Monday, September 19, 2011

John Mayer's Voice

It's been a while since anyone has heard from John Mayer.

Several of the interviews he gave during his last tour showed a less than favorable side of his unique personality. In fact, I liked him a lot less because of those words even though I could still appreciate the brilliance of his music. Apparently so did a lot of other people, including some current and former band mates. After some public apologies, things calmed down a bit but he wisely let his music do most of the talking, hoping silence would start to repair the damage done.

More recently, I heard he was working on a new album and he always drops off the radar for a while during that process. Up until a few days ago, he had plans for two upcoming concert performances, both of which I was dismayed I wouldn't be able to attend.

When I read the news this morning that he's been diagnosed with a throat condition, it knocked me back a few steps. John Mayer doesn't have the most perfect singing voice in the world, but no one else sounds like him. Imagining the thought, even for a second, that his voice would be silenced was unbearable.

Then I heard this song on the car radio during my drive to work, and the floodgates opened and tears steamed down my face.

You see, John Mayer is not just another musician to me. He's been a huge part of my life for the past 10 years, ever since Room For Squares came on my radar. Since my first show at The Gorge in 2002, I've seen John in concert 25 times. I've cruised the Caribbean and Pacific Oceans with him. I followed him around the entire state of California for two weeks in 2006. I have three scrapbooks full of concert tickets, print interviews, photos and memories.

I became a huge fan because of that voice, and especially because of the lyrics he sang. He was the first songwriter that spoke to me as if he knew my life, understood my joy and pain, and knew my every desire ("I'll never let your head hit the bed without my hand behind it..."). And he put them all in words and set them to beautiful music.

As I was trying to find a Kleenex and not wreck the car, another thought struck me that gave me hope. Music can speak volumes without words. John already knows that.

As long as John Mayer has his mind and his heart, he'll always have a voice. And I'll always be listening to what he has to say. In the meantime, I'll be waiting patiently to hear him sing again.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Have you ever caught yourself thinking, "If I could just get some peace and quiet I'd be able to focus?"

Silence is a tough thing to find these days. Noise is everywhere around us, from the blips and beeps of our computers and smartphones notifying us of comments, updates, requests and pokes to the subtle electrical hum of refrigerators, TV's and all other other machines that make our lives comfortable. Even when we get away from the man made  "noise" and "back to nature," the quiet is punctuated by the sounds of nearby living creatures, water lapping against a shoreline or the wind in the trees. It's nearly impossible to escape all sound in our physical environment.

But all these atmospheric distractions are a drop in the bucket compared to the sounds in our heads. Our internal "noise" is what really keeps us from thinking straight. Self-doubt, fear, anxiety, competing priorities, overburdened schedules, and too many demands from too many directions all chatter away in our consciousness, at times making it impossible to "hear" the positive thoughts that help us stay focused on good things.

Midnight, lock all the doors
And turn out the lights
Feels like the end of the world
This Sunday night

There's not a sound
Outside the snow's comin' down
Somehow I can't seem to find
The quiet inside my mind

"Quiet" - John Mayer

We often forget we have the ability to control the noise. Just like we can turn off the computers and cell phones and remove other physical distractions, we can remove the clutter in our heads as well. The key is taking time to listen to our inner voices and reflect on what they're telling us. Reflection is what helps us get past the noise and open up our minds to a whole host of better options for positive action.

The more thinking I've been doing lately, the more aware I am that I'm not great at reflecting. The first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one, so I'm off to a great start. Now to work on fixing it. Here are some things I'm going to try to get better at reflecting and controlling my inner "noise.'

1) Set aside time for reflection. Sunday will be my day, and I'm going to shoot for an hour to start. If it takes me more or less time than that, I'll learn as I go.

2) Remove as many physical distractions as you can. For me, the iPhone and laptops are the big ones. So if you're calling on a Sunday and I don't answer, I'm probably reflecting.

3) Take inventory of the thoughts in your head. Taking notes is helpful. A good old fashioned pen and paper will do just fine. Make a list of what you're thinking currently, what has happened in the previous week and even what you're thinking about the upcoming week.

4) Look for patterns in your thoughts. Are most of the things you're struggling with work-related? Or is it a person or relationship that's occupying your mental space? Once you identify the drivers of the noise in you head, you can figure out how to address them.

5) Acknowledge your thoughts. After you've sorted through everything in your mental inventory, write down at least one positive and one opportunity you discovered during your reflection. This gives you a place to not only start quieting the noise, but acting on the root causes of why it's in your head in the  first place.

How do you spend time reflecting?