Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How Does It

Songwriter for beginners
How does it feel 
When life doesn't seem real
And you're floating about on your own
Your life seems uncertain
So you draw the curtain
Pretending nobody's home

- G. Nash, "Be Yourself"

* * *

There is a sweetness and gentle naivete to most of Graham Nash's songs that finds its truest voice here. The album, Songs for Beginners, is a meander of stunned loss after the end of love. But here is what separates Mr. Nash from the fucked - though pierced with loss he uses that loss as a catalyst to do something. Namely, write songs and sing them. Each of us has withdrawn from our lives, stung by losses that over-match our ability to accommodate in the near-term. That withdrawal into our sorrows, our grief, our stupefaction is as natural as it is necessary. The true grief is when we fail to emerge and take up our lives again. It seems a betrayal of our loss to move, if not on, but at least again.

So we stay stuck in that moment. How much better to write sweet and gently naive songs.

* * *

For those of you keeping track at home, this is the 99th entry in this meander, and I wonder about my own naivete - gentle or otherwise - and its application to this project. I began this work as a response to the volcanic shit flowing through my life, a way of resisting it and hopefully to be of some use. Aurelius, in his Meditations, asks that he communicate liberally; to be useful. Having found that passage several years back I have wanted the same for myself.

But how to do this? A blog called Unfuck Your Life? Really?

The question isn't one of form, but rather voice. This form suggests a certain pungency to my voice, but if it is not there as a matter of course, then it isn't my voice. It is an attempt at voice, a winnowing of everything not me. In this I am the same as Mr. Nash. Call it Attempts For Beginners.

* * *

And what of you, my fucked friend? What are you doing with your time, your losses, the volcanic shit in your life?

Trust what I say and do what you're told
And surely all of your dirt will turn into gold.

That's Van Morrison's advice and it strikes me as the central mystery of our time: what to do with the unruly, ill-fitting, sloppy, ragged losses, failures and poor showings of our lives. Do they define our lives, or do we use what is less than perfect to perfect the one thing that is always and always and always ours: our voice.

I possess an MFA in Fiction Writing earned at Columbia College Chicago. It was there I first heard the first cracked strains of my voice and there it merged with others into a muscular chorus of accomplishment. After, after, after that voice was lost, as if it could not exist without the support of the other voices I came to know and love. I was on my own and I stopped writing. Those years were the worst of my life. I abandoned the one thing that defined me: words. And what did I abandon it for? Volcanic shit.

This is what I mean by being fucked and stuck. I know that of which I speak and it has taken more time, more years to find my voice again. It has been a cavernous waste, but would you and I have met otherwise?

Why this existence and not another?

It ain't why, why, why. It just is. That's all there is to it.

The task is to use the materials at hand and build your life.

* * *

Are you ready?


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