A Sunday Story: It's Harder to Quit FOMO than Cigarettes
The Fear of Missing Out is a pernicious part of our culture. Overcoming it (or learning to channel it in life-giving ways) is more ultramarathon than pole vault. On listening to what your heart wants.
This is a quick love note to all of you from San Francisco, where I’ve just arrived to see the final Dead & Company concert tonight at Oracle Park.
(Please forgive any typos in what follows—I’m flying without a net and literally about to run out the door….)
At this time yesterday, I didn’t know I was going to be here. But late last night, while I was watching the band’s second night show remotely on my laptop and Mickey Hart and his co-conspirators were were finishing up Drums and Space, I had something close to an epiphany: I had to go. I had to be there for the last show. I just … had to.
In the many weeks of the band’s farewell tour preceding this one, I wrestled with FOMO—the fear of missing out, which is a real, clinical thing—especially when the band stopped in Chicago for two nights at Wrigley Field.
Earlier in the tour, I had tentative plans to meet up with one of my dearest friends, Adam, in Chicago for the shows, but he couldn’t swing it, so I decided to go to see the band on my own at the Forum in LA and paid a princely sum for a very good seat.
I’ve attended countless live music shows in my lifetime, but this was the first time I’d attended a concert alone—not counting shows I’d gone to solo for work, when I was writing about them for various publications or the Irish fellas—and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.
In a single, perfect evening of music and beloved community with 14,000 of my newest Dead & Company fan-friends, I confronted several fears in one fell swoop—of being alone, of being inside with a large crowd for the first time since COVID began (i.e., fear of getting sick/suffering/death), and FOMO of a different kind. Would it have been better if I had been with friends? Was I missing out on that experience?
No. I had a different experience. I didn’t miss anything. I had everything and more.
But before I could get there, physically and psychically, I had to unpack what I really wanted. I had to figure out what the felt need was under the want.
I made a good decision and had an unforgettable experience. But it didn’t make not being at Wrigley Field any easier. I ended up watching the concert live-streamed on my laptop while working out on my COVID-era analog elliptical strider on the porch.
From that vantage point 2,000 miles to the west of Wrigley, I spotted one of my soul sisters, Julie, in the front row. Adam, who has FOMO almost as acute as mine, watched with me from his den in Washington, D.C. He had decided it was more important to be at home with his young son, to watch him play soccer and go swimming, than it was to hit the road one last time to see the Dead in the hallowed ground of Chicago’s Friendly Confines. And he was right.
In the end, did I wish I had been standing in the front row with Julie at Wrigley? Yes.
Was I also glad that I was able to experience it in a different way while standing on my back porch? Also, yes.
Was I grateful for technology that allowed me to experience it, to share it with friends who were there in person and around the world? Yes.
It’s all about perspective. And trust.
Don’t push the river….
Which brings me back to what the hell I’m doing in San Francisco after all that speechifying I just did in the previous paragraphs.
Well, one of my spiritual teachers likes to say that the soul knows where it needs to go to find what it needs to find. And last night, standing on the elliptical on my back porch with night two of the San Francisco shows playing on my laptop balanced on a wheelie desk in front of me, my soul knew that it needed to go somewhere else today to get what it needed.
The urge did not come from a place of FOMO. It was a soul-level conversation I had with myself about whether going or not going would make my spirit feel more expansive or confined? Did the idea of not going feel limiting or nourishing? What about going?
I sat for a few minutes quietly and contemplated. I discussed it with my lifemate and it felt like the right decision. (Of course, I am privileged to have the economic bandwidth to call such a last-minute audible. That hasn’t always been the case and I know it’s not the case for many, many others.) Being here for this experience tonight is a privilege. A blessing. Unearned grace.
During the break between the first and second set of each Dead & Company show, Nugs.net runs an interview show called “Dead Air” hosted by Gary Lambert and David Gans. Last night, their guest was Mr. Hart. It was a fascinating conversation (you can find it here on YouTube)
“What we really try to do for people is to raise consciousness, and they dance to it,” Mickey said. “If you listen and you commit to that experience, then you come away with this kind of nourishment kind of a thing that makes you happier, a better person, maybe you do things in your life that you might not have done before you went to the concert—something of kindness or something that improves the human condition.
“Some music does do that,” Mickey continued. “Some music is just for entertainment. This kind of music is on the borders and the edge of spirituality.”
Gans cut him off as those last words left his mouth because their allotted time for the pre-recorded interview was up and the band was due to return to the stage for the second set.
(Hey Mickey, if you’d like to continue that conversation, call me?)
Between Mickey’s words and something my father told me before I left for college—make sure you make time for other things besides your studies; go to a movie, hear some live music, have an adventure. If you have to choose between an obligation and an experience, choose the experience—I knew what I had to do.
I want one more Saturday night. One more peak experience. One more night surrounded by the beloved community that the Dead & Company and the Grateful Dead family have so carefully nourished for more than 60 years. One more night to dance with strangers and like no one is watching.
So, here I am. I’ve gotta run to meet some soul friends at Shakedown Street. If you’re watching online tonight, if I see a camera, I will wave.
Once in a while you get shown the light
In the strangest of places if you look at it right
Meet Me Over at Diana Butler Bass’s The Cottage today
You can find my Sunday Musings missive on the Parable of the Sower HERE.
Diana is one of my favourite Substackers (and humans). If you’re not already familiar with her work and The Cottage community, you might want to check them out HERE.
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Beloveds, as we embrace the energy of deep summer (here in the Northern Hemisphere), let’s endeavor to be as brave and as kind as possible.
Remember you haven’t met yet everyone you will love, and you haven’t met yet everyone who will love you.
Much love from me,