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.

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What’s On Your Playlist?

“Don’t you like anything happy?”

I remember having that question posed to me several years ago regarding my music collection. This was before the days of mp3 players, so all I could really do to figure out an answer was to look at my collection of CD’s. Now, though, all I have to do is plug in my iPod and peruse the list of songs that pops up before me.

Apple_MC293LL_A_650131This will sound sort of silly, but getting a 160GB iPod for Christmas a few years ago pretty much changed how I collect songs these days. Whereas I was once miserly with the 16GB of memory on my previous iPod, I suddenly realized one day that I would have to just go completely crazy to fill up 160GB of memory. As a result, I began grabbing any song that was even remotely appealing to me and adding them to my collection.

As evidenced by the “Tuneful Tuesday” posts I write here, my collection of somewhat morose music is still quite impressive. Let me just hit a few of the highlights right now…

– Johnny Cash, “Hurt”

– King’s X, “Dogman”

– Duran Duran, “Ordinary World”

– Echosmith, “Cool Kids”

– Elvis Costello, “All This Useless Beauty”

– Eminem (featuring Rihanna), “The Monster”

– Eric Clapton, “Tears In Heaven”

– Hootie & the Blowfish, “I Hope That I Don’t Fall In Love With You”

– John Hiatt, “Crossing Muddy Waters”

– Kansas, “Dust In The Wind”

– The Gaslight Anthem, “Break Your Heart”

I could go on and on, but you get the point. There’s a lot of less-than-happy stuff on there. As someone who has struggled with depression, however, I think I almost felt like that was the kind of music I should be drawn to. If I’m in a down mood, I should listen to down songs, right? At least, that was my reasoning.

Without realizing what I was doing, though, I gradually began to debunk that theory. Sure, there are certainly times when I just want to listen to something I can wallow in, but for the most part, I’m beginning to find that songs that are more upbeat in nature have a tendency to make me more upbeat as well. (I’m sure about half of you just smacked your foreheads and said “Duh” to that last statement.)

With that in mind, here are some of the more unexpected songs that have their way onto my iPod recently and managed to bring a smile to my face…

– DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, “Boom! Shake The Room”

– Katy Perry, “Roar”

– Mark Ronson (featuring Bruno Mars), “Uptown Funk”

– Asia, “Days Like These”

– Beastie Boys, “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right To Party”

– Blackalicious, “Alphabet Aerobics”

– Bobby Brown, “My Prerogative”

– Carbon Leaf, “Life Less Ordinary”

– Georgia Satellites, “Keep Your Hands To Yourself”

– Jet, “Are You Gonna Be My Girl”

– MC Hammer, “U Can’t Touch This”

You’re probably getting the picture by now. One, my musical tastes are extremely eclectic. Two, for some reason, rap and hip-hop songs seem to be amusing to me. And, three, I probably have too much time on my hands. Nevertheless, not counting several Hozier songs I downloaded recently, I have noticed at least a slight uptick in the number of more lighthearted songs on my iPod.

Now, do I think a person’s playlist defines who they are? Certainly not. Some of the happiest people I know enjoy some of the saddest songs ever written. If you’re noticing a distinct lack of levity on your mp3 player, though, you might want to consider freshening up your library a bit. Music is there to help us grieve, but it is also there to help us celebrate. Like all things in life, striking the right balance is the key.

Tuneful Tuesday: Depths Of Guilt

Before I decided to moan about my whacked-out sleep schedule yesterday, I had intended to write a series of posts this week about guilt and how it basically eats away at the psyches of those who suffer from depression. Of course, I obviously didn’t do that, so now I feel a bit guilty about knocking myself off track. Mission accomplished.

I can’t think of many songs the delve as deeply into the pits of guilt than “Hurt,” the devastating lament written by Trent Reznor about … well, what exactly is this song about anyway? I mean, it has some pretty obvious references to heroin addiction and self-harm. Beyond that, though, what exactly is it saying? Is it about someone apologizing? Is it about someone giving up? Is it about someone holding on?

Whatever the correct interpretation is (and, really, most truly great songs don’t have one correct interpretation anyway), the person the song features is definitely experiencing some heavy-duty guilt. “I will let you down/I will make you hurt”? Here’s someone who obviously feels as if they’ve inflicted some damage. And maybe they have. So it could be argued that the song is an exercise in self-awareness: I’ve done some bad stuff, and I know it.

Whether it’s the Johnny Cash version of the Nine Inch Nails version (Personally, I prefer the Cash rendition, and not just because it says “crown of thorns” instead of “crown of …”, well, not thorns.), there’s a distinct heaviness in what’s being sung. The temptation for me as a listener is to sort of wallow in the place the song is taking me. “Well, they’re right; everyone does go away in the end.”

But there has to be more than that, right?

It’s okay to be self-aware, but it can definitely be taken to extremes. I can realize I’m guilty of something, but I don’t have to let that guilty act define me as a person. Now, the depressive part of my brain can’t believe I just typed that last sentence. Guilt involves bad stuff, right? Therefore, if I’m guilty, I must be bad.

Hmm, apparently that sleepiness I referred to yesterday hasn’t completely dissipated, as I’m not even sure what I’m trying to say at this point. So here’s a video. Goodnight.