Last night I dreamt I wrote this blog post.
I awoke from a dream where I survived a firing squad. A group of us were in a parking garage that opened to an adjacent alley. We all had guns (in my dreams, we always have guns) but we knew we were no match for the turrets on the trucks coming down the alley. The trucks drove up and aimed their guns at us, and at the last second I dove behind a pillar which shielded the machine gun fire. Everyone was slaughtered, shot to death, except for me. My heart raced as I stood still behind the pillar, a few seconds of silence passed. Did they see me? I held my breath until finally I heard the vehicles drive away. Then I woke up.
I love dreams because they are sometimes so analogous to reality. I love to dissect their meaning. Yes, I am one of those people who believe that dreams can have meanings. This dream made me think.
A few years ago as our band was finally getting off the ground we were filled with extremely high hopes. There was quite a bit of hype, and we had set our goals far beyond what was average for most bands at the time. I remember having dreams back then, flying dreams. I would be on a hill and the wind would pick up, and I would run with it and jump, hover, and slowly take flight. I would sore into the air with my dad and my brothers below me, yelling after me. They would be angry and want me to come down, but I wouldn't. I think they were mad because my choice to drop out of school and be a musician was different than theirs, different from what was expected of me, and maybe they were jealous of my 'success' with it. Who knows, but those were fun dreams. The thing about those dreams is that they were spawned from high hopes and expectations. They weren't real. Our band never really flew. My life didn't take off like I expected it to.
Since then I've had plenty of dreams, some of them quite anxious. You know the ones where you're running from something, but you can't seem to run fast enough? Your legs feel sluggish and you cant escape. It takes everything for you to be able to put one foot in front of the other. You're desperate at first, and then you're stuck with the sinking feeling of complete dread. Or how about those angry dreams, where you're punching someone in the face, or shooting them, but nothing is happening. Their face bounces back like the head of a blow up doll and they're completely unfazed.
When life is looking up, my dreams are like an action adventure movie and I am the star. In one dream I saved my wife from a T-Rex. I took it out with a pistol. No big deal. When my life is characterized by anxiety, I tend to have falling or running dreams.
This dream last night, however, left me with mixed emotions. It left me with a mix of anxiety and relief. Yeah, I just got shot at and everyone around me died, but I was grateful I was alive. I felt blessed. I didn't fly or save my wife from a vicious T-Rex, but I still felt a sense of peace and accomplishment. Thinking about it last night, the parallels of the dream with my life seemed pretty striking.
I do feel blessed to be alive. Our band has been through a lot of ups and downs, probably more downs than ups considering our expectations were much higher, but I've come to a point of acceptance with my life. I feel like we've turned a corner, survived the firing squad and will live to see another day. No I didn't kill a T-Rex or take off flying, making everyone who doubted me jealous, but I am completely at peace with that.
Living the dream is as much about the work as it is the reward. I set out after the reward and in the process, through the struggle, I found what the dream was really about. One cannot be fulfilled by receiving the reward of another mans work. You must live your own dreams, built on your own blood, sweat, and tears. Only then and by the grace of God does a sense of purpose and fulfillment arise. Hope in the lottery is hopelessness. There is no replacement for hard work.
I remember when Albatross didn't sell as many copies as expected. We'd drawn the wrong lottery number. I remember the hopelessness and the doubt. Will we be able to write anything like that again? From the depths of that struggle The Silver Cord was born, a record that communicates and articulates intense emotional stress and longing. I am extremely proud of it to this day. I sometimes wonder, "What if Albatross had met our expectations?" I think we would have tried to write it again, because 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' right? The Silver Cord would have never happened. Correspondingly, had we struck gold with The Silver Cord we might have chased that dark sound into the mathematical caverns of prog-rock and never surfaced, but we didn't. We went back to the drawing board and wrote Vagabonds, and I love it. If anything but this album was coming out next I feel like I would be disappointed. It is exactly where I want to be musically. Regardless of success, I feel like we've found our musical identity on this record. The funny thing is we recorded it in three weeks, nearly half the time it took to record our two previous full lengths. There was almost no stress in the process, it just came natural. We weren't trying to chase some commercial success of the past (there is none) and we weren't worried about creating any in the future. We were making music for musics' sake. We finally stopped caring about the nonsense that is our industry.
And then suddenly, I have peace.
I live the dream everyday. Not the dream I set out of live seven years ago, the one with delusions of grandeur, but the one I probably should have dreamt about in the first place. It's taken me several years and a lot of heartache to get here, but let me tell you I am loving it.
Yes, I still live month to month, and occasionally I'll have a pang of worry about my future, but my life right now feels incredibly blessed. Either that or my perspective changed, or I've learned to love the right things, or both. I don't worry nearly as much, and I've settled with the fact that my minimalist lifestyle is so much more of a blessing than it is a hardship. I want to have integrity and make music for musics sake, regardless of potential profits or marketability. Of course it would be nice if the mass audience appreciated our musical integrity and decided to become fans of our band, but if they never do there will be no harm done. We already have an audience, a really appreciative one, and for that I am thankful.