Made me laugh: "Things Jesus never said: I am giving up chocolate for lent." - Donald Miller
Jack White played in town over the weekend. As expected, tickets to his show sold out in nanoseconds. People were lining up outside the venue at 6 AM Saturday morning to get inside, even though the show didn't start until 8 that night. Rolling Stone and MTV were both in town to cover it. There was such a fun hum of energy surrounding the whole ordeal.
Confession: I did not go.
Somehow I made it through high school in the 90's without becoming a major fan of The White Stripes. I like their music fine. I like Jack and Meg and their weirdly wonderful dynamic. Do you remember how cool Meg looked playing her peppermint drums? (This tribute by Ray Lamontagne still makes my heart swell.) I like Jack and the boys in The Raconteurs. When I hear "Steady as She Goes", I'll always think of muggy summer nights and a sky full of stars. I especially loved the way he sang "Wayfaring Stranger" in Cold Mountain. I like him flirting over a Sloe Gin Fizz with Loretta Lynn. I'm obsessed with the way he sings Dolly Parton's "Jolene."
I like reading about him, too. Some people make my inner journalist salivate and he's one of them. I don't know why he fascinates me. Most musicians are a little bit eccentric, but his quirks seem less put on and more endearing. Genuine, too. Genuine is my favorite quality in anybody - poet, prophet, or rockstar. (Did you know he considered becoming a Catholic priest?)
Mostly though, I love his voice. I love the way his words bend around lyrics. He sounds a little bit boyish and a little bit sexy and a little bit like breaking glass. I like that he's rough with a guitar, not smashing them or breaking them or whatever (does he do that?). But I like that he plays them like he's trying to wring out all the sound.
But I think what I like most about Jack White is best summed up in a tweet I read from the concert. Casey Phillips, a reporter for the Times Free Press, did great live tweets from the show discussing the set list, the crowd reaction, and his Jack White blazer envy (ha :). At one point, he quoted a friend of his who said (I'm paraphrasing):
"Nobody is better at being Jack White than Jack White."
I really, really like that quote.
Because when I say that I love Jack White's voice, I'm not just talking about the singing-voice that shatters and snarls and howls into a microphone. I'm talking about the sound that's so uniquely his, the voice he's crafted over more than a decade of being and becoming Jack White. And now he has a voice you can depend on to be good. He sends out different albums, with different bands, with new songs ... but his heart is still the same; raw and real and strange.
Jack White's wonderful ability to be Jack White also reminded me of this quote, from Steven Furtick, pastor of Elevation Church. (This comes from a longer post called Preach like Joyce/Play like Jimi that I've probably read a thousand times at this point.)
"It's refreshing when you have a conversation with someone who used to want to be what she was never meant to be, but left that illusion behind to become the bonafide best version of herself the world has ever seen." - Steven Furtick
I really, really like that quote too.
When I first read Steven Furtick's post, I remembered a blog I stumbled onto years ago, of a girl who was clearly a fan of Beth Moore because she was trying to blog exactly like her, right down to the terms of endearment Beth uses. My first reaction was: my word, this is obnoxious.
But my very-close second reaction (*clears throat* ... the cool kids would call it a moment of conviction... ) was this: am I not guilty of doing this exact same thing sometimes?
I don't try to write like Beth Moore (even though I adore her writing). But I think all writers have probably done something similar.
Early on when you're writing, it's natural to graft your style to a writer you admire. I think that's true of any artform, regardless of what it is. You learn by imitation. Andy Warhol says all artsy types are just thieving rascals anyway. The imitation thing is natural and necessary; you are still learning. You're smart enough to see that some people are especially great at what they do. Maybe you have a similar rhythm to your writing, or you'd like it to have that same kick. You learn by doing. You imitate the best. You dig in and study what makes their work so great. The danger, of course, comes in continuing to do that forever - trying to write exactly like that person - without ever finding your own voice and style. I think every writer has had to be intentional about pulling away from their influences and figuring out their unique voice.
Writing stuff aside, Jack White and Steven Furtick have me thinking about what all this has to do with living better. And this has been a rather sobering reflection.
(This is the part that's so honest it's darn-near painful to type.)
Instead of taking this unique mix of days I've been given -- matching my gifts and talents and dreams up with my hours and minutes and mysteries -- I've wasted lots of time wishing I could be somebody else. I'm guilty of trying to make my journey look exactly like hers (whoever "she" may be) so I'll have the exact same end result she has. Because "her" life looks seriously perfect. But the end result is never what I thought; because that was never meant to be my story. (And because her life isn't perfect, nobody's life is ... but that's a different topic.)
When I try to be somebody else, the end result is only envy and bitterness that spreads all gangrenous and gross deep down in my heart. So why the heck do I keep doing it?
I think all the fakery-living has to frustrate God like crazy. He tells us to imitate Jesus when it comes to the way we live; but imitating and idolizing other people is, at best, disastrous. At worst, it's a waste of precious time.
On a recent trip to my well-used private pity-pool, I got a swift kick in the pants in the form of Galatians 6:
Make a careful exploration of who you areand the work you've been givenand sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself. Share all the good things you have and experience.Don't grow fatigued doing good.
And I had this crazy-scary thought: What if I miss what God is doing in and through and around me because I'm so stupidly consumed with trying to make my life like someone else's?
Might I get even more painfully honest? (I feel like I'm ripping off a band-aid. A very, very big one.)
But I wonder if maybe blogging can easily feed into an idealized fantasy of a life that is not legit.
For example, I know a guy who played World of Warcraft for years. He loved it, but he finally decided to stop playing it. Even though it was fun, and he met some cool people, he felt like he was in a fantasy world too much, thinking about that world more than the world he was actually in, and he felt like he'd kind of barricaded himself from life. I sort of wonder if reading blogs is like that for lots of people. Women especially.
Maybe it started out as fun, as "community," and hopefully it stays that way. But "lifestyle blogs" sometimes have a weird virtual reality vibe about them, don't they? And it's like those little paragraphs, complete with a picture of something baking, or a book contract beside a fresh cup of coffee, or some well-behaved baby wearing BabyGap and baby-size TOMS just start to make you feel like a big load of poo? It's not that you aren't happy for people ... but maybe you're going through such a tough season that you forget everybody's life is hard and you think: why do they get off so easy!? And why does your baked stuff always look like charred bricks? And why are authors always waxing poetic about sitting down with their warm/comforting/precious/glorious coffee and writing something amazing? Is writing really that easy for them?! And maybe your baby won't stop screaming long enough to pose for an artsy Instigram picture and you can't afford to buy TOMS for an infant, dangit!*
... Maybe comparison isn't something you struggle with as hard as I do. But if you do, then let me give you the same encouragement I've been picking up from the likes of Jack White, Steven Furtick, and the Apostle Paul:
Work on being the absolute best at being yourself. Be your bonafide best, as Furtick would say. You are so much more amazing than you realize. And you have more going for you than you know. And you have a life, and a calling, to live out that will be amazing. And it won't be exactly like anybody else's.
Comparison is the thief of joy. - Theodore Roosevelt
There's something kind of freeing in knowing we're not called to be the next Joyce Meyer or Beth Moore or JK Rowling or Tina Fey or Dolly Parton or Elaine Lloyd. (That last one is my mom.) (Just tossing out names of women I admire.) God didn't create you (or me) to be them. Those women are already the best at being themselves. I look up to those women. Their success inspires me. I want to learn from them; from their job savvy, from their integrity, and from the way they live. They challenge me to live better and dream bigger and work harder.
But I don't want to settle for living vicariously. That would be a tragic waste of time.
I don't want to spend my life singing coversongs. I want to press my pen to paper. Press my fingers against steel strings. I want to find the song that's mine; even if it takes years. Because I've got a rock anthem in me. And when I finally learn how to play it, it's going to sound a lot like freedom.
* Would like to mention that I don't have a baby, nor do I ever experience baby envy. But I hear from friends who are mamas that, in the wrong frame of mind, blogs make them feel like they're being crappity parents because it's not all magical, precious, or Disney-fied.