I was at a concert the other night that put me into that blissful hypnotic trance when the music washes over you in waves. Every song was familiar, every note was well-placed. Time moved around me like a stream around a boulder, the sound and sights flowing into my very being while my mind seemed to drift untethered from its physical form.
Between songs, the frontman said their guitar player was “shredding,” and it passed through my mind that I never have and never will say that word with a G at the end. I was born in a place and surrounded by people who imbued a certain vernacular, which combined with my lazy tongue and slow demeanor have always made me clip syllables like a Texan. As someone who is a fan of mountain bikes and fast pickin’ music, the word shredding comes up a lot. But I have always said shreddin’ and I always will.
With the alchemy of the moment before me, I found myself almost following the thought as it traveled the neurons and synapses of my battered brain—thinking about how strange it is that for my duration of time on this earth, I will have an accent and only be exactly where I am. For a wandering soul, the limits of time and space are quite frustrating. But warring with them creates a rich personal context in a world that seems to lack one so often.
In some senses, I’ve spent an awful lot of time and energy making sure that I am living the life that’s unfolded before me. In others, I am ever waiting for some future moment when a wholehearted pursuit will somehow be more convenient or obvious. It’s convenient that there are always reasons why we shouldn’t do something, things that have kept us tired or busy or unavailable in one way or another.
So often we ignore the sense that there might be something better out there, someone who we have told ourselves probably doesn’t exist because the pining is more painful than the numbness.
I have felt distraction creeping into my own life and have observed it overtaking others. When you find a replacement for the silent nights and the piquantly aimless mornings, you start to accept whatever it is that’s occupying you. You might even trade years of hard-won perspective and the dread of any potential future struggle for a single pacifier or a handful of tasks that busy the hands and subdue the mind.
As someone who is addicted to virtuous suffering, I have caught myself in a state of panicked disbelief that I may have found some things that are good enough to replace the constant sting of self-flagellation. The only thing harder to accept than apparent and measurable pain is the fear of inevitable loss that accompanies good things. Getting eaten by a bear is a lot less appealing when you have a loving dog or happy plans waiting for you back at the ranch. I often notice myself feeling leery of promise because it contains a tremendous amount of kinetic energy. It is why I like to be like a rolling stone, neither gathering moss nor bothered much by the rough and tumble of rolling downhill.
But as one who believes most strongly in the challenge of the unfamiliar and the plummeting feeling of loosening the reins, I strive to perversely enjoy the agony of excitement. It is a disguise in a blessing, good fortune that is more frightening than an unending string of silent days. I’ve always thought there was something beautiful about having something to lose. It is inconvenient and it makes you more calculated in your approach, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Many people do not understand the allure of the deep woods, of attempting to walk across Antarctica alone and unsupported, or of spending years of your life unanchored, listening to a lot of music and having too much time to think about everything. To me, it is simple—when you don’t have much to lose, you feel invincible. When the worst thing that can happen to you is hypothermia, life is manageable. The pain of not trying lasts a lifetime, and so we will chase our wandering minds to the ends of the earth. But the pain of missing out on the lifetime of your daydreams? I have yet to master that type of bravery.