We all have traits that feel like faults. Things we have known about ourselves for what feels like a long time, that have snuck their way in to become a significant part of who we are and influence the way we interact with the world. The nebulousness of a “long time” is a closed calendar in a box on a high shelf. Having that calendar hung up on the wall with a date circled in thick red sharpie telling you how many years you’ve been aware of this faulty trait (and have not yet “fixed” it), is an interesting form of specificity.
Tomorrow (Friday) afternoon Ellen Stanley (Mother Banjo) and Anthony Ihrig will be hosting us on their show Back Catalog Listening Party, where they invite artists to join them for a conversation about one of their older albums—playing several of the tracks throughout, showing pertinent photos, and answering audience questions from the comment section. (You can join us for this conversation about our album Before I Go, and post questions/comments, from 4-5 pm Central tomorrow over at this YouTube link! And Patrons will receive a link to a Zoom after-party that’ll keep the conversation going.) In preparing for this, I was rummaging through old writing notebooks where the bones of these songs live in order to revisit who I was then. My inability to get rid of things led to me finding much older versions of myself too.
I couldn’t help but open a light blue 3-subject spiral bound notebook, cover faded from rubbing shoulders with textbooks in my high school backpack, random home phone numbers scribbled on the fuzzy manila-yellow back. The wide-ruled pages revealed bad poetry and embarrassingly dramatic journal entries mixed in with geometry homework and notes from me searching the classifieds for a used car. A particular page caught my attention...
“Amidst the average everyday common sense knowledgeable person, lies us—the analytical common sense incompetent. We see past the surface of simple words to their origin, to get a better understanding of how to perceive things, when actually, all we are doing is confusing the issue. Our minds will not accept a simple obvious meaning for what it is. To us, it has to mean more, it must have a deeper underlying meaning. We often spend our time searching for answers that are being spoon-fed to us. Our analytical minds are oblivious to common sense.”
My initial light-hearted reaction to my 16-year-old self quickly did the math and turned into the sinking feeling of good-lord-it’s-been-25-years-and-I-haven’t-managed-to-sort-this-overanyalyzing-thing-out-yet. But then I caught a glimpse of how this has been positive.
In order to overanalyze words and body language and details of an experience, I first have to even notice these details. While my noticing can be overwhelming to my nervous system, often, I wouldn’t be here writing a newsletter to you, living my life as artist, if I didn’t notice details. Songs are details. And songs can be stories that are created in the same way we tell ourselves stories about an experience. So this faulty trait has given me years of practice noticing things and making up stories. How’s that for career planning ;)?
Like remembering to find gratitude when we’ve gotten focused on negative things, seeing how perceived weaknesses have persevered to prove themselves as strengths can be a helpful exercise.
What strengths have you come to realize have been masquerading as faults?