Rage and the Open Mic (and thanks for the music lessons, Mom!)

James and Me at 5 Monkeys

James and Me at 5 Monkeys Open Mic Last Sunday

I thought I knew what rage was. I have felt it before, or so I thought.

But I was wrong.

It started at the grocery store on Sunday. I noticed it as I struggled with the cart. It was pulling to one side as I rounded a corner and I jerked it back so hard I knocked 6 or 8 cans of whatever off the shelf next to me. I continued to shop.

I am aware that I have a lot of unresolved anger. When I started this 101 day project, I honestly thought I didn’t anymore. But this great effort has brought a lot of stuff to the surface I had pushed away. Anger about a life that led me, instead of I it. Anger over missed opportunities. Anger at years of needless torment. Anger at how many times I’ve lost everything. Anger at my lack of control. Anger about my daughter having to feel any pain. Anger for my hopeful heart that time and again I share, only to have it ripped from my chest.

I went for the apples and three fell on the ground. I was suddenly almost blind. The darkness crept in around the edges of my vision. I could not see anymore. I left the cart there. I left my coat in the cart. I marched outside and into the cold Salt Lake day. I listened for the reassuring sounds of the cathedral bells — nothing. I tried to ground myself — nada. I was freezing.

I just kept walking and walking. Faster and faster. Still, I didn’t know what was going on. Eventually, my vision cleared. Like a robot, I managed to find my way home. I thought I had worked out whatever it was that was bugging me.

I hadn’t.

I sat down to write a master list of every single thing I needed and/or wanted to do. Usually, that helps me to focus. This time it didn’t.

I did some dishes. My vision started to blur again. And then I found out that she wanted to stay at her dad’s for awhile longer. I understand her reasons for it, I don’t take anything she does personally and I don’t need her around to make my life whole, but she is my daughter. I love her. I want to help her. I have no control.

I thought I was going to cry. Instead, I stood still as what i realized were waves of rage crashed over me. It was so much more than anger and a lot heavier than sorrow. I was awash in it. It flooded every capillary, vein and soft spot of my body. I could feel it like a red cloud around me. I knew I had to do something.

Music is the one thing I know will calm me down, no matter what. In the past, it has been a tool to vent my personal heartbreaks and/or exorcise my many demons. Normally, I would sit at the piano until my mind was empty of all but the notes. Or I would lock myself in my room and write and sing with my guitar.  This time, though, I knew I had to get out of the house and play.

I knew that this time, it wouldn’t be enough to play and sing in my apartment. It wouldn’t be enough to down a couple of beers and watch someone else play, either. I had to play. And it had to be out.

I facebooked my friend, Theron, to see if he knew of any open mics. He didn’t respond immediately, so I just posted a status update asking if anyone knew of any open mics that night. Thank God for my friend, James. He had no idea what he was in for. Just 20 minutes after posting the message, I burst out the front door. He greeted me with a very James-like bear hug. I needed it.

I vented for a solid hour before we started to play. It was good to talk. But, it wasn’t until I my left hand wrapped around the neck of his guitar that I finally felt the pressure valve on my rage release. I started out with my most tried and true song. We traded songs. I played another and another. The handful of people in the bar responded with enthusiasm.

I wish I could express what it feels like to be that raw and then perform a song that you wrote for people who owe you nothing and then to accept their positive feedback. My friend, Donna, recently used the phrase, “It was a balm to my soul.” And maybe that’s the best way to describe what that open mic did for me on Sunday night.

I have no desire to be a famous singer/songwriter. I don’t even have a burning desire to become a better singer/songwriter. I know I am not a good guitar player. I know I am not the best singer. What I desire, though, doesn’t require I be or become any of that. What I desire I have already achieved. I am good enough that I can saunter in to any ole open mic, or songwriting circle, and share a part of my authentic self in positive way. I am familiar enough with the tools of music that I can use them to calm my rage, comfort me when I am despairing and even inspire me when I am uninspired.

Thanks for the music lessons, Mom.

Now you will listen to this: Laura Marling, “All My Rage”

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Filed under 101 Day Project, Moving On


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