Monday, September 04, 2006

No longer (a carrier like) Typhoid Mary

When I was very depressed, but before my doctor and I figured out the right medication, I wrote a lot of songs and performed very regularly. There’s a myth of creativity that the best art comes out of the worst suffering and while I don’t think that’s always true, I think it often is. It’s like the way the best wines come from grapevines that survive the most difficult growing conditions, struggling through clay, limestone or - the most extreme example - the soil of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape district in France’s Rhône Valley which is just stones. An artist living a sucky life is like a grapevine trying to derive nourishment from a pile of stones.

Maybe it is or maybe it isn’t a fact of life that artists get good by-products from bad experiences, but unlike sad songwriters who write sad songs, in my misery and confusion I wrote a lot of upbeat songs with postive messages. I did this not because I believed those things, but because I wanted to believe them. I wrote the songs I needed to hear. Because I constantly worried about the future I wrote “Be Here Now.” Because I was always sizing guys up, hoping the next one would be Mr. Long-Term Relationship I wrote “Get Rid of 'Forever.'” Because I needed to lighten the hell up, I wrote a song based on Mark Twain’s quote, “Happy are we who can laugh at ourselves for we shall never cease to be amused.”

I wrote those songs in an attempt to make myself feel better, but what happened was that they started making others feel better. Strangers would see me onstage and assume I was the cheerful persona my lyrics conveyed. Friends would comment on the difference between my energetic performances and my daily gloom. I, too, thought the contrast was odd. Singing my songs did make me feel better while I was singing them, but my struggle with depression and loneliness never stopped.

Friends and strangers alike gave me the same feedback: my songs made them happy. I, with my depressed, gloomy life, was spreading cheer. I began calling myself a "carrier" of happiness, able to convey it to others without exhibiting any of the symptoms of having it myself. I asked myself - was that enough? Could I go through life unhappy, knowing I was at least making others happy?

The answer was NO. I wanted to be happy. If only I could attain a state of true contentment with myself and my life, I didn't care if I never wrote another note. I maintained that conviction for years.

And now it has come to pass. After months of not touching my electric bass, I finally put it away in its case today. Maybe my music career is over. Or maybe not since I could - one day, eventually - get married.

To hear some of my songs, go to www.myspace.com/reginarodriguez or www.purevolume.com/reginarodriguez

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