“Get Rhythm” by Johnny Cash in Delight in Disorder (the soundtrack)

They say misery loves company. Mostly misery makes company miserable. As I was sliding into a post-college depression, I had many friends who were good listeners and showed me great understanding compassion.  I was stuck — living in an unfurnished apartment, working in a plastics factory, aspiring to be a writer but writing crap and going nowhere. People without vision perish. I was dying on the vine.

Then a friend of mine met someone who turned his life around. She made someone who was maybe even more miserable than I was happy. I began to believe such a blessing might indeed come even to such as the likes of me. If life wasn’t simply taking the shape of a song for me, I would hum along just the same, like the shoeshine boy in Johnny Cash‘s “Get Rhythm.”

Hey, get rhythm when you get the blues
Come on, get rhythm when you get the blues
Get a rock ‘n’ roll feelin’ in your bones
Put taps on your toes and get gone
Get rhythm when you get the blues

A Little shoeshine boy never gets low down
But he’s got the dirtiest job in town
Bendin’ low at the peoples’ feet
On the windy corner of the dirty street
Well, I asked him while he shined my shoes
How’d he keep from gettin’ the blues
He grinned as he raised his little head
Popped a shoeshine rag and then he said

Get rhythm when you get the blues
Come on, get rhythm when you get the blues
A jumpy rhythm makes you feel so fine
It’ll shake all the trouble from your worried mind
Get rhythm when you get the blues

Get rhythm when you get the blues
Come on , get rhythm when you get the blues
Get a rock ‘n’ roll feelin’ in your bones
Put taps on your toes and get gone
Get rhythm when you get the blues

Well, I sat down to listen to the shoeshine boy
And I thought I was gonna jump for joy
Slapped on the shoe polish left and right
He took a shoeshine rag and he held it tight
He stopped once to wipe the sweat away
I said you’re a mighty little boy to be-a workin’ that way
He said I like it with a big wide grin
Kept on a poppin’ and he said again

Get rhythm when you get the blues
Come on, get rhythm when you get the blues
It only costs a dime, just a nickel a shoe
Does a million dollars worth of good for you
Get rhythm when you get the blues

(“Get Rhythm” is the fifth song on my autobiographical Spotify playlist Delight in Disorder)

“My Back Pages” by Bob Dylan in “Delight in Disorder (the soundtrack)”

The song I’ve chosen to represent my childhood in Delight in Disorder (the soundtrack) is Bob Dylan’s “My Back Pages.” Dylan masterfully captures in vivid imagery a life mixed with youthful vigor and age-old concerns.

I grew up fast and hard, living in small-town innocence yet being exposed to discord, drunkenness, divorce. Sports and studies took my mind away and I prayed my body would some day follow.  Teachers taught me idealism even as one stuck his hand down my pants. Preachers hailed fire and brimstone from pulpits to pews filled by grandparents who embodied both wrath and mercy tasting like sour Juicy Fruit gum.

Disorder disguised delight yet light endured like the north star on night.

Crimson flames tied through my ears
Rollin’ high and mighty traps
Pounced with fire on flaming roads
Using ideas as my maps
“We’ll meet on edges, soon,” said I
Proud ’neath heated brow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

Half-wracked prejudice leaped forth
“Rip down all hate,” I screamed
Lies that life is black and white
Spoke from my skull. I dreamed
Romantic facts of musketeers
Foundationed deep, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

Girls’ faces formed the forward path
From phony jealousy
To memorizing politics
Of ancient history
Flung down by corpse evangelists
Unthought of, though, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

A self-ordained professor’s tongue
Too serious to fool
Spouted out that liberty
Is just equality in school
“Equality,” I spoke the word
As if a wedding vow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

In a soldier’s stance, I aimed my hand
At the mongrel dogs who teach
Fearing not that I’d become my enemy
In the instant that I preach
My pathway led by confusion boats
Mutiny from stern to bow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect
Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

(lyrics to “My Back Pages” Copyright © 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1992 by Special Rider Music)

Delight in Disorder (the soundtrack): “Wonder” by Natalie Merchant

Not long ago, I was inspired to create a Spotify playlist to accompany the release of my spiritual memoir  Delight in Disorder.  I was initially led to search for songs with “crazy” in the title and came up with a playlist of 42 songs I titled “Crazy for You.” It is a fun collection I enjoy listening to.  But it doesn’t tell my story.

Today, as I was driving past the madness of Black Friday shopping, a number of songs started playing through my mind.  I eagerly drove home and gathered a collection of 21 songs I’ve titled “Delight in Disorder (the soundtrack).” From start to finish, the playlist tells the story of my life from my birth, through my childhood and school years, my troubled marriage and eventual separation and return to my childhood home.

While I enjoy quality instrumentation, it is through poetic lyrics that I find meaning in music. To share this passion, I’ve decided to feature the lyrics to this soundtrack for my life in a series of 21 posts, briefly reflecting on how the songs connect to my experience.

The first song is “Wonder” by Natalie Merchant.

Doctors have come from distant cities
Just to see me
Stand over my bed
Disbelieving what they’re seeing

They say I must be one of the wonders
Of god’s own creation
And as far as they can see they can offer
No explanation

Newspapers ask intimate questions
Want confessions
They reach into my head
To steal the glory of my story

They say I must be one of the wonders
Of god’s own creation
And as far as they can see they can offer
No explanation

O, I believe
Fate smiled and destiny
Laughed as she came to my cradle
Know this child will be able
Laughed as my body she lifted
Know this child will be gifted
With love, with patience and with faith
She’ll make her way

People see me
I’m a challenge to your balance
I’m over your heads
How I confound you and astound you
To know I must be one of the wonders
Of god’s own creation
And as far as you can see you can offer me
No explanation

O, I believe
Fate smiled and destiny
Laughed as she came to my cradle
Know this child will be able
Laughed as she came to my mother
Know this child will not suffer
Laughed as my body she lifted
Know this child will be gifted
With love, with patience and with faith
She’ll make her way

This wonderful song by the beautiful Ms. Merchant conveys both the theology and grandiosity that has marked my life since birth.  My delightful theology leads me to believe that I am one of God’s marvelous creations.  My disordered mind tells me I am perhaps more marvelous than most, that I have a special mission to fulfill beyond the run-of-the-mill labor of life.

This delight in disorder has been both a blessing and a bane in my existence.

When I was young, I could escape the fierce tension at home, satisfied with my own presence.  I would play for hours on an outdoor basketball court convinced there were hidden cameras filming me for a later documentary of a star-in-the-making.

Believing I had a calling led me to be the first in my family to obtain a master’s degree and launch a career in ministry. My disordered mind, however, led me to a psychiatric hospital where I believed it was the end of the world and I alone had the special mission of bringing the elect to safety.

“Wonder” is ultimately a very hopeful song, as has been my life with God. With love, patience, and faith, we will make our way.

From Kentucky Coal to a White House Medal: The Journey of Loretta Lynn

Loretta Lynn today was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama at the White House. The award, created by President John F. Kennedy, recognizes significant achievements in politics, world peace, science, culture and other fields and is the nation’s highest honor presented civilians.

An L.A. Times article by Randy Lewis elucidates “5 reasons Loretta Lynn earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom,” focusing on five of her songs where her very personal lyrics had profound political and social implications across the country. From her hardscrabble, yet loving upbringing “Coal Miner’s Daughter” to her rejection of the passive female victim in “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ With Loving on Your Mind.”  For bringing to life (with humor) the hard lot of child-rearing in “One’s on the Way,” to unveiling the inequities of divorce in “Rated X.”  After the death of her husband, “Mooney,” she reflects on facing life without him in “Miss Being Mrs. Tonight.”

President Obama hailed Loretta Lynn as “the voice of a generation.” More accurately, she is the voice of generations of the poor and downtrodden, the neglected and abused, the overburdened and under-appreciated, the unjustly judged and wrongly condemned, the lonely souls whose best hope is to keep singing out until the day they are heard.

 

Building Community by Featuring Followers IV

Time for a Stat-ervention? Checking you blog stats can become addicting. I challenge you to walk away for the month of Oct and see if you can refocus on the joy of blogging.

The statisticians here at “A Way With Words” have advised me some time to put out only one post a day, saying –

Your optimum visits-per-post ratio can best be achieved with a single, targeted daily post. 

I say,

Get a social life.

Tonight I’m in the mood to “share the love” and feature more of my followers, hoping to further build community and simply sow seeds of gratitude for having faithful readers.

To read more, visit my new blog address by clicking on the title below —

“Building Community by Featuring Followers IV”

Building Blogging Community by Featuring Followers II

I had so much fun and have received such a good early response to my previous post featuring seven of my blog followers, that I thought I’d feature seven more.  If the first post was a pot-luck, this is like going back for seconds.

To read more, visit my new blog address by clicking on the link below —

“Building Blogging Community by Featuring Followers II”

blogs

The Need to Succeed; the Craving to Create

In my writing want to emulate Rich Mullins in his musical vocation.  Smith writes of Mullins –

HIs decision to go into the music business was not to impress people, not to make a name for himself, and not to make money. He did it so that he could minister to people, and making music was the gift God had given him to use.

To read more, click on the title below:

“The Need to Succeed; the Craving to Create”

Rich Mullins
(photo of Rich Mullins from nanonymous in Music)

The Suicide of Sam Stone: Remembering All Our Fallen Soldiers

 John Prine’s song “Sam Stone” tells the story of a soldier who comes home from Vietnam, a wounded warrior.  Not only is he physically injured, he is also psychologically and spiritually consumed.

And the time that he served,  

Had shattered all his nerves,  

And left a little shrapnel in his knee.   

But the morphine eased the pain,  

And the grass grew round his brain,  

And gave him all the confidence he lacked,  

With a Purple Heart and a monkey on his back.

We then see the terrible impact of Sam’s wounds on his family as the chorus shifts from a third-person narrative to a plaintive first-person plea from the perspective of Sam’s child.

There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes,  

Jesus Christ died for nothin’ I suppose.  

Little pitchers have big ears,  

Don’t stop to count the years,  

Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios.  

Mmm….

Sam’s addiction leaves him ill-equipped to face the demands as a worker and father.

Sam Stone’s welcome home  

Didn’t last too long.  

He went to work when he’d spent his last dime  

And Sammy took to stealing  

When he got that empty feeling  

For a hundred dollar habit without overtime.   

And the gold rolled through his veins  

Like a thousand railroad trains,

And eased his mind in the hours that he chose,  

While the kids ran around wearin’ other peoples’ clothes…

Ultimately, this wounded warrior chooses to end his struggle.

Sam Stone was alone  

When he popped his last balloon  

Climbing walls while sitting in a chair  

Well, he played his last request  

While the room smelled just like death  

With an overdose hovering in the air  

But life had lost its fun  

And there was nothing to be done  

But trade his house that he bought on the G. I. Bill  

For a flag draped casket on a local heroes’ hill.

On this Memorial Day, it is important we remember all those who have given up their lives in the service of our country.  Some died (and are dying) while fighting on a military battlefield.  Some died (and are dying) fighting the effects of war in the battlefield of their mind.  My prayer for each of them, as well as for those they’ve left behind is,

“God rest your soul.”

 

Veterans Suicide Help‎   (800) 273-8255

Caregivers of Wounded Warriors SparkTeam from Torrey Shannon in Caregiver Resources

Madness in Media

I’m currently working on “The Study” chapter of my book Delight in Disorder: Meditations of a Bipolar Mind in which I will reflect on a few books that have had a significant impact on my understanding of my mental illness.  I also plan to include an “On the Shelves” section in which I list more resources (literature, visual art, movies, music) worth further exploration.

This is where I could use your help.  Below I’ve listed some of the resources I will either review or list.  I’d love to hear your experience with “media-depicted madness”.  Have any of these works touched you, or do you know of other works I might explore?

Books

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

Manic: A Memoir by Terri Cheney

Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic Depressive Illness  by Patty Duke

Madness: A Bipolar Life by Marya Hornbacher

Touched With Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament by Kay Redfield Jamison

Darkness is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness by Kathryn Greene-McCreight

Movies

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

The Dream Team

Benny & Joon

Shine

A Beautiful Mind

The Soloist

Music

Vincent (Starry Starry Night) – Don McLean

Visual Arts

“Scream”  – Edward Munch

“Vase with Twelve Sunflowers” – Vincent Van Gogh

“Spirit of the Dead Watching” – Paul Gaugin

 

What would you recommend?

 

(image above “Van Gogh’s Starry Starry Night” from Rae Leff in Art I love)