by unsuddenly- Will James

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the story behind unsuddenly

Is it possible to discover something else beneath who you are, what you do, what you like, what you think...your personality?

Unsuddenly describes the breakdown of an identity and a subsequent breaking through into a new doorway in life. What i am calling identity is what i knew as myself, and the center that provided me with security, friends, respect and success. Over time i also learned that it was a way of living that tried to keep despair, loneliness, hurt and depression far away. I had entered into my late 30’s and was beginning to experience failure and alienation in life, both at work and in my relationship. I had begun to feel on the outside of things and alone. I tried to compensate for these impressions with career dedication, seeking approval, comfort eating, alcohol, sex, cigarettes, sugar, caffeine, high expectations, material desires and so, so many action plans. I strove for success and diversion to save myself from a kind of dark place in me. However, the scenario of my life was fixed and held me in a dark gravity i could not escape, which drew me closer to one day and one moment…...Unsuddenly…. where in a second of time the whole world and myself changed forever…

On February 25th, 2004 at around 6:50AM or so, in a small church in warren NJ, i sat down to pray for help and insight. I came to this church in desperation and panic, fearing the simultaneous failure of my career, my relationship and of spinning out of control… This day was the culmination of a 20 year long stream of disappointment, depression and loss: the death of my father while we weren't speaking, being diagnosed with a serious disease, the failure of my company while president of that company and an increasingly deteriorating relationship with my wife. I had read heavily, traveled the world, gained success and explored the world’s religions yet this deep anxiety and loneliness had followed me to the furthermost edge of a cliff.

February 25th was Ash Wednesday and Psalm 51 was the first reading in the mass book for that day. I read it to myself and was deeply struck by the writing…the words and voice seemed to be my own…i was frozen...i completely identified with the situation of the writer, the sense of regret and fear. I went up to the altar in despair and began to pray for help. Slowly in the next moments, with eyes closed, i saw flashes of my life,… an independent perspective on my own actions over the last years. Watching this film, it was clear to me for the first time that i was directly and indirectly responsible for everything. My heart sank with sadness and regret…and tears came….the vividness of the vision was a grounding in reality ... i was profoundly convinced… and i made a promise to give up the behaviors that had come to frame my life. I came to this commitment with inner certainty as a personal duty to myself and in the manner of perhaps the prophets of old surrendering to divine will. With this assent, i felt a lighter, more open flow of life in me. This new feeling was familiar, but brand new… it brought a sense of deep connection with everything around me, and a walk in the first time of the world. Looking back on it now, i would say that my self-image and my support systems had failed, and i was forced to give up my self-concept and in so doing, i had fallen into a doorway that was not connected to the rationales and emotions of the previous life. The change brought a spontaneous image to view of a sheer ice cliff rising above the ocean, and, a huge sheet of this ice mountain sheared off, crashing into the sea, leaving a completely new facade exposed to the world. I had no idea of what was happening to me, but unsuddenly, i was freer and i was grateful and humbled, nothing portentous, the final step of a long breakdown, and the first step of many breakthroughs that would lead into deep insights and the process of reinterpreting my life.I woke the next day with the old feelings of despair, but there was a new witnessing awareness now and i asked myself, “how do i really feel, right now, at this very moment”. Deep inside i felt ok and i trusted the feeling. I had a new chance to interpret my life, but it was such hard work… the anxiety appeared every so many seconds, embedded in so many thoughts, reinforced by so many habits…and this was an enormous challenge…holding onto waves of emotion and craving that could have easily towed me back under or flooded over me.

I started to spend one hour a day praying, sitting or kneeling quietly trying to evacuate all thought. Though my mind was very active, i eventually discovered an empty space. I will say briefly at this point that many visions, images, and new concepts arose from this space. Often afterwards, i would feel dazed and would slowly remember the insights that came as though remembering a dream. I would spend an hour a day writing stream of conscious and journal entries to capture my experience and to keep me connected to my emotions. I started reading voraciously to find out if there were others who had these kinds of experiences. I read 2-3 hours a day, 2 books a week. I read audio books on my morning walks, on my commute to work, while cutting the grass and in checkout lines… overall i read about 700 books of research… into psychology, comparative religion, anthropology, natural sciences, history, cognitive science of religion, psycho-spiritual self-help, literature and more …all of this to find a way to understand the nature and character of these changes that had come to me. Eventually i did. I found a sense of connection with Zen Buddhism's Satori, Christianity’s Conversion stories and Jung’s individuation process. I gained a feeling of deep affinity with the mystics of history and i was encouraged and excited by the stories of more recent people like Bill Wilson, Byron Katie and Eckhart Tolle. I took tremendous guidance from Julia Cameron, Thomas Moore, Wayne Teasdale, John O’Donohue, Karen Armstrong, David Whyte, Thich Nhat Hanh, Joseph Campbell, Pema Chodron, Brother David Stendhal-Rast, Jack Kornfield, Thomas Merton, Parker Palmer, A. H. Almaas and Hazrat Inayat Kahn. I also went to psychological therapy with Jungian and Gestalt analysts…i learned to feel hurt and anger, sense despair natural fears, old feelings and notice their patterns. I began to use feeling as inquiry and a way to build a life on natural inclination. Through all of these gifts, i gained a greater awareness and depth of view into how I was shaped. I want to be clear though that a way forward was unknown to me and there was never a straight line. These were difficult times, but I had a strong dialogue going with myself and the universe and there were such strong synchronicities to follow. Small successes came from paradox and patience and there were good friends who listened and encouraged me and that made it feel more OK. The energies of this newness were intense in me. I was drawn by meaningful coincidence to the books “The Artists Way” and “Care of the Soul” on two separate occasions in used bookstores …and i was so touched by these works.

I felt that they were speaking directly to me and outlined a possible path of self-expression and discovery. For inspiration and to feel more connected, i listened for hours to the music and lyrics of Damien Rice, Sufjan Stevens and Adam Duritz. To me these books and CDs were religious works and they seemed to be using a voice that felt so familiar to me… i was so inspired and began to imagine my own self-expression in music and writing…but… there was an enormous paradox: i wasn’t exactly prepared to take my life in that direction…even in the slightest…i knew no writers or musicians, had no knowledge of musical theory or notation, did not know how to play guitar, write music or sing… i didn’t think too much though, there was a strong feeling in me, so over the next 4 years, with my full time job and the constraints that come with 3 children and a house, i bought an acoustic guitar and started exploring it when i was alone. I found in it a way to mirror my emotions. I felt very inspired by this work and compelled …so i began traveling 3 hours round trip after work into New York City. I felt like such an inadequate musician, but by finding songs on the guitar and by translating my emotions into lyrics, i was able to acknowledge my emotions and give space and hold onto the complex situations facing me… and that felt good.I think you probably get by now that this work was not easy to do. There was so much effort to expend, and i was overwhelmed with time constraints and contradictions. This was a time of frustration, growing pains, embarrassment, feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt and confusion….many times i felt defeated, intimidated and foolish. In response, i gradually developed a structure to keep me centered and focused. I constructed a way to organize my work. I used my expertise in change management disciplines, in self-help psychology and my familiarity with the world’s religious practices to re-envision these together into a new system designed to keep me closely focused on myself through the very turbulent business of personal transformation (this is the subject of a book called Closer, soon to be released). I formally wrote down the problems i was encountering and found close to 30 major issues generating fear and siphoning off my energies. Using the “Closer” process, i have done some things which were awfully good to me and awfully difficult to take on: i have had two operations on a damaged pinky which now makes playing the guitar possible,

i equipped myself and taught myself to be a musician and writer, i have changed my career twice to create more space for creativity and self-development, i have addressed my broken relationships to release the emotional anxiety and ultimately, when the creative work required full time attention to move forward, …i quit my job. All of this work cleared emotional space for me…and with good amounts of the former fear and dependencies gone, my energies were released and this album and a host of other works came into form. The songs of Unsuddenly are intended to share a sense of the feelings and thoughts i went through in the process of personal breakdown and breakthrough. It is a first-hand description of transiting breakdown, and encountering traumatic change. The songs describe what it was like to not feel at home in my own life, the feelings of rejection and despair i had for so long. They try to recapture the experience of loss that left me with no choices and no way back. The latter songs communicate the growing awareness that followed Feb 25th ... the precious sadness, the new openness, the responsibility for myself and the interconnectedness and oneness that became so much clearer to me. We can never really share an inner experience…but this experience was devastating to me, and my intent is to share it as a way of empathizing with others facing the myriad forms of traumatic change. Not all of the stories in Unsuddenly are true now... but they once were… i have been working with them for some time…some are stories i actually lived through and others i just imagined to be actual. The stories display my emotions and impressions while following this long road. I have described the feelings of fear, loneliness, despair and breakdown with vivid images and emotion. Those of you experiencing traumatic change may recognize the sincerity and risks in the writing of the words and sense a connection with the emotions placed in the music… I felt great risk in writing and performing these lyrics, and a humbling reality as i struggled to re-educate myself. So here it is…Unsuddenly… after 4 years of writing and 2 years of recording. It is a work long in progress...and it is time to let go. I would like to share it with you from my heart along with my deepest intention:

That it acknowledge what i kept hidden, and offer a touch of beauty to my struggle,

That it might serve the world as a companion in dark times and as a precursor to change

That our lives be a spring, continually rising from the dark depths of an inner well, entering the world to fully quench our own thirsts and to offer comfort to those nearby.

What is heard and seen in the darkness, may we bring to life; what we feel whispered may we live…and with each of our efforts may we find a way closer…

In gratitude,

Will James, June 2010


released July 1, 2010



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Unsuddenly New Jersey

Unsuddenly is a musical collaboration built on the songwriting, singing and producing efforts of Will James in collaboration with several great friends and accomplished musicians. Unsuddenly is an Indie Post Rock Band performing with two CD releases. ... more

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Track Name: It All Comes Down
It all comes down

faceless shadows
guide my life from the past
i’m lost on an empty street
running from a black hole feeling inside
no meaning, no love, no reprieve

standing on the edge, with a girl, in the past
as the man i used to be
grey man staring back at me in the glass
but the darkness is calling…

and it’s all coming down again
and it’s all coming down

a love affair that saved me from fear, long ago
doesn’t fill what i need deep within
in and out of panic, fear of collapse
a life is over and nothing begins
so much of me frozen in panic and doubt
time is growing and hanging on me
a hero, lost in a lie, going down, and the darkness is calling …

and it’s all coming down again
and it’s all coming down

you cannot run away, when fear’s your home
when deep down inside of you,
it’s so dark and alone
too tired to chase it away
fear of being alone,
fear of the dark inside
where we are unknown…

and it’s all coming down, again,
coming down again & again,
it’s all coming down, again, …
Track Name: Unsuddenly

we’re born in innocence
but we learn to fear our death…
and every breath
in lonely ignorance,
we live behind a fence
with ghosts that whisper …

i still love you, i still love you tonight
if you love me, if you hide from the light
oh but there’s light within the light
oh there’s a light that hides in the light…

it all comes out of me
there are parts i could not see
oh, a new light grows from the dark
oh, and a new life grows from a life

the dreams i made of me,
they sheared off, fell into the sea
a slave to so many mistakes
the lies, i could not escape
by saying

i still love you, i still love you tonight
if you love me, if you hide from the light
oh if there’s light, between the light
oh if there’s light,
then let there be light!

it all comes out of me
there are parts i could not see
oh, a new light grows from the dark
oh, and a new life grows from a life
Track Name: She's In The World
She’s in the world

let's dig the day a grave, pray for the night,
and forget our names
wade through a stream of tears,
make love and find a place to heal

i crossed the desert alone every day,
she came to me like a child's first rain
and she opened up to me and
it’s been so long since it rained…and
i want to fall in love, to feel again, and
i want to run away and get lost again, and
i want to let the rain, wash over me

the stunning depths of this girl
the stunning depths of this girl
oh i know, i know, she’s in the world
and deep inside of me
she’s in the world

her loneliness is a mirror of me
ghosts of desire dance in our midst
i hold her hopes so close to me
eyes open in the moment before we kiss
just as the lightness comes through the dark
she comes to me through a world of pain
you know i might be in love with you,
come out with me in the rain…
cause i want to let someone inside again
i don’t want to deal with the darkness alone again, and
i want to be saved from all this fear and pain

the stunning depths of this girl
the stunning depths of this girl
oh i know, i know, she’s in the world
and deep inside of me she’s in the world

you and i cannot be saved
we can only try to heal tonight
we cannot escape ourselves anyway
i don’t want to drive home alone
and i don’t want to stay the night
i’m the only one, i’m able to save
the stunning depths of this girl
the stunning depths of this girl
we can only save ourselves
back in the world
we can only save ourselves
and i’m in the world…
Track Name: Child

child of innocence
child from a touch
child of hope and delusion
child of a needy love

all alone in the darkness, breathe in despair
fragile, lost and confused
child always needs someone there

child, living all the while
where you can’t be alive
the visions lying deep within him,
taking chances to survive

child of darkness dreaming
will cry for a time
child, i hug him to sleep and i tell him i lied
drifting into the darkness, child born of crimes
made from abandoned hopes
child of a selfish mind

child wears the saddest smile
where you can’t be alive
the visions lying deep within him
taking chances to survive

what child is this, who, laid to rest
wants mother back, is still weeping?
the angels grieve, and devils greet,
the careless so silently sleeping

child, living all the while,
where you can’t be alive
the visions lying deep within,
taking chances to survive
Track Name: Everything since december
Everything since december

its quarter to one tonight, you’re never there
used to be the touch of your warm skin
the scent of perfumed hair,
that kept me close to you, despite our fights
still i feel the tears and silence knowing we can’t make things right

seems now, it’s all i remember,
i am sad for what we lost in april,
and everything since december
i’m not in love with you, anymore
but i don’t know how to leave…

ghosts of april linger in my mind, if you ever had a doubt
i’m sorry for keeping it in, i had to shut you out
one day try to drink it away, ….i swear to go dry
each day i betray my dreams
i live in doubt, i drive home crying

seems now, it’s all i remember,
i am sad for what we lost in april,
and everything since december
i’m not in love with you, anymore
but i don’t know how to leave…