12 April 2010

song of myself

I was thinking today about mix tapes ... Specifically, the beast that is the audio cassette mix tape. Now, I've already touched on this lost craft of musical scrapbooking, but there's another element to it that has yet to be reproduced by the "shuffle" button on my iPod.

Audio cassette mix tapes were always the most laborious of this genre. You needed a double-cassette player, one deck set to "record" and one set to "play" - and you COULD NOT CONFUSE THE TWO. (I did once, while dubbing the lone copy of the radio sketch I co-wrote with the Comedy Club at Penn State. That sketch is now lost to the ether - though, mercifully, as the parts that I remember weren't that funny.) There were no notches or tracks to use as guideposts when finding the songs that you wanted to add. Lots of fast-forwarding, rewinding, pausing at the right time ... and this is all AFTER agonizing over the set list and BEFORE the snazzy artwork and track listings for the cassette holder.

Perhaps the most important thing lost in the transition to MP3s is the personal use mix tape. Can anyone imagine spending that much time on oneself anymore? Not to enhance one's appearance (going to the gym, spending time at a salon), or to fulfill basic needs (shopping, eating, showering) - but just to have something to listen to when you're in the gym, or the car, or on your walk to school.

Today I was waiting for my drink order at Starbucks when a 70-ish woman walked through the door. She looked at the cashier, saw that there were six people waiting in line, muttered about the line being too long, and left. This woman, who wasn't dressed for work or going out, and who probably didn't have anywhere that she had to get to immediately, wanted a coffee but didn't want to spend the 10 minutes it would've taken to get it.

This is not about impatience to me - sure, I live in NYC and that is certainly a quality that we residents share, but that is a symptom rather than the problem. The problem is not spending enough time taking care of ourselves. We let our hang-ups and our fears and our issues and all of that negativity just grow, like weeds in a garden, taking up all of the space that the good stuff needs to take root. We have to go to other people to figure out what's wrong with us, when if we spent a little more time just checking in, we could figure it out ourselves.

Has anyone ever explained what's wrong with you, and you've said, "Oh my gosh, you're totally right!" and been amazed to hear it laid out? Your reaction is telling you that YOU KNEW WHAT WAS WRONG. Those "revelations" are never that because somewhere you knew this stuff all along.

So, back to the mix tapes ... When I was a senior in high school, I made myself a mix tape full of sadness and pain - Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana, Pearl Jam. The thinking was that it would help me to deal with being upset. As I crafted it, I speculated that, if I were to put these songs in a particular order, I would [de]crescendo to such despair that I might take my own life. So I made sure to tweak things so that I would go up and down, rather than straight down. And the saving grace was the addition of "It Can't Rain All the Time" by Jane Siberry, off my much-beloved soundtrack to "The Crow." Once I worked myself into a pretty mess of self-loathing ("Hurt" felt like Trent Reznor had ghost-written it for me), I would get to the soothing words ... "It can't rain all the time, your tears won't last forever," and then the crying and the better-ness would start. (And still do - damn my salty, blurry vision!)

Self-preservation, you might say - but that implies instinct rather than feeling. I felt sorry for myself, I LOVED myself - even if I didn't outrightly know it. As much as I was worn out from depression, and terribly tired of living in my mind, I also felt almost a nurturing, protecting thing towards me. I made myself laugh with the things that I said, and I made myself laugh even more with the things I never said out loud. I had redeeming qualities that made putting up with all of my crap worth it. And I didn't realize it then, but I realize now, that that is why other people would be able to put up with me, and to love me. Other people can deal with a lot of crap, much more than you think they can, as long as there's ice cream coming. And yes, I can deliver some ice cream.

A friend of mine in high school once pointed out to me that I started a lot of sentences with "I," and that it sounded conceited. To this day, I write and rewrite every single text message/email/FB status/blog entry so that there aren't so many "I"s to be found, so that nobody would mistake me for being conceited. Most of the time, it's because I find it ludicrous that anyone would ever think that I'd think so highly of myself. (Some of the time, it's because I don't want to let on that I do!) But as much as I may refer to things through the first person - and I'm letting it go right now a bit out of respect for the rawness and truth of this post - it's not because I'm overly concerned with myself.

Maybe I should be.

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