I talk about my musician friends a lot. They’ve all got great stories.
One friend was 14 when he came home from school and discovered a used guitar on his bed. His mom got it for $100 at a garage sale.
He started picking it up, just because he liked it. At a friend’s house he found a chart of guitar chords. He stayed upstairs practicing with the chart into the night.
He started to learn songs by his favorite bands.
It just came easier than piano lessons, his first music experience. Guitar was a way to show off. It was portable.
He played in bands in high school and college. He’d take the guitar wherever he went, throughout his early 20s.
Now something else he loved was booze. Music and booze became like a married couple in his life. The sacred and the profane, the saint and the sinner, good and evil. He loved them both.
He moved to New York, and the drinking was always there, to give him courage to keep going.
He joined bands, got kicked out of bands, quit bands. No matter what he played his own music the whole way.
And he got somewhere. His name gained some publicity. He kept writing songs. He played some good venues.
Eventually it was time to make a record. He found the musicians, paid for it himself.
It took so much longer than he thought, months of ups and downs.
The day finally came when a giant cardboard box arrived with hundreds of copies of his debut CD.
The awful thing is he already knew: the songs didn’t sound that good, and they probably weren’t that good. Not like his heart wanted.
It was mysterious and terrible, as if working on music made it slip further from him.
He drank to feel better.
He was alone more.
He played a few shows, promoted the music. But something had died inside of him.
The CD was like a mirror leaving nowhere to hide. He just...hated the music.
Eventually a friend asked him about his drinking. That question hit hard, out of nowhere.
And he got help. He stopped actually. He made some new friends.
He knelt by his bed, asked for inspiration. He picked up his guitar. But the music didn’t come back. Nothing good. He didn’t finish new songs.
Apparently this was music without booze.
“Booze was like my stage mother,” he would say. “Booze pushed me back on stage, again and again.”
It was frightening to work at something so beloved and end up this way.
He moved back to his hometown, to help his mother. She died, he was in the room for it.
He still had the guitar from the garage sale, even though he’d bought nicer ones.
Year after year, he’d look up on January 1. He hadn’t finished any songs.
What does it mean when something keeps returning? Something so ugly, that makes no sense.
My friend found himself in a 12-step group, much like ones he’d attended for years. Nothing special.
Except that this group had members who met separately. They formed a small action group.
They set goals. They had weekly phone calls, to update each other.
And they invited him.
Something made sense with that.
There was a surrender inside of him.
For weeks, 36 weeks, he shared goals of spending time daily with music.
There were many weeks when nothing happened. He told the group about it openly.
Eventually he added another goal: going to open mic night, where anyone could get on stage.
“All the amateurs,” he thought.
But he went. He played a couple new songs. It was hard, and humbling. He didn’t play well.
Again, he told his action group about it.
Open mic was again the next Saturday. And the next.
He kept going and shared with the group.
So, what about this miracle?
It was subtle.
Old song ideas came back, like boats over the horizon.
He found old recordings on his computer, ten years old, fragments of songs. They sounded different, though. They sounded promising.
They were like homeless children, taking shelter in this new routine.
Open mic wasn’t just an outlet.
It was people, regulars who also encouraged him.
Deeper down, it was part of a circuit.
- have ideas - practice them - perform them - share about it -
Again and again.
Miracles are the unexplainable.
And then we experience a little grace, even just a thimble. And then something new happens.
Hang on for your miracle.
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