All There Is

Every once in a while something still manages to sweep me away. I see or hear something that strikes a chord in me that feels real. I feel that way when I listen to Karen Carpenter sing. Her voice is perfect and polished and yet there is a painful undertone. It’s a wounded perfection that speaks volumes to those of us who feel it but can’t seem to give it a tangible outlet. Being heard and validated over the radio waves is a very sophisticated form of art. Ears all over the world perk up because she was able to say something we can’t. It feels like looking into a musical mirror and seeing myself–an elusive reflection of validation.

Invalidation. The shame of existence. You have everything you need, what reason could you possibly have for despair? It starts in childhood. They whittle away at the fire inside until it’s nothing but a nostalgic memory. The sandbox was a place we believed we could dig through to the other side of the earth. The pavement was a stage for elaborate theater productions. The trees were enchanting companions with familiar roots and rustling whispers. We played big and had big inspired dreams. Now it’s the strict adherence to a long checklist of stress and strife for a vague, mandatory reward. The joy of the endeavor, just a flat phrase from a self-help book.

One after another everything that once brought joy fades away. The questions of why we’re here and who we are become a desperate, malevolent mystery when once an exhilarating opportunity for play and discovery. What’s left to grapple with but losing loved ones and physical and mental devaluation and depreciation.

They call it depression. Watch out for addiction and disorder. You have to want to get better! You learn to hold it inside because telling anyone means they’ll be looking for an expiration date. They’ll be there for you with a watchful eye waiting for you to say it’s all better. They’ll target you with their religion and advice. It’s a well-intentioned reinforcement of the loneliness of emptiness and shame. There’s no excuse for depression when you have everything they say you need! Deep down inside you know it’ll never really end. There’s no antidote, but there’s music. A momentary escape to a plane of existence where there’s no emptiness because there’s a vibrant, vibratory version of you to fill the airspace.

I’m too fat. I can’t withstand pressure. I’m judgmental. I procrastinate. I waste money. I’m ungrateful. I can’t get along with people. I complain constantly. It’s a never-ending circle of shame, but the songs hold me. If I hear beauty in them, they must be in-sync with something in me. There is still something sweet and beautiful in me. I can’t put it into exact words but thank God for those who compose and bare their musical soul for the rest of us.

Maybe it’s a song or a poem. Maybe it’s a fashion design or a drawing. Whatever you do, if you put yourself in it, others will see you in themselves. Art is the mirror of validation. It allows you to exist despite the shame. It allows you to see yourself and be seen. It’s outside of time and accessible to all, the vehicle of ultimate transcendence. The courage to bare parts of yourself you’re ashamed to indulge in the cage of depression will lead you to the other side of mirror–to yourself.