Saturday, March 15, 2008

Change Pace

Last night as I was going through my inbox I came across a MySpace invite from my favorite haunt, The Kent Stage. It was an invite to the show tonight, featuring local singer-songwriter Alex Bevan opening for Straws singer-songwriter Dave Cousins. I decided that I would head out, which I did after a rather strange day of catching up on work, laundry, exercise, and sleep. It wouldn't be otherwise strange but I've been a little under the weather, so everything seemed in the last couple of days to be in somewhat slow motion. I'm not generally a slow-motion person so feeling myself move as if I was walking on flypaper or something is just odd. So I decided that getting out of the house was in any event a good idea and sitting in the dark listening to live music for a couple of hours wasn't the worst way to do that.


It turns out I was a bit out of my league and my element but enjoyed a thoroughly good show. The house was probably only a third full, so I sat my germy self down in the middle of the house in a row all by myself. I hadn't done my homework on Dave Cousins but I knew at some point over the course of his career that Rick Wakeman was involved. But once home I did a little digging and learned that the Strawbs started out as, of all things, a Bluegrass band called the Strawberry Hill Boys. That evidently didn't last too long as Cousins' preferred songwriting style was really in a different and more popular vein and the band's focus shifted toward that more folklore-ballad-soon-gone-rock-ballad in the later 1960s. After brief success in Denmark with an album that featured the late Sandy Denny who was recruited to Fairport Convention before the Strawbs could really get something up and running with her in it on a more permanent basis, The Strawbs became the first band from the UK signed to A&M records.

Anyway it was a good show, a solo presentation by Cousins, who will be back with the entire band, by the way, on June 13 at the Stage, and that should be quite an event. But meanwhile Cousins presented our small audience with a slice of life not just as a singer-songwriter, but as a troubadour who had dealt with stardom and big rock icons and all the rest. And here he is, somewhere a little over 60 years old, still plying his trade and telling these really quite incredible stories behind each song.

As I drove home trying to figure out exactly what I heard, I was thinking about this person who still is doing international touring and traveling all over the green earth to play to a crowd of about 100 people in a small Ohio college town. And I was mulling over my strangely spent day. It didn't seem to be all that productive, despite all that had been done with room for roughly a two-hour siesta, some of which I think surely must have been spent sleeping when I wasn't coughing. I've been turning over in my head the last week or two how I just don't think I'm using my time wisely, or working as hard as I could be, or worrying about the right things, or really learning anything truly new to put to actual use.

On my way out of the office I took a call from my X's sweetheart, a woman not quite my age with enormous family obligations, work, and school. She's not someone I've had much of a chance to get to know but what I do know is that her shoulders must be killing her. And yet she has really a very positive attitude, looking forward to the day when she can focus on her family and a single job rather than the several she juggles as part of and in addition to her going to school. There are people like her all around the country and we're all worried about getting sick, losing our jobs, and paying $3.50 a gallon for gas (the going price this week, although I used points I'd racked up tonight for a $36 fill-up -- a bargain any way you look at it). It's easy to lose sight of the bigger picture in those times, and some folks like C have to work to keep it in view I imagine so that they don't go bananas.

As I drove along Route 43 tonight back to my cozy and quiet flat, it occurred to me that I need to start worrying about things besides the fill-up and the grocery bill. Those will be there, regardless. I can still worry about finding another job, which seems every now and again to be imminent and I fear after the rush of work we've had that we might be in a very low-tide stage again. But even then, what should I be doing with my time? What divides the genuinely hard work I do from the kind of grueling, often last-minute busy work I do to prepare our firm to present candidates? Am I capable of doing the kind of hard work it must take to get and keep my own clients in house? Will my principals trust me to do that? And after this, what next? What work should I be doing to prepare myself for my next role wherever it is, and how will I find one that makes sense for me and still allows me to keep us fed and our modest roof over our heads? Will I have a chance to lead a team again? What will that look like?

Time to change pace. After all the looking forward to this year I've done, it's nearly a quarter of the way gone. Nothing significant has changed, other than my added exercise routine which is generating more energy even in my underweathered bronchial state. Time to put that energy to do hard work, satisfying work, paid work, or the work of learning new skills and deepening present skills so that I can find that right way to finally come into service at the level I'm really capable of and in a capacity that makes perfect sense. I am mission driven, and it's time to really seek out or create a new or expanded mission and actualize it into purposeful breadwinning work.

Tonight Cousins did a song he wrote about a 19th century Englishwoman named Grace Darling. Miss Darling made history when she and her Lightkeeper father rescued 9 sailors from a wreck offshore using a small row boat. She was 22 at the time, and died only six years later, having never lived anywhere other than the Longstone Lighthouse. But having saved those sailors with her father was a great service and a very brave thing. Dave wrote this tune to honor her and also wrote it as a love song to unflagging folks who keep the light.

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