Monday, February 06, 2006


The other morning I awoke early from a nightmare. I think it was very early Saturday morning.

I had heard men's voices inside the house and awoke (in my dream) to find my wife in the hall with the men. I immediately got out of bed to see what was going on, but since I had shown myself to the intruders, I realized that I could not dial 911 now because they had seen me. I awoke in fear and did not go back to sleep for fear of re-starting this dreadful dream.

I believe this was early Saturday morning.

Friday night I played with the church classic rock band at a fundraiser for the youth program. We set up inside the church in the social area. I was crammed into a corner formed by stone walls and a glass door to the outside where it was cold and raining. Eventually four guitar players showed up, each with their own amplifier. At any one time the band had two keyboard players, a bass player, four guitar players and a drummer. By the end of the evening, the din had grown so unbearable that I went to bed that night with my ears ringing. When the sound is so loud, I cannot make out any musical tones - it all just sounds like sonic mush. I even played an entire song in the wrong key and only realized my mistake after the song was over. This of course was mortifying to me, the professional keyboard player.

It was a cold, rainy night. The rain pelted down all evening, and the temperature hung in the low 40s. At the beginning I dragged my keyboard rig (about 200 lbs. In several large pieces) down the stairs and set it all up. After the gig, I packed it up and carried it out the back door near where I had set up and loaded it into my van. This way there were no stairs to negotiate, but the way was dark, and the path was strewn with large stepping stones, roots and other things that are easy to trip on. My shoes and coat were soaked when I got into the car to come home.

We did a sound check and rehearsal at 5:30, then around 6:15 everyone but me split to go home, eat supper and change clothes. I had already grabbed a sandwich on the way from work, which I consumed after the rehearsal. Home is a 45-minute drive in rush hour, so there was no point in making that round trip.

I felt very awkward after the rehearsal and before we started playing. There was no purpose in my being there except to play music. The only other people in the building were the kids and youth group leaders, who were setting up for the evening's festivities. I know none of them, except by sight. I know I've been introduced to many before, but I have a terrible memory for names, and I have nothing in common with any of them, so what would I have to talk with them about? I decided to get a cup of soda to go with my sandwich. It's hard to describe how I feel in such situations. "Invisible" might be one description. "Mute" might be another. I find myself coming up with these fakey smiles and nodding of my head as if I knew people or actually felt like being there. I don't even know how to talk with people; it's a struggle to just ask for something simple like ice or a soda. I realize how stupid this sounds. It even sounds stupid to me. It's hard to write about it, because I realize that it doesn't make any sense. Maybe such situations activate old neural pathways of my childhood, when I always felt different (and therefore inferior) from the other children. Maybe I still feel different, and maybe that's a good thing most of the time, because I do treasure my individuality. And I've grown to understand that "different" doesn't mean "inferior."

After finishing my sandwich I sat in a pew for awhile, gazing at the photographer's backdrop that had been set up to take portraits of the kids in their formal wear.

I decided this was a good time to write in my journal, so I got it out of the car and sat there scribbling for maybe 45 minutes.

This is an open-invitation band; anyone is allowed to play. The leader is the other keyboard player, and five or six people sing lead, although there are usually no more than three singers at a time. It's a little like the "Monkeybars," as my basement group in Northern Virginia called themselves.

I've played an entire gig only once before with this group, in October at a retreat. We set up in a large room with wooden floors and a high ceiling, where the sound wasn't deflected back on us. I don't think I want to play with them again under the circumstances of last Friday.

No one but my wife knows how I feel about this.

My "feel sorry for me" side doesn't want anyone else to know how I feel, because somehow I think I would have to justify how I feel. A part of me likes to suffer in silence. What's that about?

When I returned home Friday night, my wife and I got into a difficult discussion after I revealed to her how I felt about the evening. She said I was just being a little boy who wasn't happy unless he was in charge of everything. She also said I would have had a good time if she had been there. Is it passive-aggressive behavior for me to tell her how I felt? If so, how can I acknowledge my actual feelings without hurting her? Wouldn't it be manipulative for me to select out which feelings I should reveal, based on what I thought her reaction would be?

It is true that I would have enjoyed myself much more if she were there, but the issues with the sound, the rain and the cold would have been just the same. And I would still have felt like and outsider, one with little to offer. I mean, how many lead players do you need in a band? The kids certainly deserve their chance to shine by playing lead in front of their contemporaries, and the adult players do too.

This whole thing turned into a tangled and confused mess.

I know that we're over the problems we had on Friday night, and now we can discuss this dispassionately.

I almost forgot that this post began with a nightmare. What did it mean?

Maybe the men who invaded our house symbolized my own fears of our life being invaded somehow by outside forces, such as the band or anxieties caused by outside stressors. I don't know if that makes sense or not, but I hate when my life is invaded by forces not of my control.

Maybe the men represented the band that invaded my sonic space. I really hate that; I've spent 44 years playing in too-loud bands and have gone home on too many nights with my ears ringing, sometimes still ringing the next morning.

Or maybe it was just a nightmare.
Who knows?

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