Tuesday, September 1, 2015

This is a test...

While I am away at Semester at Sea I will be posting to my blog via email.  This is  a test of doing just that. 

Hopefully what you see is a blog post.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Life is Awesome...

Relax...relax...relax............
Summer began two months and six days ago and today is the first day that I can honestly say that I am able to relax.

Today S, my dear friend and creative partner, was discharged from the hospital and went home.  As I am writing this it was four weeks ago, almost to the minute, that I found out he had been hit by a truck and was at Maine Medical Center with life threatening injuries.  Tonight he is home.  He is safe and on the road to recovery.  This lightens my heart so very, very much.

This afternoon I completed the last bit of work on a project that began in early June and was supposed to last only six weeks, It instead went on for eleven.  It was crazy interesting work and will look awesome on a resume but was more hours and took far longer than originally anticipated.  It was a relief to bring it to a close today.

This morning I received a call from Semester at Sea letting me know that a single cabin was available if I wanted to accept it.  This means that I will have a room to myself for the journey.  Not only will I not need to worry about being paired with a far younger cabin-mate (which I really don't have an issue with but I'm quite sure that the average 19-23 year probably doesn't want to be paired with 43 year old me) but I get a bathroom all to myself (MY OWN BATHROOM!!!!!).  I also completed the last bit of online "paperwork" that needed to be done.  Other than packing for the journey and buying a few items I am ready to go.

This weekend is my bon voyage party.  I'll be gathering with friends to celebrate my upcoming journey.  There will be food, wine, music, fire, dance and a whole lot of love.  In two weeks I'll be leaving to begin a spectacular adventure and I'm no longer worried about losing my sense of home because I have an amazing community that I'll be coming back to.  This summer I have experienced that community in a way that I was either too busy or otherwise not paying attention enough to fully appreciate.  I have some really awesome and amazing people in my world.

And so while the next week is going to be busy and stressful in other ways (an apartment to sort and pack up, a moving sale to be held, a final First Friday show to put on, wrapping up things at my day job before I go on my journey...settling in Miss Pickles to her 'vacation home') the next couple of days are mine to enjoy.  I have until midday on Sunday to relax, enjoy the company of friends and just be grateful for all that is awesome in my life.

And there really is a whole lot of awesome...

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Friends


"We call that person who has lost his father, an orphan; and a widower that man who has lost his wife. But that man who has known the immense unhappiness of losing a friend, by what name do we call him? Here every language is silent and holds its peace in impotence." - Joseph Roux 

Friends have always been important to me.  They are a priority in my life, coming before pretty much anything else I might have going on.   I think most people believe that this is the case in their lives too.  That their friends are of paramount importance but....

...how many times has your phone rung or buzzed, you looked down at who it was, saw the name and refused the call or let it ring through to voicemail?

...how long did it take you to call back?  Or did you simply text a few days later apologizing for not returning the call but let's have coffee sometime?

...how many times has a friend reached out to say let's have dinner/drinks/go for a walk and you replied that you were too busy, too tired, too something?

...how many times have you not RSVP'd to a party invitation because you wanted to keep your options open?

...how many times were the dinner plans you finally made rescheduled because you or they simply didn't feel up for it?

I know there are lots of you shaking your head's right now saying, "Oh you don't understand I'm just so busy.  I've a family to raise, a partner to tend to, a career that needs advancing and I'm just so damn busy with all of it...you simply don't get it."

Actually I do.  I may not be busy with the same sorts of things as you or  you or you, but my life is chock-a-block full.  Packed to the brim with things I need to get done but when it comes to my friends I make the time.  Even if I am too busy for dinner or a walk, I reach out with call or text to just say, "Hey, thinking of you.  Hope you are well."  And if one of them is in need - if things really hit the fan and they need help or an ear - I will make the time.

Our friends are our friends because they want to be.  Not because they were born to be your friend or because they took a vow to be your friend.  They are under zero obligation to spend time with you or to even like you but they choose to do so.  Don't take their presence in your life for granted; make the fucking time because you know what the next question will be?

When tragedy strikes how many of you will be left thinking about how you wished you'd reached out more, that you wish you'd expressed your affection for them more often or that you regret all those times you declined the call, didn't answer the text or bailed on the dinner plans?

Don't wait...

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Family of choice...

Photo by Arthur Fink
This morning was the last full rehearsal with my troupe before I leave for three months of Semester at Sea.  There was a lot of discussion of how things would run while I was gone, where the troupe would rehearse, what new music they might work on and what old standbys they plan to perfect. After this we did what we do best, we created. 

I had so much I wanted to say to all of them today, but as per usual, when I start feeling all sentimental my response is to turn on the grump. It certainly didn't help that my voice is nearly gone, I can barely squeak, and so I was feeling very frustrated with trying to express myself at all.  In the end I apologized for being emotionally overwhelmed and asked if we could cut the rehearsal short.  They all said they understood and so we ended twenty minutes early.  Now I am wishing so much that I'd found a way to express more clearly what I was feeling.

The truth is guys that I'm going to miss the heck out of all of you.  I have spent most of my weekends this summer making music, dancing, and traveling with you.  A few of you I've been doing this with for years, and a couple of you I see nearly daily.  You are all more than just my troupe mates, you are my friends...you are my family of choice.  When one of our own was injured and in need, there was no question in anyone's mind about stepping up to surround him with love, to help out, to make sure that the rest of the freaks and the community were in the know about his condition.  This is simply what we do. 

While I am eager to embark on this adventure I can't help but I feel as though I am leaving just at the moment we are about to bloom.  We create a rare sort of magic when we come together, whether in practice or on stage, and I'm going to miss that.   I know that you all will do wonderful things while I am gone, and I hope to have something equally wonderful to share with all of you when I return.

We have one more show together before I go.  I'm so looking forward to sharing the stage with you one more time, and I know that when that passes I'll be counting the days until I share that space with you again.

I love you all. 




Thursday, August 20, 2015

The pursuit of happiness...

You would think that spending large parts, and in some case all, of our lives around the same people would lead us towards having a greater understanding of each other as individuals.  Of course most of us can take a look around at our families, our parents, children, siblings, life long friends and even spouses and know that this is so often not the case.

I am sure that someone better educated on the subject than I am could tell you the reasons why but I think really in the end it comes down to expectation.  We have an image in our minds of who the people in our lives are or who we hope them to be and we don't often allow much room for that to change.  That image often becomes fixed in a certain time and place in person's life.  How many adult children lament that their parents still seem to treat them as though they are 14 (I've a friend who still gets horse themed birthday cards from her dad despite her horse obsession have ended 30 years ago)  and how many spouses go through years of marriage, careers and children only to one day realize that the person they live with has become a stranger? How many children are surprised when their parents decide to hike the Appalachian trail or travel the world when they retire, having no idea that this was a desire of theirs all along?

It can be an incredibly painful feeling when those who are supposed to love and support us the most seem to have no understanding or are even directly dismissive of the things that feed the deepest part of our soul. I see this so very often when it comes to those pursuing creative lives.  I have many friends who are artists, musicians and performers who's parents still refer to their chosen life path as a "hobby" and ask them constantly, "When are you going to give this up and get a real job?"    I have older friends who have decided that after years of career, career, career it is time to pursue novel writing, art  and music only to be told by their children or spouses, "Where did this come from?  Aren't you a little too old to be doing this?  Is this some sort of midlife crisis thing?"

(An aside:  It does not help that in our culture the arts are seen as something that is an indulgence rather than a life path.  Many parents will pay a nostalgic $100 per ticket to see Madonna but gods forbid their child should choose to become a musician.  There is probably some fear involved, worry that their child will suffer in some way. And maybe, as might be the case with spouses or lovers, we fear that if our partner chooses to pursue something new that it must mean they are unhappy with us; that we are not fulfilling them enough in some way and so we get defensively resentful of their new pursuits.)

I've thought a lot about expectations these past few weeks, that of others and my own.  I had a dear friend injured in an accident a few weeks ago.  Suddenly one of the most important people in my life was at deaths door.  When you find yourself sitting in an SCU waiting room for hours on end you can't help but overhear family conversations;  a girlfriend lamenting that the last words said to her boyfriend before his motorcycle crash were said in anger, a father mumbling to god that if his daughter makes it out okay he will support her in whatever she wants to do,  an angry sister telling a friend how she hopes her brother's car accident will finally make him realize he needs stop pursuing musical pipe dreams, and a woman who was so grateful that her friend, who had a stroke and was not likely to recover, was someone who always pursued her dreams and had a rich life.

For me, sitting there, waiting for word on how my friend was doing, whether or not he was going to live or die, my thoughts at first  were simply that I wanted him to live and be physically ok.  As the days passed, his condition stabilized and it became known that he was likely to make a full recovery, my hope became that he would come through this trauma a whole person, and come back to himself again.  Being in that space, immersed in my own worries and fears, listening to what was going on around me, ruminating on my various relationships with family and friends, I think I came to understand what it means to love someone enough to let go of all those expectations and to want nothing more for them than their own happiness, in whatever form that takes for them.  That, in the end, was all I wanted for him. 

It would be nice if these revelations could happen without massive upheaval or trauma.  It is easy to have our eyes and hearts opened by the prospect of loss, but keeping the lesson can be difficult.  I am sure that in the coming weeks, months and years, I will have moments where my own expectations of a person will get in the way, and I hope I am able to reach inside and remember this moment, this lesson, and let go.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

When to shut up...


The other night I was with a group of friends, one of whom is going through a very difficult time after a traumatic event occurred in their life. They were attempting to convey their fears and anxieties about the days ahead.  They were not expressing a desire to give up or to not work at moving forward, they were simply trying to share what they were feeling in that moment. Instead of listening or acknowledging their feelings, one of the group kept interjecting with platitudes of, "Oh, don't give up, you can do it." and "You're tough, you'll get through." and (the most cringe worthy), "Don't feel that way.  I mean look how much progress you've made."

"Don't feel that way..."

Yup.  That's right.  Great.  Way to absolutely invalidate what the other person is feeling. Don't feel this way.  It doesn't matter that you do actually feel this way right now, you shouldn't feel this way.  Don't feel this way.  See I know how you can not feel this way.  Let me explain in detail to you just how - no, no don't keep talking and expressing your pain.  Listen to wise old me.  Don't feel this way.  Because your expressing that you do feel this way makes me wildly uncomfortable.

Okay now I realize that  most of the time the person delivering the platitude is not really a pompous asshole who has zero regard for their friend's feelings. I know that most of the time the intentions behind them are full of all sorts of love and kindness but I also think there is another feeling that motivates us to say these things.  I think it is fear.

The fact is that listening to another person's pain is hard.  First we are more often than not fighting against our cultural tendency towards distraction; being present is not something our culture trains us to do.  Second, being a witness to someone's dark time can be incredibly uncomfortable.  It's not only hard to see those we love in pain, but being the empathetic creatures that we are we also see that the person in pain could just as easily be us, and that can be terrifying. Yes, I feel your pain and it scares the ever living shit out of me.

And so we don't listen because to really listen is to be vulnerable.  The person expressing themselves is already there; they are opening up to you and laying out their pain/sadness/anxiety before you.  To listen to their words and feelings without judgement, to allow yourself to be fully present with them and  their pain, you have to set yourself and all your instincts to run from pain aside.  Because this moment isn't about you or your fear.  This moment is about being a friend and sometimes, maybe most of the time, that means sitting down, shutting up and just listening.

(Note:  There are times that action is warranted.  If your friend is suicidal or in danger of harming themselves, by all means take action and get help.  Call 911 or your local suicide hotline.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A dream...

I am house sitting for a friend.  It is an old large house in the center of a small village.  Many years ago the house was an inn, then an artists' colony and now my friend lived in the twisty warren of its rooms all by herself.

The house is filled with antiques and art, all immaculately kept.  I wonder who does the dusting.   There is a chaos of color that somehow finds a balance that is not unpleasing to the eye.  It feels cozy.  Outside are beautiful flower gardens; the kind that look a bit unkempt but you know that the gardener puts in an effort to make it appear so.  There are shade trees and benches.  Wonderful nooks in which to read books and sip coffee.

I am here for two weeks.  I am hoping for quiet.  Peace.  No one knows I am here other than my friend who is overseas.  I wanted it that way; to be unfound for a awhile.

Things are fine at first. I spend a few days getting to know the town. It's like the opening montage to one of those "woman finds herself alone and finds herself" chick flicks.   I find a nice pastry shop and there is a farmers' market where I buy vegetables daily.  I visit a small dusty bookstore run by a little old lady with a penchant for serial killer biographies.  I love to walk early, when the dew is settled on everything and children draw wet smiley faces on the windows of cars.

Then one morning I see him.  A man from my past who I dated briefly a long time ago or at least I think I see him.  I catch only a glimpse of him walking by on the street as I am chatting with a store clerk.  I pass it off to my imagination.

Later that evening I am in the garden picking berries when I hear someone's footsteps on the porch.  I look up and see a man in the window of the house looking out at me.  It is him, the man I saw on the street.  He just smiles and waves and steps away into the darkness of the house.

I grab a hand scythe from the shed and rush into the house.  I search top to bottom and find no one.  I am shaken but still tell myself I must be imagining things.  That being alone in the house is giving me the creeps and that I've not yet let go of the stress of my life.  I consider calling a friend to stay with me but I so much want to have this time to myself I decide against it.

I am confused as to why my imagination is bringing up this man.  He was a rather dull individual, which is why we never dated more than a few times, but he was kind and certainly not the stalker type.  If this was my brain playing tricks on me why him?

That night I try to sleep in my room but my ears are too alert.  I'm still creeped out enough that every creak of the settling house or rattle of the wind in the trees brings me back to wakefulness.  I get up to make tea and decide to read in the living room.  As I'm sitting on the porch I look up and see his face in the window illuminated by my reading lamp.  I stand up to run outside and I feel a tap on my shoulder.  I turn and he is there behind me.

He's dressed like an old school preacher.  With a wide brimmed hat, white collar and plain black buttoned suit without lapels.  His beard is neatly trimmed.  His eyes are expressionless despite his wide smile.  He turns and walks away from me, through the kitchen and out the back door.

I call the police.  They arrive and search the house and the grounds but find no one.  I tell them I don't know how he got in so quickly, that I'd just seen his face in the window before he was suddenly behind me.  They know I am here on vacation, they tell me houses like this can sometime play tricks on you and that maybe it's just stress.  I'm annoyed but they do promise to keep a car outside for the night.  I go to bed.

In the morning I wake up and head to the kitchen to find that all of the silverware has been removed from its drawers and laid in neat rows on the counter tops.  The coffee mugs, bowls and dishes, all upside down, cover the floor.  I run outside and knock on the window of the police cruiser.  I ask the officer if he saw anything.  He says no, he was there all night.  He did walk the grounds a few times but saw no one.  I bring him into the kitchen.  He is as perplexed as I.

I decided to get a room in town.  I won't stay in the house another night.  I don't want to be alone.  I am angry that my peace has been disturbed.

I am in my room packing my suit case.  I hear a door slam downstairs.  I go down to investigate and of course, as always, no one is there.  I stand staring out the window wondering if it is my imagination.  Wondering if I'm going crazy.  Maybe I walked in my sleep last night?  Maybe I did the weird dish thing?  Maybe the stress of my life is finally getting to me?

I hear a whispery sliding sound and turn to look...I see part of the wall sliding to the side.  A secret door, he is standing there.  His lips are moving and I strain to hear...

"None of this is real.  None of this is real.  None of this is real.  None of this is real."

I lose it.  I run towards him screaming that I'm not crazy.  He's the crazy one stalking me.  What does he want and why the hell is he doing this to me?

Suddenly he grabs my collar and begins to pull me back with him into the darkness.  He's laughing as he moves back at an impossible speed.  So fast my feet are flung out behind me as though I am flying.

"None of this is real.  Not this tunnel.  Not this darkness.  Not this house. Not me.  Not you.  None of this is real. None of this is real."

I yell for him to let me go and with a thump I find myself landing on the front walk.  I see the officer on the porch knocking on the door, shouting if I am okay.  He turns and sees me on the walk.

"How did you get here?"

"He is in the house," is my only reply. I refuse to go back in.  The officer fetches my bag and drives me to a small bed and breakfast down the street.

That night I can't sleep.  I have a glass of wine but rest does not come.  When I drift off I am back in the tunnel flying through the air, my ears filled with his whispering chant.  I finally close my eyes but suddenly awaken.  I'm unsure of the hour.  I wonder what has awakened me and then realize I feel hot breath on my cheek.  I lay there frozen...

"Every moment of crazy.  Every misplaced book, every lost key. That's me.  Every demon, every saint, every second of uncertainty...that's me.  That's me...."

The breathe changes to the other side of my face.

"I'm not here for love but I'll never leave.  All your wishful thinking.  That's me.  I'm here for  your eternity.  That's me..that's me...that's me."

And then I woke up.