Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Endless Summer Vacation

I was 14 years old in 1984. I was in 8th grade at Holy Family Catholic School in South St. Louis. I loved music with a passion. I listened to anything and everything. I especially loved music that had a lot of energy. Music that made me feel alive and excited. Music that was emotional and sometimes sad. I was falling in love with every girl in my class and of course I was crazy for Molly Ringwald. There were so many albums that played a huge role in this time period in my life: Michael Jackson/Thriller (actually 83), Bruce Springsteen/Born in the USA, Madonna/Like a Virgin, Van Halen/1984, but most of all was Prince "Purple Rain". I LOVED that movie and listened to that album over and over and over and over. I know every scream, every inflection, every note, every beat. It's one of my all time favorite albums and especially important for me at the age of 14. It had great songs, amazing singing, incredible guitar playing, imagery, it was sexual, passionate, profound, and full of angst and emotion. Everything that was running through my veins as a hormonal teenage boy. It summed up my life in 8th grade. I wanted to be Prince, sing like him, play like him, dance like him. 

    I don't always listen to Purple Rain anymore. Maybe once a year I go down memory lane and listen to the album for nostalgia. I still enjoy all of the music, but it also reminds of this time in my life. It wasn't a "bad" time, it was a great time. But a time that was emotional. I was insecure, sensitive, and vulnerable. It brings me back to feelings that were not so pleasant then and maybe they're still not now. One thing is certain, that album defines a very particular time I my life. When I hear "When Doves Cry" or "Purple Rain" on the radio, it immediately brings me back to 1984. The summer before high school. I had so many dreams and things I was going to do with my life, but I really had no idea how to go about doing them. We were pretty poor and their certainly wasn't means to support my grandiose ideas. I was frustrated and self centered.....the life of a teenager. 

    When I got older I began listening to music with a purpose. I was learning to play the guitar for real and I needed to go to school. I needed to hear certain players and albums and learn styles and techniques. I fell in love with music from a different view, a musicians view. I found music that embodied my emotions in a different way. Lyrics were less important than the bend of a guitar string or the harmonic of a speaker beginning to distort. I listened to music that no one else my age was listening to or interested in. I am not saying this music wasn't emotional, the emotions were just coming from a different place. It fed my obsessive brain well. I could focus my energies on very specific nuances, rather than on love and sex. There's nothing sexier than Wes Montgomery playing guitar, but maybe that doesn't translate to every woman. I was self sufficient and kept my emotions to myself. They were not big and loud, they were contained and controlled for a while. 

    I tell you all of this because I didn't believe it would ever be possible again to have the experience of Purple Rain. I had told myself that was a time in life that you don't get twice. The coming of age. There were times when something got close - like "Room for Squares" by John Mayer. That was out when I began dating Laura and we were falling in love. We listened to that album a lot together and it always brings back sweet memories, but again I don't think I was truly "feeling" like I was when I was 14. I was jaded and older and did drugs and drank and the innocence was not there. 

    It was not until this past summer, the summer of 2023, that I had a full on emotional experience like no other in my life. I lost my wife of 20 years to pancreatic cancer. And she didn't just die this past July, she began dying the summer before in 2022 when she was diagnosed. With 9-12 months to live tops, that perspective will change your life forever. I walked around in a daze, a fog of hurt and pain and selfishness. She could no longer do anything other than try to stay alive as long as possible. It was the most painful year of my life, a true horror show. When she passed on July 31st of this year I was numb. I was tragically sad and gratefully relieved it was over. I was raw and open and strangely aware. I saw a video clip on Instagram by Miley Cyrus about a week after the funeral when I was getting home from Disney with the kids. She was standing in front of the camera singing teary eyed. The song was "Used to be young".
I immediately went to youtube to see the entire video, it was captivating. She was vulnerable and emotional and the song was melodic and full of honesty. As she cried during the video, I began crying. I just started crying. It all came rushing out and I got this feeling, the feeling that music was made for you. She was singing about getting older and sober and not being the same person anymore. It just hit me.
I downloaded the album immediately - "Endless Summer Vacation". 
I went for a long walk that night and listened to the entire album. It's not the kind of music I listen to much anymore, it's popular. It's very pop/rock but not perfect. It's edgy and honest and the lyrics are personal. I walked or ran everyday after Laura died and I have listened to this album everyday for 3 months now. I can't stop listening to it. It brings out all of the emotions I am dealing with and keeps them in front of me. I work through them rather than hide them. I believe thats what music does, especially for most people who don't play music. I have given myself permission to listen to music that has nothing to do with me playing music, it's just for me to listen to. Although it is having a profound effect on how I approach playing music. I am playing from the heart more and thinking less. Thats what I am always trying to do, but having had a very strong emotional experience with the loss of my wife, I could either bottle that up and put it away or let it all out and release. I am choosing to release and I believe it's because of this mindset I have been in the past 3 months listening to this album. 

    Maybe it's the music, or more likely it's me. I was ready for something, open to it, and music is energy and that energy found it's way to me. What I do that 25 years from now "Endless Summer Vacation" by Miley Cyrus will define the hardest summer of my life. It will define the moment I made a choice to not live in my head, but live in my heart. I became fully aware and open. When I hear those songs years from now I will think back to these defining months in my life just like I do when I hear Purple Rain. Who would've ever thought. That is the power of music.

    I have SO many things to be thankful for today. My life is magic, it's going crazy with nothing but positive. I am so happy and silly. I miss Laura everyday, but it's ok. She's with me every step of the way. I feel her guiding me, she's showing me where to go and it's all incredible. I never knew you could be so happy and grieving at the same time. I think you have to have the heart for it. I am living each day for Laura, full of love and hope. When I got clean and sober I began making amends. There were some people that were no longer alive or available for me to make amends to, so I made a "living amends". I made sure to give back, be a decent member of society. I was generous with those around me and truly tried to be helpful. Those are things I continue to do today to offer a living amends. 

Today, I will love for Laura. I will give love and receive love in her honor. Thats what she would want. I am open to all things and all possibilities and by choosing to live this way today, my life is amazing.

Side note: I just finished recording my new album
 “Life is hard” at Sunset Sound with Joe and Josh. It’s the same studio that Miley recorded “Endless Summer Vacation”.

Peace, Love, Zito