1/10/2009

Wired: Reflecting on hyperactivity and creativity

I'm wired to move fast, both through my chemical make-up as well as my life experience to date. At 35, I have to re-evaluate if that's how I want to be.

I made my way through college by working in restaurants, and got myself addicted to the madness of having to balance so many different variables at once. I got addicted to having a busy life, and only felt "happy" by juggling several full plates. at a time. I felt a rush of accomplishment by being able to achieve so much.

During my last semester at Virginia Tech, I had five classes, a three-day-a-week internship at WVTF Public Radio, and a job at Backstreets Pizza. Of course, the energy took its toll on the relationship I was in at the time. A year later, I was in New Hampshire with a similar set-up, except I was all alone and could just layer on the projects like a drunk brick mason.

However, by 1997 I was back in my hometown of Lynchburg doing one thing and one thing only, working in a factory. I was working 40 hours a week, and had no creative outlet. No where to put my energy. Hence, I plunged into a ridiculous depression. None of the projects I tried to start took root, but I was able to "find myself" again.

I did so by writing. And writing. And writing. And writing. Somewhere I have piles of notebooks filled with whatever it was I was thinking at the time. I began to find a new identity as I was able to calm myself down long enough to try to take on the task of describing the world. With an onslaught of thoughts spinning around in my brain, I felt a certain amount of relief.

All of that writing formed a context in my brain that allowed me to build a new device to sate my need for hyperactivity - improvisational punk rock! I moved to Arlington in part to be near my best friend, the one who helped shape my tastes in music. We'd made weird noises since we were 8, and when I'm with him, I can make up lyrics that sound almost passable. The noise, to me, is joyful and describes exactly who I am - a mad bundle of nerves that is unpredictable, witty, and somewhat dangerous.

But, is that who I am, really?

I've always thought my hyperactive brain was a core element of my personality. I've always thought that my ability to do several things at once was something to be celebrated, something that others would find interesting about myself. Of course, the reality is, I can't do three things at once. That's a delusion and a dangerous one at that.

For instance, I never gained the ability to go back and edit myself. I praised my hyperactivity so much that I enshrined it in hours and hours of songs that never really had a chance to find an audience. Turns out, I never really thought about the audience. I was simply indulging myself and didn't make any lasting connections. We played two live shows, and each one was a different version of a nightmare. Why? Because the energy could not be recreated in a predictable way.

So, upon reflection, I see that I've been way too energized for most people and that it is high time I learn to slow myself down so that I can become a better person. I'm not predictable. I'm not sustainable. All of my relationships have broken down because of this, causing pain for many people. I have to figure that part out.

Does this mean I will do less? That I will reduce my presence in the world? I don't think so. What I mean is that it is imperative that I become more mindful about the thoughts that are going through my mind. Should I blurt out whatever I say? Is it possible to say what I really think as opposed to what the other person wants to hear? Is there something I can do to burn all this energy so I can make more balanced connections to people?

I think the key is going to be finding an outlet for performance. I've realized that my need to be energetic and histrionic and "larger than life" introduces negative factors into my relationships. I've not realized this until now, and I apologize to everyone I've ever hurt by being inconsistent. The sadness and pain I feel is a direct result of my inability to figure this out prior to this moment.

Now, as a small treat and a small way to begin overcoming my fear of letting other people see and hear what I do. This is one of the very first songs I ever sang improv, when I was 18 or 19. My friend Jeff was at the University of Virginia, and I was at Virginia Tech, and we met one day in Bedford at the foot of the Peaks of Otter to play and see what happened.

I don't have a good Flash player set up on this account, so you'll have to download. It's called Wired, Jeff is actually on guitar, and there's a kid named Micah playing drums. I'm sad that we lost touch with Micah. He was pretty cool. It's fun nonsense.

Download: "Wired" by the Hodads, circa 1991

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