Here are the lyrics to Jack Johnson’s song, “Supposed to Be.” Just eighty-three words:
Maybe it’s up with the stars
Maybe it’s under the sea
Maybe it’s not very far
Maybe this is how it’s supposed to be
This is how it’s supposed to be
Maybe it’s trapped in a jar
Something we’ve already seen
Maybe it’s nowhere at all
Maybe this is how it’s supposed to be
This is how it’s supposed to be
Looking forward as we rewind
Looking back is a trap sometimes
Being here is so easy to do
If you want to
It’s a beautiful poem. I can’t judge how it works with the words alone since I only know it in connection with the music and Jack’s soothing voice. The song is just under three minutes. You can listen to the whole thing at his website.
(You don’t have to, of course, any more than you have to keep reading this post. And this is going to be a rambling one. I’ve given myself permission to natter on for a bit.)
The song and the mood it inspired in me just now have helped me to not give up on my dream again. Not today, at least. I’ve been thinking about it. It seems like it’s going to happen any time now. But not today.
I’m just getting over being sick. Pretty sick, for me. Nothing rare or interesting. Just a nasty virus. Over the past several years I had been thinking my secret robot insides were only programmed to emulate minor sickness, so it’s been humbling to know I have the same buggy code as everyone else. Or malicious subroutines. Whatever.
Being sick hasn’t helped my working mindset. The writing kind of working. It’s hard to be ambitious and optimistic. Hard to beat down the pessimism. I can’t hear the quiet voices over the incessant negative chatter. (And I don’t hear them well enough on a good day.) It feels more hopeless than ever. The fear gets louder. This is never going to work, and now look, you’re sick and even less useful at your job. You better shape up and secure your position so you can take care of your family. (The problem with fear is that it is often smart, and right.)
We’re having a funny winter in Minnesota. (Funny ha-ha?) Temperatures have been in the 40s and 50s, further cause for disappointment at being sick. I’ve missed so many good walking days. A couple days ago I finally got the dogs out for a short walk. It felt great. I slowed down and tried for that “being in the moment” thing. No music. Just listening to the sounds of traffic and feeling the mild breeze on my face. So good to be out in the fresh air — as fresh as it can be in a major metropolitan area — and out of the house and all its sickness. (My daughter is finally over weeks of the same thing, and my wife and I got ours at the same time.)
Yesterday I walked again, and it didn’t go so well. I thought about politics, and of a discussion I had read on Facebook about a certain politician. I considered it as a post candidate. Did I want to write about it? Was there something I wanted to say about it? Should I want to write about it? I thought about how annoying this politician’s supporters can be, and how much I wouldn’t want to get into it with them if they should happen to notice what I wrote. Then I wondered if I was being a coward for not saying what I think. But what did I think? Does it even matter? I follow politics as a team sport. I’m pretty much for one “side,” as flawed and wanting as that team is. My information gathering is mostly from other people and websites that are cheering for the same team. What standing do I have to even voice my opinion if it’s little more than repeating what I read? And with all the back and forth and vast quantities of misinformation around, you start getting the idea that no one can really know anything about the truth, anyway. Maybe that’s what politics is for. Hiding the truth. It’s possible writing about politics just isn’t for me. I might care about what happens in this country and the world, but I don’t have to write about it at the level of “political analysis.” That would be okay. But it brought me down, mulling over my hazy knowledge and vague thinking about so many things. Why should anyone care to read anything I write?
Even as I thought all this, I recognized the familiar self-defeating spiel.
Brenda Ueland’s words came to me, about “the truth that is in me.” I wondered if I would find a way to share that truth. First I would need to know it better. I felt Brenda’s support in that, but feared that the truth would be so much smaller and less interesting than I’ve hoped.
And today still a lot of anxiety and stress about what I’m doing and what I might end up doing, or not doing. A sense of things sliding out of control, or maybe even worse, grinding on in a predictable, unchanging way.
But as the workday wrapped up, I felt marginally more free. I could write about something. Whatever — it didn’t matter. Maybe it would help if I scribbled about how crappy I made myself feel on the walk.
I started playing my standard Jack Johnson mix, and “Supposed To Be” came on, and it felt just right. I looked up the lyrics which I hadn’t done up to now. They’re easy enough to decipher, but I wanted to read them. It struck me how few words there were. It’s just this short poem. And I read along with the music and the singing, and what it said the most to me on that listen was that all we have is this moment. Right now. And it might not be so hard to live in that moment, if I want to. I also enjoyed the puzzle of what “it” is. It’s “this.” And I felt better that it might be big or small, trapped in a jar or up in the stars, but whatever it is, “this is how it’s supposed to be.”
And I would just write about that, however I wanted, and go on at length, and not really edit it. I’d give myself permission to write what I wanted to write and not fret so goddamned much about it. I felt happy. I didn’t have to worry about more than the moment. I didn’t have to put so much pressure on myself. It’s only a moment in time.
Talking about Brenda above caused me to look for more of the passage I was thinking of, and it’s fitting. It’s something I’ve already quoted here and I’m not going to be depressed that two years later I’m still learning or re-learning what it means:
But at last I understood from William Blake and Van Gogh and other great men, and from myself–from the truth that is in me (and which I have at last learned to declare and stand up for, as I am trying to persuade you to stand up for your inner truth)–at last I understood that writing was this: an impulse to share with other people a feeling or truth that I myself had. Not to preach to them, but to give it to them if they cared to hear it. If they did not–fine. They did not need to listen. That was all right too. And I would never fall into those extremes (both lies) of saying: “I have nothing to say and am of no importance and have no gift”; or “The public doesn’t want good stuff.”
And that’s what I’ve tried to do here. I hope I’ve shared some truth, no matter how small or how large.