Surrender — it ain’t just a Cheap Trick song

I like my life. I really do. I’ve made out like a bandit: great family, cozy home, made it as a second-string cult artist. I have many friends and know a lot of people who are so cool I can’t believe I’m friends with them, colleagues even. I get to play gigs, I’ve gotten to make records and be a published author. I write for this magazine and host shows on two different radio stations. I even sometimes load the dishwasher.

I’m grateful for my contentment because I spent a whole lot of time in my life being vehemently unhappy. Rather than get into chapter and verse, let me just tell you there would be a list: clinical depression, Tourette’s, gym class abuse, ostracism for being weird (aptly), unrequited puppy love. I could go on and on. My mom was very depressed, very sweet, very nervous, and every so often batshit crazy. Dad was a potted plant who watched television for four or five hours a night after work. I think he was depressed too, but he was so inscrutable that I still don’t know. He was damned grumpy, that I can tell you.

I was pissed off I got born into the “freaks down the street” family; I was pissed off I was born in Kentucky far away from any city lights and rock ‘n’ roll; I was STILL pissed off at the gym jock assholes from 1975, and I was pissed off that all these setbacks in Podunk made me a ludicrous choice for anyone you’d want to hire for an entertainer. Most of all, I was pissed off because I thought I was born too low and freakish to ever raise up to any heights.

So? Tommy? You got a bad hop. Big deal. Get over it.

Okay … I have.

I’ve finally stopped being bitter about (almost) all of that shit. It took the last seven years of my life exhuming it, but in that issue and in many other respects, I have come as close to sane as I’ve ever managed to be, and for this long a period of time, without fucking it up somehow. I strongly feel a correlation exists between that and how it’s not been since July 18th, 2012 that I’ve drank a drop of alcohol. I’m coming up on seven years.

Things don’t upset me much like they used to. Besides rehab, in these seven years I’ve also survived a really cool, mondo, bone-shattering, air-bag-deployed car crash, and a bout with bladder cancer. In these last few years I’ve notice a gradual mellowing in my heart, and my take on things has gone way more towards, ‘what’s there to get het up about?’ I used to get het up about a lot. I burned out some circuits in my brain being so het up for so long (and that’s a problem, I’m stupider now. Not senile by any means, but stupider, yes).

Fear is not as ever-present anymore either. I mean, I’ve had my pelvis shattered and a tube up my Johnson. What are you gonna do to me? Shoot me? Take your best shot. You’ll hit fleshy parts, my friends will do a GoFundMe, I’ll be fine, and your ass’ll be in jail. That’s my attitude a lot of the time anymore. As TS Garp would say, I’m pre-disastered.

The only big thing I still fear a lot is dying poor. That one still gets to me. I’ll be straight with you, I just logged on to my BOA phone app and let’s see here … I have $283.43 in checking, $44.93 in savings, and that’s IT. There is no retirement plan at all. I do have some sort of Fidelity Life pension plan from the 6 years I worked full-time with benefits in Hell. Oh, did I say Hell? I meant at a local, super-pricey, private university whose name shall remain anonymous. How silly of me! I’ve got about seven grand in that kitty which inspires a “whoopety-doo” down in my soul.

And guess what? I’m not alone in that fear. There are people who sing for you and serve your dinner and take your toll money who feel the same way and have less in their accounts than I do. I get it, but I also get (and finally accept) that I’m an artist, mannn. When you commit your life to art, or other pursuits pregnant with risk, you give up the American Dream: the white picket fence and the two-car garage, vacations at Six Flags with the kids, actually HAVING a stock portfolio — you surrender all that.

And you know what? It’s worth it. Gobs of friends you would have never made in any other scene. Moments of ecstasy the more sensible people in the suburbs don’t ever get to have. Yep. Sometimes, you have to surrender, but never — ever — give yourself away.

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