I think about intentions a lot. In my work, in my daily actions, when considering the overview of things — I want to be able to call them good, wholesome, unselfish, sometimes maybe even lofty. If I am honest with myself I can stand back and point out when and where they haven’t been or aren’t, and instead exist to serve my ego in some way. I hate that.
My intention yesterday was to have this posted by midnight. Despite that intention, I didn’t get it done. Though the ticking clock nagged at me all day, I didn’t live up to the deal I made with myself that I’d do this every Monday during 2018 and instead am offering it now, this Tuesday morning, I guess better late than never, but still late. I hate that.
But as in most or probably all things, what happens in my life drives a question. Why is it so important that I live up to a deadline imposed on me by me? What is this structure doing for me, my body of work, my life? Why do I do this at all? Is it simply to serve my ego or is there something else going on?
I’ve put plenty of work into the world. Sometimes I think I don’t need to do any more. I’ve written lots of songs, made a handful of records, even have a fair amount of written work floating around and, much to my delight and surprise, have an actual book coming out next year. I ask myself why a lot. Did the world ever need any of my input and does it now? Truth is, I’ve chosen to earn a living by taking what’s in my brain and heart and trying to convince the world it’s worth paying attention to and paying for. But the truth also is that I probably could’ve chosen an easier route to having money to pay for groceries and the roof that keeps my head dry. Regardless, it’s the route I’m on. And having some guardrails around it keeps me from ending up in the ditch of doing things later or not at all. Confines and deadlines keep things moving. Is it all ego driven? Probably. Is it possible to make any kind of art without ego? Probably not.
I guess I’m just trying to figure out how not to die when it gets down to it. And putting these paragraphs here is one way in which I’m trying to leave something behind, one way in which I’m trying to say, “I’m here. And after I’m gone I hope someone will remember that I was.”
I could give you a list of why I didn’t make it to these paragraphs yesterday. I could tell you about the thousand little joys and heartbreaks that forced themselves into my day and made me stop to catch my breath, my lists of tasks and my amount of overwhelm, but they don’t matter I don’t guess and I know new ones will line themselves up again today. I see them out of the corner of my eye and hear them breathing behind my back right now.
I will tell you that one of the reasons I am late with this missive is that I was lucky enough to watch John Prine receive The Troubadour Award at BMI last night. So I was out late and found myself too emotional afterwards to put any words down that would’ve made any sense. I had thought I would, but no. Yes, I love Prine’s aching songs as much as anyone does, and enjoyed hearing the performers who were chosen to sing a few of them. “The Speed of the Sound of Loneliness,” “Big Ole Goofy World,” “Angel from Montgomery,” and “I Want to Dance with You,” were all delightful and made me feel almost light. That was not the case, however, when Robert Earl Keen delivered, with grace and gravity, “Hello in there.” That song is so damned lonely it makes me not just cry but actually tremble every time I hear it. I get scared when I become that moved, and astonished when I feel so seen. But that’s what the best songs do, don’t they? They make us feel understood. Even though I am not Loretta just yet, I, like most of us, feel like I will be one day and sooner than I want to admit. As I always say, art is a mirror. I don’t always realize that I’m afraid I will be Loretta until I hear the proper words wrapped around the devastation of invisibility.
So I reckon my intention is to try not to be invisible. I don’t want to disappear before my own eyes, become irrelevant to those I’m supposed to be relevant to and even myself, and stare out the back door screen today or any of my tomorrows. I know I most likely, at some stage, will. I get how it usually goes. But for now I’m fighting it like the devil. For now I’m trying, like the rest of you, not to die. For now I’m saying, “I’m here.”
It may not be the best intention, but for today it’s the one I’ve got.