July 25, 2017
And what blessing the day brings almost from the outset. My thoughts fell upon a song, and just the thought of a song was the beginning of such joy and fun.
The song is “Just Feel Better” by Carlos Santana and Stephen Tyler of Aerosmith. It’s probably in my top five rock songs from the last 20 years, and invariably when you hear me singing behind the bar, it’s the song I’m singing.
The song starts with that strong Santana vibrato, which does what so many great songs do and great guitarists have done, it breaks the silence well.
Those bright guitar chords underscore the hope that grows out of the desperation of the lyrics. We start with:
“She said I feel stranded
and I can’t tell anymore
if I’m coming or I’m going.
It’s not how I planned it;
I’ve got a key to the door,
but it just won’t open.”
(I hope these gentlemen don’t mind me using their lyrics. They are theirs, and I a mere copier. I would think that, amongst civil folk, that would be all the attribution required.)
And having recalled feeling such as this so often in my darker days, I am pleased to note how the song has helped me not feel that way anymore.
The song goes through another stanza to reinforce the first, and then we get to that chorus that ends with:
“…but I’ll do anything to just feel better,
any little thing to just feel better.”
It’s so simply stated that if it were something on the sidewalk you might walk right over it without even seeing it. I don’t know if it was ever just that for me, but at some point it became the message it was meant to be, and I heard it. If you’re feeling poorly, if you’re not where you need to be, just do something, anything, to feel better.
This takes me to a thought about my experiences with AA. I do not attend AA meetings; I have, but I have only attended two in the last ten years, nor can I imagine that I’ll be going to one anytime soon. I have nothing against the organization or the philosophy, but I’ve got my program and that isn’t part of it. Besides, if I’ve already gotten the good philosophy, why would I need to go back and get it again. Still, if anyone does have a problem with booze and wants to seek help, it’s a good place to start. I’ve never been in a meeting that didn’t offer me something to help.
One of the most important things I took from those experiences involves the tenet “Do the next right thing.” I’d listen to people in those rooms discuss this advice, and every single one of them got hung up on the word “right.” Is it right to do something? What you’re thinking is not right. That’s not the right way to go about it.
The concept of right, however, is subjective, and it’s certainly too much so to just assume that people in any kind of recovery are going to be able to navigate it with certainty.
Doing something, however, is not a concept; rather, it is an action, and it is something that will happen every time we make it happen. That has been important to me in my recovery because it cuts down on what is referred to as stinkin’ thinkin’. The more active I am, the less opportunity my mind has to gather wool.
What’s more, when I have a bunch of things to get done, which is always, it usually doesn’t matter what I get done, only that I do get something done and off the list. How many times have we heard someone say that they have so much to do that they just don’t know where to start? My question is this: If there aren’t time sensitive things on the list, what does it matter where you start, so long as you do start. If there are items of time sensitive nature, it’s an even easier decision to make: start with them.
The Ingush are a tribal people in Chechnya, and they have a proverb that goes, “He who fears the consequences cannot be brave.” That can be applied here.
The second verse of the song addresses the need for human support and companionship:
“She said I need you to hold me;
I’m a little far from the shore
and I’m afraid of sinking.
You’re the only who knows me
and who doesn’t ignore
that my soul is weeping.”
And we get back to that bold ambition, “gonna do anything to just feel better, any little thing to just feel better,” and that’s all it takes, just doing something, just being active.
So much of my program of recovery and alcohol abstinence is based on just staying busy. Procrastination is such a heinous enemy to my efforts. (Btw, Ellen Degeneres has an excellent piece on procrastination in her Here and Now special that I highly recommend.)
Most of us have heard the saying “The devil is in the details,” and, depending on your task at hand, I’m sure that is pretty right on. Recently, however, I heard it said that “The devil is in the distractions,” a thought that rings truer for me than the other. I have to stay on pace and I have to maintain my focus; if I don’t, bad things might happen. This song is just one of the uncountable little tools that I’ve found to help me with my struggles.
Despite playing the song on YouTube, I was just going to listen to the song while I began my writing day and not watch the video. I ended up watching the video, however, and I’m glad I did. First off, Stephen Tyler can be just the epitome of cool when he’s singing. He isn’t always, but when he hits it, he just knocks it out of the park. (Fenway of course) He’s so cool that he can look hard in aviator shades with one piece of his hair braided.
And Carlos, well, after what that cat lived through at Woodstock, I don’t guess there’s too much that phases him these days. He’s got a guitar that may as well be a third arm, a song that he knows forward and back, and he just lays back there in that pocket until it’s time for him to step out, and even when he does that, no matter what he shreds, he shreds it cool.
So, I decided to see if Santana might be good music for my writing day. There was no guarantee he would be. Some days I have to try a number of acts before I find one that fits. I have friends and family members who can tell you how I’ll call or text them with one simple request, “Tell me someone to listen to.” But it has to be just right for the day, and what was right for yesterday might not be right for today. Sometimes, the only thing that’s right is no music; I prefer it if that isn’t the case, but if productivity remains where I want it, then I can suffer the silence.
So, I figured I’d give Carlos a whirl. I put on a mix of his videos and went at it. The next song up was “Into the Night,” which features Chad Kroeger from Nickelback on vocals. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to listen to that song because I couldn’t remember it.
So, the song starts, and I begin to watch the video, as there’s no sense in going to a work screen if I’m just going to go right back to the YouTube screen to turn off a bad song.
And I’m watching and listening, and it’s not a bad song as far as bad songs go, but it’s still a pretty bad song. No offense to Mr. Santana, but I think he might have just been picking up a check on that one.
Still, I couldn’t stop watching, because watching Chad Kroeger was just a fantastic reminder of just how cool Mr. Tyler is. If Kroeger is a good example of a contemporary rock star, then Tyler shows us the difference between that and a rock legend. Kroeger’s going to work, where Tyler’s capturing pieces of his life. Tyler looks–he’s even about as tamed down as he can be in the Santana video–like he’s ready for an orgy with Hell’s Angels and a women’s roller derby team, and Kroeger looks like he’s heading to the mall for a Dippin’ Dots and a stop by Hot Topic.
Maybe it’s just me, maybe it was just the morning, but it was just a satisfying juxtaposition, and I had to laugh at the things life gives us.
So, I found this song, and I started there, and I went with it. And all of the sudden, it’s 19 hours later and that day is ending. Aside from my siesta, I haven’t stopped much all day, even finding merit in my relaxing time, by watching the first two episodes of Ken Burns’s Civil War miniseries. I’ve been so blessed, and I’ve been so joyous. I’ve been healthy and productive, and I will sleep well with thoughts of a Nietzschean wise man, whom we might get around to talking about one of these days. I will wake in the morning and try to find another song. Only the Lord knows where he will let it take me.
I hope you’ve had a banner day. Thank you for stopping in to see what I had to say; may it bless you in some small way. I know it has me, and I am indeed feeling better.