Monday, November 13, 2006

AHA Moments

The most important lesson I've learned since my last birthday had nothing to do with mandolin technique or who did what version of which fiddle tune from this county or that.

In fact it had very little to do with music at all although I see now it has everything to do with how I approach it and most other things in my life, too.

I've been a fiercely independent woman since long before someone recently pointed it out to me. Partly it was who I always was; my mother always said I was the one to dart off while my sister was always right by her side. Partly I can blame my upbringing, or lack of one to really cling to. I spent summers exploring what seemed like a vast expanse on my own, never for a minute feeling lonely or bored. When our father died, my sister and I were left to take on a greater deal of independence while my mother, who worked nearby, maintained our family business. Through the years it just worked, it never felt uncomfortable and I never felt denied something because of it.

It did however become a big problem when I couldn't reconcile it with the societal expectation to hook up, which unfortunately became the governing principle as I entered the age of intimate relationships.

It was almost impossible not to let that expectation govern. I grew up in a decent-sized family with three older brothers who'd all begun having kids before I was in high school. Family and partnership were things that I expected and wanted, but yet I had this "streak" -- when individuals express qualities that are not typical, the qualities are lumped together into a "streak" so that other people can deal with them without feeling threatened by difference. I married way too young because, well, everybody seemed to get along ok and so it would work out, and it meant not being alone.


Now, I've always been a hopeless romantic, which didn't help matters one bit. I'll always be a romantic. But there's a big difference between romance and living a fulfilled life with or without a partner. Sure, I've yearned. I've been driven nuts by the fact that plenty of people seem to find me a talented, smart, attractive, interesting, accomplished, fun person but no single person wants to step into shoes next to mine. Even though I know that's a really stupid way to evaluate success, it's a holdover from the need to fit my round peg of a personality into a square hole of The Perfect (-ly Conventional) Life. I am all those things, along with ambitious, creative, and extremely passionate about the things that matter to me -- and chances are I'm going to be all those things with or without a man.


I'm not saying at all that love isn't important, or that forming a permanent bond with someone isn't wonderful. It just has to be the right someone, and for the right reasons, and the reasons have to be real ones, not just because "it should work" or "we have the same middle names" or "gee the sex is terrific!" Love is an action, not an accident. And you can't just depend on one single ordinary or even extraordinary person to show you the way and be your guiding light. That's just crap, and a helluva lot to put on another human being regardless of how wonderful they are, because when one day they don't live up to all that you've thrown on them, POOF. We have to form strong bonds with other people, with our passions, and with ourselves too, in order to lead lives with balance and purpose and that hint at our potential.

I worry too much about whether my kids think I'm a cast-off, which runs counter to everything that matters about being an individual and being loved for who we are. Independence, real independence, is not valued. When we don't fall into step or laugh on cue, or agree with everything that's said at a club meeting, we're sidelined, passed over for promotions, squeezed out of relationships, left out of social gatherings. Questioning and challenging is seen as criticism, everything is taken personally, and suddenly, we find ourselves apologizing for having an idea or an opinion. Also crap.

A kindred spirit who has been a good model of true individuality, tipped me off to a suitable response to that kind of crap:

That dog won't hunt.

So my birthday gift to myself this year, I suppose, is that every precept I held about love, relationships, or the way life ought to be lived has been tossed into the sea. Life can no longer be viewed through the lens of What Works for Everybody Else. I have no choice but to view it through my own lens. Maybe there's no single perfect idea in view, but I sure see a lot of possibilities.

I should have figured all of this out a long time ago. You have to be a little independent to crave the likes of old mountain tunes or appreciate the high lonesome twang and the sometime showmanship of bluegrass. When I fell in love with that music, I fell in love with a fairly different type of community. The people I have met are extraordinary, warm, wonderful, talented people committed to the music. It may seem like there aren't a whole lot of us, but I'm surprised at how, when asked about my interests, people seem to come out with bluegrass or trad guns a-blazin. Recently I had the chance to sit and chat with a client who overheard my conversation with a fellow bluegrass fan in the hallway. He admitted he was a bluegrass fan, too. We are all out there, looking for one another.

Thanks to the musicians, presenters, students, mentors, people who go to gatherings and record playing, people who sit in studios to record playing, engineers, promoters, graphic designers, instrument craftspersons, people who repair instruments, the copywriters who help with the liner notes, the research assistants, and whoever makes the coffee and turns on the lights. Whoever I've forgotten, thanks to you too. Like Rudolph said, we're all independent together!

This sweet and easy going song, crammed with the lyric poetry of the late Dave Carter, turns the old fashioned phone number song into an experience. The lover in this song is something of a mystery, somewhat unattainable but yet present, if occasional. It's a song about the dance between independence and interdependence -- and the hope of someday getting it right. Click on the title to listen, or visit to sample more of Tracy's work and that of her partner, the late Dave Carter.

236-6132 is the number of my love
even though it's been some time since he made fair to answer
'cause he feints and fades from view like a fighter ducks a glove
though i play the highway kind and he the china dancer
if i was afraid to break or bleed
i would find someone much easier to need
but when drifters' dreams come true
and when push comes 'round to shove
236-6132 is the number of my love

236-6132 is the number i must call
when casey's at the bat, and sleeping beauty slumbers
when the frost is on the dew, and my teardrops freeze and fall
till the world is frozen flat, and the long night snows me under
on the icy nails of no return
we will strike the match and set the night to burn
'cause when beauty wakes anew and when casey cracks the ball
236-6132 is the only number

i am not looking for no champion of my freedom
i am anything but anybody's foundling
sometimes i feel like i am wandering, an old balloon on broken string
a bubble in a baby's dream, a lost and lonely buzzardling
a vulture beating creaky wings, while angry storms go gathering around me

236-6132 is the number of my love
when the clouds are howlin rain and the sky is black as ashes
'cause it's sunlight where we flew, though the trail is cold above
and the raven quakes in vain while the lightning barks and flashes
still the clouds will fade to gray cocoons
and spring the winken monarchs, nodding never-blinken moons
when the crows come home to roost and the eagle weds the dove
236-6132 is the number of my love


At November 17, 2006 10:41 PM, Blogger Shameless Agitator said...

My dear friend,

Welcome home.



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