Life 4.0

All about my strange new life, and the art of making it up as I go

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Dreams We Share

It's appropriate that it should rain today, on what would have been my Roxanne's 61st birthday. It is perfect backdrop for a tale of a wistful visit from another reality. Rain, dark skies, they give a strange comfort. And comfort, in moderation, is what I need today. As fate would have it, that's what I find... the comfort of dreams.

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Exchanging dreams. At the start, it's one of the wonderful things about falling in love. Where do you want your life to lead? What will will do to reach the sky? There's a certain awe in realizing that you have found someone who touches you so deeply that you eagerly share your dreams. Roxanne was the person who touched me like no other.

So we told each other our dreams, wept and prayed over them. We made them our own, and fueled them with our determination and our combined strength. All couples who are really in love mold their dreams. As life goes on, the dreams may change, or even disappear. When they do, you form new dreams to replace the old ones. The cycle endures, maybe even beyond death.


So, on to the tale of the the wistful visit.

One of the casualties of this miserable year is that so many of the people I depend on are no longer as close as I'd like. It's the fluid nature of life. Circumstances change, events come and go. Maybe next year, things will be better. So my vision of Roxanne came at at time when I needed it most.

It was as though she was right beside me. I saw her face; I heard her voice.

It was several weeks ago, around the time of my birthday. I was about to begin my move into the news department. Thata's when, one evening, she came to me. Roxanne said she knew I needed my radio wife. And I do.

I've often written about how demanding it can be to married to someone in radio. It's tough to deal with the endless hours, and the parade of swollen egos you encounter in broadcasting. And you learn early that your spouse has one of those inflated, sensitive egos. So you learn what to say, and what not to say, and all the many ways you can be of support and help.

And you learn how to coax the things you need, as does any equal person in a marriage. It's a wonderful partnership, which makes for a wonderful life. Your wonderful life together. Me, I could not ask for a better companion than Roxanne on life's journey.

And to those dreams we never achieved, well, that's as it should be. Some things must remain beyond our reach. Were we to grasp them all, they would cease to be dreams. they would lose their magic, and they would count for nothing more than signposts along the well-marked roadway.

Today's Lesson: The logical life, the predictable life, is not the life of a romantic man, nor a determined woman. The life which is most blessed, is found on the trail Roxanne and I walked, with rocks and mud, celebration and sunshine, joy today, sorrow tomorrow; and always the promise that Heaven will bring forth all things in due time, so that by the end, we would still have reason and laugh, and to cry. As I note her birthday, I celebrate the years of sharing, the gift Roxanne gave me on my birthday, and the life that continues across the chasm. As I wander into new areas of my career, it's a great comfort to know that the things she would say to me are embedded in my mind so firmly that I can call upon them without fail.

Happy birthday, my darling. It seems every year I tell you that I rely on you more than ever, and this year, my need -- and my love -- has never been deeper. You have been my comfort, even as are you are still, in those half-waking moments, and in my visions. You took my dreams, made them our dreams, and helped me live out so many of them.

For the dreams, for the sacrifice, for the anger, for the kind touch that comes from years spent living and dreaming, my most devoted thanks. I love you, pila moya.

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

W.B. Yeats
"He Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven"

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Year Five

What a strange time.

Where do I find myself as Year Five dawns? My life has changed so much in the last few months. I'm so lost, and I've been spending so much time in the dark place, feeling alone.

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Moving into the news department was exciting, difficult, degrading, and exhilarating. As enthused as I am, I'm working with unfamiliar procedures, and new people. I've lost one good friend in that department who was victim to downsizing. I have little contact with the people I worked with for years as Delilah producer on WIKY and night announcer on WABX. Most frustrating, I lose the satisfaction that comes from a job well done. On the air as a DJ, and as a producer, I know I'm good. In the newsroom, I'm the weakest link. That's not a complaint, but is does dishearten me.

I've lost my other anchor points, too. I finally gave up on Just Friends. Even I know when I should ease off. It broke my heart to toss that dream aside, not to mention leaving me emotionally impotent. Fuck it, I need a friend more than a lover, and heartbreak aside, she is a great friend. Even Cathy, who is the best friend I've ever had, has become scarce. The demands of her family and her job have left her no free time. She's always there when I need her, but it's not fair to her for me to always ask. She means far too much to me, and I am far too indebted to her, to ever be upset. But the fact remains, that due to the demands of life, things we all have to deal with, she's unable to be there, and I miss her.


I'm learning to be alone, and to deal with it. All the things I've used for stability and balance have fallen away from me. My confidence in my professional abilities, my determination to find love, the companionship and devotion of the people I'm closest to. I understand nothing is permanent. Maybe these things are just moving aside in order for others to fall into place.

There are so many new roads ahead for me. For the first time since Roxanne's death, I'm starting a new enterprise without her guidance. I need it. But I hope I can survive without it. I believe I know what she'd say to me in just about any instance. Even the fact that I've made it to today, made it through four years without her... I'd have never thought that was possible. As I've said many times, I'll be along when I finish my earthly tasks. The difference is that now, I have so many new tasks. So many new challenges, both personally and professionally. It's a burden on my time, and a burden on my soul. Odd as it may sound, I'm not offended by the distraction. It's made it easier to cope with late September, which is the red zone to my dark time.

But there's another difference. To be blunt, I really want to live. I lost that fire for a while, along with all the other things I've crutched on to keep going. To defend myself, it's understandable. In the process of losing so much this year, I came to the realization that I no longer am a person of significance. My efforts are fruitless, my opinions are dismissed as inconsequential.

As I start Year Five, I have come to realize that I, and only I, am responsible for finding the motivation to keep moving forward. And with that enlightenment, the duality of the Southern thing again rises to confront me. It's a difficult moment when you take off the rose-colored glasses, and look honestly at your surroundings. I may realize that I was wrong to think that many of the things I lean on are essential to my survival. And if they indeed are not necessities, but only indulgences, it becomes hard to look past their shortcomings. It's easy to forgive and make allowances when you know you life would be unbearable if you didn't. It's not as easy when you begin to wonder whether life would be better if you just cut your losses.

Today's lesson? As I note the start of my fifth year on my own, I find that I am truly on my own. That's all I need to say.

Dear Roxanne,

I miss you so much. I hope you have all the happiness and love that we've been taught awaits us when we reach the next life. Find your light and find your peace, pila moya. And look in on me when you can. I'm going to be counting on you an awful lot.

This is not going to be easy. And it shouldn't be easy. I want it to be hard, so I can call on all my skill, and all the things you taught me, and all the things we learned together. I'm running down this new road, looking around frantically to find you. I know you're there, even if you escape my sight.

I'll make you proud of me, as you always have been. All those new things I'm going to learn, all the mistakes I'm going to make, they're going to haunt me longer, because you won't be there to restore my faith in myself. All those new things I'm going to learn, I won't be able to share them with you just yet. But I will, one day. Until then, warm fuzzies and big smiles. Please stay by my side. I have work to do.

StevenK

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Newsman

I am scared shitless. I've known this was coming for a while, but I didn't know to what extent. For some time, I've discussed the possibility of doing more work in the news department. I enjoy my duties with the Delilah show, and I loved being on WABX in the evenings. But that's too close to an entry-level position to provide for the future. Radio. like many industries, is becoming less labor-intensive. The more I can do to make use of my experience and ambition, the better for everyone.

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Yes, I have a new job. I'll be the anchor of "Evansville In The Morning", our half hour news cast at 5:25am on WIKY. In addition, I'll be doing traffic reports on the WIKY morning show and morning news for WABX. Although I was unprepared to move fully into the news department, here I am. The sad thing is that this opening was created by downsizing, but that's the nature of business in today's economy. I'm eager, and scared. As enthused as I am, I'm working with unfamiliar procedures, and new people. Most frustrating, I lose the one anchor point that has made my life easier for the last four years: The knowledge that I'm damned good at what I do. That's gone.

Everyone treats me great, and they've certainly made me feel welcome. But I'm a professional. I have the ability to honestly judge what I do, without metting my ego get in the way. And I'm not good. I will be, but that will take time. I've already been criticized as being an imposter, an actor playing the role of a news person. I have a challenge, one I'm undergoing alone. Alone. I need Roxanne, and she's not here. I think that's what scares me most of all.

Today's lesson?It's still so strange to me starting my work day at the time I'm used to finishing it. Lots of adjustments. New role, new boss, lots of "fish-out-of water" feelings. And for the first time in a long time, I'm jumping into a new endeavor alone. I mean, a REALLY long time. The last time I shifted careers without Roxanne's hand to guide me, Jimmy Carter was President, and gas was about 75 cents a gallon. This is going to require me to reach inside, and find confidence and ingenuity enough to cover my shortcomings. If that sounds like "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit," it's not. I don't need to use bullshit. I have enough talent and strength to find my way. And if that sounds overconfident, good. I love when people understimate me.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Suddenly Sixty?

December is always the coldest month for me. My mother's birthday, Roxanne's birthday, and Christmas fall within the span of a week. Add to this the nomal confusion and chaos of holiday time in broadcasting, then factor in the fact that I get eight hours a night of stories about people in love at Christmas time. It's a recipe for depression. So I get depressed. Then I get mad.

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Roxanne was the angriest person I ever knew. It's part of what made me love her. She could not settle for being mildly upset at something. It had to be full tilt boogie, go to hell and stay there. Her birthday today would have sparked a rebellion. I expect that she would have said that world damn well better end on December 21, 2012, because there was no way in hell she was going to turn sixty the next day.

She's never far from my mind, but she seems more present than ever lately. One of the ironies of The Year Of Essentials is my discovery of how un-essential I am. Out of need, as she did, I have drawn more and more from the fires of my inner anger. I accept the things which have happened to me and around me, but much of what surrounds me disgusts me.

Today's lesson: I can only control a small part of my world, but, hey, you have to start somewhere. It's time that I pick up some of the spirit of anger... but more on that when the new year commences. For today, I just want to remind myself how much of who I am came from our shared experiences, and how far I've come in these days since being on my own.

Happy birthday, pila moya, It's not been an easy year for me, but it's not supposed to be easy, is it? I've learned how expendable I am. I have been reminded how fragile I am. It hurts. Yet it strengthens my resolve to grow. It may take me years to finish my job here. then again, it may be over tonight. I'll be just as glad either way, because my faith tells me to accept what is meant to be. Send me what strength you can, and I'll make it last as long as I need it.

StevenK

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Over-Examined Life

"The unexamined life is not worth living" -- Socrates

"You overthink everything. Get up off your big ass and do something instead of finding reasons not to, then taking it out on those of us who have a life." -- my best friend Cathy The Super Fan

This in a nutshell, is the ping-pong conversation that has been looping in my mind for the past 33 months. That was when when Cathy decided I would be better off if she rescued me from sitting around waiting to die. I love her for that decision. I also wonder if it was worth it, considering everything she has put aside in her own life. She's made an incredible investment of time, love and heartache in me. Cathy has earned the right to tell me it's time to man up, climb out of the pity pot, and quit nitpicking every element of my life.

For the record, everyone agrees with her.

Everyone.

They all told me.

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My friend Kristi agreed with Cathy.

My daughter Rachel agreed with Cathy. Then Rachel called me a turd head. It's always been her pet name for me, which should give you a clue about her opinion of my analytical routine.

Three of my co-workers agreed with Cathy. They may be growing tired of the questions, too. One of them threw something at me.

Several Facebook friends whose opinions I respect agreed with Cathy.

The woman on the all-night shift at the Thornybird's agreed with Cathy.

I played Matchbox Twenty on the radio, and they sang about thinking too much.

Cathy's husband Lew said he agreed with Cathy, but really, what would you expected him to have said? "Yeah, Cathy's so full of crab shit her eyes are green. Now you have to leave, because you're sitting on the couch, and that's where I'll be sleeping for the next week."

Even Delilah told a caller the other day that he thinks things through too much. No, that caller was not me.


Why do I bring this up? Because it's 3 o'clock in the morning, I'm awake, cold sober, and I'm alone. Taken in combination, those things make for a miserable life. So the questions take root and grow. Friday night always seems lonesome to me. It always makes me scared. Scared that every Friday night will be like this one, sleepless and alone. And - here comes the duality of the Southern thing again -- scared that if I do find someone, I'm setting myself up for another broken heart.

I sometimes wonder If I'll ever get out of this emotional place in which I take so much comfort. I still feel like I'm being disloyal to Roxanne if I give away a part of my heart that doesn't belong to her. No, that's a fallacy. I don't think there is any part of my heart doesn't belong to Roxanne.

So I just sit here thinking, examining, questioning, and become more scared, so scared that I can't move. So scared that when Just Friends asked me if I wanted to go out tonight (a moment I've been waiting for for a long time) I felt so out of sorts that I said no. I wonder if I just threw away a golden opportunity out of fear, and needless paranoia. Or did I finally smell the coffee and realize I'm chasing an impossible dream.

It also may be that I'm beginning to realize a painful truth. Pursuing this fascinating woman is costing me more in pain, doubt, and distraction than I can handle. As I wind toward the end of The Year Of Essentials it may be time to just cut my losses. It goes counter to my instinct. I'm not a quitter. Oh man, I sound like fucking Nixon.

I have to think about it for a bit. At the same time, I wonder if I'll ever stop picking things apart. These are the things that happen in my mind when it's three o'clock in the morning, and I'm alone.


Though I'm an analytical wuss, I'm a good person: intelligent, witty, articulate, clever (that's not ego talking. I have to be all those things in order to do my job).... but people just can't get past this hideous exterior. Cathy tells me not to worry because "it's their loss," but I don't agree. People who don't see past my physical appearance, whatever you want to call them, short sighted, narrow minded, or just realistic, will simply go on to someone else. The people who judge me based just on my size, those people will never have the time to realize what they have missed. Because for them, there will always be a more presentable person waiting to grab a piece of their hearts. It's no consolation to me that those hearts will often end up broken. It saddens me, for that is a heart that I would have treasured.

In the years before Roxanne, and the years since, I've had several friends who said, "you have so much love. It must be killing you to hold it all inside. I hope you find someone to give it to." Forgive this how this sounds, but I think they're right. And the tumblers in my mind fall into place and here comes another question: Is it only women who already have that special love in their life that are able to recognize a man who is able to love that way? Or am I so scared or so chickenshit or so... I have no clue what it would be called, that it's me who chokes off every opportunity, as I did tonight?

One of the first posts I made on this blog was called Any Road Will Take You There. I took the title from the George Harrison song. Roxanne loved it, and so do I. It gradually dawned on me that the only time that being lost bothers you is when you're actually trying to get somewhere. Connecting the dots, that must mean that finally, after all this time, I actually am trying to get somewhere -- even if I don't know where.

I'd like to think that there's a place for me deep in someone's heart, a warm safe place perfect for sharing that special joy that makes all the hearts and flowers and love songs come to life. I do feel selfish at that thought. In Roxanne's eulogy, I said that many people never have that type of special love. I was lucky enough to have it for thirty years. Dare I be selfish and try to find someone else to love? Boy, do I think about that a lot. The answer is always the same.

Yes. Yes, because a year and a half ago someone came along and lit up that part of my heart that I thought was gone. That could not have happened if I were not ready.

Yes, because for whatever reason Roxanne is gone and I'm still here, with a huge hole in my heart. I don't think it's selfish to try and heal that. I think it's only natural. Finally and most of all, yes, because it's 3 o'clock in the morning and no one who has a heart full of love should feel the way I do right now.


Today's lesson?: I should have asked all these questions a long time ago I should've asked all them when I was 19 but I'm glad I didn't because I met Roxanne, I fell in love, and the world finally made perfect sense.

Everyone tells me that I trust my mind so much more than my heart that I depend on it too heavily. It's hard to argue that they're wrong. Here I am at 3 o'clock in the morning knowing I can not stop myself from endlessly asking questions. You know, sometimes I really wish I still were seven. It was so much simpler then. If you had candy you were happy. If you didn't you were unhappy but you knew why.

So, after another round of questions, where do I stand? Could everyone be right? Let's see... three o'clock on Friday night, no date (there's a shock) and I'm no closer to an answer than when I began.

Fuck me.

StevenK

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Year Four

The days leading up to this weekend have been a blur of thoughts, plans and memories. Among the celebrations, disappointments, and gut checks of the past three years, there is one fact which stands out among all the rest: Somehow, beyond my comprehension, I am still standing this long after Roxanne's death. The thought grips me, although the specific significance escapes me. My own personal thousand days... some diamonds, some coal, all triumphant, all lonely.

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I don't know how I should feel. Proud, scared, awestruck? I'd like to think I am defiant, but defiance isn't something I can measure. When you're running on fear, it's easy to look brave. Honesty time: I always had faith that I could reach this point. But truth be told, I doubted I would reach it.

On the worst days, I have trembled on the edge of sanity. I'm still not sure that I didn't cross into the danger zone a few times. On the best days, there's still the loneliness to keep my excitement in check. The loss is immeasurable. Forgive me for repeating an oft-mentioned point:

I love Roxanne as much now as ever.

The feeling inside me has not faded with time. It's only natural to wonder if that's healthy, and if it is choking my progress.


I have so few pictures of Roxanne. She hated being photographed. This is one of my favorite pictures of her. Roxanne always looked at life a little askew, with a healthy dose of irony. She took delight in facing and conquering whatever challenges life brought her way. I have tried -- with varying degrees of success -- to make use of the things I learned from her

Out of necessity, I have had to move on in some ways. I can not move on in others. I know people who, within three years, have fallen in love, even married again. The thought is vulgar to me. I know I could love again. I think about my friends Cathy and Lew. I see the special life they have built, and I wonder what I could have, if I find the right person.

But finding the right person? Oy! I can love someone new. Just Friends taught me that, and I am in her debt, even as I wrestle with devastation. My heart, never strong, rests uneasy from my failure to lasso the moon for her. I knew it was a long shot. I knew there was no logical reason for her to make such a leap of faith. So, faith notwithstanding, I find it hard to fault her for trusting common sense. Besides, who says that any door remains closed forever?

So... back to this weekend. I was expecting an onslaught of emotion. it never came. Maybe the depression saw me and ran. Maybe it has become so much a part of my life that I no longer notice it.

In any event, It has been an easier weekend than I imagined. I think I know why. If I'm right -- and I am -- I can use this knowledge to form a strategy for the future.

Recently, I've been learning to burn anger for fuel. It's something Roxanne did, perhaps to excess. Certainly she could control the flame better than me. She could tiptoe on the threshold with no danger of exceeding her limits. I doubt if she felt if it was possible for her to overreach. She believed that anything was within her grasp, given proper resources and enough time. I can't say I envy that skill. I appreciate its complexity, but that scheme would never work for me. I can open the burners and scream "damn the torpedoes," with the best of them. But at the zero hour, I would hesitate, just long enough for things to go awry. Yes, I have learned the value of limited fury. Its power is staggering. Once I become its master, look out!

Today's lesson? I must constantly be on the watch. Every day, there comes a selfish moment. Every day, the thought strikes me: I want to die. In the next moment, I'm overcome with shame that such doubts dare enter my mind.

Every day, I want to live, and to dash headlong into life with the strength of a teenager. I'm more confused than ever. I'm more certain than ever. I'm happier than ever. I'm more depressed than ever. I'm more paranoid than ever. I fly from extreme to extreme with abandon. And, even though I've yet to grasp the significance of this, scary as it may be, I'm enjoing the hell out of this ride.

And more than ever. I am convinced that this place, this place I find myself as I commence my fourth year alone, is exactly where I am supposed to be. That's what faith tells me. And I've long known that if LIFE 4.0 is to be something more than a countdown to death, that faith is what will make it happen.

Dear Roxanne,

Do the days pass as slowly for you as they do for me?

I often wonder how you spend your time. I do know you enjoy every day. You lived that idea to the fullest, and taught me to do it, too. And I try. It's just that without you there, the days just aren't fun. They're nice enough. I find pleasure and beauty, but pleasure and beauty are meant to be shared.

I hope you are as content as you can be, with just enough longing to make you anxious to see me again.Even here, I see you everywhere, in my surroundings, and in my thoughts. You are there in all the things we shared, the idle happenings which come too often and too precisely to be coincidence.

I sometimes dream of you, and honey, the wonderful thing is that now, when I do, it no longer hurts. I am able to be happy that in some reality, we were able to spend a few moments with each other. It makes me eager to see you, and have you show me all about the world that awaits us. Faith tells me that it will be even more wonderful that the one we shared here.

Beautiful things await us. Until then, pila moya, I shall be with you the only way I can, in my thoughts and in the daily events which remind me of you. And until then, I shall pray for faith, the faith which conquers all.

StevenK

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Song Remains The Same

After is week like this, I realize again how important music is to me. It's been one hell of a week... a hell of a good week, a hell of a bad week. I have flown atop the clouds; I have wallowed in the filth. I cursed my friends and drank to my enemies. I took counsel from someone who will break my heart, and betrayed someone who will dress my wounds. This week, I have said things I never imagined I would say (good AND bad), and likewise, I have heard things I never imagined I would hear. And I lived. Smiles and tears, alert and afraid, I LIVED! Truly, this was the textbook example week for the concept of the duality of the Southern thing

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The week began with an abnormal fixation. My father died over 30 years ago. usually, I'm fine on Fathers Day. This year, on the spur of the moment, I took almost half of my show talking about my dad, sharing memories and talking about his love of music. The next day, as I was on the air, I seemed to see a reminder of Roxanne at every turn, even hearing her voice as I imagined the things she would say to me. I had multiple technical and protocol problems at work -- not my fault, but within my control -- causing me to have an atypical complaint session with my bosses. Moments after arriving for a planned evening with friends, I bailed (at the request of my superiors) to cover a repetitive SNAFU at my job, only to get my car stuck on an embankment as I tried to leave. Moments later, I got a "never mind" phone call. The words which spilled from my mouth over the ensuing five minutes would be familiar to any sailor or stable boy.

Back in the non-radio world, I did one of the bravest things I've done since Rox's death.... so brave and personal that I'm not ready to blog about it yet. My daughter brought me distressing, tragic news from within her husband's family. I got to spend wonderful time with a dear friend I'd not seen in months. I clawed and circled with the one person who's always there for me, right or wrong. I caught another person whom I considered a friend in a bare-faced lie... a lie which cost me a chunk of money. I capped off this noteworthy week by oversleeping and missing a birthday party for one of the few non-radio friends that I have.

After a week like this, I need music. I need to listen to something which grips my heart and my mind. I need to honor my pain. I need to know that the pain will bring forth something precious and beautiful. I listen to Jackson Browne, and think about how his most poignant work came as he was coming to terms with the suicide of his wife.

I listen to John Lennon, to Jim Croce, to Harry Chapin, and to Bob Marley, and wonder how they must feel -- wherever they are -- that in our world, we are denied all the unwritten songs and untold stories a full lifetime would have borne. I listen to the symphonies and operas of Mozart, and I know that grace and beauty have no limits. I listen to Warren Zevon, and I see how that same grace and beauty can be personified in the way a man chooses to face his own imminent death.


I do not remember a time in my life when I did not retreat into music. I should have known all along that I would end up on the radio, serving a daily helping of love songs, party songs, rebel songs, desperate, triumphant, futile, celebratory... there is no end to the moods they evoke. Music is God's most perfect form of communication. You can hide from spoken words. You can hide from printed words. You can hide from pictures, preaching, and philosophy.

But a song.... The right song, at the right time, rushes into your soul, past all your walls and defenses, and instantly strikes at your heart. This flood of emotion is something from which you can not hide. It binds itself to you. Tightly. Each of us can remember one unfamiliar, unknown song which we heard one day by chance. The thought behind the music strikes us so deeply that our mind refuses to let it go until we hear it again and can identify it. Months, sometimes years pass, but it stays there, imprinted on our soul.


So after a week like this, I return to music. And as always, the music awaits me. The song, as Led Zeppelin says, remains the same. It is essential, probably more so in 2012, The year Of Essentials. From the beginning, it is the song of my life, and now, it remains the song of LIFE 4.0.

Today's Lesson? Maybe there is none, except the lesson we learn whenever music comforts us... that all life is weaved in communion with its surroundings. No matter how threadbare it becomes, we still can find song after song after song to ignite the things we feel in our soul. And when we rise, or we fall, or we die trying, there will be a song we will then sing.

StevenK