Feeling normal

I’ve made mention many times about how long it seems that I led what I think to be a ‘normal life’. A normal life is a life you take for granted. It just happens. You have your routines and habits. You go out for drinks or dinner every now and then, you catch up with friends, attend family functions, you go to the gym maybe, do your shopping at the same time and same place every week, you catch the tram or train to work. The same patterns exist within the work place. You see the same faces, you have the same conversations, you attend the same meetings and when you go to lunch you go to one of your regular places.

I lived some variation of that life for many years, as do most people. A key component is a level of comfort and security. You have enough income to support these activities, and there’s no real threat to your complacent peace of mind. Everything fits together neatly until it is virtually a system of living.

I see this very clearly now that have very little of that. Certainly there’s no comfort or security in my life, and there’s very little meaningful routine because I don’t have the income to support it. Even at work and back in the office environment it’s different on a superficial level because I’m just a visitor; and at a more fundamental level because I’m playing a role foreign to my authentic self, and feel it very keenly. I’m dumbing myself down, dimming myself, which is necessary to fit in, but which feels somehow insidious. I am not myself, and feel a phoney.

It’s funny how you come to miss these things so much. They seem so simple and small, but the absence of them leaves gaping holes. You know very well what you no longer have – and you pine for it.

This weekend I actually set some time aside to do something which in retrospect seems to epitomise the carefree frame of mind of yesteryear: I’ve gone through my iTune library, rating songs and adding to playlists. It’s such a frivolous activity that it feels refreshing, and almost wistfully self-indulgent. It feels almost normal.

Like a lot of men I could spend many happy hours over my music library. At one stage yesterday the scenario where I’m dead came into my head and I thought how awful that would be not to hear this music ever again (I’m less sure that I’d miss out on much new I haven’t heard).

I worked at that for about 2 hours yesterday, and another hour today. I made some observations which were perhaps not surprising, but which I hadn’t really defined previously.

‘My’ music pretty much falls in the period 1987 – 1997. I liked plenty of music before that, and much after, but it is the music of that decade which seemed to best fit to me. I know at the time there were so many bands whose music I eagerly anticipated, and whose LP’s I purchased as soon as I could (another part of normal life – discretionary spend).

I seemed to follow whole clumps of bands through that period – U2, REM, The Cure, Midnight Oil, The Pixies, Metallica, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Crowded House, NIN, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Radiohead, and so on, bleeding into bands like The Dandy Warhols, Ben Harper, Foo Fighters, The Verve, The Whitlams and the like at the tail-end of it.

Some of the albums released in this period are objective classics, but hold a great subjective meaning to me also. Losing My Religion, for example, by REM, was a great album released at an interesting time of my life – the great title song still reminds me of a particular woman. I recall concerts I went to through this period – Pink Floyd at the tennis centre minus Roger Waters in 1988, and Roger Waters solo 10 years later at the same venue; U2 at the MCG, where I saw Paul McCartney also; Peter Gabriel at the tennis centre, and Hunters and Collectors at the Palais, and so on…

It’s a period of time which coincided with my maturity also. I wonder if it is coincidence that the music I like best arrived just as I was properly becoming a man – but I suspect it is. In any case these were my burgeoning years. Post that I was to build on the foundations I set then and climb steadily to a life that at one stage might be termed supra-normal. Back then though it was all energy and attitude, hunger and supreme confidence (in memory – doubtless there were many times I struggled and had cause to doubt. It was not all smooth sailing). I was striving to make a name for myself, and to enjoy every delight life had to offer up.

As I look back it seems a soundtrack to my life then, as indeed it was. And often times hearing those songs again – as I have these last two days – I recall vividly what it was like to live back then.

Funny thing is I was only coming to understand what normal life was then. The standard was in the process of being set, the pattern established. How I wanted it all though

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