JEFF SHATTUCK MUSIC

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• What do Jon Sarkin and I have in common? A lot, but not everything.

I just finished reading a book called Shadows Bright As Glass, which is about Jon Sarkin, who suffered a massive stroke following brain surgery. When he awoke from his surgery, he was no longer the same person. An amiable chiropractor before his stroke, Sarkin was now — and remains -- an irritable artist with a compulsive desire to draw. On every page I saw a magnified version of myself.

My brain injury was not nearly as severe as Sarkin’s, and my personality changes have been slight if even existent, but I have no question that Sarkin and I have had a similar experience, his more intense. Both of us suffered injuries in the cerebellum, both recovered with a much stronger artistic interest than before, and both of us are now obsessed with being creative. I’m not as obsessed as Sarkin, for sure, but still, I would wager that on any given day, I spend far more time thinking about music than anything else. Or, at least, I did, until Avalon and Amelia were born. Still, and I feel ashamed to admit this, even with the babies looming so large in my life now, music is always right there in my mind. I think about it when I run, I think about it on walks, I think about it while having conversations with others, I think about it while watching TV, I think about it when I go to sleep, when I wake up, when I drive, eat, shower and do the dishes. I can’t switch it off, either, even though I do try sometimes. In just over four years, I have written and finished about 40 songs, rewritten most of those from 10 to 100 times (not completely, but parts), I’ve had 19 professionally recorded, I’ve started recording another 100 or so (both at home and in the the studio), I started writing about another 50, I’ve discarded more than I’ve written by a factor of probably 50. But it’s not just music. I carry a camera with me all the time (either a phone, or a point-and-shoot or a DSLR), I write this blog, I read books for ideas on how to improve my songwriting and prose and ad copy (hence, mostly non-fiction). In my advertising portfolio, a good portion of the work was done post brain injury, even though I have not worked anywhere near full-time. I also find that when thinking about ads, I can come up with lots of ideas pretty quickly and I rarely run out, they just keep coming. If one gets killed, it’s cool. If ten die, so be it. 100, who cares? There will be more.

When Sarkin, whose works can now sell for more than $10,000 each, was asked if he was grateful for his stroke, he replied, “That’s the wrong question to ask. It’s like asking if you like gravity. The ball is dropped, it hits the ground. It’s not something to like or dislike. It’s the way things are.” If you ask me whether or not I’m grateful for the change, I would have to say yes. No, I do not like feeling dizzy, I do not like worrying when I hold a baby, I do not like the headaches or nausea or vertigo (mild, mostly). I do not like that I lost my job and will struggle to get a new one. I do not like not being able to go fishing. I do not like the burden I know I can be to Catherine. But I do like that I am living a more creative and engaged life. For that, despite all the discomforts and inconveniences, I am grateful.