Changes – Joy Oladokun

Rusty from birth to grade school, then high school, on the beach as an adult. Working at the college and today
The Changes of Rusty

(Listening to this song while you read this, is strongly encouraged)

There is an exquisite design to our universe and every day that I pay attention, I find evidence of that. Some call that God, and that’s cool, but it might be more complicated than that. I have found anchors of hope in my wanderings, these anchors show me the signs of perfection in that design. They have come from many places and experiences. One of my most recent examples is Joy Oladokun. Artists like Joy are no accident, artists like Joy define a generation and I am better because I found their music.

There is no “secret” to life, no magic formula, you just live it. The blueprint we boomers gave you is not the answer… go to college, get married, get a job, have kids, retire, and die. There is little fulfillment in this blueprint, and it never accounts for changes. The changes we encounter make us who we are supposed to be.

Life has taken me where it wanted to take me, and I have adapted. It took me forever to understand what made me thrive, and even longer to do it. Joy Oladokun figured that out much earlier than I did, and I am so grateful to have their music in my life. I found it just when I needed it.

I hate change, but I’ve come of age
Think I’m finally finding my way
Danced with chaos at every occasion
looks me up every day
Even when I’m tired and low there is gold in this
River that is carrying me home

I hate change, yet my life has been nothing but change. It started with the chaotic swirl my dad followed in his quest to be a cowboy. We lived in twenty-nine places before I was sixteen and I never learned how to get comfortable. I learned that I am never going to have friends. I have always danced out on the edge… but I have always caught the wave. I learned to lean into the changes, it took me a while, but I learned. I have always survived changes, and I have never stayed the same.

I recently spent a weekend with some of my family, some whom I haven’t seen in three or four decades. They have known me for most of my life and they carry pieces of me, and I carry pieces of them. I love all my weird and intricate family so much.

We gathered to say farewell to my Aunt Donna…

Going home can be a beautiful thing, it can heal in a way I had forgotten. It was wonderous to see the cousins that held me when I was a lost single dad trying to figure out how to get from today to tomorrow. If not for them, my kids and I would not have survived. It was magical to talk about the days when we were young and scared. We had no idea where we were headed, we had no idea at all. We were just living… There was the deepest despair and agony, but there were also great joys, and it was always changing.

This song and my visit with people I love reminded me of how much I have learned from change. Life is dangerous but it is so worthwhile. I am watching closely now, to see what changes the universe will bring next. One of them is learning how to grow old, I won’t stay the same.

I know there will be new things that will make me cry and there will be new things to make me laugh. And it will make me different. I will find gold… I will find hope… I will find joy.

Newspaper says the world’s on fire
People yelling and the water’s rising
It’s easy to feel kinda anxious
Yeah, we’ve thought it was the end of time
We’re still holding on and we’re still trying
Life’s always been a little dangеrous
But I don’t wanna stay the same, so

I’m tryna keep up with the changеs
I’m tryna keep up with the changes

Everything is always in motion; everything is always changing.

I saw my two brilliant kids and marveled at how much they have changed. They have both become caring and powerful adults. It makes my heart glad to see my little girl grow up to be such a beautiful bad ass woman. She has followed no one’s path and she has been shaped by that. It is her time to thrive.

Seeing my son is like looking into a mirror. His pain and his pride are all so deeply ingrained in my memory. I lived the loneliness he feels, and I know the despair. Life can be very cruel; it can etch the heart right out of your soul. He is dancing through the chaos and trying so hard to hold on.

They have both fought their way to this day and they will fight their way to tomorrow. I tried to teach them that success is not a title or a big bank account… Success is finding joy, and reaching for every piece of hope you can find.

We are all just trying to keep up with the changes.

was a baby during the L.A. riots
And I’ve seen cities burn again
Cried for the innocent a thousand times
And people still don’t understand
What it like to hope again and again knowing
That heartache’s gonna be there ’til the end

I was not a baby during the LA Riots, I was thirty-one and a ditch rider in eastern Washington. I listened to Rush Limbaugh, home schooled my kids and went to church three or four days a week. I didn’t just dabble in the things that shackled my parents; I did a back flip into them. I alienated everyone with my fiery proclamations of Christs return and how they would atone for their wicked ways.

I tried extremely hard to keep change from affecting my kids. I never let them think. I was strict and unyielding. Most of the voices around me were the ones I chose, they sounded just like me. There was one quiet voice that laughed at me and spoke the truth into my delusional soul. Jeff was a coworker, and he taught me how to back up a dump truck with a trailer attached. He also taught me how to see…

Jeff was somewhere around my age and rode a ditch south of mine. In the winter when the water was not running, we were part of the maintenance crew and we helped prepare the canal system to carry water next season. Jeff and I liked to work, so we got paired together a lot. We were not the ones who needed twenty minutes to get ready for our fifteen-minute break, nor did we leave the job site two hours early, driving four miles an hour to get back into the yard right at quitting time. No, Jeff and I liked to work, and we liked to talk. He disagreed with everything I held dear, and I disagreed with all his liberal ideas. But we liked each other. There are a few times in your life when another being gives you a little piece of themselves that you find later, and it changes you. As I began to unravel my privilege and see the world like it is, there are many times that I heard Jeff chuckle and say, “Russ, it is good to care.”

Jeff saw the world in a light that was leaning into change.

I haven’t talked to Jeff for thirty years, but his quiet grace helped me understand the world around me and know that it is so good to care.

I’m tryna keep up with the changes.

I’ve had a few careers since those conversations with Jeff and countless dances with chaos. I leaned into change, hard…

I rushed into it, and I found hope. I learned that chaos was my dance, and it showed me what life could be. I spent twenty years managing technology in education and I worked hard to kick down the barriers that kept me from my chance at college. I embraced change so desperately that I failed to see that I was leaving my family behind. I never gave my kids any idea of how life really works, I was too busy trying to change the world… That is my worst failing.

I wanted to be a better father than my dad, but my dad was fine. He knew what made him thrive, he was a cowboy, and a good one.

I have found joy and had a rich life by being swept into change, but I still don’t like change.

I feel like I am finally finding my way…. and I won’t stay the same…

Newspaper says the world’s on fire
People yelling and the water’s rising
easy to feel kinda anxious
Yeah, we’ve thought it was the end of time
We’re still holding on and we’re still trying
Life’s always been a little dangerous
But I don’t wanna stay the same, so

I’m tryna keep up with the changes
I’m tryna keep up with the changes

People are yelling about the end. And the world is certainly on fire, I worry for my grandkids.

Our home, planet Earth, is giving us every indication that we need to change, but I am not sure we will. I do not know what my grandkids will find when they are my age. I believe we could change, but I am dubious about our will. I worked for years to sway even the mildest ideas of thinking, like, everyone should be able to use technology, not just the abled.

I have no idea how writing about all of this could change anything but what could it hurt…

I do feel anxious, and I know it’s dangerous.

I don’t want to stay the same, so, I am leaning into the changes. I am looking for the next wave I can ride, hoping not to get washed ashore…. I will keep dancing with chaos. I want to see where it spits me out….

If you haven’t wandered through the catalog of Joy Oladokun, then you need to. Joy is a once in a generation songwriter, singer, and precious soul. In every song, there is magic, I mean every song. I wrote about Sweet Symphony last September, and here I am again. Joy’s voice reaches into you and makes you feel something. Their lyrics will wrap you up, right where you are, and fill you with love and hope. Joy is so amazingly good… I plan on being in their audience as soon as possible, I want to feel that magic in person and let it wash over me, getting me ready for whatever change is next…

On April 28th,Proof of Life” will fly into the universe.  “Changes”, is a single from that album and “Sweet Surrender” is another. You need to check it out, I have no doubt it will be full of magic and beauty.

I am forever grateful to you, Joy. Thank you for having the courage to be authentic and give the universe your music.

This old man is better because of you…

I found healing in these last little bits of time and I’m sure my Aunt Donna is smiling. She loved very well, and everyone she met felt like they had been seen. I am blessed to have known her. Her passing and the gathering of the family to say farewell ushered in a change, life without Donna.

Donna was a wife, a mom, a grandma, and a great grandmother… she was my aunt, and she was my friend. Everyone who knows her is faced with changing their life to be without her. That is the heart of this song for me. Know the danger of life and its changes but know the joy of riding its wave. Chaos will teach you to thrive and riding the waves of change will carry you somewhere, you just need to be ready…

Will you lean into the changes?

Don’t worry too much about where you are going. We are all headed to the same place, we’re all going to die. We don’t talk about dying much, but it is the only thing to always be true. We all die, and no matter how important we are or how much we feel we deserved better, we will die… Don’t worry so much about where you are going, stop wondering if you are worthy. You are alive and your life is as valid as anyone’s. Put your wet suit on and catch a wave…

Don’t save anything for later…

Make sure you don’t leave the people that matter behind.

Life is dangerous but it is rich, and your life is yours. No matter how many times you have tried to hope and failed, lean into the changes, and never stay the same.

Learning, listening, and growing…

The Band Plays On – Bob Schneider

“After you fell out your chair

Strawberries in your hair

After you fell off the face of the moon

Well, I thought I’d let you know, just in case you’re listening bro

What happened after you were gone”

In 1981 I lost an extraordinary friend, and his name was Dewayne. Dewayne died of leukemia, and he died with style. He fell out of his chair with strawberries in his hair and was one of the most remarkable human beings I have ever known. This song reminded me of how long it has been since I visited with Dewayne.

The band played on

The band played on

Dewayne came into my life at a time when I was mostly alone and utterly adrift, he made me feel unique and loved. I had never kept friends, but Dewayne and I bonded and there has never been another friendship like this for me. I knew when I met him that he was dying, and he knew that I knew. He showed me what joy looks like. Walking through those days, he knew his fate, but he chose to dance his joy into everyone around him…

So many years have passed since the last time I saw his face or heard his voice. I believe I had forgotten what that face of joy looked like. This song took me back there and I am so grateful. Dewayne accepted who he was and where he was going in the most noble of ways, he lived with nothing to lose and those who knew him were given joy, he was uniquely kind, and I miss him.

Well, you meant the world to me

You were all I’d ever need

My one true love until you were gone

But you left me here to rot

Left me with all that I’m not

But what I found before too long

He threw a party in Seattle just to celebrate my visit, we had such a time. Someone even tried to steal my guitar, but for an impassioned plea from my friend Dewayne… the guitar just reappeared. I really didn’t know how incredible this friendship was at the time, but I really do now. All his cheering gave me hope. He taught me to have wonder in living my life even as he knew his own was ending. I wish I had clung harder to that hope that he had shown me. It has been a long time since I have visited with Dewayne… I didn’t know how much I missed him. I let life walk me away and I fell off the face of the moon.

This is the magic of music. It allows you to go and walk among those memories. It can provide an understanding to a dilemma you have wrestled with for years. Occasionally a song happens that speaks just the right thing and opens a hidden door.

Bob Schneider has proven yet again, that there really is magic… some of us create through music, some of us by serving and yet others by making. The magic lies in the energy we pour into whatever we are creating. Every one of us can create, we choose what or where we pour our energy into, and I truly hope that you find it beautiful…. This is your magic… you should enjoy it.

It is through Bob Schneider’s magic, that I was reminded of the love that friendship brought me. “The Band Plays On” is from his most recent album, “In a Roomful of Blood with a Sleeping Tiger”.  I have listened to Bob Schneider spin his magic for decades, since another one of my friends gave me “Lovely Creatures”.

In a Roomful of Blood with a Sleeping Tiger” is a beautiful piece of magic. “Joey’s Song” is a tender note given to a child, friend or family member; it is simply beautiful. Contrast that with the hilarious romp through a demi-gods life in “Thor” and you will see the energy of Bob Schneider’s magic. This album is a quirky masterpiece that you really need to sit down and listen to, it is truly magical.

Thank you, Mr. Schneider, for taking me down this road, I really like what you do man, Dewayne would have liked you too….

So, what did happen after you were gone bro… 

You were a hero and a friend

The whole world loved you to the end

They put a statue of you down in the square

And when I heard the news, you see

Well, it really got to me

I even learned to play one of your songs

I remember when Dewayne called me towards the end of his life and made me promise that after he left, I would watch out for Candy. I knew she was laying there next to him, and I knew she was crying, just like me. That was the last time I talked to him. Dewayne had decided to be done with any treatments, he just wanted to smoke some pot and enjoy the moments, so he did. He sailed into the next life not long after that call. There are a lot of things in my memory that are fuzzy and flawed, but I will never forget that call from Candy, it was shortly after midnight, and she let me know he was gone… it was quiet for a bit and then I told her I loved her, and I would be there for whatever she needed. She was so strong… she told me she was ok, and she would be good, he has his teddy bear.

The last time I talked to her was at Dewayne’s memorial service and she insisted, I should go my own way and not worry about her, she really didn’t need me to take care of her.

So, I did, and I am so sad… I just let the band play on.

Oh, I hear the bell it tolls

It takes bodies from their souls

It’s tolling now

I hear it on the wind

And it ring’s as if to say

That we only have today

The only day we’ve got until we’re gone

Believe in affecting today, don’t wait for your next chance…please just live… today. Dewayne gave me his best version of how you do that, and it has taken me far too long to figure out just how incredibly he lived. Hopefully, I can utilize the rest of my days to show just how much he gave me, the joy, the laughter, and the willingness to love.

The bell is tolling, this is a time of deciding how we will make every breath count. The bodies all around us are filled with souls who long for a friend., and the band plays on… we live our life.

I have spent so much of my life flailing around but over the last few years I am doing a little less flailing and instead, I’m being deliberate. As I gather myself for this last long walk into wherever we go from here. I know that I have given love, I have found joy and I’ve given it away. This is the only day we’ve got until we are gone.

I could use the rest of my days replaying what I did wrong, or I can choose to use the days of this walk to pour my energy into something I find beautiful. Dewayne was the friend who gave me his gift of belief, belief in who I can be. I loved that he believed in me, even as I type I know I am just beginning to unravel the marvel of the life he lived.

I remember the first time I visited Dewayne in the hospital, his condition, and the smell of the hospital took my breath away. I felt faint and disoriented, I thought I was going to be sick… people came here to die… I had to leave his room and I sat in the hall outside his door, I wondered how much he would hate me for this, my utter weakness to look for one day of what he consumes with every breath. After a bit, I regained some composure and went back into his room. He smiled at me and said, “its alight man, I saw myself in the mirror this morning” and he laughed. Then he lit a joint, took a hit and offered it to me.

We got high in that hospital… we only had today, the only day we got until we are gone. And the band played on….

You meant the world to me man….

The story goes that Candy’s family had walked away from her for marrying someone she knew was going to die. The love I felt from my generous friend, was only eclipsed by Candy’s love for Dewayne. She loved him completely. I wish I knew where you were Candy, I would like to say thank you. Because of you, I know what love is. I saw how you loved my friend Dewayne.

I hope you found love again and you have had a beautiful life.

I only had that day, to say I would still be there, and its gone.

The band plays on

The band plays on

Here I am now, a man, growing old, and my friend Dewayne has pondered the universe from a completely different vantage point for the last forty years. I can’t wait to hear what you have learned bro. I hope I have a few things for you when I get there.

Every single day is a chance to pour your energy into something you love and then, find it beautiful. Every single day is a chance to give someone joy. Our greatest challenge is to make each of those happen more often than we keep them away. Sometimes I forget how incredibly lucky I have been. The things I have seen and the friends I have found have made me so rich. I know that when I am done the band will play on, but hopefully I will have left a bit of my muse in what they sing and play.

Listening, learning, and growing…