On Having the Courage to Just Watch the Wheels

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John Lennon’s, Watching the Wheels, was released as a single after his death on December 8th 1980 (from the album Double Fantasy released 3 weeks prior). It is his response to people who questioned the time he spent post the Beatles break-up, in retirement with Yoko and Sean in the mid 1970s.

My family was a Beatles family  – that was the music I grew up with (my parents were 19 and 21 when I was born).  I can tell you precisely where I was aged 8 when I heard John Lennon had been shot – his death had a profound effect on me, as he was the first person I “knew” who had died.  I have very happy memories of my parents singing drunkenly along to John Lennon songs at the end of the evening with their mates as I was sleeping upstairs – a fitting choice for my Mother’s funeral in 2013.

This is a song I return to again and again if I need to be reminded to trust myself and not care what others think. Every time I hear it I can’t help but tear up.

The power of music continues to astound me.  Watching the Wheels is a song that has touched so many people:

I was a photojournalist that worked my way up to a major newspaper in a highly competitive field. Eventually I became director of photography. I didn’t like the person I had become. I had ulcers. My marriage and kids were suffering. So, “I just had to let it go.”

I completely threw away my 15-year photojournalism career in a blink of an eye to become a wedding photographer, and stay-at-home Dad during the week. People DID say I was crazy. People did try to give me advice on why I should get back in the game. I lost my friends who could no longer relate to me. People judged me for “losing my ambition.” I lost the identity I had my entire adult life.

One day, this song came on the radio and I realized every word of it could be the anthem for what I was going through. My eyes filled up with tears and I just started crying. It was as if I had finally gotten the opportunity to grieve over the loss of a loved one – my former identity.

Here was John Lennon telling me it was okay to make the choice I had made. That I wasn’t crazy after all. That everybody else might not understand, but that is okay as long as I do.

Ever since that moment, this song has been the anthem for my life. The ultimate symbol for empowering yourself to take charge of your life, control your own destiny and let others think whatever they are going to think.

Thank you John.

People say I’m crazy
Doing what I’m doing
Well, they give me all kinds of warnings
To save me from ruin

When I say that I’m okay
Well, they look at me kinda strange
Surely you’re not happy now
You no longer play the game

People say I’m lazy
Dreaming my life away
Well, they give me all kinds of advice
Designed to enlighten me

When I tell them that I’m doing fine
Watching shadows on the wall
Don’t you miss the big time, boy?
You’re no longer on the ball

I’m just sitting here
Watching the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll

No longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go

Ah, people asking questions
Lost in confusion
Well, I tell them, there’s no problem
Only solutions

Well, they shake their heads
And they look at me as if I’ve lost my mind
I tell them, there’s no hurry
I, I’m just sitting here doing time

I’m just sitting here
Watching the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll

No longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go
I just had to let it go
I just had to let it go

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