Life And How To Live It

I was like a dear in headlights. Worse, I was like a baby deer in headlights.

Not that anyone would have noticed.

It starts as kind of an upset stomach. Classic butterflies. Or pterodactyls. Then I get a little giddy, a little unfocussed. I’d rather be a lone, but I’m meeting and greeting. I talk a lot (but I don’t say anything). I have to pee, but I don’t.

By the time I hit the stage, I’m pretty humorless, defensive even, stern. I feel unsteady. My hands seem like they’re battling me. My legs feel brand-new. And in my mind, I’m running through all the what-not-to-do scenarios: don’t break a string, don’t botch a chord, don’t forget a lyric, don’t play too loud, don’t, don’t, don’t…

The more quietly I perform, the more comfortable I feel. I bring “Intent On St. Paul” down, way down. I step out of my comfort zone and perform “Cry” for the first time. I play a cover of Wilco’s “I’m Always In Love”. I start slow and quiet, fragile almost, and build. It is would make Tweedy proud. I stay quiet, vulnerable even, for the piece de resistance, “Dear Elizabeth.” I don’t resolve to A, but leave the phrase “I still have something to say” lingering incomplete above our heads.

I close the show in stark contrast to its open: not the bombast of “Live Forever,” but the hush of “New York.” The room falls quiet with me. And for a moment, I am steady. My hands do my bidding with precision. My legs are like old trees rooted deep in the earth. My mind is silent save for the sound of my own voice, and the feeling that I’m smiling, finally.

And so, it occurs to me now, that maybe that’s the idea. Maybe that’s what “Live Forever” means. I dreamt I’d be a big, flamboyant, scissor-kicking rock star. But that’s not my fate, nor my strength. I play loudly well enough, and I put on a rock show well enough. But that’s not my fate, nor my strength.

I don’t want to live forever
I just wanna’ know
That there is something better
Than a rocknroll show

Give me quiet, give me vulnerable, give me fragile, unsteady, heartfelt, and sincere. Give me deep, simple, imperfect, unpolished, and incomplete. I’ll take it all. That’s more than a rocknroll show. That’s real life. That’s a life worth living.

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