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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Sleepwalker's Bed: First Song

I tell people that "Numbness" was my first song.

Really it wasn't my first song. This was my first song. I wrote it at church camp when I was 12.

All I Want by Jana Fisher

I met a songwriter once who talked about grabbing songs out of the air. "All I Want" felt like it had always been a part of me.

For the next two years, I tried to recapture that moment by writing endless lyric poems on college rule notebook paper. It was never quite as magical. But at some point in that dry period I wrote lyrics I entitled "Numbness."

(I left out the part where I decided to be homeschooled for 8th grade. I got a lot of practicing and writing in — I even wrote a novel! — but my social skills atrophied. I went back to school for 9th grade but I was exceedingly awkward and quiet.)

Then one day my friend Lindsy wanted to go to youth group early to talked to the minister about getting baptized. Not knowing how to talk to strangers, I communed with the piano in the lobby. And I came up with this.

You'll wake up one day
To find yourself alone

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Sleepwalker's Bed: Quid es veritas?

I'm mortified by how transparent this song is. I've made honesty in song my motto, but sometimes it's too much.

I start this song with the line "I'm happy now," but I was miserable. Everyone knew my personal business and I gave them a song that would generate hundreds of whispers behind my back. In a way it's fitting; the "torture" was speaking up, and I dealt with overexposure by overexposing myself. I took back the power. I suppose I can be proud of that.

But I still don't know if I did the right thing. With so many sides to the story, how could I ever tell "the truth"?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Sleepwalker's Bed: Innocence

As an Evangelical, the virtue I coveted most was Innocence. Innocence wasn't just a characteristic of children and the naive — it was a state to which we aspired, like confidence, or Nirvana. The Innocent had greater faith. Their prayers were answered. They were simpler to love. The Innocent were somehow more complete than the rest of us, their personalities more pure.

Losing your Innocence, particularly as a woman, was a tragedy. To ask questions meant you were cynical. To have experience meant you were broken. Once faith no longer came easy, the only hope you had for living the life God intended for you was to pray earnestly for restoration of a child-like heart.

I wrote "Innocence Lost" while grappling with what it meant to be Innocent. Life happened and I lost my ability to believe without questioning. The community pitied my brokenness, and for a while it was easy to blame myself for becoming less-than instead of removing myself from the people who thought less of me.

Looking back, I think our cult of Innocence stemmed from a fear of the Question.

Paradox was uncomfortable. We protected ourselves from the uncertainty of our doubts by idolizing those who had none. We pitied the doubters so we could forget that we ourselves were just like them.

While worshiping the god of Innocence, I bitterly lamented how experience had made me weak and kept me from being my "truest, purest self." While writing this song, I started to see experience as something that made me stronger and in fact made my life richer.

Our experiences are, in fact, what makes us who we are.

Your love is behind me now
This is what I've bought
A second chance, but with the strength
Of innocence lost