Thursday, June 12, 2014

Music and Connecting with Joy

My mom dropped me off at the gelato place at the end of our visit, as I had requested. I needed to find a place to calm and center myself before attempting to go to the open mic night, and the gelato place was the only place open after 7 pm that I could go into. Our visit had been enjoyable, but I needed to recover from the stress inherent in doing well, almost anything. I ended up wandering up and down Fore Street, trying to soothe myself with the music and cursing the narrow sidewalks that made it so hard to have the space I needed with so many other people also walking up and down. I made it work, though. I sat on a stone bench outside of the new hotel, trying to gather myself. A couple approached me, rather confidently I thought, as if they knew me well, and said hello. I looked at them and had absolutely no idea who they were. Usually, people at least look familiar if I don't know them! I said, "Do I know you?"

It turns out they were my two favorite DJs from a radio morning show I had listened to on and off for the better part of ten years. I was so excited. THEY recognized ME! How cool is that? I was so excited. It made me so happy. It gave me the energy to get out of my funk and go find fun things to do. I think I must have smiled for at least ten minutes after that. They were at the Dierks Bentley concert, and walking back from it. Oh, how I wanted to take every word of that conversation and treat them as treasured jewels, taking them out to polish and shine endlessly as I wanted. How I wanted to capture it in my memory and keep it forever. There is a Phil Vassar song I can't remember the words to - something like "Stand still... you're right where I want you to be..." Perhaps that is the title, I am not sure. 

I used to be embarassed if I gushed about something. Hell, I still am. But I'd rather be true to myself and gush about something that was truly gush-worthy than not connect with the intensity and purity of the emotions I experienced.

How cool is it that your favorite DJs who you've never met can spot you on a street and recognize you by name?? 

He said he liked the things I wrote about on Facebook... asked if I was okay...talked briefly about doing the show about autism for the community connections program... only a few exchanges...but I was over the moon with the joy and pleasure that comes from being recognized and seen as important. 

I wasn't going to go to the Dierks Bentley concert, which was by the ferry terminal only a few blocks away, but after they said it was good I decided I couldn't pass up at least trying. I was quite certain you'd be able to hear it without paying, and that was true. You can't really block off a ferry terminal for a concert, and it turned out the point at which they put the barrier for people to pay if they wanted to go any further was the point at which I would never gone any further to, because it would have been too loud. So I and about a dozen other people hung out just beyond the barrier, taking in a perfectly good and perfectly free concert. Seriously, can we have more concerts at the ferry terminal (i.e. Maine State Pier)? That was awesome! 

I got there in time for the last three songs. I had to eat and regulate myself a little more before I went. But I sure was in a better mood afterwards. I cautiously made my way towards the pier, wondering at what point I would be able to hear the music more clearly. You could hear noise for several blocks away, but not the actual words until you were pretty close. I scoped out the situation, saw that it was okay to stand in that spot on the ferry terminal, dropped my stuff and gasped in delight as the first full song that came on when I was there was probably one of the only by him that I actually knew and, to some degree, liked. "What Was I Thinking" was his first big hit back several years ago when he first burst onto the scene, and one of few that I know well. I was full of joy and wonder at the serendipity of it all - here I was, I was wandering around Portland and now I'm listening to Dierks Bentley of all people singing What Was I Thinking on the Maine State Pier.... what are the odds of that? The joy and wonder of it all. I danced for a moment, as much as my body would let me, and marveled in the wonder of expressing joy while other people were also expressing joy, and how good it felt to take in their energy. 

I have no energy left to make this blog pretty or concise, so I am going to default to the more stream of consciousness writing that I did the second I stepped into the apartment, so determined not to lose sight of the positive emotions that I had been lucky enough to feel tonight. 

"Then he went right into Sideways... he said "This kind of music just makes you want to go Sideways" or something like that... and I laughed... knowing the song vaguely... and it's not even a song I particularly like, although not one I hate either... but standing their on the pier, surrounded by all those people, and not being overwhelmed because it was too loud, but being able to hear it... just... I felt connected..... I felt like my heart was beating outside my body and that felt so damn good. I wasn't trying...  I just felt connected. I felt the music beating inside my heart. I felt the rythm, the tone, the sound, not so much the words but just the feeling.... Standing there on that rainy June night, surrounded by people and police and event staff on what is usually a quiet pier, having a national country singer in front of us, and just trying to take it all in... **I felt connected  to an energy outside of me.**

That is what I strive for every day, in everything I do. But I wasn't TRYING. And I think that because I wasn't trying is precisely why I was able to do it. I have spoken before of being strangled by my own expectations. But this was... such an interesting experiment, in so many ways. Because I had NO expectations. Which is what I strive for in my daily life but never quite manage to pull off. I wasn't even going to go to the concert. I couldn't think of a single Dierks Bentley song I liked, so I figured, what was the point? Not realizing that just as I am a sucker for any 60s music played on the guitar by someone on the streets of the Old Port or at open mic, no matter how well or badly it's played, no matter if I can barely recognize it or not, I am too apparently a sucker for any country I hear outdoors live as long as I recognize it - because it has so much feeling in it.

So, my only expectations were that maybe I would get there and be able to hear it without being overwhelmed by it, but I didn't even expect to hear anything good .I didn't expect to enjoy it. I was more just like, Hell, I'm three blocks away from a country concert happening by the ferry terminal, and someone just told me how good it was. I can't in good consciousness not go. So I was able to just be in the moment and feel it. The patriotic song, I don't know the name of it but I recognized it as a radio single because it was really familiar... I don't even like patriotic songs usually, I don't think about the military much, but I was so moved by it and the introduction anyway. It just felt like being connected to something greater than myself. 

Part of me wished I had gotten there earlier but I told myself, you did what you were able to do, and that is all that matters. I also realized that if I had PLANNED to go to it, if I had set the intention of doing it, chances are very low that I actually would have enjoyed it. If I had been able to think of even ONE song Dierks does that I liked, all my thoughts would have been "Oh man ,I hope he plays that song. I hope he plays that song. When is he going to play that song? No! I don't like this song! Play that song!"  and then when he finally did, I  would have been like "Omg, I need to enjoy this song. He's finally playing it and I need to enjoy it. No! I'm not enjoying it enough! I need to enjoy it more! Come on body, CONNECT already!" Um, needless to say that is not really the most healthy thought process that exists, and needless to say that kind of thinking strangles all enjoyment out of, well, almost everything. But hey - I am perfectly aware of my thought processes, I just don't yet know how to change them. But being aware of them and pondering how to change them is the first step, right?

It is all relative though. I was just stunned that he would actually do like the one song I actually knew by him, his first ever hit, as the first full song when I got there. And then happy I actually knew the next two songs. I am not sure how many singles he's had, as I never particularly paid much attention to him. He's been around a while, I think . Oh, and then to watch all the people! The cowboy hats that you normally never see in Portland. When the concert ended, they weren't paying attention to who went past the entrance barrier, so I wandered in to look at the vendors and see what was there.
I went near the stage and stood watching people stream out. It was fascinating to observe the audience. To think, man, all these people came here to hear a country singer! Having spent since I was 16 being an avid, passionate country fan who knows until recently not a single other country fan, even online for the most part, a part of me was just, my mouth was hanging open. To be surrounded by all these people who actually like country, who actually appreciate a part of my life that I've never been able to share with anyone else. It was like realizing that a part of me actually existed and was valid. I had no idea there were so many country fans in Maine. I very seldom get to go to country concerts. I saw Sugarland at Meadowbrook in NH a couple summers ago. I go to the Concert at the Beach concerts that WPOR puts on so I guess that counts but it didn't really feel the same. (Talk about being strangled by expectations - my third favorite singer, Phil Vassar, was here either last summer or the summer before. I was over the moon excited, I love him to death and OOB outside is a great concert venue. But I was sitting there the whole time thinking to myself "Gee... Why aren't I enjoying this? One of my favorite singers is right in front of me playing all his hits and I'm just like feeling nothing. What's going on?" I think I was just choked by the weight and pressure of my own expectations.) 


So...there were those two things. As the Passover song says, "that would have been enough." But maybe not really, because what followed was even better. Oh man... I didn't even notice the long walk back to Monument Square because I had such a big smile on my face. But when I got there, I decided I'd go to the last half hour of the open mic night, I might as well . It felt awkward to come so late, in the middle of things, but it was worth it. Also, at first I noticed the feeling/smell of a fragrance in there and wondered if I'd be able to stay, but then this girl got up there, and sounded just like Joni Mitchell, so amazing... a voice that can just wash over you and lull you to a different land entirely. I was awestruck. It was certainly the best performer I had yet seen there. I settled back in my seat and just enjoyed the feeling of being transported to a different world. The guy after her was quite good, too. I just love the energy in there. So supportive, so positive, so friendly and open. Nearly all the people who performed were really good, and the jokes the hosts made were so funny. A few people said hi to me. The host asked in a very warm and welcoming manner if I was enjoying myself. I said "good to see you" and he returned it very warmly. These things sound so paltry to write about! But they are beyond meaningful when they happen, when they make you feel a part of something for the first time in your life. When they make you feel like an insider instead of an outsider. I am in awe, actually, of how much tone of voice can convey when I am able to interpret it correctly or be in a place, physically or emotionally, where I can receive positive messages.

The last guy sang "Don't Murder Me," which is either a Dead song or a New riders of the purple sage song, or both. I don't remember and have no energy to look it up. But, OMG. I was uninterested until he got to the chorus, and then memory sprang like a welcome but surprise house-guest, the rich resonant notes of the song playing on my dad's stereo system in my memory adding into the notes played on the guitar in front of me. I have been listening to a lot of Dead lately, but had forgotten that song.

People lingered a long time afterwards. I have gone to these things maybe 6 or 8 times by now, and people usually never linger. I was surprised. And glad, as I didn't want to wait for the bus in the rain outside. I hovered on the edge at times but was able to transcend the edge into an actual connection or conversation with others far more than usual. I think I talked to one girl about her living in Casco and taking the new route 302 bus to Portland. She seemed so happy to talk to me, and she didn't even know me! I talked to the host about something ,I don't recall what, but it felt pleasant. I talked to the guy who played the Dead song. I was so happy about being able to have all these conversations. Just as I was starting to feel, after hanging around the edge of things for another 15 minutes or so waiting for the bus, a little awkward, I talked to a girl I knew but hadn't talked to much, and she invited me to an arts gathering at her apartment on Sunday nights. Oh, be still my heart. If I could deliver a message straight to my amygdala, or the emotional part of my brain that processes fear or old hurts, I would say to it "You can't possibly feel hurt or different when you've just talked to 3 or 4 people and been invited to someone's apartment." Oh, but my brain is a tricky thing, my emotions have their own lives. I tell myself, Yes, you still are going to feel as if you are not as close to the others as they are to each other, but you can fix that by simply showing up and giving it time for connections and familiarity to grow. You can't have intimacy overnight. You have to do the work and show up, you have to be patient with your process. But oh, it made me so happy. I cannot wait until next Thursday (although I am slightly afraid of strangling myself with my expectations of it). 

It occurred to me that since I was emotionally full from the concert and relaxed, I probably was more open to the vibes and energy of what was going on around me. So it seems the key to being able to get what you want is not to want it. When I didn't care about what happened at the open mic night, more or less, I was able to receive so much more than I usually get, it felt like. Maybe the key is trying to find and rely on that sense of inner strength that Margie talks about me having. Knowing that your needs will be filled when they need to be, and having the courage and conviction, the faith and patience to wait for it to happen and be open to what happens in the meantime. 

So there are three things I would like to remember from tonight.

1) Meeting the DJs shows that your needs will be met when you really need them to be, and to try to not worry so much about unfilled needs
2) The Dierks Bentley concert shows that if we can have no expectations of life , we will be able to be in the moment and enjoy it
3) and the open mic night shows that if we can manage to be open to the energy that surrounds us, we can have very connected, meaningful experiences. How to be open probably requires a lifetime to figure out!

I did have a nice time with my mom and dad as well though. It was rainy so going to Fort Williams was a little iffy, but we did and attempted to have a good time with each other, which is what counted.



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