I always needed something. When I was younger, I always needed something in the car or the bus to read. Even a two minute car ride required a few minutes of perusing through my library to find the book I wanted, nay, required, to take on a simple trip to the shopping mall. I have always had the need to occupy my mind, to keep my brain busy, to keep the world at bay. I was surrounded by a soft cell of words and imaginary worlds.
My love of words has always been matched by my love of music. I considered getting into the Royal Conservatory of Music playing the flute (watch out macho trumpet players!), but it wasn’t only classical music that captured my imagination. I had a rainbow of music genres plugged into my ears at all times – death metal, blues, jazz, shoegazer, electronic, pop, punk, new age…you name it, I had a level of interest in it. Walkmans, portable CD players, mp3 players, iPods…I have gone through more of these in the quest for constant, on-demand music than I care to imagine.
As I got older, I had noticed that my choice in music was getting more to the intense level – that is, quiet, more melodic music just didn’t hold sway any more. I needed more fervent, heightened, punchy music to keep me going. I was becoming a junkie for hardcore distraction. You see, these chomping crunching chords and ear-blowing beats served a purpose beyond music appreciation 101. They got me out of my self. They kept me from thinking the thoughts that would dominate and browbeat me otherwise. They put me on a different mental path – a path of screeching horns, bellowing bass and frenetic vocals…all of which could drown out the disharmonious me. I needed noise.
Noise was doing for me what alcohol would do for me later – take me out of self, remove the painful and demoralizing thoughts, drain the blood that gave life to my own state of being. Noise was visceral, it was life-giving; it had substance through usurping the old me and replacing it with things that had cadence and meaning. My life had no meaning, but a symphonic suite in A-flat or a four minute song by Slayer had meaning. There was composure and lift in the music, there was a balance, there was a harmonious conclusion. These were the things missing in me…or at least I felt there was.
Alcohol would further drown and beat the me out of me. It eventually took over completely, and even started to suffocate the one thing that always kept me together – the music. My drinking was like a wet blanket, thrown over my emotions to mute them all out. And so like the graphic equalizer on a stereo, in an attempt to even out the booming lows, I also evened out the thrilling trebles. It can’t work any other way – when you try to cover up one feeling, it covers them all. So I went through life proportionately muted and dulled. No high, no lows. The noise continued though, but it wasn’t music. I had the noise of lies, the noise of drama, the noise of trouble, the noise of alcoholism, the noise of just noise. My mind was cross-wired with pain being the only volume dial on it. How painful did I want it life? I could always dial it up.
And I did.
In my sobriety, I have recovered from the noises of my own making. I have a different way of looking at things. But I still keep the music. I still plug in. I still have those books in my knapsack going on the subway. They still play a role in my life. But things are changing.
I have noticed in the last few months that I don’t need to plug into the music as much. I have noticed that my need to be somewhere else in mind isn’t so strong. I have noticed that I take the earbuds out and put my mp3 player away. Silence has become my new music. Silence is what my mind and soul craves these days. I seek solace in the silence and navigate my way through my own spirit without distractions. I let the low humming of passing cars be my mantra. I find comfort in the swishing of skate blades on ice as I sit in the park near the rink. Rain on the hood of my car is as soothing as anything else I can find on itunes. Silence is my music now.
I sometimes find myself sitting on a bench, unplugged from tunes, plugged into myself, I stare at the sky, breath deep, and try to inhale the stars.