Tuneful Tuesday: What I Like About You

Okay, first of all, this song really has nothing to do with depression, nor have I ever associated it with any particular feelings of melancholy I may have had. In fact, it’s one of the few songs I can simply shut my brain off and enjoy simply for the heck of it. It’s got energy, it’s easy to sing, and it has a rippin’ harmonica solo. What more could you ask for?

The website www.bebraveandtalk.com published an article in April of this year titled “10 Depression Symptom Analogies For Those Who Have Trouble Understanding.” It contained some remarkably profound observations on how living with depression might be described to someone who has never dealt with it. My favorite analogy had to do with self-loathing (Yes, I realize how ridiculous that sentence is.). Here is how this feeling was described…

“What if that person you can’t stand being around, that person you have a hard time finding good qualities in, that person you just can’t seem to like, was tied to you with a three-foot long rope for an entire day? ‘No way in hell,’ you are probably thinking. Well, if you suffer depression, that person is tied to you permanently. That person is yourself. It is a very sad, but very true, reality of depression. The majority of the time during a depressive episode the sufferer thinks very negatively about themselves, and they might even have feelings of self-hatred.”

Every now and then, I’ll be given a worksheet or an exercise asking me to identify positive qualities about myself. You would think I had been handed the algebra portion of the SAT test (Please, math geeks, do not shrug your shoulders and cockily ask, “What’s so bad about that?”. Things will turn ugly very quickly.). I can usually hit on a couple of obvious points – “I write well” or “I’m a good bass guitar player” – but, for the most part, I struggle to come up with answers. And even if I do believe I am good at something, I usually feel as if no one cares; it’s not useful; a billion other people are better at it than me; or I’m never going to be able to use it for anything.

This song is basically a guy listing all the things he likes about a girl. I’ve always found it easier to list good qualities about other people than about myself. I wondered today, though, what if that guy had to write a song about all the things he liked about himself. Would it come that easily? Would it be that positive? And would there be a harmonica solo?

Yes, once again, I seem to have successfully taken a fun song and analyzed most of the fun out of it. Another of those qualities I don’t like about myself all that much. The good thing is, I think this song is strong enough to withstand it. I guess it’s time I wrote one of my own that can, too.

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Nobody’s Perfect (So Don’t Act Like You Are)

For those of you wondering where I have been for the past few days, let me offer up a brief summation…

First off, my laptop died (or, at least, it started letting me know it had plans of dying very, very soon), and my Wednesday evening was spent having dinner with a friend who had agreed to look at it for me. On Thursday, I had an interview with two professors from the graduate program I’ve been trying to get into … and you can now strike the word “trying” from that last sentence, because I found out Friday I’M IN! I’ll write more about that another day. And then last night, I blew off writing anything to eat tacos and watch a movie. I know, what dedication to the craft…

The last post I wrote had to do with Bruce Jenner, and my blog received a rather large spike in viewership as a result. To be honest, though, I wasn’t particularly comfortable writing it, because it felt as if I was attempting to cash in on the Topic of the Day. It did have a connection, though, to mental behaviors and psychology and even depression, so I put my hesitations aside and plowed on.

For the past several days, I’ve been pondering another very public situation – the downfall of Joshua Duggar. I’ll try duggarto summarize briefly: Josh Duggar is the oldest child of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, the parents of the Duggar clan featured on the (currently suspended) TLC reality show 19 Kids and Counting. He was formerly the director of FRC Action, the non-profit political action and lobbying arm of the Family Research Council. He resigned from the position May 21, after reports became public that he had molested five girls (including some of his sisters) when he was 14 and 15 years old.

Because of his status as a Christian family advocate and the fact that is the son of parents who have chosen to bring 19 children into the world, Josh Duggar quickly became an easy target for anyone with a bone to pick against religion, conservatism, large families, and basically anything else the more liberal pockets of society seem to be opposed to these days. Even before any of this information came to light, however, people were referring to the Duggar family as “freaks” because of the way they chose to live. For Joshua Duggar’s failures to be pushed into the publicly eye so vehemently was simply like throwing gasoline on a fire.

Let’s put it plainly: What Josh Duggar did was wrong. Even if he was the victim of teenage hormones run amuck, a man or boy simply cannot ever do what he did. At the same time, his family (most notably, his molested sisters) seems to have forgiven him, and no further incidents beyond those teen years have been discovered. He is 27 years old now and has a wife and children of his own. No charges were filed, and all the parties affected seem to want to move on.

Why are we staying on this then?

The more I think about the answer to that question, the more I come closer to the following conclusion: I’m not so sure people are half as mad about what Josh Duggar did as the fact that he and his family had worked very hard to lead us to believe nothing is or ever was wrong with them. The Duggars have written books and spoken at conferences and appeared on television, and never once did they mention this skeleton in their closet. Josh Duggar thumped plenty of podiums with FRC Action, always displaying a righteous indignation against evil in the world. You may have thought the Duggars were weird, but you also probably couldn’t find much to call them out on. They made fairly sure of that.

As a self-deprecating kind of person, I gave up a long time ago trying to present myself as anything other than flawed. Even the best of us have made mistakes, though. I would think at some point while the Duggars were earning all that money on their television show and books that they might have mentioned this unfortunate chapter in their lives. Not a word, though. That, I believe, is where the outrage lies. If you’re sitting on a secret, don’t push yourself out in public in front of everyone and tell them how good you are. At least own it at some point.

Strangely, I dislike the Duggars now because of the good things they tried to present, instead of the bad thing they tried to hide. Does everyone need to shout their deepest, darkest secrets from the rooftops? No. What they can do, though, is not proclaim their righteousness from every street corner either. There are none of us who are perfect, and we do the world a great disservice when we try to convince everyone that we are. The damage will come eventually, sooner or later. Promoting goodness is a positive thing; claiming to have the market cornered on it is not.

I Can’t

Words cannot express how loathe I am to sit here and write this tonight. This is Tuesday. This is the day when I’m supposed to write a little something about a song that has meant something to me and get to bed earlier. I already took a nap this afternoon. This is the day that what I do here is supposed to be largely devoid of any type of controversy or dispute or weirdness. This is supposed to be the easy post.

After sitting here for the last 30 minutes trying to get around it, though, I’m finally giving in. I’ve been thinking about this all day, and I have to get it out before I go to sleep tonight.

I do not get this whole Bruce Jenner thing.

I couldn’t scroll down my Facebook feed for 30 seconds today without either seeing the Vanity Fair with “Caitlyn” bruce-caitlyn-jenner-vanity-fair-coverJenner’s photo on the cover or someone posting a link to a blog or website discussing Jenner’s attempt to reclassify his gender. Depending on what you’re reading, Jenner is either a hero or a lunatic, someone exhibiting extreme bravery or someone who has lost his marbles. Whatever the opinion, that freaking picture is everywhere today.

I don’t really like to court controversy anymore. Maybe when I was younger and more assured of how correct I was about every situation, I would have embraced the chance to dive head-first into a topic such as this. As I sit here at this keyboard tonight, though, all I really want to do is get a few thoughts off my chest about how utterly confusing it is to try to wrap my head around this utterly baffling situation.

If I walked into work tomorrow and asked everyone there to start calling me “Debbie,” I would probably get some strange looks. Actually, I would get more than that. I would get a whole bunch of people telling me to knock it off. I’m a man, so it wouldn’t make much sense for me to suddenly demand that I be addressed by a woman’s name. Johnny Cash once sang about how “life ain’t easy for a boy named ‘Sue’,” and despite shifting attitudes on sexuality, it would probably still be pretty tough today. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it; it’s just weird.

I am struggling to understand why, then, if I were to begin wearing female clothing and makeup, taking hormone therapy to change my biochemistry, and undergoing surgical procedures to alter my genitalia, I would be lauded as a “hero.” To me, these are much more radical steps than simply changing my name. Not only did Jenner change his name, though, he posed as a woman on the cover of a national publication which will grace magazine racks in everything from Walmarts to library shelves to gas stations across the country.

patinkinI also don’t think we’re using the term “hero” correctly anymore. In the words of the great Mandy Patinkin in The Princess Bride, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” In my mind, “heroes” are firefighters who rush into burning buildings to save children or police officers who leap in front of bullets to protect innocent bystanders or soldiers fighting on the front lines on foreign soil. To me, Jenner was more of a hero when he was winning gold medals for America than he is for wearing a dress in public these days.

Believe it or not, I understand what it’s like to not exactly be sure of your identity and to feel trapped by who people think you are. After years of living under the haze of depression, I felt a wave of new emotions and perspectives flooding over me once I got into counseling. There were some things I always thought I wanted that I suddenly didn’t want anymore. There were some things I used to do that I didn’t want to do anymore. People had a difficult time understanding that. The process of figuring out who I am and what I want is still ongoing, and I’m not always sure where it is going.

I don’t know Bruce Jenner, and I’ve always believed that in order to truly hate a person, you have to know them personally. I only say that because I’m sure someone reading this believes I hate Bruce Jenner and/or transsexuals. I really don’t. At the same time, though, I really don’t understand them, and I believe the path they are setting themselves on is not a wise one. In my case, even though I feel like I’m changing, the challenge is still to learn to live inside my own skin. What Jenner is doing feels like an attempt to escape that skin and become something different entirely. Unfortunately, what is in his core will always be there, no matter what his outer shell suggests.

Finally, it’s just strange to see the man who graced the front of Wheaties boxes when I was a kid decked out in a dress and sprawled out across a couch these days. Regardless of how I feel about Jenner’s current course of action, there’s no getting around the oddity of the situation. That’s why I’m not writing about music and iPods and things like that tonight. Some things just can’t be ignored, no matter how we try to.

We Lost The Story

bass heroesI have a book beneath my bathroom sink titled Bass Heroes. It is compiled of interviews from the 1970s and 1980s with famous bass players pulled from the pages of Guitar Player magazine. The roster of interviewees is a veritable Who’s Who of elite bass players, including Billy Sheehan, Geddy Lee, Jaco Pastorius, Stanley Clarke, John Entwistle, Bill Wyman, and Paul McCartney. I bought the book in Nashville several years ago in a music store. It was long enough ago I couldn’t even tell you the name of the store.

Why is this book beneath my bathroom sink, you may ask? Mainly for ease of accessibility. If I could compile a Bible of bass playing, this book would be it for me. It has been an invaluable resource, and even though it was published over 20 years ago and some of the players featured in it are now deceased, I still pull it out and read it from time to time. Its edges have become frayed, and I’m actually quite shocked it’s held together this long, but I imagine I will hold onto it until it crumbles into dust one day.

There are definitely tons of tips and discussions on bass playing techniques and instruments and amplification and even a touch of music theory here and there, but that is not what keeps me coming back to this book over and over again. What compels me to keep reading it is the stories it contains. Clarke struck out from Philadelphia for New York in the early 1970s with basically nothing to his name but his electric bass and some clothes. Wyman once tried to reach out to high-five a fan and fell off the stage, colliding with the concrete floor seven feet below. Noted blues bassist Jerry Jemmott, who played several sessions with the late B. B. King, nearly lost his ability to play at all after an automobile accident in 1972 left him severely injured.

To me, a person’s story is just as (if not more) important than what they have accomplished or how they managed to accomplish it. The story makes up the fiber of their being. How did they get from Point A to Point B? How did that journey influence them? What was their point of decision, the path that changed their trajectory? What was it that elevated them from a normal to an extraordinary life? These are the factors which drive ingenuity and encourage individual thought, and they are also the sparks that leap from art to encourage others to strike out on their own journeys.

Unfortunately, this type of book would be difficult to compile today. The majority of guitar and bass publications I pick up now are made up of at least 75 percent product reviews, which really sucks for a guy like me on a limited budget. More than that, though, the stories have been pushed to the side. Even if an artist is chosen for a feature interview, the majority of it focuses on either that artist’s latest project or the instruments and equipment they used to record it. My heart sinks nearly every time I pick up one of these publications these days. I can actually find better interviews free on the internet.

The point I’m getting at is this: Our stories are vitally important, not just to us, but to others who may get to hear them later on. When we lose our stories, we lose our emotional connections with each other. When we become more about gear and machinery and impersonal objects, we lose our ability to inspire. The newest effects pedal on the market never inspired me to get better at my instrument, but hearing Sheehan talk about learning all of Jimi Hendrix’s guitar parts on the bass makes my wheels start turning. Could I do that? And, if I couldn’t, what would my story be?

The human experience is what makes us what we are, not the tools of the trade. It would be like asking what kind of evel2hammer John Henry used or what brand of gasoline Evel Knievel filled up his motorcycles with. Toys are cool, but stories stand the test of time.

What’s yours?

Dr. Phil vs. The Bad Guest

I have a guilty pleasure.

I love watching Dr. Phil.

Yeah, yeah, I don’t care if the internet is ablaze with articles about what a quack Phillip Calvin McGraw is. There’s just something I like about a guy who will look at someone and not be afraid to say (literally), “What the hell is wrong with you?”. I’m also just fascinated with counseling in general right now, even though some of what Dr. Phil does stretches the definition of the word. He does usually offer his guest some type of assistance by the end of the show, and he does seem to genuinely want to help most of the time, even though many of his programs deal with topics that are clearly chosen because of their ability to get ratings rather than providing any type of useful service to the viewer.

When I was sick near the beginning of this year, I gorged on Dr. Phil for nearly a week. You’d be surprised at how dr philmany weird hours of the day and night you can watch the program. It’s like television crack for me. I just eat it up, from the guests who are totally clueless about how messed up they are to the damaged human beings finding hope again to the way Dr. Phil’s eyes look like they’re going to pop right out of his head sometimes. There’s not much I don’t like about Dr. Phil.

Of course, I said not much, which means, yes, there is something.

I was watching the show yesterday, and suddenly a very distinct pattern struck me. Anytime there are guests with opposing viewpoints of a situation, one of them always winds up being the bad guy (or girl). For instance, yesterday’s program featured an incredibly disturbed teenage girl and her parents. The girl would throw screaming, jumping tantrums at home. She was borderline suicidal. Her brother could not stand to be around her. She looked like an out of control child.

As the program unfolded, however, it was revealed that the girl’s parents were possibly even crazier (Pardon the term, but I couldn’t think of a better word.) than she was. They fought incessantly, sometimes abusing each other physically. They screamed and cursed at her. They had attempted to divorce three different times, but were for some reason, inexplicably almost, still under the same roof with each other. It also turned out that the girl actually functioned quite well everywhere else, except around her own family. Dr. Phil’s deduction was that the girl was an unfortunate victim of her surroundings, that her parents needed to get as far away from each other as possible, and that her only hope was to get as far away from these people as possible.

I can’t say I necessarily thought Dr. Phil was wrong with any of his advice, but he may have blurred some lines with his techniques. He actually hugged the girl (whose face was never shown) at one point, which I would think is sort of a no-no for a psychiatrist or counselor to do during a session. More than that, though, he clearly went after the parents. Now, don’t get me wrong; these people were messed up. It was sort of unsettling, though, to hear the audience applauding every time Dr. Phil pointed out how they were screwing up their daughter. I can’t say I liked them, but I don’t know that they needed to be humiliated like that.

This is where my chief problem with Dr. Phil lies: Most of the programs I’ve seen draw a very distinct line between who is right and who is wrong. The older I get, though, the more I’m beginning to realize it’s very rarely that cut and dried. Even in this case, I’m not sure Dr. Phil should have been hugging a girl who was jumping up and down and screaming at her parents when she didn’t get her way. I’m all for finding the root of a problem, but I do not believe there is always a villain in every story. Sometimes “the antagonists” lose their way, too. Should they be marched out in front of a national television audience to be ridiculed?

Of course, even after saying all this, I’ll probably still be glued to the next episode of Dr. Phil I manage to catch. I will probably still cringe, though, every time the audience applauds and someone shifts uncomfortably in their seat because of it. Yes, sometimes people do bad things. I hope more of them will choose a private counseling setting for those to be brought to light, however, rather than facing the proverbial firing squad for all to see.

Tuneful Tuesday: Where Were They Going Anyway?

“But where were they going without ever knowing the way…?”

One-hit wonders are a curious thing to me. What is it about that one particular song that made it a hit, while everything else they tried to do was largely ignored? Maybe it was just a particular moment in time when the stars aligned perfectly and public taste met in a divine encounter with one uniquely written and produced piece of music to create a piece of melodic history that would never be replicated again.

Or maybe it was just dumb luck.

Whatever the case may be, the musical landscape is littered with one-hit wonders who enjoyed their 15 minutes of Deep_Blue_Something_-_Homefame and then vanished from sight. To be honest, a lot of them deserved better. Many of them had songs that were just as good or better than the ones they became known for. For example, when a friend of mine played Deep Blue Something’s Home for me, I thought there were several tracks just as strong as “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Of course, Deep Blue Something then went on to have another hit with … um … yeah, that…

The thing many one-hit wonders’, um, one hit (er, hits) is that it is played so many times on the radio and on television and in department stores and anywhere else music can be piped into, we all eventually become sick of it (um, them). The songs just become inescapable, and we all wind up just wanting them to go away. Of course, then we hear them several years later and think to ourselves, “Huh. I wonder what ever happened to those guys…?”.

It was nearly impossible to go anywhere in 1998, for example, with hearing Fastball’s “The Way.” In reality, it’s a very catchy song with very interesting lyrics (More on that later…), but after a while I stopped even caring what it was about. I didn’t care where those people were going or whether they knew how to get there or not. I was greatly relieved when the follow-up single “Fire Escape” was released, but I couldn’t tell you today how that song went at all. I sure do remember “The Way,” though.

Even though “The Way” seemed to be emanating from every possible speaker it could that year, I don’t know if many people knew (or even know now) where the idea for the song came from. Vocalist and bass player Tony Scalzo got the idea for the song after reading several articles about Lela and Raymond Howard of Salado, Texas. Unfortunately, the Howards’ story is not a happy one. Despite Lela suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and Raymond recovering from brain surgery, the elderly couple decided in June 1997 to leave home and set out for the Pioneer Day festival in nearby Temple, Texas.

They never arrived. Their lifeless bodies were found two weeks later at the bottom of a ravine in Hot Springs, Arkansas. They were nowhere near Temple, Texas, or the Pioneer Day festival.

Scalzo, however, decided to take the concept of a couple just dropping everything, no matter the circumstances, and taking off and romanticized it a bit. The couple in the song is apparently a bit older, although that’s never addressed specifically. They don’t tell their children where they’re going. In fact, they don’t even know where they’re going themselves, and, as the chorus succinctly puts it, “they really don’t care.” Wherever they wind up, “they’re happier there today.”

Why did “The Way” become so popular for Fastball? I don’t know if anyone will ever really know for sure, but here’s my theory: Everyone, at some point in their lives, has wanted to just to drop everything and take off. No responsibilities, no one to answer to, no worrying about how expensive everything is going to be or who is going to take of care of things at home. As irresponsible and dangerous as the couple in the song’s trip may seem, they are obviously quite happy in what they are doing. That kind of freedom seems elusive to so many of us. We would like to run away, too, but we just can’t.

gumpEven though I’m way too much of a flat-foot to ever find running enjoyable, I always thought it would be kind of cool to pull a Forrest Gump and just take off one day. No destination. Just see how far I can get. Yeah, it probably wouldn’t be the brightest decision I ever made. Sure might be fun, though.

The Dark Side

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

– Martin Niemöller

Even before I worked as a newspaper report several years ago, I had a real dislike of people who did not at least make an attempt to follow the news. The most common excuse I heard for this was “The news is so depressing.” There’s really no arguing with that statement; the news is depressing. Countries are at war with one another, people are shooting each other, companies are scamming their customers, politicians are caught stealing and lying… Yeah, watching the nightly news is not usually a yuckfest.

Just for a moment, though, stop and think about all the “real” things that happen in life every day. Think about the events in your own life that have had a profound impact on you. Maybe someone close to you passed away. Maybe you were involved in an accident of some sort. Maybe you were abused verbally or physically by someone. Maybe someone dealt dishonestly with you.

Sounds like some pretty depressing stuff to me.

There is a great emphasis being placed these days on “positivity” and “encouragement.” There’s nothing particularly yinyangwrong with that. This week, I’m supposed to be keeping a self-esteem journal, recording positive things that happen to me each day. This is in an effort to keep my mind off of the negative aspects of myself and my daily experiences. Avoiding negativity and depressing subject matter is often a wise course of action, most definitely.

The sum experience of “real” life, however, is not always positive or encouraging. People lose their jobs. Earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and typhoons lay waste to entire cities. Children are sold into modern-day slavery. Dictators carry out atrocities on their own people. And money… Good Lord, we never seem to have enough money, do we?

Why we should watch the news, though, is not so we can drown ourselves in the miseries of the world. We should watch the news because the news is part of the world we live in, and, occasionally, as with the Nazi Germany Martin Niemöller described in the opening quote of this post, that world comes knocking our front doors. For instance, the local city council may be talking about raising your taxes, but if you don’t know that, you’re not going to show up at their next meeting to oppose it. On a larger scale, if you oppose abortion, for instance, and legislation is proposed to make the procedure easier to have performed, you won’t be able to write or call your elected representatives to voice your opinion on the matter.

I am the world’s worst about listening to depressing music, reading depressing literature, and watching depressing movies and television shows which just feed into my melancholy, but I don’t put watching or reading the news into the same category as those things. Listening to talk radio, yes, but not watching or reading the news. I suppose I subscribe to the philosophy of the yin and the yang when it comes to this; there’s a little darkness in the light and a little light in the darkness. That’s life … and that’s the news.

The “S” (And “P”) Word(s)

Why do so many men commit suicide?

This is a question that, at this particular time of my life, I do not know if I am adequately equipped to tackle. I can attest to the issues that have made me despair of life at various times, but how could I possibly know what would be the one thing that would push someone else over the edge? In reality, it’s never just one thing anyway. It comes from a progression, a road of problems and stresses and failures and disappointments and chemical imbalances and poor upbringings and virtually ever other form of strife and devil under the sun. To dwell on the question too much, in my opinion, could drive someone mad.

Fortunately, there are those researchers and psychologists in the world who do care enough to wade into this subject
01_Hero1 Male Suicide_(C) Damien Tran with both feet. Writer Will Storr talked to some of these very people in an article for the website mosiacscience.com, titled “The Male Suicides: How Social Perfection Kills.” The article focuses on research from the UK, but the theories it puts forth are universal to men everywhere.

As the title of the article suggests, a term called “social perfectionism” is believed by some to be a driving force in why many men choose to take their own lives. In a nutshell, social perfectionism is basing the majority of your self-worth and value on meeting the expectations of others. To phrase it a different way, it has not so much to do with what you expect of yourself, but rather what you feel others expect from you. When you perceive that you’ve failed, it doesn’t bother you so much that failed yourself as much as it bothers you that you didn’t meet an ideal you based off other’s perceptions.

Reading this article was revelatory for me, mainly for two reasons. One is that I had never heard the term “social perfectionism” used before. The second reason is that this particular feeling/affliction/disorder/whatever it is has been a constant companion of mine for as long as I can remember. To summarize, I have spent most of my life trying to live up to what I felt like were the standards for being a “good” man. Nothing wrong with this on the surface, but if life teaches you one thing, it is this: You will fail, and you will fall short. This is where the “perfectionism” portion of the phrase works at its cruelest. There is little margin for error, error that is sure to occur.

Do I have expectations for myself? Certainly, but most of them have been developed through my setting up an ideal based on another person or of a commonly held perception of how things should be. Sadly, this is where many men reside. We never figured out who we were, so we built personalities and goals around archetypes. When those personas we have constructed begin to crack and fade, we feel obliterated. With no standard left, many men decide that there is nothing left to them, so they treat themselves in like fashion – as nothing.

I am not a psychologist or a researcher, but I do know this: Social perfectionism is a real thing. And it is a killer. It may not always claim a physical life, but it leaves a trail of personal devastation in its wake. Honestly, I do not know if this is something psychologists are dealing with now or not, as an entity unto itself, but it is certainly a legitimate concern. This is usually where I would attempt to end a post with some witty phrase or words of wisdom. In this case, I have none. I can only say that I know men are dying. And I understand why.

Tuneful Tuesday: Paint It … Eels!

I was going there today. I was going to talk about the Mother of All Depression Songs. The one that everyone recognizes from just the first few notes. The one that makes you want to paint the world a certain color…

I was going to write about the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black.”

“No colors anymore/I want them to turn black.” This is perfect! I did read today that Mick Jagger said the song’s lyrics are about a girl’s funeral, but who cares? A post about this song practically writes itself. I just gotta plug it in and hit cruise control…

And then the Eels had to show up.

This morning, through a process I don’t quite remember, I wound up on a blog titled “Diary of a Social Phobic.” I learned from the “About” section that it is written by a Scottish woman named Gemma. Gemma is in her early 20s and suffers from social anxiety disorder and depression (You can visit her blog here.) I’ve never actually corresponded with Gemma, but she seems like a nice enough person. She had written one post dedicated entirely to songs about social anxiety (or, at least, songs she related to the experience of having social anxiety).

I had not heard of several of the songs on Gemma’s list, but I decided I would look them up on the internet. One title that particularly caught my eye was a song by the Eels (or “eels” or “EELS,” depending on where you see their name). I don’t believe I had ever heard an Eels’ song before today, but I decided to look up the one Gemma had listed – “Things the Grandchildren Should Know.”

And it knocked me flat.

Now, I’m not going to claim this is the best song you’ll ever hear. The music is pretty repetitious, and the singing leaves a little bit to be desired. Sometimes the words don’t exactly flow very well together either. What the song is saying, though, is incredible. Here are just a few lines…

I don’t leave the house much
I don’t like being around people
Makes me nervous and weird

I’m turning out just like my father
Though I swore I never would
Now I can say that I have a love for him
I never really understood

I do some stupid things
But my heart’s in the right place
And this I know

This song could very well be about me. I identified with so much of it. And it even ends on an optimistic note: So in the end I’d like to say/I’m a very thankful man. I may not be able to say that in full confidence right now, but I would definitely like to one day.

So check it out. And, thanks, Gemma.

What Ever Happened To Generation X?

generation-xHi. Remember us? We’re Generation X. People used to call us “the MTV generation.” They also used to call us lazy. And slackers. And unmotivated. Oh, and we were also going to ruin the world. Or, at least, that was the impression we got. The good thing was, most of us were too lackadaisical to care. If you haven’t noticed yet, we were also very sarcastic.

It’s 2015 now, and you don’t really hear much about us anymore. The world seems to still be spinning on its axis, so we haven’t managed to screw things up beyond repair – yet. Most of us got jobs doing something or other, so we didn’t all starve to death in our parents’ basements. In all honesty, though, I’m not really sure what we’re up to these days. We seem to have disappeared altogether sometimes.

As a 41-year-old, I have both feet planted firmly in the generation that was defined by the most generic of letters – x. To be honest, being a Gen X’er kind of sucked. Granted, much of my perception of growing up in this generation was clouded by a depression-induced haze, but I don’t remember a great many positive things being said about us. Richard O’Connor, author of the book Undoing Depression: What Therapy doesn’t Teach You and Medication Can’t Teach You, theorizes on his website that much of the cynicism of Generation X comes from being “lied to all their lives.” I believe it could just as well have come from too much negative reinforcement.

All of the focus these days, though, is on millennials. If Generation X had no expectations placed upon it, millennials have the weight of the world bearing down on them. It is little surprise, then, that San Diego State University psychology professor Jean Twenge, author of Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled – and More Miserable Than Ever Before, reported in October of last year that millennials may actually be more depressed than their Gen X counterparts. To once again make use of my generation’s witty sarcasm, even if we didn’t accomplish much, at least we didn’t get stressed out doing it.

In all seriousness, though, millennials seem to be facing the exact opposite problem Gen X’ers faced. One generation didn’t seem to have many expectations of any kind place upon it; the other seems to be expected to save the world tomorrow. I believe the common denominator both of these generations is lacking is hope. Generation X was told to not have a lot of hope; millennials face a bar that is so high, they have no hope of achieving it. I’m obviously speaking in broad generalizations here, of course. Not everyone in the last two generations is devoid of hope. What I am referring to is more of the climate surrounding each one.

Think of the generation which preceded mine – the Baby Boomers. This was a generation which believed in “the system,” embraced optimism, and witnessed the world change through events such as World War II and the civil rights movement. Now, perhaps some of that optimism was misplaced (as we Gen X’ers found out later), but it provided a firm anchor for Boomers to hold on to. Could the dimming of this hope be the reason that depression rates seem to be on the rise with each generation? Are we actually fueling the fire of our own problem?

On second thought, maybe being part of Generation X wasn’t so bad after all. We at least had the opportunity to fly under the radar and make our own ways, and whatever we accomplished we could wave in the faces of our detractors. We saw through the system, and we carved out our own identity. Millennials seem to have a tougher row to hoe these days. Sometimes it seems as if whatever they accomplish won’t ever be enough. I hope the next generation – whatever we choose to call it – is able to turn the tide on depression and anxiety. Gen X will be watching … from over here … out of the way.