This __________ will change your life!
Will it, though? Probably not. At least not the way you think. Change is hard and slow, and it usually isn’t a single process. To really change your life, you need to rewrite your programming, and if you operate on Shame.0 (there are no other versions; Shame.0 is a primitive, miserable program upon which improvement is not possible), coming out about who you really are and what matters to you is especially difficult. But I’m becoming convinced that it’s the only real project, I who do love a good project, at the same time that it’s dawning on me what a long project it has been and will continue to be.
This (***waves hand vaguely***) is part of the project. About a year ago, I realized I couldn’t last much longer pretending I didn’t write, pretending it wasn’t still so important to me. I couldn’t let my words sit unread and unremembered in my journal anymore. I had to try to put them out in the world. I prayed about it (and still do); I read The Artist’s Way and started doing morning pages; I took time off from work specifically to finish a book I started writing in 2013; I finished a 50k first draft of a new book during NaNoWriMo; I asked Dakota to help me set up the domain name he bought for me a few years ago so I could have a website. And when I wondered how in God’s name I could get into the spirit of publishing something cohesive with regularity and rhythm and accountability, I figured I could start blogging about church (and cheekily name my church posts after a Hozier song fairly critical of organized religion), since I had been taking notes on church services for years, and share poems from time to time. At the beginning of the year I also started to make a concerted effort to write about art. And here it is: an occasionally awkward project, still a fairly small project with a fairly small audience (thanks everyone), but a project nonetheless.
So: I’m not going to tell you that the Hozier show in Orlando changed my life. And I’m not going to write about it like a music journalist; this isn’t a “review” of the show, per se. But it still felt like a cairn along the path of change that told me I was going the right way.
One reason I love Hozier’s music is because of its bravery and clarity. Want to hear a man come right out and say “rape culture” in a song? Want to hear a white guy acknowledge the debt popular music owes to African-American gospel and blues? How about a song about the ways in which religion was wielded to reinforce colonialism and oppression? He’s got you covered. And then, too, love, in his songs is huge: it overcomes darkness, death, the end of the world. For someone who’s been burned by big feelings and open displays thereof, his songs remind me, gently, beautifully, to try being brave again.
Everything about making it happen challenged me—not in any way that would have been obvious to anyone else, but, when your brain operates on Shame.0, it’s all kind of a struggle. I had to admit that I felt like this was important enough to spend time and money doing, that I didn’t want to wait to see if he was going to announce New York dates (which he later did, but oh well, I’ll just go again). I had to ask a friend for companionship and help. And when you operate on Shame.0, asking for help and admitting something is important just to you isn’t the easiest thing. But I did it, and I think it’s been good for me as I work on making more decisions more quickly and with less worry and shame.
And was it worth it? It couldn’t have been more worth it. I went with my friend MaryBeth and we had a ridiculously good time. We had excellent seats; the folks seated around us were kind and enthusiastic; the opener, Jade Bird, was wonderful; and he played most of my favorite songs. When he played “Movement,” I danced, even though I’m not a good dancer, just because I couldn’t stay still anymore. And when he played “Work Song,” I cried, grateful for the capacity to appreciate music and particularly a song that celebrates persistence and commitment in love.
I’ve been told that I’m a very sensitive person, and that’s true on a few different levels. Mosquito bites on my skin turn bright red for days. I can tell if someone has said three fewer words to me than they usually do. I have never met a piece of constructive criticism I couldn’t take personally. But with that sensitivity also comes curiosity and the desire for connection: to people, to spirit, to art. I felt so connected during that show, to all of those things, and so far beyond the reach of shame. It reminded me that to write and sing with the same clarity and bravery is an opportunity to keep experiencing that connection.
So did it change my life? No, but maybe that’s not the point. My life was already, is already, changing, thanks to my own efforts and the support of my circle. It was a moment to celebrate, experience gratitude and connection, and have a clearer picture of a future in which I continue to grow in courage and freedom. That alone was well worth the price of admission.