Sunday, March 23, 2014

I am lying in bed while a teenaged cat stomps around my room investigating.
Yesterday it was rainy and grey. I went for a long walk and when I came home two out of the three animals were sleeping on my bed. Needless to say, I joined them and we all snuggled together like sardines. In fact, it was a struggle to throw on my party clothes and leave the nest for the opening night of my show.
By the time I got to the theatre I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, actually:
My date for the evening had just gotten out of the hospital and couldn't come with me.
Nor was anyone else interested/available apparently.
I was in a haze of worry about my dear friend who is so stoic but has some serious health issues to face; I was also feeling insecure and tired. No one wants to be here with me for my big night, I fumed. I'll just go watch this thing, make a token appearance at the after-party and get the hell outta there. 
Well, you know what happened, right?
I ran into some lovely theatre friends I hadn't seen in ages and I sat with them for the show.
The play itself was great- the best performance so far. I am so proud of the whole cast!
I went to the opening night party and, as you do at these things, I ran into a few more people I hadn't seen in ages. In fact, because I was alone, I made more of an effort to socialize and also I didn't have to worry whether or not my date was having a good time. I just took care of myself and it was lovely.
Just as I was gathering up my things and getting ready to say my goodbyes, the production manager invited me into her office for some whiskey. I sat there with her, the set designer, his wife and the other two amazing women who run Studio 58 and I thought Isn't this great.  Last time I worked here, 5 years ago, I felt so shy and insecure. Now I feel as if I totally belong here.
Suddenly it was 1:30 in the morning! So much for getting the hell outta there.
I didn't need a date or a friend to prop me up last night.  I am so proud of what I've accomplished and how I've grown in the last while. And funnily enough, while I'm obviously very pleased with my artistic achievements, I'm even more pleased that I felt so at ease throughout the whole process and even last night, alone at a party. Because that, for me, is far more challenging than playing music. Except it isn't anymore. So I have to stop saying things like
I hate parties
I hate going to these things alone
Starting a new job is like the first day of school- so scary! 
No one knows who I am
What a relief, to throw off those insecurities and just enjoy.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Noel Coward explains my love life to you.

I am no good at love
My heart should be wise and free
I kill the unfortunate golden goose
Whoever it may be
With over-articulate tenderness
And too much intensity.
I am no good at love
I batter it out of shape
Suspicion tears at my sleepless mind
And, gibbering like an ape,
I lie alone in the endless dark
Knowing there's no escape.
I am no good at love
When my easy heart I yield
Wild words come tumbling from my mouth
Which should have stayed concealed;
And my jealousy turns a bed of bliss
Into a battlefield.
I am no good at love
I betray it with little sins
For I feel the misery of the end
In the moment that it begins
And the bitterness of the last good-bye
Is the bitterness that wins.
From The Complete Verse of Noël Coward

Oh my god I love this poem. Noel Coward, man. He's all froth and brittle sophistication and then he just peels back that shell and there's this passion and uncertainty and desperation underneath. Very English. 

Being single is hard sometimes. 
Having feelings for people is hard.
Splitting my time between two different towns is hard. 
Negotiating my natural intensity versus keeping things simple is hard.
I remind myself to breathe. 
I try and think about all the things I do right rather than the couple of things I screw up. 
I tell myself that even if I blow it with someone it does not necessarily mean that I will die alone with a cat chewing on my face. 
And I remember that at the end of the day I am harder on myself than ANYONE else. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Quinoa Salad and the Fountain of Youth

Marcella: You know, when you started getting invited to your ten year high school reunion, time is catching up.
Martin Q. Blank: Are you talking about a sense of my own mortality or a fear of death?
Marcella: Well, I never really thought about it quite like that.
Martin Q. Blank: Did you go to yours?
Marcella: Yes, I did. It was just as if everyone had swelled.
-From Grosse Pointe Blank

When I first saw Grosse Pointe Blank, I still had 5 years to go until my own 10-year reunion. Now I'm well past twenty years out of high school! How did that happen? How am I nearly forty years old? How? 

I've had some sobering reminders of aging and mortality recently: a friend's mom is in the hospital; I'm working with a college student I've known since she was six years old(!); I went to a play last night and saw an actor I hadn't seen in about 20 years and dammit, he looked OLD! Which he was, compared to the last time I saw him. And it reminded me that I'm not getting any younger either. 

I think I look pretty good for almost-forty, especially since this year began and I've been losing some weight and getting healthier. On the one hand it's hard: I go into a wonderful bakery and I realize that there is NOTHING that I can eat. Not a sandwich, not a wrap, and certainly not a cake or cookie (I don't eat bread basically ever. And obviously no desserts either. Or pasta. I DO eat rice, even white rice, and rice noodles and sometimes tortilla chips because everybody needs a few vices. It seems to be working.) I order a cappuccino and get the hell out of the bakery fast. Mostly I don't go into 'em in the first place. On the other hand it's getting easier: eating well just feels better, and I can wear cute clothes I would have avoided only months ago. When I DO overeat, it's likely that I gorged myself on something like Kombucha and Quinoa salad instead of chocolate and potato chips. 

Ah, Quinoa salad. I started eating it this summer, as an alternate form of Tabouleh. Now that I live with my brother and sister-in-law I am shamelessly copying their salad ideas. Since they are both hardworking nurses they pack a lot of lunches, and quinoa salad is often a big part of those lunches. I started by filching a quinoa/cucumber/chickpea salad that pretty much accompanied me to every first aid class. And now I'm onto this one, which I like even more. Start by roasting jalapenos for about 20 minutes in some olive oil. I add grape tomatoes too, which makes the salad a bit more moist, but so yummy. 
 At the same time, cook a cup of quinoa then let it cool down. If you have the patience to wait that long.

Once the roasted peppers and the quinoa are at least room temperature, add halved grapes, feta, roasted salted pumpkin seeds, and parsley. (Or cilantro, which is what the recipe calls for.) Oh, I always cook the quinoa in Vegetable broth, which makes it taste wayyy better. Voila!

Then, if you can keep the kitten's head out of your bowl, you can enjoy your healthy lunch. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

And then... sometimes you DON"T fail.

Well you knew there was going to be a flipside, right? I mean, there usually is, if I wait a few days.

(No, I didn't hear from Loserface. That's going to be his blog name, unless he gets his act together and calls me soon. I know it's probably not nice or fair to call him that, but it makes me feel better. So.)

I started rehearsals on Thursday afternoon. Always a nerve-wracking thing, to be playing my music in front of strangers. Like being naked. I sweat tons, I mangle words. Really I'm kind of a wreck. Didn't help that it was bucketing down rain and I had nothing to carry my guitar in since my case got stolen a few months back. Nothing says Your Music Director Is A Bag Lady like turning up in rain-sodden clothes clutching your guitar in a dripping garbage bag.  I had no idea what would happen, it's always a bit of a gamble.

The first few minutes were rough, but then my guitar players started picking up the groove. Ukelele players joined in. A while later I was teaching them another groove and somehow singing seemed like a good idea and suddenly I had several pieces in the show with vocals, which was not my original plan at all. Now they're some of my favourite moments in the show.

Three days later I am in love with this whole cast and they seem to love me back. This play with the terribly dark subject matter (it's about the trial and conviction of Steven Truscott. Look it up. It's very sad.) has some major flaws: very narrative-driven, not a lot of action, depressing subject matter. Which means it's crying out for music to underscore the narration and help create a haunting, eerie mood. And it does, and the cast and director are very happy to have the music, especially since I joined the company late in the game, once they'd staged it all. I thought that would be tough, but it was actually the perfect moment because they'd got the basics out of the way and we could slot the music into the show quickly since the structure was already in place.

Bonus? All my obsessive Felicity-watching finally paid off! My music owes a lot to "Snuffy" Walden's guitar-driven score of that series, with its gentle harmonics. It's unlike anything I've written before, although I should put "written" in quotations since mostly I recorded the music to get my ideas solidified. I didn't score much at all, and relied on the recording 'sketches' as I call them, plus verbal descriptions, and my own inept guitar playing to get my point across. I like working that way, especially with musicians whose level of experience and music-reading ability is pretty varied. It's kind of the antithesis of the way our music director in Barkerville works- he's extremely meticulous about scoring every little thing. I get that, and for some shows it's the way to go, but this show was about giving the music to the actors and letting them run with it. And they have. I couldn't be happier.

If I may nerd out here for a minute: Underscoring text with music is one of the most generous things you can do as a musician. If you do it well, people should notice the music but only insofar as it supports the text and evokes a mood. If you do it badly, people will find it distracting and annoying. So it feels right to hand this music of mine to a young cast of student actors and let them fill it out with their ideas and embellishments. This is a really great acting school, one of Canada's best. Some of these guys might be hiring ME one day. So it's been great to see what they've done with the play, the music, all of it.

One last thing: it's been a few years since I last worked for this theatre company and working for them again I can really gauge how much my confidence has grown in the last few years, which is wonderful. Part of that I'm sure is down to my seasons in Barkerville, and maybe part of it is also due to having a particularly hard year last year and learning that the best moments and the worst times are both fleeting: you can savour the good stuff and endure the bad and both will pass before you know it. Whatever it is, I'm grateful and proud. Of this show, of this cast, and most of all, of myself.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Failing With Equanimity

Today I got up just after six, after the worst sleep I've had in months. At eight am, I did my practical exam for Occupational First Aid. And by 12:15, I found out that I had failed it. I made a big mistake in a protocol, and it cost me dearly. Exam over, no need to do the written part. Out of the six people in my exam group, two of us failed. I made my way home in the yucky snow/rain mixture we've got going on today, and burned off some frustration by cleaning the kitchen and walking the dog, who clearly sensed my bad mood and tugged sulkily at his leash most of the way.

The other night I saw a play with someone who makes my heart beat a little bit faster. And then we went for drinks and talked for a few hours, walked home and kissed on a street corner in the falling snow. Which... pretty much my idea of a great night, actually. I don't need all that much- just some conversation, preferably with lots of laughter, some wine, and street-corner smooching. Take note, future dates.
Except that I'm wracked with self-doubt three days later: Was I too forward? Is he interested at all? Why doesn't he do some of the work and invite me out for a change? Whining, in my head: Why can't this be eeeeeasy?

I need more. Maybe I need too much and it scares people (okay, maybe it scares guys). If I like you, I want to talk to you, to have you get in touch with me, to show me that you're thinking about me from time to time. I don't think that's unreasonable but who knows? How do I balance Keeping Things Simple and No Expectations with the needs of my heart?
The wise older sister in my head says You know what to do. Shake it off, keep moving. Book a new date, keep studying,  and re-take that exam. And I do; I book a new exam time as soon as I get home.  Stop bugging that guy. Let him approach you. Or not. Stay busy. Don't obsess. And I try.

There is a small cat curled up against my back as I type this. She doesn't care that I screwed up. I am a warm body and she's glad to have me at home on a cold day. I have music to write, a cast to teach it to, and a lot of other commitments this month. For a few hours today I can think about failure. Then I have to let it go and move on, because that's all I can do.