The Return of the Comeback Kid!

John Ritter, another Comeback Kid. (Obscure? Yeah. But look, it's Susan Dey!)

I’m always afraid I won’t see him again. But he’s back, baby!

I love a good challenge, sometimes to my own detriment. Yes, I’ve been known to create obstacles where there aren’t any, just to see if I can clear them. But something is different now, and I think happening it’s along the same lines as my New Year’s resolutenesses—I’m just designing obstacles better suited for me. I’m not making them smaller, and I’m certainly not making them easier, so it’s the only thing left I can figure.

I’m a sucker for all of those comeback movies, too, even when they’re dumb, terribly predictable movies, and even when they lose. The Bad News Bears, Independence Day, The Sting, Cool Hand Luke, RockyThe Jerk, The Karate KidCaddyshack, HoosiersIt’s A Wonderful Life. I am especially fond of Miracle, the movie about the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team, because they won every single game after being behind in the second period. Obviously from the list, I have kind of a twisted sense of what “comeback” means. But it’s the struggle I love to watch, the intent to accomplish something so huge that it seems insurmountable. What can I say, I like the drama of a last-minute victory. And defeat is almost never final.

If my January is any indication of how my year is going to go, then I have NO desire to back off of what I’m doing because it’s clearly working. I’ve made headway on every single front. Health. Work. Money. Fun. Sleep. Leisure. You name it, I’ve gotten a lot done already.

One of the most exciting things that’s happened is a dream come true. I finally own a real piano! I got it tuned up over the weekend, and I did my first recording earlier this week. Man, what a giant cathedral of possibility that is. I’m so happy for my analog upgrade, I feel like I fell out of a Kansas tornado and am hearing in color for the first time.  A lot of the song factories I built last year call for piano in a very big way, and it was so easy to record, I’m going to start some rough tracking. My first album completely avoided piano because I couldn’t easily record the real thing, but as it was my first instrument (I started when I was about 3 or 4), I play a lot and write on it all the time.

I think I was only afraid that my Comeback Kid wouldn’t come back because the last year was so hard. But I guess he just took a nice long vacation while I toughened up and dug deep. Fine by me. Next time, though, I’d like to be the one with the vacation. At least for a few days, until I get bored and want to get back to work.

I saw Lorenzo’s Oil for the first time this week, and it’s one of my new favorite comeback movies. It opened with what has to be one of the most powerful statements I’ve ever read:

“Life has meaning only in the struggle.
Triumph or defeat is in the hands of the gods…
so let us celebrate the struggle!”
—Swahili Warrior Song

It had to be a song, didn’t it?

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Regarding time: its elusive importance, and its brutal indifference.

Exactly.

My life feels a lot like a zip file lately. A day used to have periods of intense work interspersed with periods of intense void. Now, any extra space that may exist is pulled out of my time—it’s kind of like the holes in Swiss cheese are pulled out and sold separately. But if you want Swiss cheese, you have to have those stupid holes. If you skip the holes, then it’s Jarlsberg. And I love Jarlsberg, but it’s not Swiss.

So like most other facets of my life these days, I get a lot of time perspective from my 1-year-old daughter. Her sense of time is so absolutely weird, I can’t even explain it to myself. It’s part tunnel vision, part memory loss, part hypermagical, but it’s always living in the NOW. I have to remind myself often that she is not purposely doing anything to alter her experience of time, because a lot of what children do feels manipulative to an adult. But I think that’s because so much of what we do with our time as adults is manipulative—to ourselves, and to the world around us. I mean, I’m a musician for Christ’s sake. My whole MO is to manipulate time and your perception of it. We’ve all procrastinated, right? I promise you, a 1-year-old does not have the capacity to rationalize at that level.

If you haven’t listened to Pet Sounds for awhile, just listen to one of those songs. Most of them are less than 3 minutes long (the longest track is 3:16), but they feel so much longer than the time it takes me to heat something up in the microwave for the same amount of time. I mean, “God Only Knows” really sends me on a journey, every time. Then again, try and actually sit through a commercial break these days. They might last only 6 or 7 minutes (MUCH longer than they used to be), but it feels like a hellish eternity.

Every day as a parent looks pretty much the same. There’s a routine that comes into play that I’ve never seen enacted by non-parents, not even the most disciplined controlling ones. It’s because this routine is dictated from an external source, and there’s really not much that you can do about it. Subtle changes come around as she grows and as her patterns change, and every once in a while a BIG change happens. Like now, she sleeps through the night. Oh my GOD that is beautiful. But no matter how long this last year felt—and it felt LONG—each day flies by so quickly I can hardly believe it.

So I’ve found myself surrendering to the push and pull of time. It’s a very unsettling feeling at first. It feels like giving up. I’m used to struggling against the wake of time to achieve what I want. No, this is something a little different. I feel like I’m working WITH time now, in whatever fashion it is presenting itself to me. It’s more Zen to me than the times I’ve tried Zen meditation. When it’s time to work, I’ve never worked harder. When it’s time to play, I’ve never played harder. When it’s time to do NOTHING—well, I’m working on that. I suck at doing nothing.

New Year’s Resolutenesses.

I totally admit that 2010, my first full year of parenthood, wiped me out. And for all of the new strengths that I have gained since my daughter was born (and they are plentiful), I have as many or more new weaknesses. Add to that all of the existing weaknesses that have since been pulled out of their hiding places, and I’m a pile of accidents waiting to happen. But quite strangely, I’ve never felt more prepared to meet the challenges in front of me.

I really didn’t want to make any resolutions for 2011, but something about the number 1 makes it impossible to avoid. It’s such a natural reset moment, I can’t help but try to take advantage. I’ve always been pretty terrible at them, but after the last year, I think I’ve figured my own secret to making them work for me.

What’s made me so bad at New Year’s resolutions is not the keeping of them, but the making of them. Resolutions are supposed to test your resoluteness, so they don’t really work when the resolution is so impossible that it’s too easy to break. Mine, like most resolutions,  failed on one of two levels.  First, they were far too utopian— for example, “I will go to the gym every day.” When I don’t go to the gym on January 2nd, even if I don’t miss another day, I’ve failed the resolution, so I may as well remove it from the list. The others were too vague— for example, “I will record more music.” This kind of resolution leads me to believe that I could actually accomplish it during the last half of next December, but really what happens is that I decide to just wait until January and try a different wording of the resolution.

So for now, rather than bother with resolutions that I don’t even have time to write, I am officially replacing them with resolutenesses. That is, resoluteness in several different categories that are important to me. Every day, I just keep trying. So far it’s working pretty well. I’ve done a lot of recording, gotten a lot of work done that’s been sitting here, and I’m chipping away at everything in quantities that I can actually handle. It’s much better than being overwhelmed and feeling like a failure.

This blog entry is the perfect example. I really wanted to write a blog a week, and I was going to write one every Monday. But when I missed Monday, I shifted to Friday. And when I missed the first Friday of the year, I just tried to get to it as soon as I could.

And I did get to it. Just now, in fact.