I've been kind of a jerk lately.
Not to my friends. My friends I have a solid relationship with now after 3 full months of putting promises into action.
Not with my co-workers. Be it the folks in the Chorus or at the gallery where I work one day a week. With all of them I've been a pillar of responsibility. If I have to change the agreed upon time to go in for work I'll call and make sure it will be OK. Not just sit and rot away at home like I used to and screen my calls. That was always fun to do.
"Hi, Alex. It's _______ here from the ________. Didn't see you in today and we have a big show opening tomorrow. We could really use you. Give me a call when you get this and we can talk. Hope everything's alright."
Umm ... yeah, about that. I eventually heard that message when I came to at five and had to call the operator to find out if it was a.m. or p.m. And I would have known there was a show opening if I had called to see if it was OK to not come in the one day a week I work.
I'm still amazed they never let me go. It's a cherry gig and I never fully appreciated it until I almost had it taken away from me.
I did the same thing with the Chorus, except with them, I definitely called. That was a job I could not forfeit under any circumstance. You couldn't be a textbook functioning alcoholic if you lost your job, this much I knew.
I just had to hear it from the director's mouth that I could skip practice and then I would hang the phone up, raise my fists in the air and speed on down to the package store. I'd usually have to wait in the parking lot until they opened at 9 hoping no one would recognize my car, the one with my band's bumper sticker on it.
Standing and waiting behind the owner of a package store as he unlocks the door is one of the most humiliating things I did on a regular basis. That feeling didn't last for long though.
It was never easy to make the call to worm my way out of the two hour rehearsal that paid as much as my one day a week cleaning job. I played it in my mind from both sides of the assumed attitude of the director. I'd pick it up, dial four digits or so, and then return said phone to its cradle.
I waffled between feelings of superiority: They'd never get rid of me. They love me. I've been with them for 4 years now. It's a lock. Iron clad. They need me goddamn it and they need me in a good mood. I'm not the one who the practice is for anyway. I know the songs and there are plenty of rehearsals left before the big show. I deserve a day off.
And self loathing: They don't need me. They can do all those songs with just a piano. They didn't have a steady guitar player for a long time before I strolled in. It's no big deal. They're probably psyched I'm not there gunking up the works. It'll be fine. There are plenty of rehearsals left before the big show. I deserve a day off.
What a sick bastard.
No, the problems I'm having are not with my friends or my employers.
My problem is with me.
I can't seem to take a compliment from someone very close to me, someone who has known me longer than anybody.
This person told me how happy it made them to see the way I am living my life. This person said that they are so proud that I have begun to change my ways and experience the exploration of avenues that have long been under construction. This person said that they're super impressed with my writing and can't understand what took me so long.
This person loves the new me. And what did I do when I heard all this earlier today when they called to praise my efforts and offer me ideas to further my creative endeavors?
I got mad.
What a sick bastard.
And I've been trying to understand what it is that makes me so uncomfortable hearing words of encouragement and praise for the new accomplishments I can finally take credit for.
It think that, like a distant relative that you haven't talked to in a real long time because they have some serious problems, you miss them.
You know they're a little screwy. You know that a lot of unfortunate incidents have occurred. But you understand them and you don't want to hear anyone talking bad about them. You know their true essence. You know that they did what they did for their reasons and their reasons alone. And you know that if they had a way to change what was actually going on at the time things might have been different.
I've always had a fear of success.
I get so close to doing so good so often and then I screw it all up. Sometimes it'll be an act of immediacy like playing a guitar solo that is verging on perfect. It'll be out of control good and I'll have a whole bunch of people watching and listening and someone will scream "All right."
And I'll choke.
Or it will be a situation in a relationship that is just going too well to imagine. Finding a nice girl with manners and class and a fun fashion sense who likes my sense of humor and doesn't mind me drinking every night and snoring (believe me, there were a few). I'd have to always find some way to screw it up because somewhere, deep inside me, I felt like I just didn't deserve it.
Well, I've been thinking a lot about that distant relative. I've been defending what they did a lot. I've been overreacting because I don't want the memory of that person be lost forever and cast aside for the new and improved me. The me that couldn't have dreamed of taking all of this new found attention from both the media and the public in such stride. The me that feels more secure and focused than ever before.
I have a lot of accomplishments which were achieved during heavy periods of use. But they were always a game of catch up. There were always strings attached. I could never just write a song. I had to write half a song and be so happy I wrote a half a song that I'd take a walk to the liquor store to get a bottle. It would be under the guise of seeing if it was a hummable tune. I'd get back and start pounding glass after glass until after about 5 drinks I'd just push the guitar aside and put on Maury. I have a lot of half filled sheets of paper in boxes waiting to be opened.
But the thing is, I did write some songs back then. I played a lot of great shows. I wrote a good portion of a silent movie soundtrack. I spent time with my family. I remembered birthdays. I dated beautiful women, and I was in a popular band.
And it's like drinking a glass of razor blades to think what might have happened had I done things differently.
And that's why I defend it.
Because it's helpless. It is mute, deaf, and paralyzed and all I can do is look at it in retrospect and remember it as it used to be, not what I wish it could have been. That would be even more unhealthy than the actual abuse.
So if I seem a little hesitant at agreeing with people who say I should be happy my life isn't like it used to be, it's not because I think that you're wrong.
It's because you're right.
And, for better or for worse, I miss that crazy relative of mine.
He had some great ideas for songs.
Maybe I'll have to look over some of the letters he sent me and try to fill in the blanks.
Thanks for reading.