The sun hasn't emerged in days. Let me blame my bad mood on that. It's the easiest target. As a writer, I know I should delve deeper, it's never just about the rain, but today I will try to let it be, just for the day. I will put my energies toward focusing on others. It is easier that way.
In line for coffee at Red Horse, where I've come to attempt to get organized, side by side with others who use the mellow cafe as their office, it is easy to put on the good face. The barista, a fellow writer, trying, always trying, working many jobs to support her habit, asked me the usual question: "How are you?"
I laughed and put on a big, big smile. "I'm amazing, of course, as always," I said.
"Great," she said, willing, wanting to buy it, to believe.
I laughed. "Wouldn't that be awesome?" I said. "Do you think there are people who are actually always feeling terrific?"
She shrugged. "Maybe. I worked with a guy who always answered that he was great..."
Another patron piped up. "I think there are people like that, I've met them, they are just sunny all the time."
"Come on," I said, "Do you think that's really possible? Don't you think they're just pretending, putting on the good face?"
My barista friend agreed. She is a writer after all. "Don't you think they are maybe just in deep denial?"
The woman shook her head. "No, I think they are really just good all the time, or maybe...90% of the time?"
I laughed. "As a journalist, I am very skeptical of statistics, especially ones like that, that you just made up. How do you have any idea what these people think?"
"Look," she said, hands up, defending herself from my badgering. "I'm not saying I can identify. These people are not my friends...They couldn't be." She shook her head vehemently. "No, no, I couldn't relate."
I laughed then, hard, pulled, as usual, out of my blame-it-on-the-rain funk just because people are so, so funny in the ways they think. I gave her a big gold star.
I feel bad sometimes pressing people to be skeptical. It would be nice to believe life is easier for some people, that they don't feel the bumps in the road as hard as others. I think, maybe, that is true. Sometimes, if you keep busy enough, distracted enough, sometimes the bumps are easier to gloss over.
Choosing to focus on artistic pursuits, however, pretty much guarantee that the bumps will take center stage. They have to. You have to look at them, try to capture them in order to offer up relatable moments for audiences who will turn to your song, your story, your paintings in the moments they cannot but feel the roughness of the road.
The barista offered up her own personal coping mechanism. "I used to date musicians," she said, "but..." she shook her head.
I laughed. "But...you gave them up for lent?"
She shook her head. "No, survival. If I see a cute guy with a guitar, I just try to run."
I laughed and gave her a gold star, a big one. "It's hard because musicians tend to pour themselves into their music, that's why they play..."
Funny, I had just given a gold star to a musician yesterday, a friend I interviewed about why he had begun playing music as a child in Israel, why he had come to the U.S. to try to make it here, why he was now, more often, back in Israel. He had, in fact, taken up singing and songwriting and playing piano and guitar as solace, a place to put all his childhood angst. He has worked hard since he was 8 to try to actually get paid for performing, but the road is a really hard one, try as he might. Band members have come and gone.
"It's like a marriage," he said. "It's all about ego and expectation..."
I laughed. He's not married, but he is a musician, one who creates excellent ballads. He gets it. He deserved his gold star, as does everybody who just tries, tries and tries again to put "it," whatever "it" is, maybe the rain, maybe something more real, in a place.