“I didn’t mean to leave you hanging on
I didn’t mean to leave you all alone
I didn’t know what to say,
I didn’t know what to say.

Merry Christmas, baby.”

Jimmy Eat World, Clarity

There’s this one shade of winter sky that is my absolute my favorite. It is the lightest kind of dark, it looks grey tinted with green and brown and nothing, with the smallest specks of stars dotted here and there and everywhere, and it’s the shade you get when the snow is thick and quiet, when the world is so covered in white the sky can’t bear to be too dark. Really, it’s science, something about water and light and reflection and living by a lake, but to me, it’s poetry.

This song is that sky. That sky is my heart — tonight, and most nights.

On this day, simply because I believe in honorary things, I listen to this song over and over again. It is like rereading a book I haven’t picked up in years, every word a memory. Is there a more memorable four-line song in the past decade and a half? Holiday themes aside, the bittersweet longing that pours through this is palpable, and uplifting. I cannot name all the sounds here, both pedal and computer generated, but they resonate so brightly, so purely. They encapsulate the timeless sound “Clarity” is so known and celebrated for.

This song is quiet night drives on poorly plowed and briefly traveled roads, cutting across fresh blankets of powder. This song is headphones against pillows in the middle of the night. This song is the earliest memories of love in a heart still full and optimistic, to the latest pronouncements of pet names and regrets.

Given this title and the song’s relevance in being better than most every song ever, December 23 is sort of a de facto Jimmy Eat World Day. I spent the day listening to “Clarity,” “Static Prevails,” half of “Invented,” and all the B-sides I can find. It is a good way to indulge myself to hang onto all these favorites, to lapse in the layers. It is so good to rediscover old favorites and adopt new ones. Like remembering how much I love “Episode IV,” and how I have yet another example to point to when I argue that sleigh bells are the best kind of auxiliary for mid-tempo tracks, like those hidden on this “Chase This Light” bonus track, which is wintry in its own right and reference. .

Twice today, two of my bosses asked me why I have been so quiet this week, and I struggled to explain. “You must be really engaged,” one said to me today. “Not necessarily the word I’d use,” I said, “Just trying to focus.” Because try is all I can do when all my head wants is to head somewhere in the clouds, somewhere far removed from my heart and my blood and my body, somewhere with notes and words and the kind of pretty-sad thoughts that make sense to my mind right now. For this reason I could never, never get used to living without music, because it is how I can feed that need while (hopefully) leaving enough brain power to get through the day as the functioning, capable, even successful and determined, version of myself I am apt to be.  Even my attachment to writing and words is flighty compared to the way I need to hear, need to listen to the works and creations of others when I must come back down to earth. Because words fail me often. Songs never do. At least, those of others.

The artists who’ve meant the most to me in this way are probably no more or less human than I am. They are probably no more or less emotionally strong, weak, troubled or triumphant than I am. They almost certainly, musically and artistically speaking, possess more talent than I. Perhaps that is what inspires me, what drives me to be better. Because who, or what, is to say that my own innate abilities couldn’t produce something sufficient enough to satiate my own craving for notes and words and pretty-sad thoughts, let alone, god willing, those of someone else? Excuses are easy to find – initiative, ambition, follow-through, these are the markers of the successful creator, not the mulling and wishing and wallowing and waiting. Perhaps this sense of creative motivation is a philosophy to capture at the end of this year and carry into the new one. I think it is, anyway. It seems worth trusting. What’s the worst that could happen?  Besides, if you can’t trust yourself, why should anyone bother trusting you?

“let me have the keys and you can take a rest
from the lightless main street until the next
who knows what there was to see before the light turned green
there’s so much hell to live

the static or the science; don’t know which is worse
the dial isn’t broken; that’s the way it works

to the new professionals irregular is normal
it’s all in how you pray
not what needs to change

don’t get comfortable
don’t be sensible
swing with all you have
stop me if you can

imagine we had canvas with the midnight cold
dig our fingers in and then we’d watch the snow
maybe i need stronger meds
don’t let those feelings in
i can’t get closer now

matters straight across and just for me to use
but there’s always another choice; another way through
the notes in progress float along over your candle song
the game is how you play
not who wears a ring

don’t get comfortable
don’t be sensible
swing with all you have
stop me if you can

i’m on the losing side
not every time
i’m gonna lose this love of mine

here are the words defined
not one is mine
why are we still so afraid
the things we do deserve their rightful names

don’t get comfortable
don’t be sensible

swing with all you have
stop me if you can

~Be Sensible
Jimmy Eat World, Chase this Light