Thursday, May 23, 2013

the things we clean out of our closets

We don’t think of cleaning out our closets as a particularly spiritual endeavor. At least I didn’t. But a strange thing happened to me while meditating: I got the message – “clean out your closets.”

At first, I laughed, dismissing it as something I must have conjured or unconsciously thought about doing. Surely it could not be any sort of higher power urging me to fill up bags for Good Will. I mean, that would be a nice thing to do and all, but it didn’t seem like higher power stuff to me.

But every day I kept meditating, and every day I kept getting the same message – “clean out your closets.” It was obstinate and felt urgent, like nothing else could happen unless I cleaned out my dang closets. But I’m a doubter, so instead of immediately setting about the designated task, I questioned why.

Nothing revealed itself to me, nor did the message subside. So finally, I began heeding it. It seemed overwhelming, at first. Where to start? This used to be home to five people. Now there are two. And I had lived away for so many years, I had my own household worth of stuff to figure out how to store or incorporate back into this dwelling. Plus, there was the emotional component of my mother and grandfather being gone.

I decided to start with my own closets, a shelf a day, and to be merciless. Hmm, interesting choice of word. When it came to clothing, if it hadn’t been worn in three years, or if there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of me ever fitting in it again, out it went. As for other items, if I hadn’t used them, remembered them, or still loved them, out they went.

At first, it felt liberating. Liberating, but not spiritual. An idea whose time had come, but I couldn’t really glean any deeper meaning beyond the idea, on a literal level, that getting rid of the old makes room for the new.

Sure, it would be nice to have more space, be organized, know what I own, blah, blah, blah. But ten Hefty bags into it, I still couldn’t tell you why this was so friggin’ important to do now or what I was supposed to learn.

Then it happened. Little by little, I looked at the things I kept for “someday.” First, they were my own things. And those were relatively easy to let go of. But then there were my mother’s things, things I had kept “in case,” or because they fit – sort of, or because you never know. And I felt her presence as powerfully as if she was sitting next to me.

The more things of hers I put in the pile to go out, the greater my sense of fear became. Not sadness, not longing, but fear. What if I need this someday? What if there isn’t enough? What if I am completely unprepared for life and this is the one thing I could use, but I got rid of it?

It was completely irrational. I looked like Bea Arthur from Golden Girls in her clothes. They were swimming on me. This wasn’t about how getting rid of her stuff was somehow a betrayal of her memory. This was about my own fear. This was about seeing life as potentially treacherous. This was about coming from a place of lack versus abundance. And the kicker is I thought I had already dealt with all of that.

I thought I had chosen to see the universe as friendly and abundant. I thought I believed in always enough. But there I stood, realizing quite the contrary, and knowing that this moment was a chance to clear out more than my closets; this moment was beckoning me to clean out old belief systems that no longer serve me. And that, indeed, was the spiritual, and emotional, and psychological task at hand, the real reason I could receive no other message until I had done this.

As I felt my mother’s presence surrounding me, I became clear that these beliefs weren’t my own. Sure, I had adopted them as my own. We’re all served up all kinds of things from the time we come into the world, and we dutifully accept them all as the clean slate we are that’s being written upon. We copy exactly what we’ve seen or been told. But sooner or later, the decision as to what to believe and how to operate in the world is our own. Of course, by that time, our beliefs are so unconscious and ingrained in us, that we often don’t see them as a choice at all, but simply as how things are. That goes for relationships, jobs, money, everything. I would never have suspected that getting rid of an outfit that wasn’t even mine could stir up so much inner turmoil.

But that’s just it. These things didn’t belong to me. They weren’t mine. It was as if my mother was saying, “I lived my life. And these were the things of that life. Now go live yours.” From that moment on, I felt free of the fear, the what ifs, the need to hang on, as if hanging on actually made me any more or less safe in the world. It was more than purging. It was reclaiming a piece of myself I didn’t even remember. So step by step, I am releasing what isn’t mine and making room for a life of my choosing instead of the one by default.

And there’s plenty that remains just as it was when my mother was alive. The house is my father’s, after all, and I respect his wishes to leave it much the same as my mother had it. That is his choice to make, and if it brings him some measure of comfort, then so be it. Those who visit the house, who didn’t know my mother, will fast be made aware of her pervasive love of the color blue, among other things. It is my hope that they will also fast be made aware that they are welcomed, and that, though small in size, this is a place with ample room for love and laughter. And of course, food…cause you gotta eat.

Thanks so much for stopping by. Please tell your friends. And might I suggest cleaning out a closet or two of your own. You never know what you'll find when you do.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

a Post-Show Blog - Part 2

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and to tell you the truth, I'm hoping that's the case because the video footage of the show had some beautiful shots...of the waiter walking directly in front of the camera on all but two songs. 

So after my slight meltdown about the footage that will never be seen on YouTube of last week's show, I set about hunting down stills that anyone might have taken that night. Fortunately, there were some good samaritans with cell phones and cameras in the audience. God bless them all. And by all, I mean Scott Levy, Enid Blount Press, Michele Jaffe Stork, and Carolyn Messina!

So for those of you who missed it as well as those who'd like some "misty, water-colored memories of the way we were," here's my walk down memory lane of a very special evening making music with my friends. And again, my heartfelt gratitude to Garry Novikoff, BethAnne Clayton, Tanya Leah, & Lorraine Ferro.

Backstage before the show L-R: Tanya, Lorraine, Ilene, Beth & Garry in front

The ensemble takes to the stage!

Me, opening with a brand new song

Tanya gracing us with the happy Ukulele

Garry, my fellow lefty Leo

BethAnne, rockin' the beautiful, bluesy stuff

Singing Goddess, Lorraine...I don't even need the audio with this picture!

The friends singing our encore "You've Got a Friend"

Garry and Ilene sporting the closed-eyes and open-mouths singing look

Post-show jubilation!

Thanks for stopping by and sharing the post-show fun with me! Please tell your friends...and come on out to my next gig on May 19th where I'll be part of the Music at the Mansion concert series in New Jersey!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

a Post-Show Blog - Part 1

I had this dream. Nothing as daunting as achieving lasting peace on earth – although, that is one I’ve had, too, but gathering some of my closest friends together for an evening of, well, what we did until the wee hours of the morning in my living room not long ago, which was play and sing our songs for and with each other, along with practically every other song ever written. (It was until the wee hours, after all.)

In theory, everything sounds like a good idea at the time you think of it. But I was serious. And as anyone who’s ever known me for more than five minutes knows, when I’m serious about something, I have a way of making it happen.

So within a couple of months of our gathering, a venue was booked, a date set, and the people I wanted to play with were asked. Let me explain the likelihood of five professional musicians being available to play on the same night together – none. But somehow the fates were with me on this one, because everyone managed to sign on eventually.

I had a vision in my head of what the night would look like. It would be my New York version of a Nashville Bluebird CafĂ© round. (For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, the Bluebird is a Nashville songwriters’ venue. And a “round” is four writers sitting in a circle taking turns playing their songs very informally.) Only in New York, there’s a stage and lights, and everything is more expensive. Plus the whole theater setting was far from informal.

In my vision of the evening, we’d each bring the fullness of our talents, hearts and souls to the table. Oh yeah, and also our humor. I live for the unscripted banter, the not knowing what’s going to come out of anyone’s mouth, including my own. I might possibly be the only performer whose pre-show prayer goes something like this: “God, please let me not suck. And oh yeah, please make me funny.” (Hey, far less lofty things have been asked for, believe me.)

Now, I could go into great detail about the journey leading up to last night’s performance – the one rehearsal we had, the changing of minds about song selection at the last minute, the chaotic nature of five very different personalities, not to mention…oh, why sugarcoat it…artists are all nuts. And I say that both with all the love in my heart as well as the full knowledge that I am one of them. But I was the nut whose brainchild this was, and so I felt like the success or failure of it rested on my shoulders. Yes, I wanted it to be great, but I also wanted it to be fun. My philosophy is if we’re having fun on stage, then so will the audience.

Show night was upon us. Did I mention my 50+ pound keyboard that I had to pack and haul? Let’s just put it this way, I have so many cuts and bruises on hands and various body parts that were used to prop up, navigate, maneuver and just plain schlep, that I look like I was mauled by a wild animal of some sort. And that was before I got to the theater.

When I dropped my keyboard off at the foot of the flight of stairs inside the theater (which was on the 2nd floor with no elevator), the manager came down to greet me, took one look at my ginormous keyboard case and said he’d give me a hand. And by “give me a hand,” I mean he just picked up the whole thing like it was made of Styrofoam and walked up the flight of stairs without breaking a sweat, let alone struggling in any discernible way. I briefly thought of offering him my firstborn, but then remembered I don’t have children.

Sound check was a little tense. Our one and only rehearsal had left us knowing we could sound great together, but that there was also ample potential for harmonic catastrophe, because did I mention we only had one rehearsal? Add to that the fact that all of us had never performed together before, though I’d performed with each person separately on many different occasions. Recipe for…well, it was the recipe for my word and lesson of the year – trust.

This gig was an opportunity, particularly for me, because I can’t speak for anyone else, to trust the people I chose to work with, to trust the years of experience that each of us collectively brought with us, to trust the work each of us did individually before we got there, to trust that the audience would appreciate our offering, to trust that there would even be an audience, and to trust that everything always works out for the highest good of everyone involved. And it did.

From the moment we walked on stage, the audience was with us. They laughed at our jokes; they participated when asked to join in, which was especially necessary on Garry’s song with the kazoos. And for those of you who were not present, I know you are really sorry about that now that you know there were kazoos. There was also a keyboard, two guitars, a ukulele, shakers, and a doumbek. It was a cacophony of creativity on that stage, I tell ya.

The show was everything I could have hoped for. By the time we saw the cell phone equivalents of the Bic lighters waiving in the air as we did our one cover of the show, our encore of “You’ve Got a Friend,” it was one big love-fest.

And though I’m waiting for pics and recordings, here’s a couple we took backstage before the show. There will be more in the next blog! Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

             L-R: Tanya Leah, Lorraine Ferro, Ilene Angel, BethAnne Clayton, and Garry Novikoff in front
L-R: Lorraine Ferro, Ilene Angel, BethAnne Clayton, & Garry Novikoff

And a note to my friends who made music with me - BethAnne Clayton, Garry Novikoff, Lorraine Ferro, and Tanya Leah – I am awed by your talent, I cherish our friendship, and I love you to pieces!!!