I know it’s not particularly cool to like John Mayer. He’s a cliche to many people. But whatever you think of him – his offensive and idiotic comments from 2010 that displayed what a jerk he was, his playboy reputation, his know-it-all attitude at times – you can’t deny his musicianship. Unless you’re dumb. His guitar skills, and his voice that sounds like melted chocolate, are stellar. (I can’t hear you if you’re arguing with me.) And I just found an album he made in 2012, in between two throat surgeries, that is flat-out beautiful.
I can’t believe I’ve never heard it, being a long-time John Mayer fan (to the dismay of my husband who calls him the modern-day Lionel Ritchie, which makes no sense at all). I just recently heard his album from 2013, which is also great. And here’s the thing about these albums: they’re both post-wake-up-call. They were made after his move to Montana to get away from the push and pull of fame and get perspective. Have some quiet. Figure himself out. And you can tell. Both albums feel more calm, self-assured, less trying than simply doing what he loves. Both are more honest than his others have been. Disarmingly so. Both display a rougher voice because of the granuloma, using a less perfect instrument than he’s had before. And it lends to the beauty. It’s a metaphor for his life : beaten up a bit, a little haggard, comfortable in it’s imperfection and what the hard stuff has taught him. Still like chocolate. Maybe just 60% dark now.
I had my own wake-up call during my freshman year of college. Not quite as drastic as Mayer’s binges of drugs and sex, and not internationally publicized, but just as life-changing for me. I was dating a guy who went to another school, and we never saw each other. Our relationship wasn’t based on much and on it’s last legs. One Friday night I got home from my horrible waitressing job and had nothing to do. My roommate was gone, my friends were all out, and as usual my boyfriend was not around. I was bored, lonely, and antsy to do something.
Cue the call from my ex-boyfriend, asking if I wanted to hang out. I briefly considered the awfulness of this idea, but since I had no other options, and because my decision-making skills sucked back then, I said yes. We had a couple beers, we talked about my job and school and how he regretted our break up, and then he proceeded to kiss me. And I didn’t stop him. Not at first.
I know to some this is no big deal, and to others it’s horrifying. For me it was a big deal. A big mistake. I was dating someone else and had just broken his trust. The beer didn’t help, but really I should have seen it coming. Inside I knew what I was doing – willingly playing with fire, both hoping for and fearing the same thing. In the midst of his lips on mine, it hit me. I hopped up, drove home intoxicated (yep) and sat in my dorm room in utter confusion over what in the world I had become.
It wasn’t that bad in comparison to, say, killing someone, or kidnapping, or sex-trafficking. But on that night I realized, deep in my gut, that I was a mess. Even without the beer and the cute boy and the loneliness, I was bound to hurt people. And be selfish. And disappoint. I couldn’t escape myself or my humanness, which was a pretty awful realization. It wasn’t a new development. Kissing my ex just made it real.
And here’s the crazy thing: I’m so glad it happened.
After that night everything changed. I broke up with my boyfriend, told my ex it was over, and most importantly did a what-do-I-believe-and-how-should-that-play-out overhaul. It took some retreating into myself, some introspection, and a lot of praying. I went to my own internal Montana for a bit. But when I emerged I had some peace. I sat more comfortably in my own skin, my own spirit. I stopped trying to fix myself and left the fixing to God.
Brennan Manning, in one of my most favoritest books ever, puts it like this
Honesty brings an end to pretense through a candid acknowledgment of our fragile humanity. It is always unpleasant, and usually painful, and that is why I am not very good at it. But to stand in the truth before Godand one another has a unique reward. It is the reward which a sense of reality always brings. I know something extremely precious. I am in touch with myself as I am. My tendency to play the pseudo-messiah is torpedoed. (Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel, pg. 142)
The wake-up-call effect is always good. It was for me – it has colored and directed each day since. And it was for John Mayer. I’m not saying he’s wise now and that all is well with his life these days. But every little move toward maturity and wisdom is a plus. Every ounce of discarded idiocy is less weight to carry through life and to put on others. So, as a fan, and a person who thinks that lovely voice needs to be connected to a more decent person than he seemed to be before, I’m happy for him. I’m happy for those around him. And I’m happy for me, because I love these albums.
So thank you, fragile humanity. Thank you, ridiculous mistakes. Thank you, wake-up call for helping John and I to see the depth of our depravity. You did your job well.
Interview With John Mayer
Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey from Mayer’s album Born and Raised