(Y’all, I’ve read through it again, and I warn you now, it’s beyond long- beyond all reason really, where length is concerned. That said, if you’re still in, bring coffee, bring Red Bull, bring a full-bodied California Chardonnay with an aroma of pear and oak if you’re going to do this in one sitting…
Also, there is * language * and for once, it’s not $%&* out. I do, in fact, when I’m not on best behavior use * language * and it seemed right here, so just another head’s up.)
As this year starts to wind down, I’ve been thinking about our Summer of Shows. I realize most people read that one post about One Year, Ten Shows and thought “Stalker!” Those people are absolutely right, though only on the surface I think.
It’s funny how things come up, little opportunities, all the time, and so often, I, at least, have thought, “Nah, I’ll catch it next time.” Next trip, next encounter, next year, next lifetime maybe. Different reasons not to seize the moment arise. Not enough money. Not enough time. Too much fear.
In December last year, DMB announced a two-night show in Las Vegas, set for March ’07. The attempt to secure tickets as a Christmas gift for The Hubba failed. It never had a shot, really. But, even without the surprise, we did get tickets and we, in cahoots with our divine friends, the Hajeks, did go to Las Vegas in March ’07. And this trip was unlike any trip I’d ever been on before. I wrote several funny posts (I know, I flatter myself) about it, and there were lots of funny times. But there was still more in it then I was willing to admit to the worldwideweb. We met a member of Dave Matthews Band in the most beautiful moment of perfect timing you could imagine. I married the man I was already married to again and was brought up starkly to realize I loved him far, far, far more now than I ever realized possible when we first pulled that stunt in ’02. I worried about money and considered denying myself experiences because of it and then got over it. I spent time with friends who adored their son in a way that made them want to do it all over again and they changed my way of looking at that topic.
At some point, home again, The Hubba and I decided to consider Vegas the start of something bigger, to make it an event, a year of something. Not all at once, but after the Summer Tour was announced, and over about a week, the idea of seeing them five times grew to seven, to nine, and eventually to ten. We would see them ten times, we said. We decided this in April and bought tickets to nine more shows. We decided this with no idea of how to afford so many hotels, plane tickets, gas (almost as bad as plane tickets). We couldn’t know then he would be moved to a different branch, some thirty miles away, in May (this being work lingo, not some suggestion of tree-leaping on his part) or that we, too, would move in July or that I’d have two different jobs in the course of the concerts or- or- or. You know the “or’s”. All the little things that come up and you can never plan for all of them. Car difficulties, surprise weddings, hotels fully booked. I don’t think they creep up on you; I think they spring.
The thing that some of you, not privy to the many meltdowns of the past, might not know is, I’d never been a creature of change. While I am one hundred percent glad to have had the childhood I did, and I’m so appreciative of all the people involved in it doing the best they could to make sure it was a good one… I’m also pretty sure (and this is with no professional help here, so bear with me) a lot of beliefs got “set”, so to speak, in me. If I could know as much as possible in advance, control as much of that as I could, then I would be… I’m not really sure, I was little, but the word that springs to mind now is: secure. Safe. I’d be under control.
The thing about those trips? They weren’t ME. I wasn’t someone who hauled off, throwing a thousand dollars at concert tickets, no plan in sight, no idea of getting from one place to the next, or where or when or how or what might come up. At least, the ME I was didn’t do that.
That’s the thing (funny how the thing always changes huh?). That wasn’t ME anymore either. Shifts happened in my personal plates tectonics, causing, through their tiny, subtle movements over time, huge changes to the ME that I knew.
Would you call it faith? Belief? Faith The Hubba and I could sort out flight schedules, unknown subways, and bill payments? Belief hotels would be available, funds would arise, middle-of-the-night dog emergencies could be overcome?
But was there something more? More to these trips than simply the face value of travel concerns, planning and finance? I think so. Some part of me hoped or believed or knew this kind of adventure would be worth it.
Adventure. Hold that thought.
I’ve always wanted to be one of those steady, unshakeable, constant people. Stable in the face of the good and the bad. Anchored. To me that meant predictability. Staidness.
Which created a pretty strong conflict with the part of me that wanted to go out and live like it was 1999.
An author I love, Marian Keyes, once described herself as devoid of an “off button.” That statement leapt off the page; I knew exactly how she felt. In that case, Marian was applying it to her battle with alcoholism (also, maybe, her love of chocolates), but in my case, I knew my lack of an off button was bigger than that, was more.
I had these two sides, the one that wanted to see and do and taste and smell and be and have- Go! Live! Big things are happening! There was also the one who wanted me to sit down, stop wanting, balance your checkbook, vacuum, who knows what might come of that, I don’t trust you for a second, just suck it up, there are starving children in China, for God’s sake. If you’ve never experienced that push-pull, trust me, it is exactly as fun as it sounds.
The second side, the Hall Monitor side, really started to fall apart about three years ago, around the time we moved to Chicago. Mind you, I was a mess long before The Hubba’s promotion and subsequent transfer, but Good God, I did not want to let go of this life I knew and didn’t like very much at all. So I put on the best face I could for my parents and friends, and mentally pitched a fit, and drove to Chicago to find the dark house we’d bought that I’d only seen once before and was convinced was more than we could afford and I had the best break down possible for me, being someone who saw breakdowns as an off-limits game reserved strictly for life’s wusses.
Once we had a house to bring the dogs to, I got to Chicago, a month behind The Hubba, at the end of December. My fall apart lasted, fairly consistently, until March, a sort of ritual, this day OK, this day not so good, this day OH HELL, this day OK- you see the pattern. That length of time seemed about all my mental state, even with breaks of good news, like finally selling the house in Knoxville, and being with The Hubba again, could stand. Around the same time, my mom came to visit and before she left, she left me a book.
I didn’t really want to read this book, but when one is lying in bed and cannot stomach the idea of unpacking boxes into a home one doesn’t like and one is a natural-born reader and there are unread pages lying on the bedstand…
I read it. I read it and I wanted to believe it. The message, summed up, said: “Life is supposed to be good.” The idea of it, when read deeper, suggested all experiences, wanted and unwanted, coming up in your day-to-day life, are your own creation.
That’s a bitch to read when you’ve been passively going along for the last six months, a little pissed at your husband, a little pissed at your parents, a little pissed at your dogs and really mega super-huge pissed at life in general and whatever fool thought this whole thing up.
But there it was. In front of me, what was evidence enough for me, saying me and my sad mental state of affairs had brought all this about.
I tell you now, breakdowns (even mini ones, lived out in bits over a period of months) are about the best thing that can ever happen to a person. Is that just me who thinks that? I think most of us- no, wait, why get general? I know I am the kind of person who will continue to butt my head at a situation, no matter how fruitless, how painful, how trying, over and over in the hopes that this next time I will have a different result (sometime I’ll tell you about my dad’s brick analogy; it’s a classic). In this case, the wall on which I cracked my skull was: I will continue to expect the worst, I will be frustrated and agitated, I will take the lonely moral high ground of right, I will dislike and criticize and in the midst of all this something will change and I will feel better.
I know it seems like a solid plan.
And here was one book, then another, then a CD, by different folks, with no real ties to each other, saying that dull old platitude, Life is what you make it. This information absolutely falls under the general heading “Self-Help.” And there was nothing I really wanted to do more than Self-Help myself into some kind of happy. Maybe that’s not entirely true. At the time, if there’d been a genie with a magic wand, who’d promised to get rid of all my fear and doubt and worry with one little flick, I’d have taken him up on it. But he never showed, so Self-Help it was.
It is almost three years later and I write these words now and I think back on that girl, in the bed, in Chicago, and I just want to hug her neck. Thank God she broke down, Thank Buddha she gave up, Thank Vishnu she took a little help when it came to her. I never did see a professional or attempt any kind of medication (unless you count eating and that is just as easily blamed on the Chicago cold-blubber warmth idea I came up with and it never failed to amaze me how far, far more people in sub-zero Chicago, on average, were thin, than in the South, where you could sweat out five pounds just walking from your car to the Wal-Mart in July- yet I digress), but, in my eyes, opening up to the literature out there to help people was the same. It makes sense, for a cerebral bookworm like me that, put it in the pages of a book and I will believe.
There was no action I could take to change anything. There was no fixit answer I could produce, no cureall, no genie I could find to make it better. Remember the song about going on a bear hunt? We’re going on a bear hunt (going on a bear hunt), we’re gonna hunt some bears (gonna hunt some bears). Eventually, in the song, you reach a place where you can’t go over it, can’t go under it, can’t go around it. You’ve got to go through it.
In my whole sticky equation the only power I had, the one step I could take in that moment, was to change the way I felt. I could sink under this avalanche of worry, fear, depression, anger. Or I could try to find one crack, one nook, one foothold in the rocks that might- might- lead to up to something else, something better.
HA! Easy. Life is hard, life is a struggle, life is liberally peppered with frustration and well salted with disappointment, maybe something good happens if you work really, really hard, save for a really, really long time, maybe the good comes when you retire, hoping you don’t die first. What easy thinking to change.
New thoughts took some time, I realized. At a Weight Watchers meeting I attended, I had a leader point out no one gained all that extra weight in a month, why expect to lose it so fast? That reasoning always struck me as darned sensible. Of course it would take time! Mind you, changing thoughts had to be faster than changing diets. These were just my thoughts; eating, now that was something important. Surely less than a month to become as bright and sunny on the inside as I tried to appear to the world on the outside shouldn’t be too hard (see above statements again for recalling about where my mental state was). One month. A whole new me.
It took a little longer. About 1,005 days so far and counting.
Yet. Those little shifts. Waking up in the morning and finding one reason the day might be salvageable. And yes, first thing in the morning, I was trying to save my day. Talk about stuck huh?
Still, thoughts came. I could cook something tasty for dinner. I’ve got a new book to read. I love my husband; maybe I won’t yell at him today. Sure I don’t have a house payment in my back pocket, but I can swing a meal right? At least it’s sunny. At least it’s started to warm up. Things can’t stay this way forever. Something’s gotta give. Hey, I love that movie! Maybe I’ll watch it.
Like I said, teeny-weeny, tiny baby steps. They did get easier though. I listened to lots of CDs, I read lots of books, I listened to more CDs (feel free to email me if you’d like some self-help pointers- I’ve pretty much got the gamut covered from Southern Baptist to people who channel to anything with Tom Hanks in it because who can’t feel better while watching TH?). I wore my mom out on the subject. She was the only person I felt comfortable talking to about this; maybe because she never said, “Just come home” and I was terrified, if one person suggested it, I’d be on the next plane to Knoxville. The Hubba lived through it too, but he worked a lot (who can blame him?) and I was so excited to see him when he got home, I tended to come out of my funk long enough for us to have a good couple hours together before bed. But mom pretty much lived the whole soundtrack, anywhere from “I hate this fucking place, I’m going to die here” to “I just took a walk, Spring is coming, maybe it’s not all disaster.” Thank all deities for the telephone and her willingness to listen. What a help it was to just get it outside of me
All this to say, I started to feel better. Evidence didn’t necessarily pour in, proving the power of positive thinking (if you want to call it something as simple as that), but the fact I remembered what it was like to hope something good could happen was most of the evidence I needed. Sure a book deal or a million-dollar jackpot wouldn’t have hurt. But I was, over not much time at all, seeing life with a little more enthusiasm, I was writing, I was getting out and about, I even managed to go home for a week and have the startling realization, while home was beautiful and so many people I loved were there, all my crazy had never been about the place. It wasn't Chicago or Knoxville or the beach, selling shells and beads to pay for frozen drinks, an option I often considered. Wherever you took me, I would still be me. It wasn't Chicago's fault. Knoxville wasn't the answer. Talk about a humdinger.
The opportunity to move to North Carolina cropped up. We had no money, no idea how it could work out, how to sell the house, how, if The Hubba was there and I was still in Chicago, it would work out. It was an opportunity. We took it. And parts of it were brilliant and parts of it were rough. But over that fourteen month period in Chicago hope germinated inside me. Maybe life is supposed to be good. Maybe we are here for a good time. Maybe it is about the journey and the destination is the icing. Maybe.
In April this year, a little less than a year after our move from Chicago, I agreed whole-heartedly, to take a ten-concert tour with The Hubba. We struck both Vegas shows off our list and made ready for eight shows to come. Nine shows, it turns out, when you add in the Concert for Virginia Tech. In the last year, I saw DMB play in six different states, I traveled by plane three different times, I went as far west as I’ve ever been in this country, I slept in a car, I renewed my wedding vows, I saw John Mayer play my favorite song in two different states with the band, I met Oma and Opa, I saw the band play in three different time zones, I met Boyd Tinsley, I closed out the tour with my husband, with the band, on said husband’s birthday. And between all that The Hubba changed jobs, I did too, we left our old house and bought a new one.
What I realize now about that list of action, about those physical accomplishments (I use that word loosely, except for maybe where it concerns sleeping in a car- that was a physical accomplishment), what finally makes sense to me is- none of it was about the doing. It was about the idea of it. I know me well enough to know, if I honestly, on some basic level, didn’t think I could do it, I wouldn’t have gone. Which means some part of me, no matter how small, believed in me that much to say, “Yeah, alright, ten shows. Let’s do it.”
There was so much in this last year about The Hubba and I taking this adventure together. But even more than that, at the core, was ME taking this adventure at all.
Back to that word: adventure. As a noun “adventure |an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity” or as a verb “engage in hazardous and exciting activity, esp. the exploration of unknown territory.” Well, if you put it that way, I don’t know if you shouldn’t just call it Life. Maybe not life as I first thought it, life that’s meant to be controlled and molded and perfected, so nothing ever breaks, nothing moves, opportunity, another word for chance, isn’t taken. Let’s take another look.
It’s the “hazardous” bit that’s worrying, isn’t it? Yeees, I can see that now. Who wants hazardous? Maybe, sure, exciting comes with it. Unusual, that’s interesting too. Unknown territory has a certain ring to it. But… we just keep coming back to hazardous… That damned word just won’t change. Look, right there, it says it’s typical. Jesus. Forget exciting, unusual, unknown territory. Who wants that?
One word. Hazardous. One word that one person who works for the Apple laptop people decided best summed up the idea of adventure. And really, what the hell does that one person know anyway?
Maybe something. Sleeping in the front seat of a Honda Civic with a beach towel under my head for a pillow and another one as a blanket, that isn’t comfortable, that’s for sure.
However you might define it, I realize, the idea of it is starting to define me. Not as one who wants to take a big-game safari adventure in Africa. As one who’s started to realize, maybe my life, at least, doesn’t want to be kept tightly controlled, in a box that keeps the worry, the fear, those constant spooks, out. Maybe spooks, in whatever form they take- hotel in the middle of Latin America L.A., bills that haven’t gotten themselves paid yet, who knows how long we’ll even be in the house we just moved into?- are as ghostly and made of the same vapor as the name implies.
For a very, very, very long time (or as Mark Twain might suggest, a damned, damned, damned long time) I woke up every morning with my list of what to do, to make the day go by smoothly, sidestep kinks, avoid all potholes. What needs to be done? Who needs to be called? What needs to be paid? Where do I have to be? What time is it? Oh, hell, I’m already running behind. My lists soothed me; they gave me a sense of purpose, I would have said then. Now, looking back at that me, I think, God love her heart, all those lists gave her a sense of control. Talk about a spook.
These days, I take that old, dull platitude to heart. Life is what you make it. And when I wake up, I have a few thoughts like, This is going to be a great day. Oh look, it’s sunny! Or, Oh look, it’s rainy! What am I going to have for breakfast? Something tasty. The dogs can’t wait to eat; no wonder they’re rumbling around on the floor down there. I bet The Hubba’s going to have a great day. I’m really glad I can wiggle my fingers and toes. Gosh, I love having a comfy bed. I slept so well! I am really looking forward to this day. I bet something meaningful and exciting will happen.
Occasionally, those old thoughts crop up. Who needs to be called? What needs to be paid? I know how to soothe those thoughts down. I’m in bed. It’s seven thirty; no one’s there anyway. I bet I’ll call at the perfect time. I bet we’ll have a great conversation. I bet I did pay that and forgot to write it down. I bet, if I didn’t, some really kind person will help me take care of that over the phone. If I can’t do it today, I bet I can do it tomorrow.
After I get up, however I'm feeling, I'll take out my handy-dandy notebook and write down "What I Appreciate Right Now." I make lists. These lists say things like: I appreciate the great weather. I appreciate this hot tea. I appreciate my laptop. This yarn. My full head of hair. My dogs and their funny, furry faces. This beautiful home. These windows. My ability to bounce out of bed, shower, no strain, no difficulty. My health.
I do general lists every day. I have specific lists, too, lists titled Matt (who knew The Hubba had a name?), Mom, Dad, Suz, Kelly, Barkley, Georgie, Wally, Howie, Renee (both of them), Ann, Dave H., Nolan, my boss, The Hubba's boss, on and on, I have a few dozen by now and I write what I appreciate about these people all the time, little lists that have grown into long, long, long lists.
It turns out, no off button, means thoughts like these really start to build too. Suddenly, days are more fun, they are exciting, people are kind, I’m kind too, there’s time to do everything I wanted to do… and haven’t I rambled off track?
I thought I took an adventure this year. The Hubba said “all aboard?” and I hopped on the DMB train. And taking that trip led to a wild new discovery, one the girl, in the bed, in Chicago had been looking for a damned long time: it’s all an adventure. I couldn’t say for anyone else, but for me? It’s all an adventure. It is what I make it. I make it an adventure. An unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity. Sometimes exploring unknown territory.
For me, there was a thrill in realizing I’m becoming the person I wanted to be. Not always. Not all at once. Slowly, over time, over the last three years, over three more and three more and three more to come. All the years before that. All the years to come.
Anchored. I am becoming anchored. Or maybe, better said, these beliefs are becoming anchored in me. Life is what you make it. I make it an adventure. So often, it is brilliant, it is moving, it is thrilling, it is delicious. And thank goodness for the hazards. The hazards perfectly sharpen my appreciation of all I have every time they crop up. It’s what I make it. The hazards show me what I don’t want and point me towards what I do want. Thank goodness for the hazards.
I don't know why, exactly, I've chosen to say so much *stuff* out into internetland. Maybe becauuse I took this little blog along for the Year of Dave ride. Maybe I'm ready to put it out there, as the saying goes. Maybe I'm just really interested to see if anyone actually reads this whoooole loooooong pooooooost. But all these thoughts, realizations, mini-hallelujahs, whatever you might call them, have been coming over me for some time and they had to be put down somewhere.
I'm still amazed to recognize my biggest year was absolutely my worst year. I am so grateful for Chicago, I would never, in a million years, trade that time there. Not for a book deal. Not for the jackpot. It's simple for me to appreciate the easy times, everyone's healthy, all the bits and pieces of the house work, my job's straightforward... Going crazy for the hard times though? Appreciating every rough time, every bad morning, every bit of the gloom and doom... That has been powerful. Mind you, I'd rather not ever go back to that place (mentally that is, Chicago is a lovely place to visit), but what I've gotten from it? Wouldn't trade it. You couldn't pry it from me with a crowbar.
And this year, a part of what I made it, was a tour around the country, watching one of the greatest bands of all time, with one of the greatest people I have the good fortune to spend so much of my life with. In all this realization of what I am, now, in myself, I am further delighted by what I’ve become in this partnership.
Five years in? Bah. If you told me five years ago how I would feel, how I could love The Hubba, and the love the world and love the people in my life and celebrate being alive, I might have laughed, because, frankly, for all my disasters and come-aparts, I was still having a pretty good time. I look at that and then try to grasp the enormity of five years to come? Damned, damned, damned exciting if you ask me.
Hazards and all.