Last night, I dreamed I showed up to my album release show at Noce, an upscale, reputable jazz venue here in town, and suddenly realized: a) the album wasn't finished; b) none of us in the band had played together in a whole lotta months; and c) I couldn't remember the songs. I debated whether or not to cancel the show, then opted to move forward anyway, declaring imperfection my trademark. The dream cut to post-show. Someone said it was the worst performance they had ever seen at Noce. I was ashamed and issued a public apology for disgracing an otherwise very professional stage.
Other than that, everything is fine. I turned 46 last Sunday. Everything but my age is on hold.
I like the pause. I wish we could maintain it while still taking care of each other. I wish we could keep the windows shuttered without everyone going broke and sinking into black holes of isolation and domestic abuse. I wish everyone would stop fighting about masks. I wish those people dressed in American flag t-shirts and flak jackets would put down their dumb "I need a haircut" signs, go home, and stop embarrassing white people everywhere.
Fisher and I have named the front-yard squirrels. Last night, before the rain and before my scandalous performance at Noce, I drank wine on the front step around dinner time and noted their distinguishing features, wanting to be able to call them by name with confidence. Divot, is the easiest. A scar on her side has made her fur grow funny, leaving a gap the shape of a small Nike swish. Chunk (named by Fisher, although I prefer "Stubs") has an abnormally short tail. Squiggle has a petite body with an extra long tail that trails behind him forming skinny s's and question marks. Feather, the mama, has the most impressive tail and also very pronounced nipples, prominently displayed when she stretches upside down on the bird feeder. My son alleges there is a 5th squirrel, Grayson, but I think Grayson is Feather when we can't see her belly.
(With that said... I can't tell who this is.)
I'd like to think everyone (who is able to stay home) has found new and interesting ways to pass the time. I watch the birds and the squirrels. Two gray catbirds have arrived. They are building a nest in the shrubbery that lines the back fence. My neighbors across the street watch Wheel of Fortune on a T.V. that appears to be the size of their living room wall. I don't know if that's new for them, but up until yesterday, they also had a ladder propped against the edge of the roof. Maybe something new is happening up top.
I've taken up dancing.
Elizabeth Gilbert has talked about her morning routine of dancing -- freestyle -- in several interviews. She says it grounds her in the present and puts her back into her body. I leave mine easily -- falling backward in time and old hurts or hurtling forward in escape and anxiety. Two months ago, I woke up feeling split and lopsided and decided to try dancing. I must say, I'm a convert. A few times a week, much to my son's abject horror, I turn on music and throw myself around the house for an hour. When I told Man-Friend of this new hobby, he said, "Just make sure your blinds are closed." I leave them open. I think my neighbors deserve a better show than Wheel of Fortune.
I don't know what it is about dancing. There is probably research. But connecting with the frequency, the rhythm, the vibe of music so intimately that it travels into and through your body, moves all of your moveable parts, and then becomes an outward expression... Holy shit. That's good juju. Furthermore, to do so without self-consciousness, is a kind of freedom that I don't recall experiencing anywhere else, except when I'm anonymous in a foreign place.
Dancing, in a strange sense, is a way to disappear and claim space at the same time.
I feel light and joyful on the other side of every living room dance party. A few days ago, I took a picture of my face right when I was done to see if I looked different. I think I do. (Dancing = crazy eyes).
Regular No-Dancing Face
Crazy-Eyed Post-Dancing Face
The timing of quarantine has been interesting, personally. I'd already declared a hiatus from music and canceled all upcoming gigs. And... I'd already resigned from my job. I did that back in January with no plan for what would come next. I just knew it was time to go. I'm still working. I'm on contract through early June, and then I'm done. When the country shut down, I was in flux, anyway. New things were coming. Life was changing (always). Quarantine was a beautiful and unexpected gift for me -- extra space to breathe and stretch and listen for the next move.
I'm a good listener, most of the time.
I don't know what's happening with the record. I started recording the new batch of songs back in January 2019. It's been a slow, stop-and-start process ever since. I have 14 songs down. We lost 2 days in the studio back in March due to COVID. All the ends are dangling. There has been so much stop-and-start and pause that I've wondered many times if the album wants to be something else, and it just keeps asking me to stop and listen. I am trying to trust this and be patient. But I am watching other artists record and release and getting itchy. When patience competes with ego, it's hard to sit comfortably.
Patience in liminal space.
A friend referred to this time as a collective "liminal space" recently, and it reminded me of a Rob Bell podcast (about change and liminal space) I heard almost four years ago. We enter liminal space when one thing ends and before another begins. I wrote about it in an old personal blog -- I was finishing the Queen of Everything album at the time, living in a rental house that was just put on the market, grieving the death of my dog, sending my son to preschool, and watching an important relationship change. Sometimes, I go back and read old things I've written and marvel at the fact that I'm still mucking through the same field. At any rate, here is something from September of 2016, and it still fits.
September 9, 2016:
Times are strange these days. The universe is chatty. Screamy. Pushy. A bit overbearing, if you don’t mind me saying. Two weeks ago I listened to a podcast from Rob Bell –Seasons– about handling change. In fact, I’ve listened to it 4 times since.
I was most taken with the idea of “liminal space”–a term to describe an uncomfortable lapse between chapters: One chapter has ended but the next has not yet begun. Bell talks about the rich opportunities for meaningful transformation and growth in the liminal space, increased creativity and exploration, reflection, the good junk. But it’s such an uncomfortable place to occupy that a lot of people rush through, thereby missing the opportunity to be better in ways that matter. The recommendation: Be patient.
I like it when someone gives me words to describe a nagging experience that has, until then, been wordless. It gives me a labeled box to put it in and a well-lit place on the shelf. When I read (books I own), I hold a pen and underline things that line something up in my brain. Sometimes I pull books off the shelves (literally and metaphorically) just to see what I’ve underlined. Life feels cleaner when I know how to describe it.
Which is essentially what I do here at the blog, by the way. I clean up.
With Rob Bell’s help, I can finally give a name to this weird, floaty space I’ve been in for the last 2 years. Liminal space. And now that I have a name for it, the universe is telling me it’s time to let go of it and move on. I’ve never been very good at letting go.
In the last 2 months: 1) the house I rent unexpectedly went on the market; 2) my dog died; 3) my son started preschool; 4) my relationship changed; and 5) I’m about to finish the album that literally tells the story of my last 2 years of liminal space.
Duh, Universe. I get it. Liminal Space = Over. New Chapter = Open it.
I don’t want to get too drippy about it, but I’m finding this ouchy. Beautiful. But ouchy.
I had a moment the other day, lying on my back on the floor, as all dramatic heroines do, in which I thought, Well, I’m starting over. And then I said, “But didn’t I already do this?”
Well, no, Dear. You didn’t. You left one life and then stepped into a waiting room.
They always say that when one door closes, another one opens (or a window). Not always. It is possible to end something without starting another.
After the divorce and six months living with my very kind and generous parents, this house felt like safety. No matter how wonderful and accommodating your parents are, it’s hard to live with them when you are 40 and have a child. I curled into this house like it was a cocoon in the dark.
Or a waiting room.
I see a waiting room–bright and cheerfully decorated. Fresh flowers. Someone else is there waiting, too. We get along. Well. Really well. There is music. There are excellent snacks. There is wine. And so we stay. Why leave? But one at a time, the lights flicker out. There goes the house. The dog. The child. The album. Then there goes the waiting room companion. All you did was bend to tie your shoe, and when you came up again, the room was empty.
I don’t know. Is that drippy? I was going for artsy-short-film.
Regardless, the signs are clear: Move along little doggie..
In the midst of the hubbub is the album. 10 songs that cover the last 2 year trajectory of crashing, burning, resting, and climbing. And now this record is about to be done. It’s almost like I was writing it in real time. I suppose I was. I just didn’t realize it at the time.
The math of these things is pretty lovely when it isn’t stabbing you in the ass.