I think we all sing the blues – we just don’t want to make them our life’s songs. When I think of the blues I think of life’s dramas, not big dramas. The blues don’t deal with world problems – they deal with the problems associated with living in the world – and the daily challenges and frustrations one endures. To me the blues are about a weariness from fighting the odds that, can at times, seem so stacked against us.
The blues remind me of someone who struggles not to get to the finish line, but who is having difficulty getting to the starting line. They are about hopeless desperation, loneliness and the unfairness of life. Just lots of everyday stuff kind of going wrong, piling up in our minds, such that a sense of hopelessness and futility fill our thinking.
I compare the blues to country and western music – both deal with today and mostly what’s going wrong with today. I mean if all you listened to was country and western you’d think a cowboy’s life was all about pickup trucks, horses and women. And something going wrong with each of them. And then feeling down and getting lower.
And yet, in both country and western and the blues there’s more to it than what’s being sung. There seems to be a quality of loneliness, or the quiet desperation of just having had enough of it all, at least for the day. An American singer and guitarist specializing in interpretations of early 20th century music named Leon Redbone said. “The blues ain’t nothing but a good man feelin’ bad.”
There’s a song that goes:
Sweet misery – he loves your company
He’s in a crowd when he is all alone
He doesn’t care – follow you anywhere
He is most happy when he makes you moan
Ever feel like sweet misery has taken up lodging in your life? You know – those times when your best friend is depression and your thoughts get caught up in a downward spiral? Depression is a collection of misery thoughts that get you low, and then lower. Misery has an energy in it just like joy has an energy in it. And when you’re deep in one or the other, the other seems miles away.
Perhaps sometimes we have a need to rest in misery for a while, but I would not recommend building our condo there. When we’re singing the blues, there comes a time when we must change our tune. Duke Ellington said, “I merely took the energy that it takes to pout and wrote some blues.”
If you’re singing the blues, change the direction of your energy. Here’s how:
Ten rules for getting rid of the blues – go out and do something for someone else, then repeat it nine times