Nothing To Defend

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Hair is gray and the fires are burning. So many dreams on the shelf. You say I wanted you to be proud of me. I always wanted that myself.  Tori Amos
The other day I was driving down to Newport Beach listening to the music in my car… well, I wasn’t just listening, I was singing and jiving in my seat, the way I did when I was in my 20’s and 30’s….At some point I felt self-conscious and then I thought – F it!  I don’t care, this is who  I am… sometimes…or at that moment.  Since when does an age define whether or not we can jam and boogie in our cars?  I had that feeling again.. the one that is of longing… longing to play music and even perform again, but mostly, to just play music with other people.  There is nothing like it… not for me.  I fantasized about placing an ad in the music paper, “53 year old female classic rocker looking to jam with a band of musicians. Keyboards, some guitar and lots of back up vocals.”  Then I started thinking about the memoir I never finished, “How I Never Made it as a Rock Star.”  I thought that maybe I could start breaking it into little pieces and sharing it on my blog… as part of the deconstruction theme… Music is/was such a huge part of my life and whenever I go back to NY and see friends and friends of friends, they always ask, “are you playing anywhere?”  And I want to laugh… because the only place I had played in the last 3 years was the convalescent home and I haven’t even played there in over a year, I’m sorry to say.  But it’s funny, I guess if enough people ask you the same question over and over, after awhile, I begin to think about the question and ask myself how I feel about that.  I used to love to sit down and play Beethoven and Bach and Hayden…just by myself… and sometimes, go through my giant book of standards from when I went to Berklee… but it had been such a long time that I had done that, the keys on my piano were actually dusty.  One of the sweetest connections I have with one of my stepdaughters is that we sit down at the piano and sing my songs together, including the song I wrote for her, which I think is the last song I wrote and that was about 4 or 5 years ago. She is away at school now and we hardly do that anymore. I used to write songs every week when I lived in NY and then when I lived in Portland, OR, I wrote an entire CD worth of music, inspired by my first marriage and divorce.  It was called, “Two Separate Worlds  and I had a band to promote the cd and songs and later became a duo and did some touring in the pacific northwest as well as the east coast.  Anyway, needless to say, music was my life… before writing and photography and … life.  Once, when after I ‘quit’ music for two years and went back to school for writing and English (in my 40’s) – it dawned on me that I wasn’t a songwriter anymore and I felt fine about it.  The next morning (and after many listens of David Gray’s first album, “White Ladder“) I woke up with songs in my head and started writing until 6 songs were born.  Naturally, I had to record them and did.  I think it was because I was willing to let it go and by “it” I mean, my identification with what I did…and then I was free… to create from a place of peace.

Deconstruction: Self-portrait in White

Learning that I am just the vessel in which these things flow through, I realize that nothing can ever be forced.  Last month I had the flu and as I wrote in another entry, it was a bit of a vision quest, since I couldn’t go anywhere and had to be still and quiet.  During this time, I was dealing with some personal family stuff that was very emotional and painful and full of growth.   One day, while bundled up in my pink fuzzy bathrobe, sitting on the couch, I grabbed my husband’s guitar (which just happened to be sitting there) and started playing.  He usually plays with a capo, so I left it where it was and starting picking… pretty arpeggios and before I knew it, words were coming to my head and out of my mouth…   I have never ever written a song where I didn’t write the lyrics down first and then sit down to write the melody… but on this day, an hour or two later, I had the bulk of a song written… and memorized (of course, I recorded it on my phone because I didn’t trust my memory to last to the next day or the day after…).  And the melody that came to me was one I never thought I would choose, nor the chords, which I still don’t know what some of them are…but I play it once a day… and still… I have not written down the words (which I will eventually do).  It brings me such joy to play it, and sing it, because the words came from a place in my heart and the song reminds me there’s, “Nothing To Defend.”  And I believe it is a gift from God, Great Spirit, The Universe, or whatever one wants to call a higher power… because I can tell you, it certainly did not come from me.  It was a beautiful lesson… and reminded me and taught me that if I get out of the way, I create a space for something beautiful to come through.  If I fill that space with a bunch of gunk, then it is clogged and nothing can get through and I am stuck needing emotional Drano to clear the path and disintegrate the blockage I created, which is the good news… because if I created the gunk, then I can get rid of it.  

Robbie: Rocker circa 1980, NYC  Photo: Denise Winters

Sometimes, and maybe always, it’s as easy as sitting down and saying, “OK, if ‘you’ have something to say or create through me, I am open and ready, let’s do it.  If not, that’s cool too.”  The main thing is, I am learning to let go of the attachment I have put on just about everything… and of course, I want to let go of the attachment to the pain and anguish of those difficult times in life, but it is another thing to learn to let go of the joyful things, or accomplishments… and trust that there is no shortage of those and that if I allow them a space to enter my life, time after time, they will come.  Like Pema Chodron says, it’s learning to walk in the middle.  Not getting attached to the pain nor the victories.  If I never write another song again, it will be ok, I feel fulfilled and look forward to one day recording this new song that would make me happy to share.  A new song… such a metaphor, and metaphors… make great songs.

When all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.

Stephen Chbosky