Nothing throws your worldview into sharp perspective like losing someone you care about.
This morning, one of my friends from college died. He was only 35. He also happened to be the best guitarist I’d ever heard play (in person) in my entire life. And that’s saying something, honestly, because we went to Berklee College of Music and there is no shortage of amazing guitar players there.
Officially, the cause of death was that they couldn’t get his blood to clot… but he was in the hospital in the first place because of health complications caused by alcoholism. He’d struggled with it for years, but the last time we’d talked, he had things under control.
Alcoholism and RRMS are similar in many respects. You have to deal with them for the rest of your life. There are times of remission and there are times of relapse. It’s a rollercoaster you can’t get off or ignore. Alcohol addiction is a disease… it’s not all about choice. It’s actually a neurological disorder, just like MS. Unlike, MS, however, alcoholism will absolutely kill you. Alcohol doesn’t care who you are or what you do. It just poisons you. It just fucking sucks.
Shane’s death especially sucks because of how much inspiration he gave others just by being himself. He was a rock star. Literally. He played guitar on tour for Korn! He had 2 awesome metal bands of his own, Schwarzenator & stOrk that played in Los Angeles, and he taught guitar lessons to folks all over the world using Skype.
I remember meeting him. He was practicing guitar, sitting outside the classroom before ear training. I thought he was way too hot and talented to talk to. Fortunately, he didn’t think I was unapproachable. We even had mutual friends, and it was only the first week of our freshman year. I got to know him, and found out that he was just as big a goof as I am. Actually, goofier at times. 🙂
When I made the switch from percussion to voice, it was Shane who helped me get over nearly crippling stage fright. He didn’t tell me to think about people being naked. He didn’t tell me to stare at a place on the back wall. He didn’t even tell me to pretend that I thought I was awesome. He said (and of course I’m paraphrasing), “Everybody here (Berklee) thinks they suck. That’s why we practice so much. Focus on the music because that’s what it’s about. It’s not about you.”
When I was totally confused in Harmony 4, Shane was the one who explained chord scales to me. I never would have graduated without his help. Heck, aside from ear training and harmony classes that we had together, the guy sat next to me at our college graduation and walked right behind me when we were picking up our degrees. I told him that he should wear pink more often. 🙂 (When you graduate with a degree in music, you get a pink sash to wear.)
8 years after graduation, in what felt like another lifetime entirely, I was lucky enough to spend some time with him again. He helped me learn to play guitar and encouraged me to keep at it, even when I was dealing with the worst part of learning to live with seizure disorder. I remember feeling so embarrassed while I was seizing in his living room. He reminded me that he graduated with a degree in music therapy, and that I wasn’t the first person he’d seen have a seizure. He said that if anything can help me feel more “in control,” it would be practicing.
I feel very lucky to have had him in my life.
Random Message Generator: For The Win
There’s this random message generator on Facebook called “God Wants You To Know.” Occasionally, I click on it for shits and giggles. I do this because I very firmly believe that everyone and everything in creation is God. God is, in my mind, comprised of the totality of existence. Because of that, I find myself smirking at this random message generator, occasionally thinking that maybe it *is* telling me what I need to know at a certain moment.
Today, its message was this:
“[I]t’s time to STOP going through the motions of living, and START living.”
If that wasn’t a bit on-the-nose for today, I don’t know what is. There’s nothing like the death of a friend to remind you both of your own mortality and the importance of living each day to the fullest.
Sometimes, while dealing with MS and seizure disorder, making goals and being creative feels impossible. I think it’s important, though, that we never let ourselves stop dreaming.
Daring to Dream
I know that I try to live every day the best that I can. Sometimes, just existing is a tough gig. But just existing isn’t why we’re here.
My dreams right now are fairly straightforward, and I’m doing my best to achieve those dreams.
I want to be a mother. Been working towards that for a couple of years now. Day after tomorrow, I actually have an appointment with a high-risk pregnancy OB, and I’ve just finished my last pack of birth control pills. The only medication left to stop before conception is Prilosec, and I’m probably gonna stop taking that at the end of the week.
I want to travel. There are places I’ve always wanted to go, and one of the best things that Adam and I made when we were dating was our “world tour” plan. Sure, it’ll take a lifetime to see even half of the places on our list, but I’m game to try. I want to see New Zealand, Australia, Italy, Greece, France, and Japan at some point. I wouldn’t hate spending more time in the tropics either.
I want to be happy with my body. I say this as someone who has felt like she has been at war with her body since elementary school. I go to the gym any day that I’m well enough to do so. I struggle with what’s “right” to eat. I hate looking in the mirror. I feel like a weirdo when I wear makeup, but I feel like I’m supposed to wear it or else I’m not feminine enough. Body issues blow. It’s a genuine dream of mine to one day be happy with my body as it is.
I want to create art of lasting value. I don’t know whether or not this blog counts as art. More often than not, it feels like some sort of confessional. I songwrite from time to time, but I stubbornly refuse to write out the music to any of it. I feel like the computer should be able to “hear” it and make the notation happen. I can’t explain it. It’s a weird bit of resistance that I’ve struggled against since high school. More than that, though, I don’t know if my songs are a real contribution to the world. Maybe my big contribution is a novel. I’ve started and tossed 3 books so far, all of them with about 3 chapters written. Hell, maybe my future kids are the real art project. Whatever the case, I just want to be remembered for something good.
I want to inspire people to live life as well as they possibly can by living my life as well as I can. I want for folks to be able to say that because they knew me, their lives were better. I don’t want to always be complaining about MS. I want to be able to show people that they don’t need to hold themselves back from happiness because of chronic illness.
Those aren’t even close to the dreams I had as a kid. Back then, I wanted to be a rockstar. I wanted my music to magically change the world into a kinder and cooler place. I wanted people to carry my songs in their hearts.
In college, I saw how many incredibly talented musicians had the exact same dream as me… so my dream changed. I learned all about how the music business worked. I wanted to start a business that would revolutionize the music industry. I wanted to promote indie music until it became mainstream. I wanted to be a multi-millionaire and to have enough money to be able to make lasting, positive changes in politics.
When I was in law school, I wanted to be able to protect people who couldn’t protect themselves. I wanted to make it possible for folks who had the talent, drive, and passion to create art to do so without fear of being screwed over. I wanted to enable people to film their movies and record albums.
My dreams nowadays seem banal in comparison. I just really want to be happy and healthy. And I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I think, instead, maybe it’s a sign of maturity.
Today, I’m just really grateful to still be alive. When I consider how many times I’ve struggled with suicidal ideation, I’m grateful for all of the love and support that kept me going to therapy until I conquered it. I’m grateful to still have the chance to make a positive difference. I’m glad to be living the life I have, and I’m going to keep doing my best to make the most of it.