Rarely does a writer ask for a readers indulgence at the very beginning of a story. But I feel it is imperative at this moment to to explain myself before we enter into the narrative that I have been living the past week or so.
If you took the time to ask who I am I might take a moment to ponder a loose description of what it is that defines me: knowing quite well that this may change at random down the road. I am also aware of the fact that any definition of a living human being, is by definition, going to be incomplete. Or as Alanis Morrisette sings in “You Learn“:
You live you learn
You love you learn
You cry you learn
You lose you learn
You bleed you learn
You scream you learn
As we live we evolve in other words.
In this light, I would be obliged to tell you that I am a happily married man, a charismatic christian, 63 years old and a grandpa who tends toward introspection and self-doubt.
As a charismatic Christian I believe in a personal relationship with Jesus and the gifts of the spirit, which includes speaking in tongues, healing and God’s involvement in the creative arts. I believe each of us is unique and that one of the goals of this life is to recognize each other in this divine light.
The other night I was in my man cave flipping through the TV channels when I saw that Alanis Morrisette was going to be featured in a Guitar Center special event. I am not a huge fan of hers but I often listen to the 1995 “Jagged Little Pill” album and think it is a fantastic endeavor. What I was not prepared for was the fact that during her interview and performance I would be literally blown apart emotionally. I was undone/unhooked and overwhelmed by a feeling of loss to such a degree that I would end up with tears running down my cheeks.
The thoughts that ran through my mind during this time are not unique to me.
As I listened to her powerful lyrics and saw her “controlled freedom” on stage, I became aware of my many concessions to normalcy over the past fifty-plus-years and was, in some dimension, face to face with the man I was perhaps meant to become but haven’t arrived at yet.
Collectively, over the years, ever since our youth, we have changed and modified our behavior and in turn ourselves, at the whim of who we thought our parents/friends/relatives wanted us to be. Don’t get me wrong, some of this modification is needed in a social sense in order that we might become a part of the greater good. We don’t want to be so individualistic as to become a permanent pain in societies ass. And at the same time we don’t want to give up the parts of us that are unique and desirable and march to the beat of a different drummer type stuff. We certainly don’t want to be “cookie-cutter” anything. But at the same time most of us don’t have the God-given self esteem to lead a creative life where we don’t need Jack and Jill’s approval in order to make it through the day.
What I thought I saw in Alanis as she paced the stage, back and forth, in step with the music, was an artist who had spent the past 17 years learning to be herself, to feel great in her own skin and still yet had not arrived at the big you-have-finally-made-it graduation.
In charismatic Christian terms, we have a word for not being yourself: it is called being a “man-pleaser”. A man pleaser pays too much attention to what others think and in so doing modifies his or her behavior to fit what it is we think they want us to be in order to be accepted. And of course, if the truth be known, those others don’t really have a great idea about it either; we just think they do.
The emotional feeling that I had while watching Alanis was one of feeling that I have compromised to the point of not being me anymore: that I have lost or thrown away the real me for the one that I feel you will like— or— that I have lost the sense of living in the moment for the sake of some random idea of what I think you will find acceptable.
Perhaps having just read Vicktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search For Meaning” had some bearing on my reactions to Alanis finding herself on the Guitar Center’s stage.
What I know is that complacency is our enemy. I do not what to go gentle into that good night, but neither do I want to rage against the light. I do however what to grab what is in front of me and not let it go until I have given it my all. I will not be lightly intimidated into not being me though I will at the same time not let reckless behavior rule my actions.
I hope I have shed a little light into my long ride. It is not over yet and I am committed to enjoying the rest.