Listen to this post on SoundCloud (6:41)
I’d just fallen into the groove of listening to my gut. Sweet melody, some crazy jazz riff in a dark, underground nightclub where the scotch is good and the service is bad. No one smokes in here anymore but the staleness of last century’s cigarettes linger. When you find yourself in that place where your life’s found its rhythm, suddenly all grown up and looking at you with a grin that says, “I’ve got this,” what do you do but say, “Well, get it then”?
You say, “Well, get it then.” And you let that crazy jazz riff play. My gut’s a quartet – complete with piano, upright bass, a trumpet and probably a clarinet to keep it all on the sweeter side. I know when it’s going well because the pianist gives way to the bass, letting a series of plucks rip that make your head nod and your soul say mmmmhmmmm.
It all sounds badass. Effortless.
And then some motherfucker comes along and knocks over a music stand.
It falls to the ground with a clatter and clang. I pick it up. Set it right.
Things look the same. But when you’re in the groove of listening to your gut, you know full well that things aren’t the same at all.
So what do we do when the music stand gets knocked over?
Well, here’s what I’m an expert in: Wondering what in the hell I did wrong. It doesn’t even matter if I’m in the room or not – that music stand falls over and I instantly go into fuck up mode. And by fuck up mode, I mean where I’m cast as the star fuck up.
Is it true – that I’m the fuck up? Odds are, no. I mean, unless you count the fuck up where I yanked my closet doors too hard and they jumped right out of the track and landed on my foot. Fully owning that fuck up. But that one doesn’t even really have anything to do with my gut other than I knew that I shouldn’t be yanking on them that hard and I was frustrated and I pretty much sensed that things weren’t going to go my way with the doors.
Maybe (probably) fuck up mode isn’t the best first destination. Maybe (just maybe) when the music stand gets knocked over and the music starts back up, the best thing you can do is
Watch. See how the quartet plays out the set. Sometimes a reed gets split, the piano’s a bit out of tune or a spit valve is all janky. When you’re gut’s in the groove, you’re picking up something. It’s your job to figure out what in blazes it’s picking up.
Listen. Has the tune gone from some badass, John Coltrane is taping his foot in his grave riff to an easy listening rendition of the same – or is it the same tune and you’re so fucking wrapped up in the music stand that you can’t hear that the music has stayed the same?
Ask. I’m a fan of the blunt question, hard to ask and the answers sometimes harder to hear. But you could stew on that music stand and how it fucked up your gut’s groove (and your willingness, for once, to go along with that groove) or you could ask the honest question.
And sometimes, many times, the answer isn’t about you. It’s about the clarinet player getting rear ended on the way to the set. It’s about the bass player’s brain being somewhere else so he’s playing just a micro measure behind.
There’s no shame in asking because baby, if you feel it you feel it and when what you felt – that groove that lights a smile up behind your eyes and makes people around you wonder what you’re on…
When that ain’t showing up like it did, present and accounted for like the nerdy kid in class who always had the answer…
like it did before some motherfucker came along and knocked over your music stand
You can’t help it but to want it back. And every now and then, it won’t have gone anywhere. Sometimes we just need to reset and take it from the top.
And sometimes…well, sometimes the clarinet player just didn’t want to tell you he got another gig and daddy-o, he just ain’t feelin’ it here anymore.
But if you’re not going to ask, he isn’t going to tell you because honesty is hard. Like that ribbon candy in the glass dish at your grandmother’s house kind of hard.
Feelings. Yeah, they’re a bitch when they’re not the ones you want to be feeling. But that jazz quartet – it’ll play again. God knows, I love the way it conjures up smiles I didn’t know I had, smiles that can only come from my letting go and letting something bigger than me write the music.
Get it, then. You’re not a fuckup and neither am I. Quit it with the blame game and get back to the most important question you’ve ever asked yourself:
What will bring me back to love?
Because that – the answer to that question – is the only thing you need.
If we spent as much time loving ourselves as we do beating ourselves up when life’s music stands get knocked over…god knows, I’d be out of a gig.
And I don’t know about you, but when I hear that sweet, foot-tapping, head-nodding jazz riff in my head…it’s the closest thing to love I’ve ever heard.
Because love…it doesn’t really have a sound. And jazz is the closest thing I’ve found that makes me feel the way I feel when I’ve let that giant wall crumble and the notes come rushing in.
When I’ve let my armor have chinks.
When I’ve taken a deep breath and told my life to play, baby, play.
I think I’ll be doing well to remember to ask that one question: What will bring me back to love, back to the place where I let life play on? The place where I could be less concerned with outcomes and more plugged into is-es and this-es.
Because beating myself up…that will never bring me back to love. And if I keep it up, it’ll probably come to pass that more than just the clarinet player will be ditching my gig and off to make soul-moving music elsewhere.