It’s that time of year again: Time for the It’s a Very Shenry Christmas Memorial Mix CD swap! Hard to believe, but this is our tenth straight year of doing this exchange. I think the swap’s namesake, Shenry, and I might be the only ones in this year’s exchange that have done all ten, but our (G)host for the last couple of years has done 9, and threw in a make-up one this summer for the first year he missed, so that’s almost the same. (Not really, but don’t tell him; it’ll make it him sad.)
Some participants have fallen away. Some aren’t talking anymore. One has died. There’s a lot that can happen in 10 years. Hell, there’s a lot that can happen in 6 months. I laugh at the idea of 5-year plans; I’ve lived too many chunks of 5 years to believe that the outcome at the end of one will match the fantasy design at the beginning of it. I don’t honestly believe there’s a person alive who has not been surprised (in good ways, too, not just bad) by how their life has turned out. I don’t feel comfortable with long-term planning anymore, mostly because I feel it’s a waste of time. I have tickets for Chris Thile in February that I bought this past summer, and that seems almost like tempting the Fates, but hey, no guts, no glory.
That first year of the swap the theme was “Get to Know You.” Who was I in December 2003? Lord, I was young…not just in calendar years, but without too much effort I can quickly conjure up a handful of cringe-worthy memories that illuminate just how young and ridiculous I was. I have aged 30 years in the last 10. In some ways, that’s good, in that I feel like I’m wiser, more patient, and have a decent handle on what’s important in life, and the perspective to let the rest roll off my back. In other ways, not so much.
In December 2003, I was 2 years into the job I am retired from today. I was blogging every day (mostly while at the aforementioned job, and boy, didn’t that end up biting me in the ass!), and had blogger friends I considered beloved family that I talk to very little now, if at all, and in most cases, I don’t even know why. I hadn’t yet met my best friends Beth and Pam. I hadn’t started playing the guitar yet; I owned one, but it had a full-time job taking up room in my closet. I hadn’t even met Antiguo yet, let alone lost him. And my back and hips, while they occasionally acted up, had not completely failed me as they would in time. I’d been married just shy of 10 years to a guy I still liked (and still do) and had 2 dogs, both of whom have passed since. I was living in a different house, but just about to move into the one I still live in. A real estate agent came to the door the other morning, asking if we were planning to sell in the next 6-12 months. I told him, no, we were going to die in this house. He said, “Really?” As I said, I don’t pretend to know what the future will bring, but barring big surprises, yeah, we’d be happy to stay put here for the duration.
The theme this year is a “Get To Know You Redux,” giving folks a chance to reflect musically on who they’ve become as a result of whatever we’ve been through in the last 10 years. To be honest, I don’t even remember what it feels like to be Kristie C. v.2003; that woman couldn’t have even begun to imagine what was in store for her, poor thing.
But here I am, musically, 10 years after. Those of you in the swap should be receiving your CDs shortly if you haven’t already. Those of you not in the swap who are intrigued by this mix may download it here. And if you want to read my thoughts about my selections, read on! Merry Christmas!
The Mix: X
1. All You Need is Now-Duran Duran
One thing that hasn’t changed in 30 years, let alone 10, is my undying love for Duran Duran. And they keep making music (in case you were under the mistaken impression that they hadn’t done anything since “The Reflex.“) I like this song because not only is now all you need, it’s all you’ve got, and it pays to remember that. I remind myself when I start getting ahead of myself, and when I start taking things for granted. Simon said that this song was written for the fans, fans like me who are still swaying in the moon the way that we did when we were younger. They’re still at it; we’re still at it.
2. The Rock-The Alarm
I was first introduced to this song, and this band, from a mix CD Scott made for me. At the time, I guess he was supposed to be The Rock for me, and it’s true that he has been all these years. But when I heard it again recently, I felt like the rock. I think I’m a pretty reliable and trustworthy friend, and pretty unbreakable. Which tends to make people assume I never break, or make them flustered when I do. Which tends to make me keep things to myself, because folks don’t know what to do with that. And I’m pretty intuitive, so I ask people if they’re okay, sometimes before they themselves realize they’re not. But people don’t ask me much; they just assume I’m fine, and it’s hard for me to say if it’s otherwise. Know me like I know you. And also, as a bit of vaguely related trivia, I have a primal kind of crush on The Rock.
3. Tell Mama-The Civil Wars
I’m a good listener, I think. I must be, because people tell me things all the time. Even near-strangers. And I’ve been told I give pretty solid, sensible advice. If it eases someone’s burden, I’m happy to listen and/or advise. I appreciate the trust people show in me by sharing their real stuff with me. And I’m genuinely interested in people, so I ask about what’s going on with them, and help where I can.
4. I Wanna Talk About Me-Toby Keith
However, when you’re a good listener, I think people are so delighted that they forget you have a life and hopes and fears and feelings, too. I have always operated under the assumption that if people want to know about you, they will ask, and that if they don’t, they’re not interested; I’m not one who goes around broadcasting. I have been surprised, and hurt, too, over the years by the number of people who are more than happy to engage in a one-sided “friendship,” where it’s all about what’s going on with them. The people I consider my most beloved friends are just as interested in me as I am in them, and I’ve been withdrawing from those who aren’t. At this point in my life, if it isn’t a reciprocal relationship, I’m not interested.
5. Loretta-Amos Lee
She don’t suffer no fools
She don’t play by nobody’s rules but her own
She got the peaches ‘n’ cream, that old ice cream dream
Deep down in her bones
Loretta, Loretta, Loretta Marie
Well, if you’re ever in need
There ain’t no way she gonna let you bleed on your own
If she got a dollar to spare and your cupboards are bare
She’ll give you a loan
Loretta, Loretta, Loretta Marie
She’s the sunshine in the bluest of skies
She’s the truest friend you’ll ever have in your life
She ain’t nothing but love
She ain’t never gonna put herself above no one
And when the heat comes down and there’s no one around
That girl dont run
6. (Still a) Weirdo-KT Tunstall
After I posted last week’s blog, and Scott read it, he came into the bedroom and said, “You’re a goofball.” It was not clear whether he meant about the blog post, or in general, as it’s not the first time I’ve heard it. But I’m sure I don’t know what he means.
I suppose to people who are superinvested in rigid social expectations, I am weird. (I have always been Dharma to his Greg.) But if you can see beyond those, I think you might just think I’m fun. I amuse myself, at least, and that works for me. We’ve been watching Community via Netflix lately, and some of our favorite bits are the little post-credit teasers of Abed and Troy, doing weird, silly stuff just because it sounded like a fun idea. I’d totally hang out with them.
7. Her Diamonds-Rob Thomas
This song is about Rob Thomas’s wife, who has an autoimmune disorder that causes her chronic problems. The first time I heard it, and every time since, I identified with it. My chronic pain has left me sitting on the bed in tears many a time. You often do wonder why you keep at it when you can’t get ahead. I’m doing better than I was right before I retired, but retirement was no silver bullet–it just gave me the ability to engage in greater self-care as I need it, and stopped the one thing that consistently fucked me up: sitting all day. And I’m grateful for that–don’t get me wrong. But chronic health issues wear on a person, mind, body, and soul.
8. Retirement-Kaiser Chiefs
If you’d told my 2003 self that 10 years later, I’d be just shy of 2 years into retirement, she would’ve laughed and said “I wish.” If you’d told her why, she would’ve been scared. Nonetheless, I’d much rather be here than at the office. Every single bit of work I do around my house directly benefits me and my family, and I work at a human, intuitive pace. I can’t say that about any paid work I ever did. I’ve got no complaints. Even when being the stay-at-home dog mommy means I clean up most of the vomit. Dog vomit: Still better than the best day at work!
9. When You Wake Up Feeling Old-Wilco
I wake up this way only on days ending in -y. It takes a good 20 minutes of shuffling around the house to loosen things up.
It’s easy to get frustrated with the music business, even at the low level I’m working at. We’re not terribly ambitious; we’d like to gig a couple times a month locally, and play for more people than chairs. I have said, only half-jokingly, that our dream is to be Tucson’s favorite opening act. But even so, you’ve got organizers who can’t or won’t communicate even the most basic data; other musicians in festival situations who won’t start or end on time, messing with their musical brethren’s sets; everyone wants you to work for free; and there’s an inexplicable flakiness that permeates the whole venture. Which makes it difficult when you’re not a flake, and you just want to show up, play your music, and, with any luck, touch someone’s heart.
My guitar teacher is a great and patient mentor and he listens to me complain about this crap and commiserates with his own experiences, which is really valuable to me as a relative novice. And then I’m forced to get over myself in a hurry, because if his band, which is really, truly excellent, is still having to put up with this crap after all the years they’ve put in, and as good as they are, we don’t have much to complain about. Because if success in music were actually about talent, creativity, skill, and hard work, he and his duo partner would be living in expensive mansions up in the Foothills and having lackeys pick red M&Ms out of their candy dishes in green rooms across the nation. And that hasn’t happened, but they keep plugging, and I have to do the same, because I have yet to develop 1/10th the skill and showmanship they have. It may be true that there are a few too many unnecessary dues musicians have to pay, and we could all do with less flakiness in music, but even when you’re playing to only your family (again), you have to start somewhere. I’m trying to keep that in mind going forward, and this song helps.
11. Gone But Not Forgotten-Marc Almond
There is really no way to quantify, describe, or overestimate the effect of Antiguo’s death on who I am today, so I won’t even try here. He changed my life when he came into it, and again when he left it. Only he never really left me. (I get along without him very well…of course, I do…) But I think he’d be glad to know how I’ve recovered and found my way to an acceptable level of happiness again, despite missing him, and that he’d be proud of how far I’ve come on the guitar. I’d like him to be proud of me, still. Though he’d probably have some harsh words to say about Toby Keith being on this mix.
12. I Don’t Know Anything-Hoodoo Gurus
After Antiguo died, I read a lot of grief books. And I mean a lot. And of course they talked about coping with grief day-to-day, but very few of them even touched on the existential crisis that follows the grieving. For the religious, it often means a serious, and sometimes permanent, falling out with their god. For the atheists like me, my intellect failed me utterly as a coping mechanism, because beyond acceptance that people do, in fact, die, it has very little to offer that will make a sudden death make sense on a deep and peace-giving level. It’s something you have to feel your way through. And everything I thought I knew became suspect, if it didn’t evaporate entirely. As I see it now, certainty is a delusion of the young and uninitiated. I was so sure of everything when I was younger, when I didn’t actually have a clue. I have my opinions, feelings, and theories like anyone else, but the more I learn, the more uncertainty, the more room, I have in my thinking. And honestly, I think that’s all to the good. Rigid things are the first to break.
Some people would find it terrifying to realize all their constructs that make their life make sense are just that: constructs. And it scared me, too, for awhile. But ultimately, it’s been freeing. I don’t have to have all the answers. I can say “I don’t know” and not have it be a ding to my ego; it’s just honest. I have the freedom to be wrong, to be confused, or to have no opinion at all about something, because I’m no longer invested in knowing it all, which, I know now, is an impossibility.
13. The World’s Not Falling Apart-Dar Williams, Michael Kang, Stefan Lessard
Along the same lines of the previous song, I know now that I am not obligated to fix the world, or the people around me. It’s not my job, and it never was, and I don’t have to carry it as a burden of unfinished business or failure. There’s a quote from the Talmud in the sidebar of my blog that says: “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” It is enough that we try to make the world, or even just our little corner of it, better than we found it; we are not required to achieve a perfect solution. We do not have to push ourselves to the limits of our health and sanity for our causes. We do what we can, and it is enough. The only sin is in not bothering.
14. I Don’t Worry About a Thing-Mose Allison
“Well I don’t worry ’bout a thing
‘Cause I know nothing’s gonna be alright”
Philosophically, I’m not convinced that the problems of the world are solvable, or that they’re supposed to be. There’s not a single problem humans have faced that has been entirely eradicated. We still get eaten by bears. We still starve to death. We still suffer disease. We’re still assholes to each other. We’re still greedy and selfish. We still make war on each other. We still foul our nests. We’re still wrapped up in our egos. We couldn’t even convince ourselves to kill the last of the smallpox virus after all the efforts we made to eradicate it in the human population. I’m more inclined to believe that if it is true that we are here for a reason, then the point is the effort we make regarding those problems, and what we learn in doing so, not whether we solve them entirely. Shitty things will happen in the world as long as we’re alive in it. But simultaneously, people are working hard to improve on them, and that’s the part I think is worth remembering. So yeah, there’s plenty of bad out there. ‘Twas always thus, and always shall be. I think it gives us something to do for 80-some years.
15. All the Time in the World-The Subdudes
When I was 32, I still had this sense that I was destined to die young, and that I’d better hurry up and accomplish everything I wanted to accomplish before I ran out of time. 10 years later, I’m still here, with what I think is a reasonably firm grasp on my mortality, and the potential capriciousness of it. I am ever cognizant of the fact that I’ve been dying since the day I was born, and therefore, it’s all kind of bonus time: the cup is already broken, and I’m already dead. I’m over worrying about my mission, or a bucket list, or my raison d’etre. I’m here to live, to experience what being human on planet Earth has to offer. I’m not here to deny myself any human experience because some book or self-appointed moral authority tells me to. It makes no difference if I want to sit for an hour in the back yard and just feel the breeze play across my skin, or if I want to write a poem, or if I want to march in a demonstration or if I want to go take a nap. Barring not playing in traffic and hurtling myself off skyscrapers and bridges, I have no control over when my number is up, so I can’t worry about it. In the meantime, I’ve got nothing but time, and when I’ve run out, it won’t matter anymore anyway. The pressure’s off.
16. All Things Must Pass-George Harrison
This album was really healing to me after Antiguo died. Not incidentally, he was the one who really launched my appreciation for the work of the quiet Beatle, and so I listened to George a lot. This album in particular, which really spoke to the transience of all things, good and bad, meant a lot to me. Even I will pass. Everything can be gotten through, even this life. No matter how bad it gets on any given day, it will get better eventually, one way or another. And no matter how great it is on any given day, our turn in the darkness will come. It doesn’t mean we did something wrong; it just means we’re humans, living life, and the wheel will turn again. And again. And again.
17. I Was Made for Sunny Days-The Weepies
I had no idea how much I was affected by light and darkness until I moved to Tucson, and spent a winter not flattened by Seasonal Affective Disorder, which I’m convinced is the reason people in Northern climes across the world are so dour. I felt 10 years younger. If it rains 2 days in a row here (which is unusual in non-monsoon seasons), I start to sink. I’m looking forward to Solstice, and the days growing longer again. And in generally, my default is a sunny disposition. I can be swayed easily enough to the dark side, so I always appreciate those people and things that encourage me to keep to the sunny side of the street. And also, this song is a shout out to my honey, who has been here, through everything, for me for 23 years and counting. Love you, Scotty!