“i’m going on a long journey never to return” – t bone burnett (2006)


Change can be very stressful for most people.  Especially as we get older.  And I know I’m no exception.  Routines get established.  Responsibilities grow bigger.  Commitments accumulate.  All of those things require time, patience, money, and other finite resources to manage.  So, we rely heavily on things not changing.  So much so that we spend so much time stressing how much we don’t want things to change.  After all, you’ve spent all this time putting your life together so why should you have to do it all over again?

I don’t remember being so bothered by change when I was younger.  I’m sure the concept in general stressed me out at times.  Now, it is different kinds of change that bother me.  And for the most part, I handle things well.  That comes from experience and learning from all the times life has kicked you in the balls.  Handling those things doesn’t come from life quitting kicking you in the balls, but more so learning when to anticipate life is getting their cleats on.

Change can stress me out, but I also think I’ve improved on handling it when it happens.  And it’s a struggle to get to that point.  There’s a journey involved.  I don’t believe anyone who claim they don’t worry about change.  That person either is a liar and has absolutely no responsibilities.

The biggest aspect of this improvement comes from just accepting things as they are.  To not worry and to accept the things I cannot control.  That is one of the tenets of many groups and organizations ranging from Alcoholics Anonymous to Buddhism.  Now, I’m not one to give into any fad that involves the power of positive thinking or quick and easy ways to finding happiness, but there’s something to be said about accepting the things you cannot control.  If a particular philosophy spans across various, there’s got to be some truth in it? Right?

The biggest factor in what has made it hard for me to accept change is my refusal to let things go.  I’ve always had a problem dwelling on the past.  By doing so, I would replay scenes in my head until the original context warped and shifted to become far more sinister; a nasty thing that does nothing but hurt me.  And to some degree, we all do that.  Some just more than others.  However, I’ve gotten a lot better about leaving the ghosts of the past alone and when they start creeping up, to defuse the situation.  To look around me, take into account how good my life actually is, and move on.  It is a grounding exercise that works if you practice.

T Bone Burnett has become one of my favorite album producers.  Seriously.  Check out his resume and you will be impressed by not only the quantity of albums producers, but the caliber of artists he has worked with.  And not only is he a great producer, but he is also a great singer and songwriter.  Unbeknownst to me, I had heard his work before.  As a big Bob Dylan fan, Burnett was involved with his legendary Rolling Thunder Revue during the mid-70s.  I just never became fully aware of him until my college radio days.   I had heard his cover of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” on Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour and found a copy of his 2006 album The True False Identity (an album I eventually stole from the station because no one played him).

This album is composed of two parts.  The first half consist of folk rock songs packaged under the theme “Art of The State” with the second half containing more spoken word poetry songs grouped together as “Poems of The Evening.”  Closing out the “Art of The State” collection is a one of my favorite tracks from the album entitled “I’m Going on A Long Journey Never to Return.”

It is a dark song that is jovial at times.  Burnett is struggling to move one from someone; possibly an old flame.  But, there is darkness and death around.  Moment by moment, it is getting darker and darker and Burnett laments that he can feel the cold breath of this object of his desire and pain.

In this relationship, Burnett and his partner have been going back and forth.  Often with missed opportunities that lead to hurt and all he wants to do is just move on.  He claims he’s been getting over them since the day they met, but they still both live in anger and shame.  Blame is everywhere.  Still, despite the frustration and anger, Burnett realizes that this person is irreplaceable and he is ultimately grateful for his experience with them.

In the song, Burnett is struggling to get away from the past.  There’s a lot of hurt back there, but also moments of truth and learning.  To walk away from an experience and not a learn a thing breeds ignorance.  And while that newly acquired thought or philosophy may bring some amount of darkness, it is essential to move on and to not let those past mistakes repeat themselves.

Don’t look back.  There is nothing back there for you.  Only the ghosts that want to hold you back live back there.  They may have gotten you to where you are now, but it doesn’t mean they control your life.  Look forward and venture on that long journey to never return again.

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