Love is a verb

It’s been one hell of week since my birthday. A friend asked me recently if I had recovered from my birthday yet. I assumed he was referring to the hang-over I instilled on that night so I answered, “yes”.   I’ve always been able to recover from the harm caused by alcohol. Now if he had asked me if I had recovered from my birth, that would have been a different story. I may not recover from my birth until the day I die. Until then, it may just be one long arduous process of recovery. What get’s me through is love.

Love has made this past week one of the best I’ve had in a long time. I finally saw my daughter on Monday for the first time in six months. I met with her and her therapist. This was my daughter’s condition and we had been trying for three months to bring it to fruition. For all that time, I had no idea what she was thinking or feeling. I had no idea why she wasn’t talking to me. I didn’t know whether she wanted me in her life of not.  I still have a lot of questions but I have the only answer I need. I know that she loves me and wants me in her life. She asked me to legally adopt her and I told her that I would.

I guess the biggest issue she faced in reaching out was that she didn’t want to burden me. She didn’t want to be an inconvenience. As ridiculous as that sounds to me, I’m finding that it’s a fairly common sentiment among the people I love. I find life to be a burden and rather inconvenient. I was doing just fine before I was born. Love is the one thing that gives my life meaning. The only reason I do anything is out of love. I don’t know what to do to help people understand this.

My daughter’s therapist tried to explain it to her. She said, “Love is a feeling but remember how we talked about love is also being a verb?”

At this point I was thinking, “Oh god! Not this shit!”

It’s not that I’m averse to pop psychology or meme philosophy or even song lyrics. They all have their place and they can all have value.

My problem with this “love is a verb” expression is specific to how it has played out in my life. For me it has been, “If you really loved me you would do _____”, or “How could you do _____ if you really loved me?”

For me, it has been more like the Janet Jackson’s song, “What Have You Done For Me Lately?”

I get it. I understand that they way people experience love is through acts of love. We experience love not by how the lover feels but by what they do and what they do affects how we feel. It’s like how people experience God through religion. Most people don’t actually know God but they know that through religion they can feel God’s presence. Religion might be a verb but God is not a verb. To me, Love is God. I prefer this song by Ziggy Marley.

As with any religion, our faith is not measured merely by our belief but by our actions. As with many religious people I sometimes fuck up. As with many religious people, even when I am holding true to my faith I will sometimes piss people off.

All I know is that when my son was conceived it was an act of Love. All I know is that when I stuck by my pregnant friend and married her, it was an act of Love.

I know that when my friend called me in the middle of the night last Friday, I answer… because of Love.

I know that I spent three nights last week creating improvisational soundscapes for my band leader’s performance art piece… because of Love.

I know that I was sad that none of my close friends showed up… because of Love.

I know that when my band leader and h/ir wife made the cover of CityPages this week I was thrilled… because of Love.

I know that I biked across town in the middle of winter to see a friend who had a bad day at work… because of Love.

I know that I survived a fifteen hour day yesterday… because of Love… and enjoyed every minute of it… because of Love.

I know that I got out of bed today… because of Love.

—–

I also wrote this song today. It’s a Valentine to my daughter but it is inspired by everyone I love… which means everyone. Here are the lyrics.  Sorry there is no fancy video.

I love you today
As I do everyday

Whether together or apart
You are always in my heart

Everything that I do
Everything to you I say
Comes from the love that’s deep inside
It won’t ever go away

Sometimes love is painful
It don’t feel like you think it should
No one said love would be easy
But with love I know it could

We all have our doubts
What is love all about?

It’s hard to know what to feel
When we don’t know what is real

Love is not a box of chocolates
Or a Valentine’s Day card
But look inside and you will see
The reason why I work so hard

I can’t prove it to you
It’s really nothing I can show
But I’ll try with all my actions
In the hope that you will know

I love you today
As I do everyday

Whether together or apart
You are always in my heart

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When you lack focus, use a wide lens

I was talking with my friend Phil Solem the other day. He is one half of the band The Rembrandts; best known for the song, “I’ll Be There For You”, the theme song from the NBC sitcom, Friends. He asked me how things were going with my music. Most people know me as the bass player for All The Pretty Horses (if they even know that) so I’m always flattered when someone asks about my music. I’m also embarrassed because there is not a lot to say. I have a collection of songs that I’ve written going back thirty years. Most have never even been played live, even for friends, and none have been recorded for release. I told Phil, “I just wrote my first song in over a year but I still haven’t done anything with any of them. It takes time and focus. I guess I have the time, I just lack focus.” His response was, “Then use a wide lens.” Initially I was confused as to why he was talking photography when I was talking songwriting but after some time to ponder his words I’ve decided that it may be the best advice I’ve ever received. I’m still not sure exactly what he meant but the best advice is open to interpretation. I have a feeling I know where he is coming from though. I know a number of musicians who have “made it” in the music business and I know what it takes to sustain that kind of success. It takes complete focus and dedication. You wind up missing out on many of the other things that life has to offer. It’s easy to lose the big picture. From what I can tell, most people are happier after their life “under the microscope” is over. I have felt pretty unfocused lately but perhaps that is not a bad thing. Being productive requires focus but to gain perspective you need a wide lens. I have been going through somewhat of a wide lens period. As a result I’m still working on this post that I started a week ago. You may have noticed that I’m not posting as often these days. I actually have a number of thoughts knocking around in my head but they don’t actually produce anything up there. I still need focus for that. I began to feel like I had lost my way but maybe all I  lost was my focus. I used to have a family and that was my focus. I used to have a best friend and she was my focus. I used to have a job and that was my focus. I used to have a band that rehearsed regularly and it was my focus. Over that past year all of these things have gone through dramatic changes. In order to find my place in the world again I needed a wide lens. I am on a path of discovery and what I’m discovering is that this is my path. All of these other things that I do are merely tools I use to help me understand the path. I thought that music was my path. I thought that this blog was my path. I thought that my friends were my path. I thought that my kids were my path. I thought my job was my path. All of them are important and I don’t want to understate that in any way. I would be nowhere without them but my path is not what I do. It is who I am and I’m still trying to discover what that is.

I’m probably wrong but so what?!?

Yesterday could have been another boring day. It was really too cold to go anywhere. I had no reason to even get dressed let alone take a shower. I managed to write about two-hundred words for my blog. It was nothing that great but it inspired me to see if I could hammer out this song idea that had been floating around in my head for the past four months. I pulled out my guitar and started writing the words. I combined ideas expressed in yesterday’s post with one I made back in October, along with something from a meme I saw recently, added a melody and chord progression and I soon had the framework for a song. I had hoped that writing this blog would have inspired me to be a better songwriter but the reality is that I hadn’t written any music in over a year.

Half way through the song the words stopped. It was time to put it down and let it settle. Just then the phone rang offering me reprieve from the need to figure out what to do next. The following hour and a half were spent listening to my friend share the struggles and successes in her life while I barely uttered a word.  My head was spinning, running every situation through my own lexicon of problem solving strategies and world perspectives searching for tidbits of advice although never having a chance to share them. It wasn’t advice that she needed anyway. She was living her life and dealing with her problems her way. She just needed someone to share them with. When I finally had a chance to speak I chose instead to just share a couple of the situations in my life. There were many commonalities between our stories yet our perceptions of them couldn’t have been more different. I began wondering if my way of seeing the world was completely wrong. I have no problem understanding another person’s perspective but try as I might, I can’t seem to shake my own.

While on the phone I managed to polish off the half glass of wine that had been sitting dormant for the past week in the bottom of a box of Shiraz. After that I cracked the lone remaining tall boy of Grain Belt Nordeast sitting in my fridge. This was not nearly enough to alter my state of mind. I contemplated placing an order with the liquor store but instead chose to battle sobriety a little bit longer.

Nighttime fell and I began to pondered whether I could muster the energy to go see a friend of mine whom I hadn’t seen in a while and was missing terribly when I recieved a text message from her. Hoping for inspiration in her words what I found instead was more despair.  She too was frustrated with the cold outside and while she wanted to go have some fun felt prevented from doing so. My initial thought was to offer sex as a good cold weather activity but for some reason thought that might be inappropriate.  Instead I suggested whiskey. Alcohol lowers the body temperature reducing the perception of cold and drinking can be fun.

I don’t think that she took my advice but I did. I mixed myself a strong gin and tonic and in no time sobriety had completely left my body. I picked up the phone and called her seeking the encouragement I needed to get out of the house. During our conversation I continued to poison myself with alcohol and she grew increasingly frustrated with my intoxication. I would not find what I was looking for and I would not be seeing my friend that night. I returned to my songwriting and quickly wrote the final verse.

Now bored and alone I decided to make a random post to facebook; a common strategy for me when I’m looking to stir up trouble. This led me into a chat with a friend who was going through a difficult time. Once again I found myself in a situation where my worldview seemed completely counter to that of someone else.  Still, we managed to find comfort and encouragement in our shared differences. After spending the day in bed moping he decided that he would get out of the house and surround himself with people. I decided that this would be a good idea for myself as well and set forth to try and meet up with him.

I hopped in the shower and got dressed. I decided that I could make it if I did a combination of biking and busing so I checked the bus schedule. The universe however, did not seem to be on my side with this plan. I managed to miss two busses; the first because I had forgotten my phone and needed to return home, the second because the bus arrived a minute early and in my struggle to get out the door I cut my timing too close. I was ready to throw in the towel but the thought of letting fate win seemed unbearable. Armed with liquid courage and the mantra, “never give up” stuck in my head, I persevered.

My friend arrived at the 19 bar shortly after me. It had been ages since I had been to what used to be my favorite bar but it still felt like home. My friend and I discussed many things but we couldn’t completely avoid the dilemma of day. His struggle, which from what I can tell seems all too common, is how to discern good people from bad people; how to avoid trusting the wrong ones. I wasn’t able to offer much insight into that but I was able to share my thoughts about how we all come off as assholes sometimes and also gave him some insight into how the process of adoption and that sense of abandonment can affect a person. Apparently he found this helpful.

Knowing that I would not survive the bike ride home I wandered down Nicollet Avenue is search of a taxi. With thoughts still burning in my brain I decided to pose a question to three young men that were standing outside Asian Taste. To my relief they also believe that there are no good people or evil people; only people. While this is still a fairly uncommon sentiment it does seem to be more prevalent among the Millennial Generation and that gives me hope.

As I approached the cab stand in front of the Millenium Hotel I became worried as there were no taxis waiting for me. Just then I noticed a cab driving towards me. I managed to get the drivers attention by slipping and falling into the street. I thought for sure that I had lost my chance as taxis don’t typically like picking up drunk people laying in the middle of the road.

But I was wrong. He did pick me up. He was actually very nice. Maybe there are good people.

On the ride home we discussed our kids. The cab driver like many cab drivers in Minneapolis was from Somalia. He has been separated from his kids for five years but now had saved up enough money to fly them to the United States. I’m always curious what it would take to get a man to leave his children and move to another country. In his case, it was for money. Even though Somalia has a wealth of natural resources, most of the money derived from it is not staying in Somalia. Much of it comes to the United States so here is where this man decided he needed to go.  He was pretty angry about this situation. He blamed George Bush Sr, the jews and white people in general for the problems in his country. I could understand why he was upset. Maybe there are evil people in the world. Maybe I am one of them.

Maybe my desire to believe that there are no evil people is because it’s a convenient belief for me to hold. I don’t want to be evil but would I know it if I was? Maybe I’m just too stupid to figure it out. I mean if I was stupid, would I know it? I make a lot of assumption. I hold a lot of beliefs. Do I believe these things because they are right… or only because they are right for me?

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