Friday, August 3, 2012

Self Image

I don't know what happens when I hear a recording of my own voice. I remember when I was in seventh grade, my mother got me a reel to reel tape recorder which at the time was a marvelous little piece of technology for a junior high school kid to have. We were living in Los Angeles and like all kids, we were fired up to generally destroy our Christmas toys in about five days time. Batman and Robin had just come on television, and in fact, it was being filmed just down the street at the studio near our apartment. Cartoon voices, songs, poems, dialogue, monologues, were all right there to be recorded in the small apartment in Burbank. Perhaps it’s the difference between the actual voice we hear in our heads and the reality voice that comes across the recording that confused me. I was devastated the first time I heard my real voice. It wasn't that I was running around listening to voices and being amazed by each one I heard, perhaps it was just the vulnerability and sensitivity of hearing that still small voice within for the first time. Still, I remember using the old tape machine quite a bit, until like so many things growing up, it seemed to disappear into obscurity and dust, until it was finally thrown out in one of our many moves.

A couple of days ago, I went over to Audioconfusion, a recording studio where I had done a rough cut of ten songs to be packaged and sent off to a man who had heard me sing at Embassy Suites and wanted to take my work into Curb Records in Nashville. It was just one of those things, he was staying at the hotel and happen to hear me doing several of my own songs. His brother-in-law, (he said) was one of the founders of Curb Records and he was looking for some new songs. He said he liked my songs, and so I recorded these songs in two hours so that he would have a rough cut to take with him. Now I know that recording songs is a completely different process than playing live, and for several years now, I have recorded quite a bit, and in fact, it was one recording I did in Utah out at Salt Gulch that I would have to say sent me into a four day drinking binge, it was so utterly awful. It's funny now to think of me, listening to these very rough recordings over and over and drinking two half gallons of Jim Beam during four days. What's the deal listening to my own voice? I suppose some of us are our own worst critics, and some, destructively so. Well, don't worry, I didn't get into the liquor while listening, but it did depress me for a couple of days. And this in conjunction to working at Embassy Suites again, five nights a week, the solo singer, sitting on a stool in a lounge playing for people who are barely listening. It's not that I'm not singing well, its just the self-critical demon that I suppose many of us have.

As a human being, the whole self-image thing is sometimes a monster to deal with. I would guess that many of us, look in the mirror each day, and respond in a degree of what is going on in our heads, often triggered by complete mysteries. I think the response to any kind of mind altering substance plays a hand in this for many, the idea that when "I'm drinking I'm the best lover in the world, the best driver, etc…" As if the substance can alter the reality of what we really think of ourselves. If you haven't come to accept yourself, as you get older it gets even worse, because as you look in the mirror, a thousand thoughts can arise in your head. I love the phrase I saw once that said, "Each time an old person looks in the mirror, a small voice rises and says, "What happened?" No matter what age we are, (and become) I think there is something that has difficulty letting go of that 'bloom of youth', as if our bodies and image have become some foreign living object that doesn't match up well with what we are thinking. Perhaps this is also the idea that accompanies youth that we will live forever, (and perhaps there is something eternal in each of us). 

And then there is 'body image'. Being very weak and sick when I was born, probably contributed to my motivation to try and be as healthy as I could be, in spite of the demons that wanted to always take me down. Until the last couple of years, I kept a fairly disciplined routine of keeping my body image moving forward. Finally, when it became necessary to stop moving forward for a moment because of some health issues, it's been hard to get back on track, especially at a time in my life when I need it the most. This is one of the worst mirror images, when most of your life you have had some control over how your body responds to diet and exercise, when you are suddenly met with an unwillingness to move. Although I understand that this is often the earmark of depression, and exercise is so vital in keeping depression under control, the paradox is that overcoming the utter despair that is going on in your head to move you into a healthy lifestyle is often to pervasive too overcome. And if you suddenly find yourself poor, all of this must be overcome without sustenance to give you a head start on the matter. Walking is free, unless you are utterly without mental power to get out the door and walk. So, all you can do is keep attempting to get something going, you make promises you break, you eat ice cream that obsesses you until you are coming home from the store with it, knowing full well what is going on. You eat it and become more depressed. How can one stop the cycle?

Fortunately, my complaints in the end are minor, and even though the sufferings we all experience are relative to our condition, there are always those in a more unfortunate position. The majority of the world live in very poor conditions, and unfortunately, we live in a country where image becomes everything—there is something very wrong with this me thinks.

As I grow older, it has also occurred to me that I am less likely to find someone or others who are willing to pick me up and teach me again how to do the things I used to know how to do. Youth suggests that there is still hope and potential, getting older suggests that you may not be worth the energy to rehabilitate. I so often find myself laying in my bed at night making yet again more promises of how I will make these changes and less inclined to do so, even with the experience of life to know how its done. Still, hope springs eternal never the less, and perhaps one day I will wake up ready to climb Mt. Ranier in a year like I've always threatened to do. I've actually approached several people about this idea, but most just look at me oddly. I've always had to have lofty goals, and so often not likely to be successful at, but its true, lately I have been thinking that spending a year devoted to health and self image might be a good investment. I wish I could say that I can do it on my own, but I don't think I can. Anyone out there want to climb Mt. Ranier in a year?  It can be done, and then there is always Everest. Its funny to note here that my mother recently told me that when I was young she was afraid I would take up mountain climbing. I took up gymnastics and acrobatics instead, and for years did far more dangerous stunts. I think I can climb a mountain, but it would take a full year of training, perhaps this writing is once again talking myself into it.

In the meantime, I'm going to try not to be so hard on myself, listening to my voice, looking in the mirror, and being so critical of my life when I lay down to sleep. I try to remember that there is progress that is less of perfection, and that there are still so many goals to meet in the life that is still here…

1 comment:

Gerry said...

Thinking that interests me here at 81 years old, when there are even more limits to what you can logically accomplish, but I find myself being satisfied just to get a pretty good walk in, knowing this will strengthen me a little bit, and also getting through a day without binging on something. I go to Farmer's Market where there is always someone playing and singing and oftentimes it doesn't look as though the people are paying any attention at all, but yet I think they are, only they don't feel they have to act like an interested audience which I think many do when they think it is called for, but if they don't think they have to look as though they are listening, they will not look as though they are, even though they will be registering the singing. They just don't want to have to show it. And so I think performers under those circumstances have to concentrate on the critic inside their own heads and try to sing the song well and it will register on someone who is blank faced and may even be turned away and talking to someone else! So it is a challenge not to demand attention, but just to perform well, and accept that the human being is capable of taking a lot in without acting like it. If you continue to perform well this will be seen as perseverance without having to be applauded all the time, and I think that is what pros do. People enjoy live music but say at a Farmer's Market or probably in cafes and lounges they don't want to have to work at listening to it! I feel like that, so I am articulating what I feel when I am taking in the live music somewhere. I want there to be live music there but sometimes I don't want to have to concentrate on it! Does that make sense?