Well, here it is. New Year's Day 2011. I can't warm up, I have the sniffles and a cough, I didn't go out last night, I had to get up early on a Saturday to go feed my friend's dog, my Blackberry keeps shutting itself down and I have no clue which direction to go with my career from here. Oh yeah...and stupid Time Warner cable doesn't give me access to Oprah's new OWN network. I have access to 997 channels of violent, over-sexed, embarrassing-for-America trash...but TW won't give me the ONE channel that's sole purpose is uplifting television. *sigh*
And still my heart is light as I'd like to shout from the rafters, "THANK GOD 2010 IS OVER!!! THANK YOU GOD! THANK YOU! PRAISALUIAH!!!"
And I thought 2009 was a roller coaster. 2010 cleaned its clock and took its name.
Starting off with my baby sister moving to Chicago one year ago today, the first half of the year was all downhill from there. It felt like I was mourning a death (Taurus' HATE change). My sisters are my best friends. So it was a good four months before I could actually talk to her on the phone, cuz the sound of her cheerful little voice would just make me burst into tears like a stoopit girl. I know, ridonkulous, right? Get OVER yourself, you freakin' pansy. Some people have actually lost loved ones for real this year -- you have no right to act this selfish.
And yet, I did.
This is not to say I cocooned myself in my apartment for half a year or actually allowed myself to wallow all that often. I made great efforts to get out of the doldrums (this is a big deal for me, cuz I tend to enjoy the wallowing). However...the Great Recession decided to nail me full force at the same time, so "fun" - which costs a buck or two - was few and far between. I think I went from January (which is usually a busy time of year for me for voice students, what with New Year's rezzies and all) to June with two or three students MAX at any given time. Sometimes it was one student a week. My nanny job was precarious from week to week because the girls' mom had been laid off the previous July and money was really getting tight for them by this point.
Then came news of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, which very quickly snapped me out of my "woah-is-me" mentality. So one of my biggest efforts to get back on the posi-train was to produce a benefit for Doctors Without Borders. I was so grateful to have a focus, something to keep me busy, something to do for others so I could stay out of my head (I'm not saying I was grateful for the quake, do NOT misunderstand me -- it simply woke me up). Alaaaaaasssssss...a friend who had agreed to run sound for me misinterpreted something I said, refused to accept my apology (or even speak to me) and backed out of the benefit a week before the show. I then found myself scrambling to find sound equipment and someone to run it to pull off the show while deeply grieving the end of that friendship. Even still...there's that little lump in my throat when I think about it -- it's never been resolved.
So one of my best friends moved far away and another threw me completely out of his life in the span of about five weeks.
BP Oil Spill. Earthquakes in Chile and China. My beloved Nashville gets flooded and the news media doesn't give a rip cuz they were too busy covering the spill and the UNSUCCESSFUL car bomb in NY (2010 went on to produce $222 billion worth of disasters before it was over. Jesus is coming - look busy!).
The icing though? The friggin' cherry? This year I was turning...ahem...coughcough...gulp...the big 4-0. This was a problem for several reasons.
1) Some say a woman in the entertainment industry is dead after 25.
2) I decided when I moved here in 2001 that I'd tell people I was 27. I kinda still had been.
3) I have always said that when I turned 40 I'd stop lying about my age.
4) But wait - I'm still 27!!!
But most pressing...
5) What the hell have I been doing for forty years? I HAVE ACCOMPLISHED NOTHING! NUH. THING. AT. ALL! THIS ISN'T WHERE I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE BY FORTY! ARE YOU KIDDING ME???
My friends all have successful careers, businesses, beautiful families, etc. Now, I chose long ago not to worry about marriage and kids and I still do NOT regret that. But I do recognize that my friends who have chosen that path have accomplished a beautiful thing and they have their legacy. Me? I married music and the songs I write are my babies. And at that moment I felt like no more dysfunctional a "family" could possibly exist. My "husband" was a selfish, soul-sucking, finance-depleting, unemployable good for-nothing who beat me and my "kids" were wit-challenged, lazy, whiny little ingrates who contributed nothing to the family unit and made me wonder often how a reasonably intelligent and talented individual such as I could have produced such rotten offspring.
And where do I go from here?
Needless to say, the first half of the year felt like I was constantly gasping for air, for SOME kind of life, grasping for SOME spark of creativity, for SOME kind of validation that I hadn't completely destroyed my life. For the first time in my entire life I wasn't just alone...I was lonely. I honestly feared I'd soon have to decide if I was going to show up on my mother's doorstep, accept that my life as a performer and recording artist was over and I would now live the rest of my life as a batty old maid with cats, teaching tone-deaf 11 year olds songs from "Annie" for twenty-five bucks an hour. In Johnstown, NY. While the place has cleaned up a lot since I left,there's still nothing else to do there but get drunk or pregnant...just as it was in high school. Obviously, my eggs are pretty hard-boiled at this point. So that leaves drunk. Cheers.
The healing began with Jim Caruso's Cast Party at the Magic Castle on April 1st, where I, accompanied by the great Billy Stritch, sang to a packed room of big deal theater folk, producers, composers, celebrities, etc....and the crowd roared. Then came a show I was called to do at the last minute -- a Broadway review show. I had to sing real show tunes, where I accidentally rediscovered my inner actress...and found out that I can be really funny while I'm singing and the sound of people laughing at you (when they're supposed to) is really addicting. I realized it had been soooooo long since I'd really performed with total abandon that I'd forgotten what it was like. Little flickers of life...
Then I threw myself a birthday party. Not cuz I really wanted to celebrate my entrance into official middle-agedom, but because I didn't want to regret that I didn't later. It was that decision that brought forth a miracle in my heart. Since I already chronicled it in an earlier blog, I won't go into detail again, but suffice it to say that a) I found out how many people actually do give a s**t or two about me in this god-forsaken city and b) as soon as I turned that dreaded number...I STOPPED CARING ABOUT IT. I had built up so much anxiety over it for months and months (okay, pretty much since I turned 35)...I don't know what I was expecting it to feel like. Like a truck hitting me or something? It didn't. It came in on a wave of love, celebration, laughter and music. And I literally woke up RELEASED afterward. Almost like I'd had great sex! Not that I recall what that's like either...but as I imagine it would be. Like in the movies and stuff. But I digress...
Then I took a wonderful trip to New York City with my amazing Canadian friend Tiffany (she made it all possible) where I watched my good friend/co-writer Levi win a Tony, where I got to sing at the world famous Birdland, where we spent some time at the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Ground Zero...it rejuvenated me further. I came home having decided, for once and for all, that my life is MINE and can be whatever I want it to be. No one gets to tell me "no" but me. You wanna tell me I'm too old? You wanna tell me I'm too fat? I'm not pretty enough? I don't sing the "right" way? I'm all over the niche map? I'm not qualified to teach voice because I don't have my masters in education, my certification in speech level technique, or because I'm a bad accompanist on the piano? You go right ahead. Don't let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya! I have been THROUGH IT Nelly, and I'm still standing. Forty is a new beginning for me. I know what I know, I know what I do well and I know that every preconceived notion our society dreams up for us all falls away the minute I open my mouth to sing in front of an audience or instruct a student on how to open their mouth and SING. So naysayers, put that in your pipe and smoke it. Well, not really, cuz smoking is bad for you. So just...go away or something. Pee pee all over someone else's Wheaties.
Thanks to my new 'tude, the rest of the year has mostly been a tidal wave of new students, meeting other musicians, singing at every cabaret and piano bar that will have me, another benefit for Nashville where miracles happened (never mind that I almost killed my neighbor putting the show on), auditioning for tv shows and commercials (as an actor, no less!), slowly dipping my toe into attending church again and my cousin Jenny's wedding! I have had a lot of fun since May and I think I've performed more in 2010 than I did in all the years I've lived here since 2001. Okay, that's kinda sad. But that's what I allowed my life to be before now. I have hoarded my gifts since I moved here - I was warned by a Nashville friend who knew a little about how L.A. works that I should NEVER sing for free out here. "Once it gets out that you'll sing for free, you'll NEVER get paid." So I took that advice to heart. Nine years later that advice hasn't worked (I'm a slow learner, shut up). So this year I finally said, "Screw it, I'll sing anywhere...it's the ONLY thing that makes me happy whether I'm paid for it or not." And while I haven't exactly been rollin' in the dough, a funny thing happened. My student roster started growing. Every time I sing, someone asks for my card. So this year I'll have PAID gigs AND lots of students. And some studio work again (which is my fave cuz I don't have to gussy up!). And maybe a tour...singing backup for someone, a national tour of a Broadway show, my own shows...I don't care what it is. I'm gonna travel and sing, travel and sing.
So now I feel excited about 2011. I still have NO CLUE what I'm gonna do with it, but I'm going one day at a time right now. My only true goals are to be kinder to myself, kinder to others, write songs and sing, sing, sing. All the pieces around that will fall where they may. Nothing is more important than nurturing my own light which will then spread joy and healing to others via my God-given gifts. There, campers, is your meaning of life. And even though it appears I won't get to see her say it on OWN, as Oprah says, "Live your best life." Truly -- when you choose to do that, others are inspired to live their best lives too and that's what heals the world. And so it is.
Peace, joy, blessings, abundance and love to ALL of you in 2011!