My Guitar is My Pacifier. What’s yours?

“This machine [the guitar] kills fascists.” - Woodie Guthrie

4 min. read

Some days, I wake up spooning my guitar. This comforts me, then I realize I could have destroyed it so it terrifies me, then I realize I didn’t destroy it so I’m comforted again. It’s a roller coaster. Other days, my guitar is the first thing I reach for in the morning. I’m still rubbing sleepies out of my eyes while I fingerpick a few notes and think about what I’m going to do with my day.

If I’m having a tumultuous day, or I’m feeling particularly down, or I feel like the world is broken, or if I run out of hummus ingredients, I’ll pick it up, pick some strings, and it will immediately pick me up. Sometimes I only need a few minutes, sometimes I need a couple of hours, but it always works. Every. Single. Time.

My guitar is my pacifier.

As a kid you might have called it your binky, your zoogie, your soother, or your Jar Jar Binks (or one of these other 160 nicknames). I like the idea of chewing on Jar Jar Binks as a way of finding peace (screw that guy), so I cracked up when I saw that in the list. Regardless of what you called it, you likely had one. And even if you didn’t have a soft rubber mouth piece (“We wouldn’t want you do develop an oral fixation, dear.”), you likely had a pacifier. A blankie, a stuffed animal, a stranger’s leg, something.

You’d be throwing a tantrum, or maybe you just had a long day (“These blocks don’t stack themselves, Mom!”), and the whole world would be turning upside down. Being a kid is stressful. But when all else failed, your pacifier was there to save the day.

It’s amazing the power we granted those things as kids, having no idea what we were doing. We can do the same thing as adults.

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Do you have a pacifier? What is it? Hopefully it’s healthy, or at least neutral (e.g., more like “reading,” and less like “black tar heroin”). Maybe you have a couple. Lucky you. If you don’t have one, you should totally get one. My guitar, more often than not, is the thing that tips me back toward sanity when I’m on the brink (These emails don’t read themselves, y’all!).

Here are some tips for finding a pacifier, in case you don’t have one or are looking to add another one to your utility belt:

  • Choose something accessible. Ideally something that’s free, you can do yearlong (regardless of the weather), and that you can do wherever you spend most of your time. Even when you’re sick. Sky-diving, for example, would be bad on all accounts. Running (or, for me, playing soccer), while it can be a great pacifier, is also problematic.
  • Choose something that doesn’t lead to more stress, even indirectly. If your pacifier is causing you more stress, right now or down the line, it’s not actually helping, just post-poning things for a later disaster. Like when I was a kid and instead of cleaning my room I would just smush everything into the closet. Smoking would be a deal breaker here, as would black tar heroin (sorry to all my smack junky readers!).
  • Let your pacifier choose you. Like the wands in Harry Potter. When I got my guitar a few years ago it was to use on stage when I’m doing comedy. I had no idea it would become my pacifier, but whenever I tried to practice, I kept lapsing into peaceful meditation (not great for practicing, but wonderful for being alive). So try a ton of different things. There’s no way to know until you know.

You’ll know when you find a pacifier, because just looking at it or thinking about it will make you smile. Time will slip away, life itself will stop existing the way it normally does and it will just be you and your Jar Jar Binks [actually, for the sake of this analogy, that nickname is horrifying — let’s stick with…] pacifier.

I’m gonna go spoon play my guitar now. I’ve had a long day.