Saturday, October 13
It's Saturday afternoon. It's cool outside, wet from sporadic daylong rain. The sun is going down fast over near the mountains and the clouds. Out here on the flat, when I get as far as stepping out of the door, there are dead leaves heaping up on my lawn and the smell of neighborhood woodsmoke, unnecessary at this temperature but no doubt comforting to someone in a ritual way.
I feel like hell. I am something like the inverse of high; not precisely sober or clearheaded; unparticularly filled with a certain disquiet, floating through the afternoon in one of those states that veers between physical unwellness and emotional desolation, certain that there are a hundred things it would be good to do and unable to rouse myself to doing any of them.
Some of this is no doubt crude chemistry. I got up midmorning and made a lot of strong coffee and drank all of it, then followed up, for no special reason, with a glass or three of bourbon. I used to do a lot more of this kind of thing, but it's tailed off this last year or two. I still drink too much, by any reasonable standard, but I cripple myself with it less than I used to. I'm pretty sure that most of the way I feel is just straight up depression, of the kind that you can get diagnosed and medicated for if you're so inclined.
I'm not really sure what to do about this. At 31, I am despite my own best efforts a technical professional with a steady gig, no significant material wants, and better health (for the moment) than I probably deserve, given a decade and a half of unwholesome living. I'm on good terms with my family. I like the people I spend my time around. I care a lot about my work and feel reasonably good at it. I live in one of the most beautiful and prosperous places in the country. There's a certain important sense in which I'm basically happy and fulfilled, and I don't harbor the faintest shred of an idea that I've got it bad in life — I'm a member of most of our society's basic privileged classes, and there's no real way in which I'm unfairly put upon or abused or even especially inconvenienced by anything I encounter in my day-to-day life.
It just happens that I feel bad all the time. Or more exactly that I feel bad when I'm not writing code, riding my bike, or hanging out with my friends. It's not constant, exactly, it's just constantly waiting for any moment I'm awake and stop moving long enough to notice it. It's in every weekend afternoon I spend at home alone and every solo interstate road trip and every 3am staring at my ceiling.
I know pretty well that this is a mental illness. My brain is just a certain kind of broken. It's not the kind of deep, escalating crazy that I've watched destroy a lot of other lives, at least not right now. I haven't wanted to die, even a little bit, in a long time. But I'm kind of tired of the whole thing. I'm tired of being tired of it. I really wish that it would stop, even as I've basically given up on the idea that any change in my life will do more than hold it at bay.
I know a lot of smart and well-intentioned people would tell me that I should just seek treatment. Maybe they're right. I'm just not all that keen on the idea. I've spent more time in the realm of therapy and diagnosis and pills than most people, and I can't muster any interest in going for a repeat ride. My life is divided, in memory anyway, into the time before I got an adolescent taste of what it's like to be well and truly inside the mental health system, and the time after that, when I had concluded that I would do very nearly anything necessary to avoid coming to its attention again.
The sun is down. I have gotten entirely sober, but may remedy that shortly. This concludes our confessional introspective blog bullshit portion of the evening.
I'm listening to this band called Trampled by Turtles. If you haven't heard of them, they are really pretty great. They play fast and tight and raw, something in the vein of a Split Lip or an Old Crow Medicine Show (bands whose work I love basically without reservation), but also entirely their own thing, and I have really been digging it since I was in Budapest in February and my good friend Levi turned me on to their stuff. Every one of their albums is just chock full of legitimate songwriting and playing-for-keeps playing.
2012 has been a shitty year for me and mine, in a lot of ways. We lost some people and it hurts like hell and I'm too aware of the fragility of everyone and everything else I've ever held dear. And this of course is the concrete reality once you make it out of your fortunate mid-20s alive. Everything is shot through with entropy and whatever you might gain, loss is this basic fact of the experience of survival, at least for as long as you've got memory, which is itself subject to constant attrition.
Music this year is something I can't complain about even the tiniest little bit. I heard so much good-to-great music this summer I don't even know where to start talking about it. I went to Red Rocks like four times. I saw Wilco for the first time since they were touring behind Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. I'm somewhere in the sea of people in this Mumford & Sons video. RockyGrass had Trampled by Turtles on the bill, but it was also the second time I managed to see Punch Brothers this year, and then Ralph Stanley, a bunch of the McCourys, and the Seldom Scene, who are sort of quietly legendary. I danced myself into complete exhaustion there and later on at Kinfolk, with a bunch of other ridiculous and profoundly stoned hippies. I saw Neil Young and Crazy Horse play this loud beautiful drawn out guitar rock show. I heard Gordon Gano do "Blister in the Sun" as an encore at a really good Ben Kweller show, and Jeff Mangum do basically every Neutral Milk Hotel song. I walked around Winfield all high in the drizzling rain with the campground lights shining and the roadside jams and unamplified stages radiating the indescribable noise that only happens in places full of their own strange power, somewhere just outside the bounds of ordinary life.
This doesn't even touch all the recorded stuff that I had never known about before this year that is becoming part of my permanent internal soundtrack. There are entire kinds and families of music that I am only beginning to notice. Also it turns out that we live in a technological moment where I can basically hear anything I want to hear whenever I want to hear it, and where anyone who can scrape together like fifty bucks can gleefully indulge an impulse as absurd, on the face of it, as listening to a whole bunch of vinyl records. There's so much to listen to, so many avenues and frontiers and deep archival wells, that it's almost physically exhausting.
We are basically living in a golden age, is what I am trying to say. There is so much good shit. So much incredible shit. If you think that I am deluded, if you think that modern music that is being made right now just pales before some mythical lost golden moment, or that the dying spasms of pop radio somehow invalidate the unbelievable wealth of really good art being made, I want you to shut up for six months and listen to things and go to shows and hear people jam and get back to me. If you are still having a bad time by then, I will tell you to shut up because you are still wrong.