I used to wait tables and work for a manager that asked us to call all issues with customers “opportunities”. They were not negative problems or issues. They were an opportunity to gain a customer for life.
And we have opportunities – windows in our lives where we can see ALL the way into ourselves. We can gouge out the stuff that’s either “bad” or just weighing us down. We can scrape off the things that only pull us away from who we really are. And the good news is that these opportunities allow us to change our course – take a new path that will lead us to a stronger bond with ourselves. I’ve been thinking a lot about opportunities this last week. It started off with some conversations with friends and peaked at a frenzied garage cleaning.
First I talked to a dear fan/friend of mine (we’ll call her Anna). Anna was diagnosed 3 years ago with Stage 4 Breast Cancer. That’s right. I said STAGE FOUR. That means that she really shouldn’t be here. But she is. I talked to her a little bit about my friend (we’ll call her Amy) who was just diagnosed with Stage 2 Breast Cancer. Amy is in Week 6 of chemo and she’s doing great. I went to see her the night she cut all her hair off and wore her first wig. I didn’t even notice the wig. She looked beautiful. And she was in great spirits. She’s so positive about the disease and dealing with it. Anna said that that’s a huge part of it – your outlook. You have to be positive – it makes a huge difference in the outcome.
I felt guilty. Here I am feeling down and this woman has beaten cancer – and was POSITIVE about it! Of course, Anna wasn’t positive every day. But she constantly worked to get back to that positive spirit.
And I thought about warriors. About how we battle with things in life and sometimes want to just quit. But the thing is: you can’t quit cancer. You can’t say, “I don’t think I’ll have cancer anymore. I’m tired of it and I’m done.” Cancer IS. You have to fight until you’ve won. You have to find the courage, the perseverance, and the tenacity to be able to stay with it and FIGHT. There’s no choice – you have to.
So the question I ask myself is: Do I have the courage? Can I persevere? Can I fight for myself? Can I act like there’s no choice but to just stay with it?
Later that night, I ran into a fellow artist. He has some good things going for him. He’s going to have a couple of songs in an upcoming major motion picture. And he’s been at this a long time. And he talked about how it’s still a struggle – trying to make a buck, trying to make your career take off, trying to get noticed by an industry that doesn’t notice music anymore, and dealing with the depression that comes along with it.
He told me he just takes a step back sometimes. He looks to see how far he’s come. It’s then that he realizes that he has progressed. No matter what that means in this god forsaken music industry, it is still progression. It is still an encouragement to continue.
Because we all need encouragement – we all need to see a progression and see those reasons for continuing our fight. My friend Anna told me some encouraging things to tell my friend Amy. It’s this huge cycle that starts with an opportunity, goes into a fight that finds you at times down and despairing, and then that encouragement gives you the breath of fresh air that you need to continue on and keep going.
Sometimes when I get down, I get in a cleaning mode – and I don’t mean dishes and floors. I mean a serious upheaval of all of the junk that I’ve accumulated – usually in the garage or the closet. This time it was the garage. It was unreal – not in a hoarding kind of way, but certainly in an unnecessary kind of way. I was throwing away records from 1993 for goodness sakes. And I found 2 journals of songs.
THEY WERE SONGS I HAD WRITTEN. SONGS BY ME. I forgot that I had written songs prior to 2005. My God – it’s like my brain just erased an entire season of memories from my past. I WROTE SONGS.
And I realized what I had done. I had an opportunity to find myself that stared me in the face. I stopped my life and I realized who I was. And I just went on and erased her.
It still hasn’t sunk in. I’m up to my ears in everything right now. I had to set the notebooks aside so I can look at them later. So, I’m still relatively numb to this entire concept.
I’m going back and forth between incredulity and frustration. How did I do that? WHY did I do that? I already struggle with feeling like I’ve wasted so much time, but this is just mortifying. I wasted years of songwriting. YEARS.
But this is SO human. We do this ALL OF THE TIME. We have a life opportunity. Usually it’s some crisis in our life – a big life change like a divorce or losing a job or car accident or something that takes us to a really low place. And we have an OPPORTUNITY. An opportunity to get to ourselves – yes, we get to the bad stuff, but we get to the good stuff too. It’s like cleaning out that garage – sifting through the muck and the dirt and the old records of life and chunking the trash where it belongs – in the trash. And discovering, saving or reusing the good. We find this energy to fight for ourselves – not that person that we try to be for work or church or general society – the person that we ARE and CAN BE.
So here I am in my opportunity – my moment to continue to fight or to give up.
And I realize, once again, that Life has a sense of humor. After breaking my back cleaning the garage, I take a break and go to see an artist play at a local dive – to a very small crowd. And he says at the end of the year that he will quit. After 40 years of being a musician. And I hear myself say these words:
“When I first started my band, I got frustrated at a gig where hardly anyone was there. I said aloud, ‘I should quit.’ And the drummer said, ‘Yeah, but no one would notice.’ And I have never forgotten those words. See, it taught me that I’m in this for me. The question is: Who are you doing this for? When you play gigs or practice your instrument or whatever – are you doing it because you love it and because it’s what you want to do? If so, then keep at it. There’s no point in quitting – cause it’s not about money and it sure isn’t about fame. It’s about something inside of you that’s important to you. And at the end of your life, that’s all there is.”
And I found myself full circle and the words of Waylon Jennings echoing constantly in my head:
“You’ve got to care. You’ve got to care about the music. You work with other musicians who care, and your audience cares. You better care too, hoss, and if you don’t, you shouldn’t be doing it. You better not be doing it for the publicity, the fame, or the money. And you sure better not be doing it because it’s a way to make a living, ’cause that ain’t always gonna be easy. You got to believe it, believe in the music, you got to mean it, that’s all.”
I work in a music industry that in general does not care a whit about the music. It is concerned with number of units sold, number of friends on Facebook, number of hits on a website, number of people attending shows and number of drinks sold at shows.
But me? I say f-ck it. I’m all about the music – because THAT is what is inside of me. Doesn’t matter what’s inside anyone else. It’s my life and this is what I do - MUSIC.