How Seeing Van Halen Changed My Life (For Now)

I’ve talked about this both on The Monkee Diaries and over on Pop Poppa, but my dad and I went down to Madison Square Garden on March 1st to see Van Halen play. The whole shebang was a birthday present for me that was fantastic and I thank them both for making it happen. I’ve got to say, it was kind of a revelatory experience for several reasons, not the least of which was that we got to see one of the all time greatest guitar players of all time playing better than he has in years. Eddie Van Halen has gone through some well publicized struggles with substance abuse that have turned a legitimate guitar god into a guy who can barely remember songs while playing in front of thousands of people. It seems like he’s gotten  himself cleaned up and genuinely had fun playing music with his brother, son and old pal David Lee Roth.

And that’s kind of what stuck with me after the show–in addition to the fact that he looked good with longer hair and inspired me to keep working with mine instead of chopping it all off–he was having fun. Here was a dude who’s done pretty much everything a rock and roll icon can do and he’s standing on stage in a T-shirt and jeans just killing the audience, annihilating us.

I realized that I want to do that. Not wail on a guitar, though I do enjoy turning my volume way up and banging out some tunes, but not up to his level. I want to enjoy myself through my work. One of the problems with being a freelancer for the same place for an extended period of time is that you can very easily get stuck on autopilot. When I worked at ToyFare and then later did freelance for them, I found myself falling into the same patterns of writing over and over and over again, almost like filling in the parts of an equation. But, that’s not necessary. There’s always more fun and life you can inject into something, whether it’s figuring out a new word for “said” or challenging yourself to find creative ways to stay in the present tense.

I also realized that I have a lot more control over how happy I feel on a daily basis than I was letting myself believe. I think I have a bit of Seasonal Defective Disorder and get down in the dumps during the winter without even realizing it. I think I’m feeling fine, but a few months later when the sun starts shining and the snow melts, you realize that you were not in fact feeling great. The weather has turned pretty nice where I live and it was timed perfectly with the concert. I decided that there were two many things I was letting slide in my normal life. I spent so much time focusing on the baby or work that I wasn’t taking as much care of myself as I should have. Showers would fall to the wayside as would the vitamins I take because I don’t get outside as much as I should. As regular readers here and on my other blogs will note, so would posting, which is something I do quite enjoy. So, I made a daily checklist of tasks I want to tackle and have been sticking to that pretty well. I also set up different household chores to do during each day of the week to help keep the house in better shape. These are little things and I can move them around if need be, but I do very much enjoy crossing things off lists, so this method works for me. Another key is that I don’t beat myself up too bad for not crossing something off. Failing one day isn’t failing life, you know?

But, and this is more directly related back to watching Eddie do what he loves in front of thousands of people, I realized I needed to make my creative endeavors a bigger priority in my life. A lot of that fell to the side with the baby and me being tired after a day of working and babywatching. I’ve refocused myself with much more defined goals. I want to finish the novel I’m working on. I want to edit the screenplays I’ve been sitting on for a year. I want to record at least three songs that I’ve been playing for pretty much myself for years. I want to move on to writing other ideas I’ve had forever. I want to start a podcast. There’s a lot of creative things I want to do just for the sake of being creative and getting ideas out there that I now am a lot more focused on.

And it’s all thanks to a concert. I know it sounds silly, it sounds a little silly to me too. I’ve been to lots of concerts and none of them hit me anywhere near this way. But, I think I was just in the perfect place to learn something from someone who’s lived longer than me and done a lot. So, while I know I’ll never meet Eddie Van Halen or maybe even see him again live in concert, I thank him for being a good example, sticking with what he loved and playing a mean guitar.

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