By Aaron Kayce
I've got this one friend who really knows me. He understands how my mind works and how I operate. Instead of asking me, "How are you bro?" he says, "What are you listening to?"
He understands that "How are you?" is probably the most meaningless question on the planet - no one cares how you are, it's just a translucent greeting. He also realizes that by asking me what's coming through my headphones, he's really asking me, "What is the state of your being?" For people like me, this buddy of mine, and probably you too, music is much more than just something that you listen to or dance with. It's also more than just the crutch we use as life pulls us down (which it definitely is). Music is the barometer to gauge one's soul. It is the true answer to "How are you?" You want to know how I am? Just plug into my music, it will tell you all you ever need to know.
Today I'm listening to Ray LaMontagne's "Empty" on repeat.
Well I looked my demons in the eye
Laid bare my chest said do your best destroy me
See I've been to hell and back so many times
I must admit you kinda bore me
Will I always feel this way?
So empty, so estranged
That's heavy. Real. Right down to the bone, and it's almost choking me it's so good. There are songs that capture a time in your life. They say everything you feel and will always be tied to an event, or a place, or a moment. "Empty" is one of those songs that will forever define a painful stretch I'm still struggling to pass. Unfortunately the weight I carry today will one day shift to you, or maybe it's already been on your shoulders; perhaps you know the pain I currently fight every moment of every day. "Empty" is the song that has been filling my speakers since I found out my mother died a few weeks ago. The day I got back to work (I was in Africa when I got word) someone gave me a pre-copy of LaMontagne's Till The Sun Turns Black. "Empty" is the second track, and it's one of the most powerful songs I've ever heard.
That one line:
I've been to hell and back so many times I must admit you kinda bore me.
It cuts through me every time. It's the use of "bore" that really drives it home - the idea that while you are in the deepest, darkest, most personally fucked-up space imaginable, you still have the capacity for boredom. It's really one of the most easily accessible emotions we have. When you are crawling through your own sprawling hell, there are well-meaning folks who will try to comfort you. They will "be there" for you. They will have the gall to tell you that they "know just how you feel."
You're boring me.
When it's dark, you are alone. That's just the way it is. If it weren't a solitary struggle, it wouldn't be so cold, gray, full of shadows and fears. But this is where the deepest, most acute sensations of pain and sorrow exist - in the hard, dark corridors of the mind. There are those who help in their own way, mostly just by being present and physically next to you. Yet while you can't seem to get through another sleepless evening, or through another work day, or even a simple lunch, the world just keeps turning and you can't seem to understand why. How can it be that nothing has changed, yet every-thing is different? It's enough to confound the mind and drain the soul. And at some point, all that meaningless bullshit that happens everyday, it will bore you to the point of exhaustion.
It's hardest at night. Sleep won't come, day won't break, and the night goes on forever. I can hear my love lying beside me, dreaming, sleeping, breathing, being. It's a peaceful, painful, deterioration, and it's slowly eating at my soul. So I rise, praying for reprieve, for hope, for the early morning glow of the sun to shine on me, and I put My Morning Jacket's At Dawn on my headphones. Instantly the walls begin to close in and it gets hot. I can no longer feel my own breath against my hand. I start to wonder if I'm giving in... maybe it's time... time to just let go.
I don't wanna feel a thing.
When your hands close tight around my neck,
And force the air that I breathe.
I don't wanna feel a thing.
Yes she was a young girl.
'Bout the age of 23.
But somehow the lord never smiled down upon her,
So she flew out on a breeze.
Said: "I don't wanna feel a thing, I don't want to feel a thing."
Sure he was a good kid. But his phone it'd never ring.
He got tired of walkin' a tightrope,
Needin' too much to drink.
So he got on a knee.
"I don't want to feel a thing"
but I know there's someone that loves up above
And wants to fix you a dream.
He wants to sit down and think.
He wants to pour you a drink.
And you won't feel a thing. You won't feel a thing.
And just when it appears to be too much to bear, light finally breaks through the curtains, burning my eyes, and somehow I find the strength to rise, to push on, to live. With nothing inside and only the acidic taste of last night's pain on my tongue, I go right for it again. Nothing sounds right, so I go back for more of LaMontagne's "Empty" – yes, "Empty" once again. When someone captures the emotions you have no words for, something happens. You begin to understand that you are not alone; others have experienced pain on the same level you are currently feeling. No, I'm not alone. I'm just desperately lonely. When a child loses his mother (and has already lost his father), the anchor, the safety net, the knowledge that someone will always be there leaves, and you are left to float alone in the intimidating, dark, deep blue sea of life. As I struggle to swim back to shore, searching for balance, for meaning, for something to hold tight and keep me warm, I find it in music.
Aaron Kayce with his mother Julieanne :: 6/18/06
The last evening they spent together :: Kayce's Wedding
Will I always feel this way
So empty, so estranged?
No, but it's nice to know that as life just keeps going on-on-ever-on, there's a song that has captured a moment that needs to be remembered. For the happy times, this is obvious, but for the sad ones, it's just as important. I need to be with my pain right now. I need to feel it, and I need to let it run its course. But as it starts to wane ever so slightly, it's nice to know I can find it again. It's important to realize that no, I won't always feel this empty, but it's also important for me to be able to put on "Empty" or "Strangulation" and go back when I need to.
In loving memory of my mother, Julieanne T. Kayce - 04/17/46 – 07/03/06. May her love shine forever as inspiration for all. The greatest blessing I have ever known has been calling her Mom for thirty years.
Music is more than just artists and songs, concerts and albums; it's a window into our existence. Each month I'll be back to talk more about life and about how it's really all in the music. Consider it Ruminations with Kayceman.
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