Last Saturday, I drove 12 hours. The day started at 9AM. I drove for seven hours from Oregon to California, then five hours after an early show at a festival for marijuana growers in the center of the Emerald Triangle in Northern California.
On the drive, it occurred to me to do something I never do, which was to listen to some of my previous blog posts to see how they were hanging together, see what I could improve going forward. I committed to writing the posts weekly over a year ago, and I do my best to make it happen, even though I have missed a few weeks. The weeks when I have shows on either end are often the most challenging, but I try to find time in a restaurant or backstage, and then I wake on a weekday morning and force it to all come together.
It’s quicker than I have ever finished things, and this is the beauty of the blog, and why there are 4,000,000 of them online. You don’t have time to fuss. You have to think and write and edit efficiently and you can’t be too precious about it. In a way, I indulge my long ago fantasies of being a newspaper columnist, and my high school journalism class lessons come together in a process I really love.
I listened to four or five older blogs during the drive and discovered that I had told the exact same story in last week’s blog that I had told in one from the Spring.
I was embarrassed. My pride in being able to produce something in the hours between a late flight from the East Coast and a 1PM bus call for a weekend of shows dissolved. I was staring at my limitation. It looks like I have thirty or so blogs in me before I start to repeat myself, nearly word for word in a story.
Here I was, driving after the weekend of shows and long drives and venues with no green rooms, a last minute line-up change due to injury and a feeling of having weathered a storm, and here was the story, repeated for the world to read.
A small percentage of the thoughts we have every day are brand new ones, and it’s funny to witness this limitation first-hand. I regret to say that I am one of those people who tells the same story over and over. I have a pretty crappy short-term memory, so I can never remember who I’ve told the story to already. I attribute this lack of memory to my life as a rock drummer, life on the road, moving moment to moment and cultivating forward movement as a goal.
The old man calls me a goldfish, especially when it comes to remembering movies I have seen, people I have met. In the days of video rental stores, it became comical: I would suggest movie after movie that we had already seen.
When I was thinking about this duplication of story in the blog, the inner critic came out very loudly. I walked through the morning streets, bleary and determined to make a day of it even though I felt so tired and spent. The critic began to berate me. I probably repeat myself over and over in the posts. Maybe in every blog post I say the same exact thing: fall into the heart, beneath story and ego, blah blah blah.
The window into my limitations seemed so clear and I felt so vulnerable. No wonder I have felt so stuck before, so exposed and raw to criticism. It is excruciating to trip up, to make a mistake publicly when you have such a loud inner critic. If you just don’t put anything out, you don’t have to listen to her tell you I Told You So.
Years ago, I spent some time meditating on on my inner critic, and an image of a woman in a gray suit and a tight bun on her head emerged. I have no idea where the image comes from, but it’s been helpful to put a face on her. When I asked her what she needed from me, she said she didn’t want me to fail. This is why she was so incessantly belligerent, and why she thought it would be a good idea to just not ever produce any work for which I would be so vulnerable.
After a while of sitting with her, we made a deal. I promised that I would work as hard as I could on anything I produced, and she said she would shut the hell up and let me work.
She was with me this morning as I walked around the streets. She was complaining about the repeated blog story and was berating me in a rather harsh way. I listened for a little bit and then had a conversation with her. In trying to write a blog post every week, there are always going to be things that I say that are repeated, it’s what happens when you are human. If people find fault with that then they don’t have to continue to read the posts. Of all the things in the world that happen, all the art and writing and conversations, my contribution is like a drop of water in an infinite sea. I fell into awareness as I walked and observed the Clem who thinks her actions are the most important and meaningful in the world. In letting go of that Clem, I fell into the perfect day and my whole self smiled.
It was noon. I was wandering around Jackson Square and stopped into a higher end lunch restaurant. I was happy now, and tired of listening to my head, so I ordered a glass of wine and what turned out to be the best omelet I’ve ever had. I sat in the window and started to write, started this blog post without knowing this was what I was going to write about. The critic had blown away and I freely scribbled. Crowds of people across the street waited for the boat to Alcatraz, and I once again made a vow that someday, I would get over there. There weren’t many people in the restaurant yet, as it was still early for the lunch rush.
The waitress was a delight. The food was worth the price. I watched the families in line for the boat and tourists entering the restaurant, and the scope of humanity once again took my breath away. Why do I think that what I do is so important? Because I’m attached to the Me.
Ah, Clem. How about if she just takes joy in the ability to think and write, and sets her thoughts to paper with love?
I looked up from my notebook and looked around and saw that more people had been seated around me and I was oblivious. The beautiful thing about getting older is that I am invisible. I know I have said this before. The torn army jacket and purple sneakers made me some punk rock Golden Girl. My hair was still damp from the shower. It took the usual half hour to get out the snarls created on stage last night as I once again battered that matter in the center of my skull in the name of rock. Maybe this is another reason I don’t remember names and movies, soundmen, venues, blog post entries and stories told. A little too much rattling in the membrane.
A group of people entered the restaurant and I realized, everyone looks familiar to me anymore. No wonder I have such a terrible time remembering names and faces, placing people and where they’re from. I guess that’s what comes when you have been traveling from place to place for 25 years, not getting enough sleep.
It is a nice way to see the world though, as if everyone is a familiar friend. It is nice to see myself that way too, and cut her the same slack I cut everyone else, champion her the way I champion those around me. We are hard on ourselves in so many ways, criticizing and feeling humiliated. We can find our way to be forgiving and kind. It keeps the creative flow of life open when we are compassionate with ourselves, and the world feels lighter. When we open to that wide field of love at the bottom our being and include ourselves in it, life is bliss. And that’s something I know I’ve said before.