Good Jazz, Shenlok and Music in the Unresolved
December 20, 2012 § 1 Comment
I didn’t hear the long, slow jazz note coming from our right last Wednesday, but E did. He stopped, leaned in and disappeared into a dark doorway, dragging me behind him.
He reached out for my hand and motioned for me to be quiet. In an almost empty room, a jazz trio was playing under a blue and green glow.
I wanted to stand there forever, even though I didn’t like the music. I got this warmed up feeling inside me, and I forgot how hungry I was.
E pulled me back outside into the cold, and in a second we were back dodging pedestrians on Houston and he was asking what I wanted to eat.
We talked about jazz on the way.
“Those are the kind of folks that are killing real jazz,” E said. “Did you hear that fucked up shit?”
What’s good jazz? I don’t know enough to know – except that good jazz rests comfortably on an unresolved note. Bad jazz seems to wrestle with it, like it wants to turn into something different. But good jazz? It just sits there unresolved and it grins at you.
There was a baby girl on the train today. She had Velcro shoes and chubby hands. When the woman with her picked her up, baby girl stretched her fingers and thumb out in an “L” shape towards the center of the train and bounced. The woman started to sing and she sang and she sang to her on the C train from 59th all the way to West 4th where I caught the M home to Myrtle Ave. The baby danced and she yelled and she held her chubby baby hands up to the center of the train and prattled and she stared at me.
There was that warmed up feeling, again. I wanted to stay on the train and watch her dance.
I’m told that you make a hell of a lot of mistakes, as an entrepreneur – that that’s ok. Par for the course. A Wall Street friend I go to for advice sometimes told me the important thing wasn’t that I didn’t make mistakes, but instead that I kept afloat through them – kept my chutzpah. He called it grit. He said if I could stay in the game for long enough and grow my capacity to change, I could make it work.
Willingness to accept change was, he said, the most important thing – to wake up each morning with the mindset – “Fuck it. Today will bring some crazy change and I’m going to embrace and go with it.”
I nodded, and I bit my lip, because I’ve been so dependent on all these things – like immediate results, dependable outcomes – paychecks. Things you don’t get when you start your own thing. And, giving all that up has been like the aftermath of a bad binge. Not the least bit comfortable. Not the least bit natural. Really bad headache. Nausea.
I decided to take all that seriously. “Fix your shit,” that’s what my Wall street friend said. So, I’ve been working on healing from my past perceptions of what my life would look like. And, I’m finding a home in the midst of this Buddhist recovery group on Sunday afternoons – sitting on this big blue cushion in between former heroine addicts and alcoholics and purgers and over eaters, and learning to meditate.
I’m letting go of control, and so are they, so I don’t see much difference in any of us. We’re all a little fucked up and a little too addicted to something and sometimes I don’t like getting out of bed any more than they do. So, while everyone’s spilling out their fantasies about stuffing their mouth so full they barf and how they got hot sweats during a date that weekend and what kind of anti anxiety pills they just switched to, I sit and I cry in the middle of all the recovery and I laugh with them until my sides hurt – and I don’t feel so alone in this crazy city I’ve adopted.
My group leader likes to draw distinctions. There’s power in naming things, she says. Sad and depressed aren’t the same thing. But they both can be healed by staying grounded in the moment. She talks about change – that we can’t control when things work, or how they work, but we sure can control the way we respond to them, and the way we respond to our uncomfortable feelings about them.
We read this bit on the definition of dysfunctional – that a person is never just one thing. A label – like dysfunctional, like depressed, like co-dependent, rests not only on the naming of things but on ensuring that they don’t take up more space than they ought to.
So, you may often find yourself depressed, but that doesn’t mean you’re depressed every moment. Perhaps you could even be defined as “depressed” this afternoon, but tonight you’re gleeful, or angry, or loud or drunk or expectant. And, that’s valid. That’s who you are, the same as sad or depressed or addicted or (fill in your blank here).
Things crashed last month, but my solution was successful Tuesday. We made a mistake on Wednesday morning, but on Wednesday afternoon I was brilliant. And, all of that matters equally. All of that defines me.
It’s the prattling of babies and the quick laughter of people I didn’t expect that makes my life light up, in the midst of learning to be comfortable with unexpected change. Like the videos my nine year old cousin, Sam, sends me from an old generation iPad my aunt lets him use. Ill be out walking in Brooklyn and suddenly there’s a blonde boy in my inbox, making silly faces and telling me to have a good night. And I want to kiss my aunt for kicking him that little piece of technology because I couldn’t be connected this closely to Sam any other way.
I sent him a video from the 81st street Central Park West train station tonight. Every few weeks this beautiful black man pops up by the South entrance and he sings out “Because He Lives” in a voice so rich and deep and full that I take my headphones out and I soak up every word – as if Jesus himself were on 81st street, smiling and saying that he’ll help me face tomorrow.
The 81st street singer makes me feel the same way I do when the videos from Sam come through on my iPhone. Full. Slowed. Grounded. So I pulled my phone out and I took a video for Sam, and kept it recording until the train showed up, because even if he doesn’t appreciate my train serenade, I know he’ll like watching the B roll through like that.
I’ve begun to surround myself with experiences like this – the ones that give me that full, slow, grounded feeling. I’m actively cultivating it. I find it in children, and I find it when I decide to look out, as my J train runs over the Williamsburg bridge. I get it around people who believe in goodness and in light, in having deep friendships, telling the truth and paying attention to the people around them when they talk. I get it when I really take the time to read. I get it with every small success in Uganda, and when I insist that I won’t let struggle take over…and I breathe, instead, and open the curtains by my desk and make a fresh French press full of coffee.
I get it when I recognize that I’d like to tell the universe to fuck herself, let her know that love is supposed to look certain ways and come out like this or that, and that, as a woman, what I need is XY and Z from my job or my life or my family – but I don’t. I stop wanting to, because I’m laughing so hard I hurt with this kid on the crosstown, or feeling the slow buzz of a dark Belgian ale out with a new friend of mine, and I know, instead, that have absolutely everything I need.
My friends on the blue cushions are teaching me that life comes in insistence that whatever is in front of you matters more immensely than anything else. Shenlok - it doesn’t matter so much that you’ve got everything resolved, but that you’re able to hold your seat comfortably while it’s not.
That’s when your make your own kind of music.
Everything after that is just part of the song.