Farewell, Tom Petty – And the Loss of a Self

Some readers of this site know well that I am a big fan of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. By big fan, I mean that I have traveled halfway across the country for a concert; I have seen them from the front row several times; I have seen them up to 6 times on the same tour; and I have been to over 30 shows.

You might wonder why. The music speaks to me, and always has. It’s the music of regular people, getting through a regular life, with regular troubles, sung by a man who seemed like a regular guy. And TPATH, in concert, has this amazingly obvious love for the music, the fans, and each other. It’s joyful, even when the song is sad.

On top of that, they are such incredible musicians. If you have never really listened to them, you should. Tom Petty vocals; a Mike Campbell guitar solo; Benmont Tench ripping it up on the piano; Steve Ferrone pounding out a fierce beat; Ron Blair cool as a cucumber while holding it down; and Scott Thurston doing all the things.

So, the loss of Tom Petty this week feels like a punch in the gut. It feels unreal and awful. It feels unfair. I try to take a Buddhist perspective on death, but there is no denying the pain of people left behind. I feel so very sad for his family, his friends, his bandmates and their families.

On Tuesday, I realized that I also felt a sense of loss of a part of myself. I’ve been the “lady in red” and then the “bald lady in red” at Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers shows for almost two decades now. I’ve had discussions with the crew, gotten drumsticks and picks from the band, and had playlists handed to me. Various members of the Heartbreakers have acknowledged my presence at shows in ways that were kind and funny. And there are other fans who would come up to me and say “hey, aren’t you Yersobad?” (another name in the cyber world). And now, that is gone.

I don’t think I am alone in having my love for a band be part of who I am. When the work of musicians really speaks to us, and gives us access to something inside that feels powerful, and particularly when a musician or group is able to do that consistently, our understanding of self as a fan or a lover of that band becomes a piece of who we are.

I know that I will never follow another band in the way that I followed TPATH (literally and theoretically). I won’t invest time and money and my identity in another band in the same way. A door has been closed and a chapter of my life has ended. I knew it would eventually, but I wasn’t quite ready yet.

But, I am grateful for the music. I’m grateful for the shows. I know that I’m lucky to have seen them so many times and from so close. I’m glad to have been the bald lady in the red dress. But, I’ll miss that me, I’ll miss them, and I’ll miss Tom

Cruel to be Kind

We have spent some time this month talking about kindness at Yogawood. This has arisen from the theme of the month, drawn from a sloka from the Bhagavad Gita, which reads:

samniyama-indriya-gramam / sarvatra sama-buddhayah
te prapnuvanti mam eva / sarva-bhuta-hite ratah
Those who are able to control their senses, have equanimity of mind and rejoice in contributing to the welfare of all creatures are dear to me.
Bhagavad Gita XII.4

As we talked about this, my teacher, Beth, noted that kind and nice are not the same, and it reminded me of how often I think about this in my yoga practice, and in my life.

Being nice is often easy, but being kind is more complicated, because the kindest thing to do for another being may well not be the nicest. This holds true for the small moments in life (Does this eyeshadow look ok? Do I have to eat my vegetables?) and the major decisions (Should I quit my job to follow the band?), and everything in between. Sometimes, what we need from another, or even from the self that is the voice in our own heads, is to be told that the nice choice is the wrong choice.

This comes up often in parenting. There are so many times when it would be nice to give in, but that isn’t the kindest choice. It comes up in managing others, when you see bad options or behavior and have to ‘be mean’ and shut it down. It comes up in asana practice when bed is warm but you should go to class, or it would feel nice to take an hour long asana, but it isn’t the best choice.

Photo by Deb Roby on Flickr

Photo by Deb Roby on Flickr

When it’s not possible to be kind and nice, we can still strive for kind.