Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: Year In Review

     It's always illuminating, reading people's thoughts on the dying year and seeing if there's any kind of pattern to how the year's gone. 2015, you  seem to have been a hard one for a lot of people. In particular, some of my friends have endured a year filled with unimaginable loss. And while those losses were only peripherally mine, they reminded me that there will be terrible sadnesses in store, and that I'd better find the supports and the strength I'll inevitably need to deal with them.
     2015- for me you were a puzzler. It was a year of deep happiness, as my life became more entwined with a man I truly and deeply love. We had our ups and downs, of course, but what never wavered was the knowledge that we are meant to be. He is the first person I want to talk to in the morning (our  morning conversation is usually just a "hello lovely" text, but still.) and the last person I want to check in with at night. When we are actually wound 'round each other, nose to nose, I am a lucky human.
     There were good jobs, too, and rich experiences. But there was also some dissatisfaction. Perhaps, 2015, you merely suffered a bit in comparison to 2014, which was such a year of surging towards new things: turning 40, falling in love, forging strong friendships, feeling sexy and strong. 2015 was marked by uncertainty: towards my teaching job, which is hard; towards my life in Vancouver without the easy assurance of my work in Barkerville; towards my friends- too many of whom are living far away; towards my health, which was not great. I spent a lot of 2015 feeling tired, feeling sick, feeling not good, and so of course I'm not as fit, and I'm heavier, and I'm left wondering what the hell, as all the doctor visits came up with nothing. Which of course, is good, especially now I'm feeling mostly better again, but I wish I had some answers.
     I'm grateful for the presence of love in my life; for the work I have; for my good fortune. I didn't write a lot of music, but I wrote other things, and took a lot of photos I'm really proud of. I even ended the year by entering 3 of them in an art show!

Here it is, my year in review for 2015:

January: I started the new year off right, partying with my best friends and my new love in a house filled with good music and wonderful food. Then I got sick, and I felt lousy for much of the month.

February: New beginnings. I got several assistant positions at the Sarah McLachlan School of Music, helping to teach group piano lessons. The biggest new beginning: I took a deep breath and passed on the job that was offered to me in Barkerville, deciding to stay in Vancouver and grow work there. Sadly, this seems to have severed relations between me and the people I worked for there; they didn't even reply to my email refusing the job. Social media keeps me in touch with the many other friends I made up north over the years, and I hope that one day I'll be able to go back. Just not for 5 months at a time.

March: What an awesome start to this month! I got to fly up to Whitehorse for 8 days to make music with 2 of my favourite people... and it was all paid for by the Yukon Arts Council (thanks guys). Tried snow-biking with one of my oldest friends while I was up there- and bailed right over my handlebars! (Luckily, it was into soft snow.) Then I came home, and metaphorically felt as if I was bailing over my handlebars every time I went to work as a piano teaching assistant (which I laugh at this year, because now it feels so easy, compared to actually teaching. Onwards and upwards, I guess.) On another note, I see by my post last year that I was right pissed at how little I was getting paid by most of the arts groups who wanted to hire me.

April: Still felt lousy, a lot of the time. Still had (and have) no idea why. Tired, mildly nauseous... Not fun. Jay and I started working on a project to turn one of my songs into a music video, complete with his fanciful animations. Although we didn't get the grant we'd applied for, we learned a lot about working together; I got to re-record one of my favourite songs of mine, and we crafted a vision for that song that one day will hopefully become reality.

May: A month of social media self-promotion, as Jay and I tried to promote our song project, and I tried to get a job as a foodie tour guide, both gigs that required a LOT of Twitter and Facebook posts. (And ultimately, I think, we over-saturated people. Sorry 'bout that folks.) The weather was strangely hot and muggy, and I listened to Punch Brothers' track "Julip" over and over again as I walked to work, as I sweated at home. Speaking of which, it was strange to be home, as I'd usually already be up in Barkerville by May.

June: I packed my bags, kissed my love goodbye, and left for Saskatchewan for 8 weeks to do a musical. Smoke from forest fires blanketed both Saskatoon, where I was rehearsing, and Vancouver. It was unusually hot. I fell hard in love with Saskatoon, held my own (I think) while working with a very talented director, and made some lovely new friends. The small town where we performed our musical was very small, very white, very Christian. The theatre company there however, treated us so well that I was blown away.  One day I hope I'll be back, prairies.

July: Still away; settling in to the routine of being somewhere other. This was a month marked by joy: hot prairie sunny days, a fun show with packed houses, new friends... And by great sorrow. Early in the month I found out that someone I was very fond of had actually died months before. And at the end of the month my friends in Barkerville were rocked by the very sudden loss of one of the most talented people in their midst; a man who was part of the very fibre of Barkerville and Wells. It was a stark reminder of mortality, the sickening knowledge that none of us are magically safe from death and loss. And me? I was strangely hit by apathy: I didn't want to make music (except on stage), preferring to be outside whenever possible, exploring my temporary home. I wrote (mainly here) and I made a recording about why I make art, which was fun, but I felt as if musically, I was dried up.

August: Back home before the middle of the month, and unemployed until late September, I admit I spent far too many days lazing on the back porch with the cats. It was a strange thrill to be in Vancouver in the heat of summer, somewhere I hadn't been for 5 years. It was a straight-up thrill to be back in my love's arms after 8 lonely weeks. He took a funny job as a chaperone at the PNE for a week, so I house-sat his place and re-acquainted myself with the PNE, finding it more fun than I'd remembered. I did yoga for the first time in my life, watching videos recommended by a friend. In fact, I did a whole 30-day yoga challenge! (And I'm gonna do one again, starting tomorrow.)

September: Last few days at the PNE, watching '80s bands rockin' out, and pinching my pennies until my job at SoM (Sarah M School) started. Teaching my first group piano class was scary and fun, and it still feels like that every week. Sometimes I fly, sometimes I fall.

October: In the thick of work: teaching at SoM, rehearsing for a musical parody of Jurassic Park (!); I took a break and travelled to Seattle to take a yoga class with the very lady whose videos had inspired and motivated me in the first place. It was one of the best things I could have done for myself. After a long, lazy summer I was suddenly busy more nights and days than not, something I always regard as a mixed blessing. However it was nice to be making steady money at SoM, and the cast of Jurassic Parody were some of the most fun folks I've ever worked with.  Canada got smart and voted out Stephen Harper, and there was much rejoicing in the land, at least in the liberal, arty part of the land.

November: Wow, I didn't even manage a blog post this November! That was partly because I've been careful to make my posts a bit more interesting and topic-oriented this year, and my thoughts were scattered this month as I rehearsed and taught. By the middle of the month we'd opened our show, Jurassic Parody. It was a short run- too short to really build the audience we could had had with another week. And it was rocky- a highly ambitious project short on time, money and experience. That said... it was also one of the most fun projects I've ever done, and my own part was small but memorable. I literally had to run from the orchestra pit to the stage, stopping along the way to don the best costume I've ever worn and all but chewing the scenery (I got to chew on cast members though) as the badass T-Rex. It reminded me how much I love performing.

December: My roommates (my brother and his wife) took off for Vietnam for the month, so I had the house- and the cats- to myself. Once work ended (SoM takes a break over school holidays), and my time was my own. Almost too much so: I was confronted- again- by my lack of focus when it comes to my work and my life. I am happy to sail along and see what happens next, but I am still really bad at making things happen.  I was struck by the solitariness (I don't want to say loneliness because it wasn't exactly lonely) of my time, as Jay was very busy this month and we didn't have a lot of days together.  My show ended, and my friends were busy, or in other places. I don't say this to be self-pitying; it was in many ways a delightful month, especially as I got to indulge my love of Christmas to the hilt. But it made me realize that I need to be more self-sufficient, and also I need to be more sociable. It's easy to be a hermit. But it's also a lazy choice.

2016, I hope that you are kind, to me and to my friends and family. I hope you are filled with new experiences, with confidence and health and love and exciting work and travel and money. But of course, what I really mean is that I hope I can find it in myself to make all of these things happen.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

4:30 am

4:30 am, and I wake from the clutches of a bad dream that is slow to let go. I seldom have nightmares, and they aren't often really bad ones, but they do tend to leave an unsettling feeling in me long after I wake up. 
Thank goodness for Christmas lights, strung around my blinds, and for cats; the fluffy cat curled in her special shallow cardboard box, which I have moved into the bedroom so she doesn't have to sleep alone, and the baby cat (now a robust 2 year-old) curled tightly against my legs. It may have been their shifting that woke me. Their owners, my roomies, are away on a month-long vacation, and we are all getting used to the big empty house. The first night they were gone, the hi-tech smoke alarm shrilled in the middle of the night, its calm disembodied robot-lady voice stating Emergency. There is smoke upstairs. Emergency. Beep, Beep, Beeeep. I leapt out of bed, heart knocking against my ribs, and dashed upstairs, examining every room, sniffing the air... Nothing. A total false alarm, but I lay awake twitchily for hours afterwards. 
Tonight it is my own brain that keeps me awake in the small hours of the morning; unusual for me not to sleep through the night, and unusual for me to have bad dreams. As with most dreams this one was mishmash of events and emotions: a concert, applause, a hug from a friend and then... an old hotel, like in the Wild West. A shooting, bodies lying bloody in their beds, mostly unseen, just a glimpse of the horrors within. 
I know where this comes from, of course.
 I am not, in my waking hours, someone who spends a lot of time agonizing over the news. I can hear about terrible events and still go about my day; I find I am unable to immerse myself emotionally in bad things that are not part of my world. It's not that I don't care, but it's removed from my everyday experience. I refuse to buy into the doomsday, we're-all-going-to-hell pessimism- not that it's not necessarily true, but... We have one life. I refuse to spend it in constant dread. 
This string of senseless, brutal shootings, though. How can it not seep into my consciousness, even as I have my cozy days at home with Christmas music and cats, and the deep everyday happinesses that are part of my lucky and fortunate life. 
There it is, made bogeyman in my brain: the horror of the random gunman spraying bullets, mixed with some el-cheapo wine drunk too late at night (more of gravy than of grave, as Scrooge would say), and some late-night reading about the musical "Hamilton" (Hamilton was killed in a duel) and...voila. I can't sleep. I listen to the cat turning in her box, and try to toss and turn as considerately as I can, so as not to disturb the other cat, the one against my legs. I think about the other thing that came out of my dream, along with the unshakeable dread-feeling. 
There it was, like a gift in the midst of the nightmare: 2 lines of song, with ethereal bluegrass-y harmonies and everything. When I realize I won't sleep for a while, I jot the lines into my phone so I won't forget them. 
When it's after 6, and I'm still not sleeping, I take the unusual (for me) step of deciding to get up. For once I am up before the garbageman, and the sun. I do half an hour of yoga. I shower. I decide to treat myself (at 9, when they open) to a cheap breakfast at a local cafe. 
I lie on the couch feeling exhaustion lurking behind my tired eyelids and type this, thinking If I'm lucky, I'll turn those lines into a song. That something pretty could come out of horror... well, that's just about the best we can do with what we're given, isn't it?