The Music of Your Life

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I wrote the below piece about 16 months ago.  Given the expected addition to our family in the coming weeks, I thought I’d pull this from my archives and send it out there to any who’d wish to read it.
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I have a spoiler to share with you all.  I haven’t mentioned this publicly on this blog, or anywhere else really, but when Carolyn and I found out we were having our first child (Quinn, now almost 3), I decided to create an opportunity to speak to her in adult fashion in real-time, using my most creative outlet, writing.  I began to keep a journal for her.  Ideally, she’d be rolling around the floor, or running around a soccer field, pick a scene, and I’d get my writing itch and pull out the journal and tell her whatever it was with which I was so inspired.  I had always watched parents speak to their children like children and wanted to find a way to bestow my parental advice through more sophisticated terms.  At some point, this was to become a gift to her.
Then, when Quinn was just 4 months old, we found out we were expecting another bundle of joy.  Except that with the financial strain of providing for a new child, daycare, formula, diapers, yada-yada-yada it wasn’t quite so joyful.  Don’t get me wrong, we were floored that God had given us another chance to raise a child, but we didn’t feel equipped to handle the material and financial obligations of a second child so quickly.  I resolved to buy another journal.  This one for “baby dos”, but it took me a while to got around actually following through on it.  To be honest, there’s a blank space in my journal to Quinn where a gap of time between entries occurred.  Stress gives me writer’s block.  Its only when I’m in tune with the world around me that the words spring out of my brain, onto the page.  Frequently, my fingers can barely keep up with my mind.  It’s exhilarating to flurry through 2, 3, 4 pages of text, stopping only to un-cramp my hand.
Eventually, however, I recovered from my haze and I began to write.  This year has been really good for my writing.  I try to write to each of them twice a month, and am keeping a separate journal (typed) for myself.  I never thought I’d ever explain this publicly, and am only doing so now because its imperative to the context of the entry I decided to share from yesterday (below).  This one is from Xavier’s notebook, although I’ll probably type it up for Quinn and put it in the back of her journal, where I keep other loose letters, photos, etc.  Selfishly, I dream of this being a prized possession one day.  For both of them.  Who knows.  So to set the stage, this entry’s original is found in Xavier’s journal, in the early portion of what I hope will one day become a multi-volume work.  We’ll see.  I wasn’t really sure I even wanted to share it, but those who’ve instilled music within my soul deserve to know I’m passing it on.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.
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5.25.16
Xavier,
I’m writing to you from work today.  There’s asbestos abatement going on in the building, therefore I cannot go in.  It’s a beautiful day and I’m listening to music.  As you may someday find, music is the strongest conduit to our memories of the past.  A song comes on and “Boom!”, there you are, smack-dab in the middle of a moment you’ve already lived, watching old scenes, remembering former exhilaration and heartache.
Such is my inspiration for entering this passage today.  The saddest part of these memories, this musical voyage, is that we cannot fully go back to that time.  Not to change anything, anyway.  Then the thought struck me, “Xavier will live through this same problem.  Maybe I can pass to him the importance of REALLY living.  When he’s 16 and in love with a girl, or at a concert with friends, or playing baseball in the backyard, whatever it is.”  So here I am, telling you, begging you to lay it all out there, to go for it.  You won’t get it back and you can’t take it with you.  The worst possible outcome of this trip down memory lane is you encounter a scenario where you wish you’d done it differently.  Listen to me, Xavier.  So much of this book will be special moments we’ve shared or I’ve witnessed.  They are special.  While you are young, please don’t miss opportunities to be on fire for the things you know you yearn for.  Chasing down your dreams, while prioritizing faith, family and friends is our mission in life.  There will be a time for responsibility and providing for others.  That is a separate phase we can only be truly ready for when we can successfully say we’ve discovered enough of life to know what we need, compared against what we don’t.
In the meantime, keep track of the soundtrack of your life.  Play music often and loudly and in the company of those who help you come alive.  It will sustain your days both in the present, and then later on down the line.  It will revive green grass in winter moments.  It will help you feel the sun on your back, hear pure laughter, recall innocent bliss.  You’ll recall your first kiss, the beginnings of a best friendship, the loss of a loved one; heartache and euphoria.  Live in that music so that, one day, when you are old and tired, and a song comes on from the spring of your life, you’ll look back at how alive you were and smile.  And hopefully, take pride in how much of that flame you’ve kept burning.
I love you with all of my heart, no matter what the season.  Here’s to hopefully being a part of your soundtrack.
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– Dad
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Yours in the Pursuit of Happiness,
Will O’Connor

Love Me Now

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John Legend has been one of, if not my favorite artist of my adult life.  From the start of my freshman year, he has featured dozens of songs that capture the essence of love, passion and happiness.  There has been perhaps no one better in this generation, especially given the tendency for most other artists to focus on the more banal needs of life.  At the end of last year, or the beginning of this, I can’t remember; John Legend released Love Me Now.  At first, the song seemed to rub me the wrong way.  Don’t get me wrong, its composition is beautiful, but something in the message seemed off to me.  Recently, I’ve had the occasion to listen to the song under my new perspective of Me.Now.  The title of the song and the mantra of the Me.Now.Movement are directly compatible to one another; and the message is resounding in an alternative fashion.  That’s the beauty of music.  The notes and lyrics don’t change, but in time, as our perspective changes, the message evolves within our own minds.

Here’s what I didn’t like about it when I first heard it:

I was raised Catholic and retain that identity to this day.  Being Catholic, and married myself, the idea that he wasn’t sure if his wife (I’m assuming he wrote this song about Chrissy Teigan, especially since she features in the video) wasn’t assuredly going to be in his life forever.  He talks about not knowing who is going to kiss her when he’s gone.  Why would you question that? Do what you have to do to stay with your wife! It’s clear that you love your wife at the moment, so why would you envision the moment when she might be gone? He then goes on to explain that he doesn’t want to think about it, and that he just wishes for love right now.  Again, the immediate gratification that pervades our culture from all angles infringed upon my perspective.  Why would he be solely focused on right now? You have to plan your life for the long-term, and to do that, the best course of action is conservative growth, or so I thought.

Love isn’t money.  We shouldn’t approach it the same way.  He’s not saying he’s going to leave her or that she’s going to leave him.  He’s saying he doesn’t want to think about it.

Here’s how the message changed for me under the context of the Me.Now.Movement:

If the listener focuses on the “I don’t want to think about it. I just want to love you now,” portion of the chorus; if we admit we don’t know whats in the stars, but that we know what’s in our hearts, we can begin to separate our strategy of long-term financial growth from the urgency and immediacy with which we must live our lives.  John Legend isn’t saying his wife is going to leave him.  He’s not implying I should be thinking about my wife leaving me.  He’s urging me, reminding himself, that what’s important is abandoning the future plan that we might live for Right Now.  What a powerful idea! We mustn’t think about how the years will go down.  It will be alright.  And has he follows, let’s make the most of every moment, tonight!

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If we’re lucky, we’ll find someone who mirrors our hearts.  If we’re attentive to that symmetry, we’ll maintain that love.  The relationship is built on blocks, day by day.  Love is conducted like electricity.  It’s there when we energize ourselves in the moment.  When we cut that circuit, it still has the capacity to conduct energy, but we won’t be able to see it or feel it.  John Legend has the right side of the coin showing here.  I’m hoping I can bare that in mind more frequently.

John Legend, and his work, has long been a source of relaxation, contemplation and happiness for me.  I’m glad I revisited this particular song with the idea of happiness and presence in the now on my heart.  This most recent revelation is just another in a long string of recent thoughts that help me magnify my focus and gain new appreciation for What Happiness Means to Me.

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Yours in the Pursuit of Happiness,

Will O’Connor