I’m pretty sure it’s around this blog somewhere that the name of my blog is taken from a Shinedown song. I have three songs that I can’t decide between to take the honor of favorite song. Last year, when I fell in love with the band Shinedown, “I’m Not Alright” was just absolutely me. Then “For My Sake” helped me get through the initial stages of my separation from my ex-husband. And then one day, “Unity” snuck its way onto the podium. So those three songs have been in a constant battle for Numero Uno. Paper airplanes, open window comes from “I’m Not Alright” and just makes sense as a blog title. It represents ideas and freedom and expression. And I’m not alright. I mean, I’m happy with my life – I can honestly say I’ve never been happier. But I’m definitely not “right” in the head, and I’m okay with that. All messed up and slightly twisted, as the song goes. Maybe I like that I’m not alright. Yes, that song is me. And I knew it would be my favorite song forever when Shinedown opened their performance with it last night.

It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Shinedown. It started relatively recently, within the last 18 months or so. Long story short, their 4th album came into my life when I really, really needed it and as I described in the link, the music made me feel new and alive during a time when I was trying to start my life over as my own person, no longer a wife who sat back and let her husband’s life dictate how hers was going. I ended up tracking down just about every Shinedown song I could find and fell in love with every single one of them. I would listen to them constantly, all day and all night, to the point where something felt wrong or out of place if I didn’t listen to them. They are, hands down, my favorite band ever. Sorry, Def Leppard.

Def Leppard is actually the reason I didn’t want to see Shinedown in concert. After being my favorite band for 15 years, seeing them live was a letdown. After my post-concert high, I pretty much stopped listening to them, and I was disappointed in my own heart for the betrayal. Def Leppard shaped my adolescence. Hair metal was who I was. And now, I loved Shinedown so much, I was afraid of being disappointed again. It took a lot of convincing on my friends’ parts to get me to pull the trigger. When I saw they were coming to the area, I wanted to go so badly, but being a single mom, I wasn’t sure I could afford it. Finally, I said fuck it. I bought a pair of tickets for my son and me, as part of his birthday gift. And so started the 70 day count down to the concert.

Finally, the day arrived. I had to leave work a few hours early to get there, and we stood in line for close to 45 minutes at the merchandise tent. It was hot as fuck and my son was bored. Another fuck it moment when I told the vendor what I wanted. We missed the first act – a band I’d never heard of, and made it to our (AWESOME) seats for the second act, another band I’d never heard of.

Then Papa Roach took the stage. I was slightly familiar with their music, but a lot of it was new to me. It was very difficult to understand what they were singing, but Jacoby Shaddix is one hell of an entertainer. He really played the crowd and I enjoyed them immensely.

Next up was Skillet. I knew only one song of theirs, and I didn’t even recognize it when they first started singing it. They impressed me though. There are two chicks in the band – one of them a completely smoking hot red head who plays drums. I loved her. When Skillet was playing, it was loud as hell, and I couldn’t help but think, “This is how music should be played.” And I desperately wished I didn’t live in an apartment where the neighbors frown upon the building vibrating and thumping.

The final pee break arrived. I did my business and walked back into the amphitheater and saw a huge black curtain with the Shinedown logo at the front of the stage. We peeked around and saw oddly dressed women roaming around. They looked like animals, with tails and leaves and shit all over them. WTF? Was there some sort of zoo intermission? I didn’t know what was going on. My heart was racing in anticipation.

Then the music started.

It took me a few seconds to recognize it. The curtain was still up. I was shocked that not only were they opening with a song that hadn’t been released as a single, but that it was also one that I absolutely loved. Brent’s voice filled the air. The curtain still hadn’t come down. He sang a verse, there was an explosion of fire, and all at once, there they were. Brent, center stage. Barry in the back on drums. Eric to the left, and Zach, the love of my life, right in front of our section. There were the animal women twirling fire batons. The heat from the pyrotechnics hit me as Brent launched into the chorus. I started crying.

And that’s pretty much the last thing I remember. I mean, I remember a lot of it, but after that, the details are fuzzy. My friend who was sitting next to me at the concert described it as, “It looked like you were locked in an emotional blur.” That’s exactly what it was. I was so overcome with emotion that I just couldn’t take it all in. At least not visually. And I couldn’t tell you what order the songs were in. I know that Bully was last because the pyro at the end was killer. Fucking amazing. The heat and the sound could knock you on your ass. They sang a lot of stuff from their latest album, as well as some of their older, popular stuff. I was very happy that Zach spent a lot of time on my side of the stage. I got a lot of pictures of him.

The one part I wish I could remember more of was Brent talking about rock and roll not being a music genre. He said a bunch of blah, blah, blah that I’m sure was quite meaningful – I was just too awestruck to let it all sink in. The part I remember, and whole-heartedly agree with was when he said that it’s a way of life. I love music. I love rock music. I love music that squeezes my heart and moves my soul. There’s a lot on my iPod that does that, songs from all the decades of my life, and some from well before I was born. Shinedown, probably more than any other band – even more than Def Leppard or My Chemical Romance – does that for me. Seeing them up there, singing the songs that have become a part of me over the last year was unlike anything I have ever experienced. The day after the concert, I was trying to tell a very dear and old friend (who took me to my first rock concert when I was 18) what it was like, and the best I could come up with was, “Brent Smith is the voice of God, and Heaven is a Shinedown concert.”

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Brent’s message. Sometimes, I think I’m silly or weird for the way I feel about music, and the way music makes me feel. I feel like I’m too old to be so emotional about music, like that part of my life should be behind me. It’s taken me almost two weeks to write all of this, and in that time, I remembered another band that makes me feel the same way Shinedown does (though not quite to that extent). Their message is the same. The often include their fans in their videos, talking about what music means to them. While the fans in the video do appear younger than I am, I’m reminded that I am not alone.

There’s so much more I want to say about the concert, but every thought in my head is random. Bits and pieces will pop into my brain, then disappear before I can process them. I’ve finally stopped tearing up when I think about it, so that’s good. I still listen to Shinedown daily and love them more than ever. If anything, I’m developing a deeper appreciation for their music and the message, and I’m looking forward to the next album (which is completed, but no release date yet) and the 10-track acoustic covers project they have.

So how does all of this relate to my writing blog? I feel like I wouldn’t have this much difficulty writing about something I’ve experienced if I were a decent writer. That I can’t accurately convey what happened that night, and the emotions I felt, makes me wonder how I’m going to bring my characters to life in November when I start my next NaNoWriMo project. I’ve said before that I don’t write for other people, and I really don’t give a shit whether or not people like what I put out there. But I need to be satisfied with it. No one likes looking back on something they’ve given to the universe and cringing because it doesn’t make sense or just plain sucks. I guess that’s why the professionals have beta readers and editors and I just have this blog.