Orchestrating a Memory.
The past two Friday nights were spent in the audience watching Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga, and Elton John at The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. Upon reflection, I am beginning to realize that I should probably make a concerted [ha!] effort to go to more shows at this impressive amphitheater. I have thoroughly enjoyed these recent outings. It’s been a rather alarming and surprising switch in my cranium’s circuitry.
I am not an easy person to cajole into stepping out of my safety zone. I’m relatively comfortable and content within the confines of my miserable little hobo-hive. Miserable? Yes. But, misery is company. And quite simply, I prefer my baggy t-shirt, no make-up, tousled hair look to being forced to face the realities that the mirror and ill-fitting clinging clothing offer me. Getting ready to present myself to the world beyond my chipped rust-colored front door is a challenge that I am usually beyond unprepared to partake in. So, when an invitation to an event I might potentially enjoy attending presents itself to me… the color immediately drains from my face and my stomach sinks to the deepest of depths. I, of course, accept graciously. I am always grateful for every opportunity that I am given. However, I am unable to follow through on my wants and desires with far too great a frequency. I have lost almost everyone in my life because of this flaw. The difference here is that I AM typically good at sticking to commitments that have financial penalties if I opt out of them at the last minute. There is a monetary investment here. It’s my obligation. It is my duty. I have to conquer these experiences bestowed upon me as if they are painful instead of potentially pleasurable.
So, I go. I fret. I pace. I worry. I stress. I panic. I leave a trail of destruction in the hallways from clothes thrown on and viciously ripped off…distributed about like Hansel and Gretel’s crumbs. They mark the tragic path that my brain is making from safety straight into the belly of the beast…that gaping darkness of the unknown. I create a ruckus by rummaging through the cabinets and drawers– clamoring… looking for something but not having a clue of what that something might be. I paw around clumsily within our cache of cosmetologist tools attempting to will my hair into some semblance of a style–hoping that the crease from the eternally suffocating ponytail isn’t too blatant. I’m sure it was. I’m positive it was bulging out from the silky straight strands flowing around it–gasping for air and begging to be cut free. I’m not a long hair type of gal. One more thing to worry about.
I go through all six stages of grief in a cyclical rapid fire succession. I’m like clockwork in this way. I am crumbling. I get desperate. My girlfriend is sprawled out on the couch in such a fashion that one can only assume that her batteries corroded and her movement ceased mid-sentence She is stuck in a state of fever dreams and in the early stages of what will be a rough evening for her. I’m among company but utterly alone. I shift my gaze in her direction…nudging the air gently with my nose.. hoping to revive her from her booze soaked slumber. She’s been running on fumes for a few weeks now. Starved of nutrients both real and emotional…life has drained her. I am not innocent, but not the sole[soul?] perpetrator. Life’s not easy with me. She’s a mere shell of her normal self. We all have our demons. We cannot always predict when they emerge. We cannot always prevent them from striking unexpectedly. We cannot always protect ourselves or those around us from their ills. I look at her with both frustration and devastation. Guilt? I want to shake her into submission, leash her up, parade her around with me. I want her to open her eyes, see that I am struggling and swoop in and save the day…save me. I want too much from her. She is crumpled there and her labored breathing and soft whimpers provide me with evidence dictating that she can no longer help me. Today, her demons won. Some day they won’t. Not today. This was a battle I would not win. I find my mouth suddenly parched, constricted and swollen. It pained me to swallow. The lump that unknowingly developed in my throat prevents from air from entering into my searing lungs. I am forced to make my first of many difficult decisions–collapse and cry or rip the metaphorical serpentine crushing my pipes from my clenched neck and brave it alone.
Flashes and fragments from the previous years whir in front of my deadened unflinching eyes. Memories are jumbled, broken into pieces, blurred into a garbled mess of highs and lows and ups and down. So much marred by intoxication… so much pain I personally caused and so much I wish I could take back and things I wish I could forget. I have no time to lament. I have no time to mourn. Not tonight. Not this night.
I choose to march forward. Through clenched teeth and silent protests… I go. The depths to which I must reach inside my reserve units of bravery and courage are immeasurable. I come up empty handed time and time again. But, I am relentless in my pursuit– determined to scrape off just enough residual confidence to drag myself to the car awaiting me down those very long lonely four flights of stairs. Just getting to the car is an epic journey for my mind to commit to… I can feel my body wanting to turn around and run back up to my sanctuary. During those moments all I can concentrate on is the jiggle of my thighs, the blemishes on my face, the flyaways on my head, the smudged makeup on my eyes, the lack of words to fill the inevitable silence to come. This way of thinking is so nonsensical even to myself. There is no reason nor logic behind it. But, it is so real to me in those moments. It is inescapable and unrelenting…so unforgiving. Karma? The price and prize of sobriety is clarity. I am suffering with each trepidatious step. Imagined gusts of wind chill me right to the bone even in this near-ninety degree heat. The logical area of my brain is reaching frantically for some sort of weapon to deflect the dragon’s breath–the flames singeing my very last few drops of available resolve.
I can do this.
Close my eyes and count to ten.
One step. Two step. Red fish. Blue fish.
Lord, grant me just this one wish.
Then I’m in the car. I’m no longer free to make the choices or call the shots. Plans are set in motion. Inertia pulls us forward as we head in a steady line towards our destination. My outsides calm and poised. Inside I am spinning quickly and disastrously out of control in orbit. Me and the Russian spacecraft are on a collision course. It’s ultimate untimely demise locale is still unknown… mine is an absolute certainty: 30.1614° N, 95.4639° W. I will land smack down amidst a throng of sweaty strangers and soon.
Palpitations. Pumping. Thumping. Is that my heart beating out of control or is it the vibrations from the theater beginning to breathe life back into my lungs? Both. I just don’t know it yet.
And then there I am… stepping out of the safety of the car’s womb and into that familiar sticky humid Texas heat. It catches me off guard as it coats me with its unfamiliar newness. I am immediately enveloped and immersed into this whole new world full of commotion and chaos. And like magic I somehow forget all of my worries and begin to feel free of my burdens and restraints. All of the weight is being shed with such rapidity that I begin to float up the stairs and to the lawn above. I am just living in the moment–for the moment–and only this moment. I embrace it. I wedge myself right into the thick of it. It’s almost dizzying to take deep breaths of the air outside…polluted with smoke, spiked with beer, and dripping with the sugary sweet soda and butter drenched popcorn. I’m inhaling the excitement of my fellow patrons…feeding on their adrenaline, soaking up their stories from the day. I am stealing their vigor. I am a parasite getting my fill of life and experience from these unsuspecting victims. It is not until later that I realize that they are willing to share. They give as much as they take. I feel alive. I feel like I am a part of something. I am a part of something–something special.
I simply adore this world. It’s so different from the cocoon that I’ve created only a few miles northward. There are no walls. There are no corners to hide in. There is no artificial light telling me what time of day it is. I see the moon overhead–it’s almost full. I see a few stars peppering the hazy sky. I can feel the light gusts of wind brush intermittently against my cheek–proving a stark contrast to the methodical circulation provided by my ceiling fan’s propeller. I am not lulled into a trance from mechanical repetition. No. Not even close. It’s all improvisational. It’s a jazz tune. It swings and it rings. It is perfect in its imperfection. It’s unpredictable. It’s fresh. It’s catching me completely off guard and pulling me in. It’s injecting me with a renewed sense of energy, thirst and fervor. Everything is bright, vibrant and colorful. I can actually see despite my otherwise limited vision. It overwhelms my senses–each enhanced beyond what limitations I previously thought possible. My heart and soul are inflated to right near their bursting point [insert obligatory deflategate joke here].
The ambiance, the smells, the sights, the sounds, and all of those sixteen-thousand other people coming together for a singular shared passion. We are all there for no other reason but to seek out and capture a tiny sliver of happiness. No one has ulterior motives. No scorn or malice present on the faces of the beings surrounding us. No one is there to sulk or languish away in their sorrows. It’s an escape from the harshness of outside realities to a place of revelry and revery. You can get out of this experience whatever you wish. And I did.
The enormity of it bewilders and momentarily knocks me off my game. I’m off-kilter and unbalanced. I steady myself by grasping the arm of a stranger. I do not know his name. I will go on to ask him for the time later on in the evening… unsubstantial to most… but an unbelievable victory for me. The blood is rushing vigorously through my veins. I close my eyes and attempt to absorb the reality of everything transpiring around me. I am here and living for the now I lose all control of my body and can tell that my face is contorting without my telling it to do so. The cheeks pulled taught, lips turned upright, teeth shining brightly and reflecting the colored lights from the stage in front of us. I’m smiling. The mask is removed and my smile is real. The laughter is incessant. The memories being carved are incapable of being scrubbed out or remembered only in fragments. This one is here to stay. They all are now. Each day there is something new to add to my blank sober slate. Each day an opportunity to improve and grow. I am cultivating my future without a compass and without any idea of what is to come. It’s thrilling and utterly terrifying.
This night could of been a disaster. It could of been another instance where I wearily waved the white flag of surrender. I could of given in and given up. But, I didn’t. I am proving to be made of a stronger material than I previously thought. I may have slightly underestimated myself and my intestinal fortitude. There is no doubt that I have much left to conquer and more areas to improve than I care to delve into or address even to myself right now. I am not only a work in progress, but one in distress and duress. I take steps forward only to regress and fall three or fifty back. I stumble. I sink. I flail. I falter. I am barely making it through each day. But, I am slowly accumulating mental check points to reflect back on and use for internal fuel when times are harder and the waters rougher.
Yesterday, I was a daughter with a mother sitting on the balcony porch staring at the trees and discussing mundane matters of the day. I was an aunt to a niece who is growing up too fast– our paths crossing too infrequently– finding pure and utter joy in the wonderment appearing on her face when I blew a bubble with my chewing gum. I was a daughter to a father who stepped in at the last minute to be my companion at a concert that I so desperately needed to attend. I was a girlfriend to a woman who I put through so much and who asks so very little for in return. I failed her early in the day only to come home renewed and revived able to fall asleep entwined in her arms. I was one of sixteen-thousand… living through a shared experience… but coming away with something so utterly special and personalized.
Two concerts in nine months have changed and transformed my life in ways that I could of never seen coming nor ever anticipated. One marking my first day of sobriety after hitting the proverbial rock bottom I so wanted to avoid but so desperately needed… and one granting me confirmation that I am getting better. that I have a chance… that it’s not too late for me to be something….to be somebody… to be happy…. to not give up. The days seem long and often bleed together. I cannot see the changes within myself. But, they are there. Who knew?
Lady Gaga and Sir Elton might be my guardian angels. But, none more so than those people surrounding me and giving me something to fight for and fight alongside.
In the end, it is a pretty pricey investment for a couple of hours of entertainment based therapy… but I definitely could get used to placing myself in the middle of that crackling crowd, those sizzling sounds and those frenetic fans cavorting around and about! Enjoying and seizing the day. Worth every dime.