Look, we’ve been friends a long time, right? We’ve made out, braided each other’s hair, played putt-putt, danced until all hours of the night, made each other mix tapes, talked politics and religion, and commiserated about largely innocuous childhood traumas. In short, we’ve bonded. So I’m not gonna bullshit you. Things aren’t going so well right now.
Mind you, I haven’t lost perspective. I know how lucky I am. I know things are going to be OK. I know I have a good life. When I read the blog of a buddy of mine who is going through violent biochemical therapy to beat the cancer that is ravaging his too-young body, I know how good I have it. When I think about my other friend whose life was sent into a spin after a nagging headache turned out to be a brain tumor, I’m grateful for my petty issues.
But still, they’re there. And everything is relative, right? When life was going really well for me, a pimple seemed like an insufferable injustice. But the challenges I’m facing have real and potentially grave repercussions for me and for people I care about. I must address them. At the same time, I must find a way to prevent my life from being consumed and/or defined by them. With all my focus and attention on fixing stuff, sometimes I just have to give myself a break.
Last Saturday night, in an absolute funk, I dragged my sorry ass to the Bluebird Theater for the Swayback CD release show, with Red Orange Yellow and Autokinoton. I’ve already reviewed the show, so I won’t go into details. I will say, however, that I didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay home, drink Lost Lake beer ($6 a 12-pack!) and stew. But what amazed me – and what I only realized hours later – is that, for the entire time I was at the show, I felt completely liberated from my own bullshit.
And what’s even more remarkable is that it’s not as though I just got caught up in the moment and forgot my troubles. That would be too easy and nowhere near as remarkable. No, I was entirely aware of all the issues with which I’m currently dealing, but they had very little emotional weight. I could think about them with a great big smile on my face.
There aren’t too many things that can unhook you from the burdens of your daily reality. Drinking can occasionally do it. I’m told certain drugs can do it. Sex can most certainly do it, though only for a few hours – or minutes, depending on your style.
A couple of years ago, I went through something called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It sounds like the basis of a cult, but really EMDR just tries to take traumatic memories and rob them of all their power. EMDR practitioners don’t try to make you forget stuff – they just try to take the pain out of remembering. And the shit works.
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But, as it turns out, so does music, at least for me. The next night, Sunday, I went to a far less intense show at the Brooks Center Arts lair. Same blissful experience. Last night, I caught the Eels at the Fox. Same thing. And that wasn’t even a particularly good show. So I’m left to draw the conclusion that music – particularly live music, which we are lucky to have so much of in this town – has some power to not only calm, but to genuinely ease pain and suffering. Novocaine for the soul, indeed. I’m sure there are thousands of far more scientific studies of this very phenomenon, but allow me to marvel at it, just the same, if only for a few moments.
Some might say this is merely a palliative approach. It eases the symptoms without curing the underlying ailment. But there’s more to it than that. When you’re not pained or sad, you can think a lot more clearly and creatively. You can actually solve problems when your mental resources are no longer being consumed with dwelling on them. With all that relief, you just might be able to figure some shit out.
So I’ll see you at the next show. I’ll be the guy smiling. -- Eryc Eyl