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Wednesday, 14 June 2017 13:05

This must be the place: Put down the phone, pick yourself up

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Three up. Three down.

Three weddings in the last three months. Nashville. Knoxville. Sylva. A childhood friend, a best friend, and a dear friend. All taking the next step in their lives. And there I was, adorned in a suit underneath an unforgiving southern sun on each occasion. Beads of sweat forming on my forehead, but never once dampening the smile from ear-to-ear on my face, witnessing people who make your life complete, and filled with meaning, where love isn’t a four-letter word — it’s a living, breathing thing, ready to pick you up whenever you fall.

I awoke this past Sunday morning in the back of my truck. Tailgate popped down. Feet dangling out, kissed by the early sunshine amid the crisp mountain air — the perfect temperature. Emerging from the truck, I stretched and scanned the large mountaintop property. Several tents filled with blissful rest along the tree line. Countless empty beer cans on nearby tables. Instrument cases strewn about on the band stage from the midnight jam session. All indications of a raucous and unforgettable wedding and reception.

And it is in those moments, happening in real time and in fond memory, where I try to chisel the scene and how I felt into the walls of my mind. I don’t want to forget the serene silence, the way the breeze felt against my skin, and how full of love and appreciation my heart was (and aims to always be) when I reenter the world below, from whatever physical or emotional mountaintop I may retreat to whenever reality gets, well, a little “too real.”

The world can be a scary place, as we all know. But, I believe the majority of this planet — the people, place and things — are beautiful, meaningful, and welcoming. This is fact from my travels and interactions, and from those of others who have wandered toward and beyond the horizon. 

And with all the noise, finger-pointing and political upheaval we’re currently seeing, it’s no wonder I look forward to events like a friend’s wedding, where I can toss my phone onto the front seat of my truck, shut the door and go on with my life in that space, no device dinging or vibrating with work obligations or breaking news of another worrisome thing that’ll keep me up at night.

With a wedding, you tend to find yourself on common ground with folks from all walks of life, where you’re connected simply by the kinship to the bride and/or groom. You sit at tables, across from strangers, aiming to have a genuine conversation, hopefully not about the matters of the day, but about similar tastes in joyous things like music, art, books or travel destinations. 

You smile, with a little mist in your eyes, watching the happy couple say “I do” under the eyes of God and in the presence of loved ones. In that instance, as with several other past weddings, I find myself taking inventory of my long line of failed relationships and backfired attempts to find true love. It’s not till you see happiness in its purest form that you begin to question just what your definition of it is, and if you’ve been under the wrong impression since day one.

But, as you loosen your tie, take off your shoes, and begin the find yourself in the nearest dance circle during the reception, a feeling of acceptance and gratitude washes over you. Nobody knows how to properly navigate this thing called life. But, to those with true selflessness, with hopes and dreams all pursued with a childlike wonder, you can at least be pointed in the right direction. 

Come morning, you dust yourself off, hop into the old, rusty, musty pickup truck, throw it into drive and head down the mountain — back to civilization, to responsibility, to monthly bills, and whatever else uncomfortably sticks to your daily existence. 

Back home, I grab my headphones and throw on some Steely Dan on a lazy, quiet Sunday afternoon. The iconic 1970s rock act is — and will always be — the soundtrack of humanity. The music is about layers, some staggeringly beautiful, others haunting in nature, where you’re constantly discovering something new each time you let their records spin. 

Steely Dan is the ideal balance of the human condition, where one of their sugar-coated catchy AM radio hits contain some of the most raw and relatable lyrics. They created music with such depths (complex simplicity), that you uncover more with each immersion — the music grows old with you, exposing and soaking in as much wisdom as it radiates.

Who knows, eh? Some days I wake up and it seems the world is on fire, other times I cross paths with moments that renew my faith in the universe. But, I’m a “glass half-full” kind of guy, so I’ll always hold out hope that we as a species will figure it out before it all goes to hell in a handbasket. For, if you thought otherwise, what would be the point of it all, of doing anything, of being anywhere, and with anyone? 

The only true currency we have in this world is how we value family and friends, and also how we approach those unknowns — of people and situations — where we can either take the high road or the low road. Take the high road, the view is much more pleasing from up here. 

Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all. 

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