; and the more you avoid them, the less you believe that you have any ability to handle them. And while it’s true that my world is a little out of control these days, there are also things that feel more within my control than they used to. What I mean by that is that I’m not bound or tied to anyone or anyplace - I’m existing in the realm of the potential for a little while as I try to let my life unfold like the best of songs that have come to me, which is to say, with a minimum of self-effort, a connection to something greater, and a willingness to show up, listen and forgo my own plan in the service of the muse.

So far so good.

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