The Blueprint

I woke up well before normal this morning, and lie there on my back a while looking up at the cloudless blue sky, worrying.

By lunchtime I was sweating. By dinner, I was nauseous. Right now I am, well, too tired to feel much at all.

I released my debut CD, “Bloom,” in 1994. I was 22-years-old. “Heartland” is my tenth release (though its my first on a bona fide independent label). You would think I’d be used to this entire hullabaloo by now. The last-minute details. The cloying nerves. The hope against hope. Feigning enthusiasm in the face of public apathy. Will anyone come to the show? Will anyone buy the album? Does anyone know how much I feel like Sisyphus? Does anyone know how much I care about these things? Does anyone else care in any way? At all? Even a little bit?

Tori Amos describes her songs as children. That might be a stretch for me and mine. But there certainly is vulnerability to giving them up, especially after such a long incubation (when you — to advance the metaphor — teach them manners, dress them up, and send them out), and especially to a world so saturated with commercialized art. It’s easy to forget, I think, that there is a face and a name — more tenuous still, a heart — behind every song. So when a judgment is rendered, or worse, one refuses to engage at all, well, it’s difficult not to take personally.

By the time I got home for work, I was short on breath, and shorter on patience. Casey, Chris, and Wynn were due at my apartment to rehearse for our pre-release Cross Pollination performance. All I wanted to do was go to sleep.

There was a Fed Ex envelope at my doorstep. Inside, there was a drawing by my cousin’s Billy’s daughter Drew. It is a pencil sketch of me. I have more hair, and am smiling more broadly, than I ever remember. I am holding my guitar, and singing, and — at least in Drew’s eyes — I am clearly very, very happy. Below the picture is written, “Cool Cool Awesome Wow Cool” next to a square amplifier that reads, “We love you.”

Everything else slipped away. Nothing else mattered. In an instant, a five-year-old child erased thirty-four years of worry. In an instant, a child gave me the blueprint of how to be very, very happy.

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