Thursday, September 22, 2011

Song on the Radio (the Nobility of the Compromise)

Breathe deep the gathering gloom,
Watch lights fade from every room.
Bedsitter people look back and lament,
Another day's useless energy spent,
Impassioned lovers wrestle as one,
Lonely man cries for love and has none.
New mother picks up and suckles her son,
Senior citizens wish they were young.
Cold hearted orb that rules the night,
Removes the colours from our sight,
Red is grey and yellow white,
But we decide which is right,
And which is an illusion?
- Late Lament, the Moody Blues

I was sitting in my office one night with the radio tuned to some oldie station.  Oldies as in when I was in High School, which is pretty old actually.  I normally keep it on sports talk, but the normal sportscaster mind cast around here seems to be gloom and doom all the time, like it's a reverse psychology thing - be critical of the team no matter what and they will always be better than you think they are.  So, after about a minute of listening to them bash various components of the Steelers 24-0 win the weekend before, I decided I'd had enough and went surfing.  I stopped at a Fleetwood Mac song, noticing that the reception carried a bit of static, kind of like the old transistor radio days, but I stopped there anyway because I liked that song.  The follow-up was old John Mellencamp - back when he was a Cougar - which rolled into Steely Dan's Peg.  Wow, I thought to myself, it's like this station raided my iPod.  I suddenly found myself with a really wild sense of déjà vu, sitting there listening to all these old songs that I listened to as a young girl with a hint of static as the leaves turn to shades of brown and red  signaling the end of summer outside my window, just as though I were back in my parent's home and my life was ahead of me.  As Greg called me to come downstairs to dinner Peter Frampton was asking Do You Feel Like I Do? and that weird time warp feeling was complete.

And, like I tend to do when I get triggered like that, I began to over-think things.  I wondered what happened to that girl who listened to static-ridden radio hour after hour while doing homework?  It doesn't seem like a lifetime ago, but it has been.  Aside from my horror that my older self not only listens to Rush, but nearly worships them, what would I think of the person I became?  This is the stuff of raging middle age crisis's, to be sure - questioning where you ended up in life versus where you once dreamed you would be.

Where did I dream I would be?  That's easy to answer:  I dreamed I would be a published writer.  Not to say I won't ever be, and I do get to "publish" a few times a month here, so it is not like I sold out on the dream, I just delayed it by a few decades.  And, I planned on a larger audience - envision Stephen King.  Or at least Peter Straub.  If you're going to dream, might as well dream big.  But can I accept this compromise?  Can I be okay with just writing to all of you and maybe never reaching past that?

The thing about mid-life crises:  it's your mind's way of grappling with what is, what could still be, and what never will be.  This process is undoubtedly a little more poignant for someone who lost a child along the way.  The trick is to make peace with all these aspects and be realistic about the future.  So, I want to be careful about what I'm about to say:  I don't want to make it seem as though I'm saying that people should not reach for the stars.  They should.  But, I also they should be okay if they only get to stargaze.  There is no disgrace in that.

My husband is all about the new show The X-Factor.  He pulled me out of my office today to watch this young man's audition.  He's a garbage man currently, pretty fresh out of rehab with bad teeth and less than Hollywood hunk looks.  He's got some talent, but he's not the next Justin Timberlake.  He's got a great story so that'll take him a ways in the competition.  I doubt he's the one who ends up with a $5M contract frankly, but he'll get something.  And something is more than he had before, so hopefully he will know to make the most of the chance he's getting and be able to run with that opportunity.  But, for all his co-workers who sit at home and watch, feeling bad that they collect garbage for a living, I would say, "Don't."  There is honor in working hard, no matter at what it is that you work at.  I respect the dudes who collect my trash - a lot.  Collecting my trash has got to be less than lovely - it's mostly pet poop.  Yet, they do it every week without fail.  Where would I be without them?  And by collecting my week's worth of dog and cat crap they keep a roof over their family's collective heads.  They shouldn't be ashamed of that.  That is the noblest of pursuits.  Providing for your family.

Circling back around to my own personal midlife crisis and what I would say to others in my same position, it is this:  I have to accept that my life isn't exactly what I had envisioned when Aja was a new album, and I need to make peace with that.  As do all of us in the same position.  I need to realize that I may still have a purpose to serve with my writing, but it's okay that I'm never going to win a Nobel Prize for Literature.  I compromised my dreams to make a living, there is no doubt.  But, as they say, it is what it is.  Dwelling on it won't make it three decades ago and won't make it my Mother's old radio that I'm listening to.  It won't turn me 17 again.  All I have is now.

But, for now, I'm back to listening to sports talk  - my brain can't take all the depth of classic rock...  


  1. it's like that annoying cliche they tell you in rehab/shoal creek: shoot for the moon. if you don't make it, you'll land among the stars. hardy har har

    you should make the female version of that Zac Efron movie, "17 Again" OR I could be Lindsay Lohan and we'll do "Freaky Friday" even though I'm old now, too. Speaking of old & LiLo, have you seen/heard about her mom's recent birthday party? yeah they made out. grossssss I don't care if it makes you feel young, I'm not making out with you, mom.

  2. Thanks for that mental image, Marissa. I think my brain needs a shower.