28 May 2015

Forever Goodbye

Originally written 29 March 2015.
I share this mostly for the final paragraph (as written on 29 March). This has had a profound impression on me since this performance, particularly in the wake of the sudden death of my young cousin one month ago today.

I stand on the edge of the rest of my life. I graduate college in less than a month. The last musical theatre performance is done. The final dance show is this Saturday. Tonight was the last choir concert.

It wasn't real. Usually at these things, I'm in the moment, trying to soak up every second so I can remember these times as vividly as possible later when I miss them. And I've been looking forward to performing in that church again for a full year. But tonight it didn't feel real. I've just gotten back from a performance, but instead of being hyper and telling my roommate about all the stupid insignificant hilarious backstage shenanigans that only performers find funny, I'm sitting here trying not to cry.

Performing is really just a series of goodbyes. I was Mary Lennox for two months and then, right at the culmination of all that thought and work and love put into her -- it was over. She disappeared from my life. How many Christmas productions and choir concerts have I been in that we worked on for months... and then they were over in a weekend? How many dance shows have I spent months honing only to give one three-minute performance and then it's gone? I have all these little parts, these roles that I love and cherish dearly and they become a part of me... but then I have to say goodbye. And to go back to it again and again and again just draws out the pain of goodbyes... Today our choir director seemed off and finally he told us he had just found out less than half an hour before that a good friend of his halfway across the country had passed away.

I was surprised how much that weighed on my heart. Having lost two people close to me in as many months perhaps made me more sympathetic. But for the entire evening it was all I could do not to cry. It's hard to describe -- it's like I felt his pain in my own heart. I carried it with me. Most people probably went, "Oh wow. That really sucks. I'm sorry," but I spent the entire concert watching him, noting how even the ever-present smile trembled though it never faltered. I watch people when I'm worried about them or when I know they're dealing with some hard stuff. I literally sit and watch everything they do with their hands, their body language, their facial expressions. I don't know why. It's just what I do.

Part of me was impressed with the smile. It never faltered. He never changed the way he spoke to us -- his voice stayed pleasant and calm and there was a smile behind it, like there always is. He's the conductor, his back was to the audience. But still he smiled -- at us. And I was aware how I, the performer, facing the crowd, could not summon up a smile from within myself for love or money. How does a man lose a dear friend and carry on with tears in his eyes and a smile on his face? It wasn't plastered on. There was effort in it, but it wasn't a total mask. Somehow there was something in him still giving him the courage and ability to smile and speak kindly to us.

26 May 2015

A Lovely Night

The building blocks of a wonderful evening:

First, you take a dance practice. But not just any dance practice -- it's the first of extra rehearsals for Peter and the Wolf (WHICH OPENS THIS SATURDAY!). (I think my favourite part of performing is the extra rehearsals that get called as opening night gets closer.)

Add to this getting to see dance friends I haven't seen since Christmas break.

Plus, driving -- a commute long enough to listen to two full albums of music (White Heart and Daniel Amos today).

And don't forget the part where the driving happens at dusk (my favourite time of day).

15 May 2015

Music Day - Sin For A Season

This song opens perhaps one of the most emotionally heavy sides of vinyl in the history of vinyl. Side two of this record dealt with adultery, drunk driving, crooked TV preachers, hypocrites, teenage runaways, abortion, suicide, and the American dream with a clarity that one will almost certainly never find elsewhere. And all of it to catchy, groovy, and creative rock.

This, the side opener, comes in with a deep, groovy, almost mournful chugging guitar and a slightly ominous synthesizer arpeggio at the appropriate times. The lyrics spin first a tale of a married man's one-night stand, then the story of a drunk woman driving toward home, but not making it unscathed... And Steve Taylor, in his pull-no-punches way, also pans the lyrical camera to the part that nobody ever talks about and the young and (temporarily) innocent never see: the regret. The months, the years of crippling, life-altering regret.
If the healing happens as the time goes by
Tell me why I still can't look her in the eye...
Now the years run together as the guilt goes wild
She still sees the body of an only child...

Coming on the heels of the mournful lines at the end of each verse, the chorus -- a repetition of the cry we all use to justify everything we do, the sort-of right and the clearly wrong -- seems so flimsy in comparison. It seems disgusting, and then to realise these are our own words on a daily basis -- I'm only human... 'nobody's perfect...' it sort of makes one catch their breath.

The third verse states his point even more bluntly, just in case we didn't get it in the first two verses. And it spells out very clearly that sometimes the Christians -- we who think we'll never fall -- are the worst perpetrators of this deception:
Gonna get the good Lord to forgive a little sin
Get the slate cleaned so he can dirty it again...

It's interesting to note the role of the hands in all three verses. The hand in the first verse with the napkin, the shaky hand in the second verse belying how inebriated she is, the hypocritical hands in the third verse carefully and stealthily chopping down the very people they claim to be building up and supporting. Our hands betray us... oh, be careful little hands what you do.

Title: Sin For A Season
Artist: Steve Taylor
Album: Meltdown
Year: 1984
Label: Sparrow Records
iTunes here; YouTube here.

13 May 2015

On Finishing Projects

Written sometime in February 2015.

You know, one day I will be thankful for how college pushed me. It hurts and it sucks and I hate this feeling of doom until I find out what my final grade was, but it strengthened my will to persevere. I am such a perfectionist that I rarely get anything done. That's part of why I flaunt my choreographic accomplishments and my novels so obviously -- it's not about getting attention, it's just about the fact that I actually finished something. My room is a graveyard of unfinished projects. And being in college forced me to finish things. I hated every second of that Spiritual Formation paper last year (and the Church Ministry paper, and the history paper and every English paper ever...), but because my grade depended on them, I got them done. And it showed me I could.

I have an iron will when it comes to things I really want (noveling, choreography), but if I don't care about something with every fibre of my being, I honestly don't care at all (the same goes for my friends, and it freaks them out because this means I'm very intensely loyal -- caring about someone with every fibre of your being has that effect). The perfectionist desire for decent grades forced me to finish these papers I hated. Writing a good paper was not my primary concern -- my primary concern was just meeting the word count and not getting a failing grade. College has forced me to see things through, to complete stupid and pointless things.

But now I do know that I can get things done. I know a few tricks to manipulate myself into actually getting things done. Most of them I originally learnt from NaNoWriMo, but they were refined and expanded on here in college.

I hate the stress. I will be so happy to get out of here, not because the profs or classes suck (I actually really like the profs and the classes, generally speaking), but because I will actually be able to breathe easy again. But I suppose once I'm out of the trenches I will be grateful for how it forced me to finish things.

01 May 2015

Music Day - One More Time

Three deaths in three months. I don't even know what to think anymore.

Title: One More Time
Artist: Terry Scott Taylor
Album: Knowledge & Innocence
Year: 1986
iTunes here; YouTube here.
(Typical iTunes: the song is mislabeled. The song labeled A Briefing For An Ascent is actually this one. The song labeled One More Time is actually A Briefing... Both are good though.)