More McRae Please!

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Watch out!  This post is going to be strange!  It’s completely off-the-cuff, and I’m exploring my thoughts as I go.

I recently made a playlist for July and as I reflected on the pieces I chose and particularly the performers for each piece, I noticed I am strongly attracted to black American jazz/ blues singers.  When I was immersed in playing liturgical music, it was often choral numbers based on American Spirituals that excited me most.  I know I learned many of these spirituals as a child, but I don’t think I was introduced to much jazz music until I found it for myself in grad school.  Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong were two of my favorites then.

I also saw a movie recently that featured Cuban music (from the ’50s?) and it reminded me of the music I heard in Puerto Rico in 1970.  I LOVE that music!  I like most music that’s native to Puerto Rico or Cuba, from any era, but especially what was being created in the early 20th century.

And then today I “discovered” Carmen McRae.  She’s an important jazz singer, but somehow I hadn’t heard her before today.  I heard her sing “Fly Me To The Moon” in a way that is mesmerizing, familiar yet singularly unique, absolutely captivating, and here’s the strange part: I found myself seeing in my memory my mother reading bedtime stories to me.  I think there is a reflective quality in McRae’s rendition of “Fly Me To The Moon” that evokes something within me that my mother nurtured through bedtime reading.

At the moment I’m listening to Petula Clark.  I love her “Downtown” and “Don’t Sleep In The Subway”.  Some of my favorite pop music is by the Beatles.  And then there’s Jethro Tull, Joan Baez, James Taylor, Carole King, Brubeck, Evans,  Edith Piaf, Ella Fitzgerald, Mancini, Mahalia Jackson, Miles Davis, Nina Simone, Ray Charles, Simon & Garfunkel, Stan Getz, Guaraldi…  In other words, even though I am a classical musician and that’s the world where I feel most at home, there’s quite a bit of popular music I greatly enjoy.

I’m trying to figure out if there is a common denominator in all of these various genres, styles, performances…  I don’t have that figured out yet, but I think it has to do with a sense of intimacy.  Intimacy, not as in romantic connection, but as in an authentic personal voice sharing something real.  And that “something real” connects with something authentic in me.

Wow, wow, wowsy wow-wow: I found more McRae.  “Sometimes I’m Happy”.  Her voice timbre in this performance reminds me a bit of Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone.  I really love these jazz ladies!  But I think I’m also resonating with the angsty bravery of the ’60s.  Again, I don’t have this figured out.  Trying to look into my own psyche is probably like “missing the forest for the trees.”

Gosh this music is great.  When I listen to McRae, I can hardly see or think; she holds my entire attention!  I think it’s time to make more playlists.  I’ve been looking for something that excites me.  Maybe this is it.  This music feeds a part of me that is so starved, I feel like a baby at her mother’s breast and I’m suckling with every fiber of my being.

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Pruning Process

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I’ve started deleting many of my blogs and some posts from some I will keep or import/integrate into others I plan to keep – at least for a while.

It feels great!  It turns out I not only enjoy planting but also pruning!

It was clear I had created too many blogs.  I couldn’t keep up with them.  But it was fun to explore the ideas swirling in my head while I formatted the templates and wrote some posts.  I’m glad I can allow myself to explore in this way. The creation of a space where I can explore my thoughts in a (nominally) public way has accomplished a couple of important facets of healing within me.

  1. Creating space for these thoughts is my way of affirming myself that these thoughts have some legitimacy.
  2. Allowing them to be public is an act of shedding shame.
  3. Writing my thoughts is a way of claiming and using my voice.
  4. Spending time on these projects is my active valuing of them.
  5. And now, letting them go is my way of affirming my growth toward wholeness; I don’t need them anymore.  I can make new spaces for new thoughts!  (Or more to the point: I can invest myself in the realms I need to explore right now for my current growth.)

 

Grateful to Grieve

I’m thinking of my mother.  I feel so much.  It’s hard to hold so many feelings.  So much gratitude.  So much sense of loss.  Such profound feelings of connection yet separation.  In my hardest times, it was always the thought of my mother that kept me attached to Life.  No, I don’t worship her!  Although, when I was very young, without thinking about it, I adored her.  I’m sure she was my first love.  I sometimes think of my childhood best-friend as my first love because she was my first heart-break (parting from her when my family moved to Puerto Rico).  However, when I think of my earliest memories from age three, when I call up remembered images and feelings, I know I was “in love with” my mother, meaning: I had a healthy, happy, strong attachment to her.

Sometimes people talk about my mother as a non-cuddly mother or some other kind of phrase that attempts to describe her reserve which some experienced as a kind of coolness.  However, while I have struggled with some aspects of my relationship w/ my mother, her reserve was not one of those things.  It has confused me at times because while certainly there were times when I needed surer, more ready, intimacy with her which she didn’t provide, her actual way of being reserved suited me quite well.  I am naturally reserved too.  I’m sure it’s in my DNA, and not just learned from her, or a response/reaction to some other environmental influences.

I like being reserved.  I like me as an “introvert.”  I like myself while alone.  I like solitude.  I can experience greater loneliness with some other people than when alone.  What has confused me in the past regarding my relationship with my mother has had to do with the ways I needed her as a teenager and she didn’t notice.  But it’s also true that she sometimes noticed and didn’t know how to reach me.  It’s also true she was confused.  And all the ways she provided for me, taught me, empowered me, and was indeed “there for me” at some critical times, all those ways and times and gifts are so abundant that I feel only over-whelming gratitude for her, her life, her mothering, her friendship.

The other feelings that I contend with in my grieving process are forms of pain and sorrow for the pain she suffered throughout her life and especially when dying.  When I think of her physical pain at the end, my stomach gets tied up in knots.  Even now as I write this paragraph my gut cramps and hurts.  But, what’s new today is that I can endure thinking about all that long enough to write about it.

I’m finally far enough along in my grief (/healing?/acceptance?) that I can grieve with feelings and tears and not clench off my heart.  Yesterday I saw a movie that involved someone dying.  The way the movie ended was cathartic for me.  I “bawled like a baby.”  I was able to let myself cry with my whole body and with tears.  It felt so cleansing and nourishing at the same time.  It felt like I was being and holding my real self.

I contend with dry eye.  It had been getting worse for over a year until a couple of months ago I started lubricant/gel eye drops that were effective.  So now I have tears again.  And I’m glad to be able to use them!  It sounds strange in words to say that I’m glad to grieve, I’m glad to cry, but I’m sure anyone who has been through this will know how much sense that makes.

While I write this I’m listening to Tuck & Patti’s album “A Gift of Love.”  It’s a great album in every way.  It accompanies me perfectly now while I think of my mother.

God bless Almeda with the fullness of Love, Joy, Peace, Freedom, forever.

Oh, Abba-Papa-Lord, I love my mother!  Thank You for her!  Bless all of her with all of You!