This post title is a line of lyrics from my song “Every Season.” Below is a link to that song story:
The first week after my mother died, I told my daughter that I would love to go with her on a hike. She was appreciative and excited about us spending time together this way.
Although seasonal change is mild where we live (in Los Angeles, California), I felt autumn all around me. The coolness in the air was life affirming and crisp leaves carpeted the trail. The nearby stream bed was dry, but the soft glow of light surrounding the trees and rocks was reminiscent of a fairytale painting. I took a lot of pictures.
I knew when I was prancing downhill for miles that going back would be no picnic. I struggled hiking uphill all the way back. I tried not to be too hard on myself; I knew I was overweight and not in good shape. It took a long time but I was very patient. Every five minutes, I stopped to catch my breath and put my head down so I wouldn’t pass out.
As I trudged uphill, I could see that it was just like the rest of my life. I was putting one foot in front of the other with determination. I moved forward and paced myself so I wouldn’t collapse. I knew I’d make it even if it took me a long time.
Last week, a tennis friend was adamant in expressing her opinion about some important decisions I had to make.
She said, “Look Judy, you know you have eye problems. How will you do artwork? You’re 54 already and you’re not going to be Barbra Streisand. How will you support yourself in the future? Don’t give in!”
Her words had to do with the fact that my soon to be ex-husband wanted me to give up my share of his retirement account in return for haunting me if I became financially successful.
I smiled – she was right that I wasn’t Streisand. I certainly wasn’t trying to be anyone but myself.
What I often found amazing was my confidence about my journey and where I was going. To me, the fact that I was older was a big plus. There were so many baby boomers that could relate to me.
Although I hadn’t wanted things to be adversarial, I planned to let my lawyer guide me. My husband was definitely relying on his lawyer. Even though it was quite expensive, I was grateful to know that her advice would be in my best interest.
Unfortunately, I began to bite my nails again. My challenge was to remain calm and peaceful despite the stress that weighed heavily upon me. It occurred to me that there was a good reason for my anxiety and it gave me great insight.
Change is hard for most humans. Recently, I’ve thought about the fact that my “life change” was fairly huge. I remember graduation was a big moment in my life. However, attending school for four years couldn’t compare to my current life change. Both my parents were dead and I would soon be officially divorced.
For 31 years I was a married woman. For over fifty years I was a child with parents whom I was very close to.
This same tennis friend also asked me, “How does it feel to be an adult orphan?”
Her honest words didn’t bother me at all. I actually felt lucky that I had been able to really say goodbye to both my parents. They had lived long and beautiful lives. I’m certain it would have been quite different if I lost a parent suddenly when I was younger.
I decided that even though on the surface I appeared peaceful, I was also quite numb. The worst part was the discomfort I suffered from due to my eye problems; it made everything harder for me to deal with.
My eyesight issues resulted from posterior vitreous detachment that had occurred in both my eyes a few months after I had cataract surgery. I was having great difficulty adjusting to it, let alone accepting it.
Unfortunately the numbness that protected me from pain did not allow for much pleasure. While I was under hypnosis a few weeks ago, I found an image to describe what it felt like.
I picked a mask. As I usually do while under hypnosis, I described it in detail to my hypnotherapist, Connie.
I was wearing a dirty diving mask and it was foggy and uncomfortable. I could see where I was going, but my eyes were heavy and hurting all the time. I preferred to close them.
I said to Connie softly, “There are a few rare occasions when I’m distracted and can actually forget that the mask is bothering me; I can take it off. It’s happened when I’m driving and sometimes when I’m concentrating at my computer.”
Connie’s voice was vibrant with enthusiasm when she said, “Well that’s good information that you are able to take off your mask!”
I pondered what she said. Did I really have that ability? I sure wanted to. I wished I could see clearly without suffering all the time.
I replied tearfully, “I’m going to try harder to figure out how I can do that more!”
I awoke from hypnosis with resolve and determination. I squinted in the sunlight and tried to stay positive as the fogginess clouded my vision again and my mood.
Despite the fogginess of vision that I found discouraging, there was no end to beauty and inspiration in my life. I had many touching experiences that I looked forward to writing about.
Unfortunately, I could not concentrate well enough to write. My oldest son’s bed was right behind me as I typed on my computer. There was a lot of noise and activity when his girlfriend was visiting him or when he played video games online.
This room where I worked and my son slept was about the same size as my closet and bathroom of my former house!
Moving didn’t seem a viable option for me. My coop was convenient and affordable, but a little small now that all three of my children were living with me. There were only two bedrooms, so before I moved in I created a third bedroom by dividing the living room with a wall. But after six months my oldest son wanted to live with me. He slept in the other half of the living room where I had my office.
I made a decision. I would move my computer and office equipment into my bedroom. That way, I could close the door and concentrate! It was on my list of things to do the following week. I planned to have my son and a good friend help me.
After my mother’s funeral I was moving at a snail’s pace. It took a lot of energy just to keep food in my refrigerator for those three large children who lived with me most of the time. Unfortunately, none of them had time or inclination to go to the supermarket for me.
Although I didn’t want to find the time either, shopping was an important diversion. It forced me out of my apartment and into the outside world. Retreating was more comfortable, but not really that good for me.
When I received an email about the possibility of Kulak’s Woodshed closing, I was sad.
It had been such a wonderful venue for me. When I began playing my guitar four years earlier, I couldn’t believe such a wonderful place existed for songwriters. I could sing in front of a warm audience and even buy a DVD of my performance at the weekly open mic night.
The email from Paul Kulak mentioned how he was having financial difficulty keeping the Woodshed open. His email said that if money couldn’t be raised quickly, he was in danger of being evicted. There was an upcoming meeting to discuss ways to help and I decided to go.
It was a different experience for me to be at the Woodshed without my guitar. As I sat there, I felt sorry for Paul; he looked beaten down and discouraged.
There were many people sharing their ideas; Paul was quick to mention that many of those ideas had been tried with poor results. He was insistent that it was too late for many of the suggestions because if he didn’t satisfy his landlord by paying the back rent owed, Kulak’s would be closing.
I listened numbly for a while. Then I reached into my purse and wrote a large check. I handed it to Paul and then I left while the meeting was still going on.
The next day, I received another email. Paul still had a shortage to pay the landlord for the back rent he owed. Within eight hours he needed money or it would be too late.
I emailed him and said I would write a check to make up that difference. But I wanted to be clear. In return for my money, I was basically paying up front for performances.
For years, I was afraid of paying for a performance – I hated charging my friends. And if no one showed up, it would be embarrassing. I did decide that when my audio book was ready for sale, I would have one performance to promote it.
But my book had been delayed by my mother’s death. It wouldn’t be ready for at least another two months.
In my mind, I heard “Judy of the future” telling me that practice was something I needed a great deal of. Performing definitely required lots of practice. At an open mic, I only played one song. It was already two years since I had played weekly at a bookstore. But that was quite different because no one was really watching me closely and I didn’t have to make eye contact.
Paul wrote me back and asked if we could meet for coffee or dinner to discuss things.
I was willing. I picked a nearby coffee shop. At our dinner, Paul talked about the many ideas he had to keep Kulak’s Woodshed running. At the forefront, he liked the idea of having a subscription membership to provide revenue.
As I listened to Paul talk about his passion, I was confident in my decision to help him. He was definitely a man who dedicated himself to following his dream. I had never had the opportunity to be a benefactor before. Even though my divorce was not yet final, I did have money from the sale of my former home.
Paul told me that more than anything he wanted Kulak’s Woodshed to be self-sustaining. People loved the Woodshed and he had received a great deal of support through the years. He wished he had been better at handling the business part. I was touched when he shared that for most of his life he was painfully shy. He preferred to be behind the camera and in the background.
And unfortunately, all his tireless devotion had left him broke. He actually lived at the Woodshed. His other business involved renting equipment, but it was unsteady.
His eyes were gleaming when he said, “I know I am good at what I do and cannot imagining doing anything else. I was born to do this. My passion is to help songwriters be discovered.”
I could certainly relate to his determination because I was relentlessly following my passion in a similar way. Before I left, I wrote him another check. He was reluctant to take it, but I was insistent.
A few days later, I went to the weekly open mic night. I needed the practice!
Paul motioned me to come to the back room. He said, “Judy, I haven’t cashed your second check. I really feel uncomfortable about this. What if the room is empty when you play? I would feel terrible if that happens.”
I could feel light shining from within as I answered him. I smiled and said, “Paul, I have a lot of faith in where I’m going. I could even run grief healing workshops that incorporate my healing music and stories. I will work hard to promote myself – it’s new territory for me, but I’ll figure it out. In the meantime, I need practice. This is what I am supposed to be doing. I know I could really help a lot of people and I’ll create a good image for the Woodshed. Please, cash the check and don’t worry about it.”
He sighed as I walked away.
A few days later, I committed myself to three November performances. I knew that two hours was a long time for me to sing. I was usually tired after singing for half an hour. But I would just do the best I could and over time it would get easier. If I croaked, oh well!
Clearly, I was very vulnerable and emotional. That translated either into a weak performance or a touching one. I decided to consider myself touching.
I was amazed at how suddenly there was a lot going on in my life. I had to be sure that I had all of my songs memorized for those performances. What would I wear? I probably needed to go shopping for something new.
But shopping was something I avoided. I always thought of my mother whenever I shopped for clothes. All the years of my life she shared that with me. Our running joke was that she loved shopping and I hated it. Being with her made it tolerable for me.
A flashback from the last time I shopped with my mother stabbed my heart. I could easily picture the dressing room from that day – the very last time. At least she could still converse with me, before dementia stole her words.
She was suffering with back pain and still she attempted to try on clothes. It was so difficult for her. I struggled to lift her blouse off; hardly any top could fit over her misshapen back. The memory caused tears to form in my eyes.
I finally learned to shop alone. That was until my own daughter started asking me to go with her!
I created a flier and after receiving advice from friend, I began to gather a few songs for a promotional CD. I planned to distribute it freely because I didn’t want to sell music that wasn’t a final mix yet.
This whole venture required a great deal of courage for me.
One of my biggest challenges would be to keep my eyes open. It was always so important to make eye contact with my audience. That was usually difficult for me, but even more so with the sensation of wearing a mask.
How interesting that this all happened! If I hadn’t received Paul’s email and felt so generous, I wouldn’t be doing something so challenging.
But it was clear to me that this was an important part of my journey.
It was time for me to move forward despite my numbness.
It was time to see if I could take off the mask . . .
© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.