My last relationship was not an altogether bad one, but it was definitely not a “healthy” one. In terms of temperament, this person could be the complete opposite of me. I have trouble expressing anger, while she would have angry, seemingly uncontrollable flare-ups of anger and suspicion.
While we were in the process of breaking up, such as it was, one critique she made of me while in a sound and calm state of mind was that I’m overly “serious.”
I never seemed to “let loose” and talk about “whatever.” As I recall, I spent a lot of time talking about art (she was a painter), politics, music, and our lives. I like to know about the person I’m with. People’s lives are interesting and inspiring and heart-rending. I have learned not to pry, though.
There were times when she would tell me about friends of hers and their relationship problems. As far as I can tell, I was always polite and interactive during discussions of this kind. I listened, I asked questions, I did what I always do. But I never had anything to say about my friends and THEIR relationships. Partly it’s because my interactions with my friends are more irregular than hers were. So there’s that. But partly it was because I assumed she wouldn’t care.
When it comes to conversation, I generally approach it the same way I approach writing: if I don’t want to read what I’m writing, probably no one else will either. If I wouldn’t want to hear about a specific subject—if I find that subject trivial, dull, or unrelateable—other people will too. I like to talk about “real” things.
Jump ahead a bit in time. Just last night, I went to an outdoor birthday party held for an old family friend of mine. The friend, Kyle, always plays guitar and sings at his birthday parties, and this year I joined in on bongos, tambourine, and maracas. There were a few songs I knew, but most were old country and western classics, outside my general purview.
But I played all the same, kept a steady beat. I have been playing drums and percussion for over 20 years so I should be able to do at least that.
I take my performances very seriously. I get engaged in them and make something of them. I think about what would sound best, given the instruments at my disposal, and I play them excellently. That is simply how I operate.
After about 45 minutes of playing, I took a break. I was speaking to Kyle’s wife, Kerry, who told me that there was a young blonde in the audience who’d said she thought I was cute. “She asked why you’re so serious, though,” Kerry added.
It occurred to me to wonder about seriousness. I have a great sense of humor but there is a lot that doesn’t make me laugh, like sexism, racism, Islamaphobia, and general stupid ignorance. People who claim to not be racist, sexist, et cetera, but make absolutist “free speech” arguments are, in my opinion, doing the work of the ACTUAL racists and sexists for them. So they might as well BE actual racists and sexists, et cetera. My recent post on WhyNotBeMe about the band Death Grips discusses this viewpoint further.
I also don’t care for scatological humor; I’ll generally never make such a joke, and if you make one around me, I won’t be a dick about it but I very well might not laugh, either. Just not my thing. And that’s where I’ll end that subject.
There are times when I’m constantly concerned about the state of the world. Or, I’m angry about something. However, unlike the girl I was dating, I don’t take my anger out on people. I keep it very carefully controlled.
It’s starting to sound like maybe I am too serious. Maybe I’m uptight.
Lately, I have been thinking mostly about my small business, and about personal training in general. I would say about 75-80% of my daily activity pertains directly to one or the other. The rest of it is spent on stress, working out, eating, and trying to find ways to deal with the stress. Obviously, this could compound my seriousness. I haven’t been pursuing relationships lately because I have too many other things on my mind. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t make the best company these days.
But personal training wasn’t what was making me “serious” at Kyle’s party. I was concentrating on doing a good job with percussion, doing a stellar job even. I do stellar jobs on nearly everything I do: personal training, vegan cooking, doing yard work, and of course, writing. Playing music is no exception, basically ever.
Some musician friends of mine started a fun project a few years ago wherein they get together and record songs that were made up that day onto a 4-track tape recorder. They’ve actually made four full-length albums this way. They go by the name Legends of Neglect.
I took part in Legends for a few sessions. It was fun, indeed. I really liked being asked to play bass and write lyrics, neither of which I have done much of in the bands I’ve been in. But eventually I backed off. I don’t thrive musically in an environment where I’m actually encouraged not to try hard or think too hard about what I’m playing. I take my playing very seriously and strive to innovate whenever possible, and if I can’t innovate (because sometimes it’s just not called for), I at least try to connect emotionally to the listener, to be forceful and affecting. It is one of my trademarks as a drummer.
Was I too serious? Should I have been able to just “create” along with the others? I “just create” whenever I sit down at a drumset, just like I do the same whenever I sit down to write, or cook a meal, or whatever I’m doing. But creating is not necessarily a casual matter for me. I’m not a “lah-dee-dah” creative type, where everything I do is of value. Creating value takes work. Same with personal training; if I’m not creatively involved in training you, I’m not involved, and I don’t enjoy it.
I feel a great pressure to succeed and do well and stand out and be different, and to make an impact on everyone that I encounter. I don’t like to be seen or heard and then forgotten. I don’t like to be unremarkable. It is a standard that has fed many a piece of work of mine. I don’t mean to say that everything I do is perfect or ideal. Far from it. Rather, I mean that I take each thing seriously and put my time, thought, imagination, and passion into each one to the best of my ability.
I guess I do the same with most of the things I do, whether it’s watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, or making chit-chat with people. Sometimes, it can hold me back from enjoying myself too.
Part of my seriousness relates to an inability to relax. The question is, then, is it possible to strive and be focused and single-minded without losing your ability to relax? I don’t know, and I don’t think it really matters. If something is important to me, I damn well should be serious about it. If 99% of people aren’t serious about anything—if nothing is worth their time, thought, effort, passion, anger, engagement—then maybe they’re just not worth my time. This is a somewhat alpha mentality.
The funny thing is, I spend a lot of time trying to affect these same people, trying to get through to them and make a difference with them. In a way, I need them. I can’t scorn them entirely; I can’t turn away from them. A lot of what I do is for them. This is the beta side of things.
I guess it comes down largely to moderation. Should I endeavor to not need other people, to not accomplish things for anyone else but myself? If someone is dull and uninterested in the more complicated aspects of life, or if they don’t appreciate me, should I scorn that person? Should I disdain them? That wouldn’t feel right. Maybe I shouldn’t go as far as scorn, but maybe a little further than I do.
And as far as lightening up, I don’t know. I don’t see that changing. I don’t fuck around. Deal with it.
But love me!