Fragments of Intention


Self-actualizing and being present.

976 words



I don't think I've properly digested how much music has re-taken its role in my life over the last few years.

Music has been at the center of my life for most of my life. I started taking guitar lessons when I was 10, the same year that my dad took me to see U2 -- my favorite band at the time -- in Montreal. Soon after that we saw Echo and the Bunnymen, Living Colour, and so many other shows. I started playing bass around 13, started playing in bands, and was a "music kid" in high school. Bands and the culture around them were largely responsible for the difficuly I had in detaching from my life around Burlington and moving away for college.

I think that last bit may have something to do with why I distanced myself from playing music and the scene around it once I got to college. I wanted to prove to myself that I had an identity that was more academic (academic things really interested me!) and, I think, I needed to build an identity that was separate from home. Going to England for a semester helped that a lot, and when I finally moved to Boston after graduating -- which wasn't even that far away -- I'd finally flown the coop.

There were a few half-hearted attempts to play music during that period in Boston and, later, in New York, but nothing stuck. I of course admired my brother's music career and life in New York which had an element of glamour to it. But I wanted nothing todo with the basic material poverty of that life. I was enjoying building a middle class life for myself, having money to go to dinner a lot and to see shows around the city. I was also professionally ambitious and was carving out an identity for myself through my work. And given that New York makes even small tasks harder than they sometimes should be, practicing in bands with people who didn't share any particular vision just became less of a priority.

But all the while, music was there. I was always obsessing about new bands and records, seeing live music, projecting meaning onto the music I loved. I daydreamed about playing in bands but it just never felt like something that could happen.

Once I left the city -- and once I cleansed myself of my "city-ness," which took a few years -- I was finally able to get myself into a place where I could play music again. Playing bass with a bunch of great players was the perfect things to do; it helped me get my chops back and made me into a better player than I'd been before. This gave me more confidence, too, and I started writing songs and playing them in another band. Even singing, which I'm not good at and had never had the confidence to do. But now, at this stage in life and with the stakes pretty low, there's no reason not to do it!

This is all to say, I'm grateful that playing music has re-taken its central role in my life. It was a long time coming.


Cate le Bon's Home. The song and the video.

Someday I'll understand why the song resonates with me so much.

Home to you

Is a neighborhood in the night kitchen

Home to you

Is atrocity in the town

Home to you

Is an impasse under hallway ceilings

Home to you

I'm a cross hair, stubborn, dream loving

It's not a positive song so much. There's a cryptic darkness to it. But it rings true about the feeling of "home" -- sad, comfortable, known.

For reasons unclear to me I've run from the concept of "home" my whole life. On the surface, I've built stability and domesticity. But underneath, I've always brimmed with the urge to escape -- to move far away, to experience something new again and again. But lately I've worked to accept the world as it is around me, to embrace it, to love it. And the more I do this, the more at peace I am. That's what this song helps me understand.

Looking back

I thought that turning 40 was going to be the big turning point. It was, in a "numbers are meaningful" kind of way. But actually, turning *41* was where the change came in.

Closing in on 42, I can look back on a year in which I discovered that I'd been engaging in anxious thinking and cortisol-assisted intensity for many years; started discovering ways to wind back these bad habits; got back into running again, in earnest; and lost a few pounds. 

I also moved into year three (I can't believe I even wrote that) of, with partners, running an independent organization and seeing it toward sustainability. 

Way back in the dusty crevices of my mind, I always knew that I wanted to work independently. I think I always knew that I was engaging in "busyness" in a way that I didn't always feel in control of -- and yet, that busyness gave me the illusion of control. The day-to-day work felt meaningful but I had an itch that wasnt being scratched. I didn't know where, but it was there. 

Two and half years ago I made a choice that, looking back at it, entailed an enormous amount of risk. But it felt absolutely right and in retrospect, it was absolutely right. I think that if I hadn't made that choice -- to leave a job that paid well but drove me mad and encouraged some of my worst impulses -- I wouldn't today be able to say that I feel more balanced, more actualized, than I have in years. It didn't happen immediately but I do think and hope that my slow awakening continues.