Playing Through the Changes

In music we talk about “playing the changes.”  It simply means playing in a way that reflects the shifting harmony of the chord progression, choosing the right notes at the right time. feeling comfortable playing in any key, over any chords, in any area of the fretboard.

Usually when I make the decision to finally gather my thoughts, organize ideas, and commit to putting some words down for this blog, it’s because I have finally tuned in to the frequency the universe sends me. It’s faint at first, but when I get that first audible signal and begin to consciously turn my dial ever so slowly, I can usually pinpoint what’s being broadcast.  

For the past few weeks the theme of that frequency for me has been “change.” It’s everywhere! Not just me, but the world I live in. It’s all around me. It’s inside me. I was in a discussion recently with a very close friend and I made a comment about being in a “season of change,” and the self awareness of my statement made me stop to really ponder the idea of change and our movement through the various seasons in our life. We literally live through the changing seasons every day. The days are getting longer or shorter, the temperature shifts warmer then cooler.  Living things adapt with behaviors bred into them by millions of years of evolution. It's everywhere if you stop to notice. 

But, we don’t always notice the changing of these seasons while it’s taking place. The change is slow and subtle until the day we walk outside and are forced to turn back around to grab a jacket.  Or, we look up to see a formation of geese flying overhead.  Maybe you notice the first afternoon you’ve grabbed a scorching hot steering wheel unprepared for the near third degree burn.  This subtlety in change is no different with the seasons of our lives.  

You might begin to notice a changing season during a visit with our parents after a lengthy absence to discover they have a lot more wrinkles and gray hair than you remember. Perhaps it’s that class reunion where you realize the people who accompanied you through your youth can barely find enough common ground to hold a conversation with you. Or maybe you turn on the TV one morning to see an angry mob has forced their way into our nation’s capitol and realize a lot of your fellow countrymen see the world through a very different lens.  Change.  It didn’t just happen overnight; those subtle winds were blowing for weeks or years or perhaps even generations.  But, we simply didn’t notice until it affected us personally.  

We rarely see change occurring inside us. We might feel it’s subtle warning signs but dismiss it as something else entirely, restlessness or anxiety perhaps. Slowly however, just like how seasonal weather patterns at some point demand our attention, we are at once forced to accept there is something changing deep inside us. And though we have no idea what it will entail, we slowly become aware that whatever it is, it will have lasting effects and likely alter the course of our life forever.  We rarely see the events leading up to this moment as they are happening.  It’s only after the change has occurred or well underway that we can retrace our steps and see how we landed where we are currently at.  The mistakes, the choices both good and bad, the lessons learned that all played there part in change are usually only apparent in hindsight. And that’s where I find myself these days.  

Anyone who knows me or “gets” me is well aware I’m prone to recite lyrics to favorite songs that say what I think.  Today I’m reminded of a Jackson Browne song, “These Days.”  

“... These days I seem to think a lot 

About the things that I forgot to do 

And all the times I had the chance to.” 

“Well I'll keep on moving, moving on 

Things are bound to be improving 

these days, one of these days...” 

Loss, regret, and acceptance of things done and left undone.  It’s all in there.  Hard to believe he wrote “These Days” at the age of sixteen.  Don’t tell me songs don’t come from a higher place. As I told my friend, I think we come to several seasons of change along our journey through life.  I think the older we get and the more wisdom we collect along the way, the easier it is to hear these winds of change and recognize the end of one season and the beginning of another.  So we are left to ask the questions, what season exactly am I leaving behind?  What season lies ahead?  Do I want this change at all.  Awareness often leads to the difficult task of choice.  And in the words of the great 80s rock band Rush, “if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” 

So here I am today, 52 and quite certain I am deep into a season of change.  I think I have a grip on the season I’m leaving behind, but not nearly as certain as the one that lies ahead.  But, there is change ahead and I’ve made the difficult choice to see it through. I’ve opened myself up to the possibility that change is good and because of my faith I have to believe it’s also desired, even brought about by my creator.  I’ve learned much about myself this past year.  God being God has chosen to bring people, places and circumstances into my life that will allow me the opportunity to learn and grow as I make my way into this new season.  Make no mistake, it’s painful.  Growing and learning often go hand in hand and unfortunately learning inevitably leads to mistakes.  Mistakes in and of themselves aren’t bad, but damn if they aren’t sometimes incredibly painful.  

So what lies ahead?  Who the heck knows.  I’m human and I’m prone to resisting the gentle push and crackling voice that comes through while I continue to tune my dial because change is frightening.  Change means entering the unknown and requires trust and faith in something I can’t see.  Maybe that’s the point.  That is the very definition of faith.  All I know is the voice keeps getting clearer and it’s getting louder. A lot louder. I asked my creator years ago to use me. I wasn’t so bold as to assume I could tell the God of my universe how to use me, but in my silent prayers I said, “it sure would be cool if you could use my music as a way to help others and build my relationship with you.”  Yeah, presumptuous and bold to be sure, but God is God and I believe, so...why not?  

I will attend a conference in Nashville this May.  I was invited to attend by a group whose mission is to serve others through the gift of music.  They travel the country and go to places where people are broken and need to hear their own story played back to them by others who are or have been equally broken, but have the one distinct advantage of possessing faith and hope. They need to know someone who has also been bloodied by what life often brings can learn to grow and even prosper.  Not prosper in spite of their brokenness, but because of it. I think I’d like to help people see that with my personal experience and my music.  

I have no idea if I’ll even be allowed to attend any portion of this tour. But, someone thought enough of my music to invite me to attend a conference with people in the music industry who cater specifically to those writing and performing songs with messages of hope and faith in attendance.  And that for me is, well, it’s a change and I’m open to whatever lesson I can take away from it.  Maybe it’s the first step in whatever season I’m entering. Maybe it’s just another lesson in the journey.  I don’t know much, but I feel confident enough to say we definitely go through seasons in our life and we will change as we enter each new season.  It sure feels a lot like I’ve reached the point where I can’t ignore the signs that I’m entering a new season.  I’m scared.  I’m hopeful and I’m cautiously excited.  I’m nervous and uncertain and a thousand other emotions all at once.  And when I think about, isn’t the adventure of the unknown what really makes life worth living?  

I’m quite sure Bob was writing this with a change in political atmosphere as the focus for his lyrical genius.  But I can easily apply it more broadly, so I’ll leave you with a verse from the immortal Bob Dylan tune, “The Times They Are a Changin’.” 

Come gather 'round, people 

Wherever you roam 

And admit that the waters 

Around you have grown 

And accept it that soon 

You'll be drenched to the bone 

If your time to you is worth savin' 

And you better start swimmin' 

Or you'll sink like a stone 

For the times they are a-changin' 

Y’all be good to one another out there and remember we are all in this together.  We are all struggling through our own changes as we navigate the seasons both good and bad of our own lives.  Be the person who provides shelter and a helping hand to those in their season of need for you will surely be there in your own time.  Love you all.