Three weeks ago I moved to Sonoma County, CA, and promptly got the flu. The flu turned into bronchitis turned into an existential crisis - who moves across the country and immediately gets sick? What kind of universal message is this? The fact that almost everyone else in the country has also been sick didn't make it seem any less personal. It was clear - 2013 hated me already. I wasn't able to do any actual moving, and my boxes and furniture and bikes languished in the moving pod out on the gravel driveway. After almost two weeks I went to the doctor and got some antibiotics, and a few days later my symptoms began to subside. Wow, 2013, nice to meet you too!
I guess I did that thing of bursting out of the gate with a dash too much brio, because today I woke up feeling sick again. But getting myself out of the house and seeing last night's show by my friends Red Molly was worth a relapse. To be honest, I had wondered if going to this particular venue, where Girlyman has played to large, enthusiastic crowds in the past, would make me sad about being off the road with my band - but instead I left inspired, energized and uplifted by these gals. Their overall demeanor was one of gratitude - for each other, for the audience, and for the opportunity to play music. Their harmonies were among the tightest and most inventive I've heard. But the moment that made the night for me (and I suspect many others) was their encore, an a capella version of Susan Werner's "May I Suggest:"
"May I suggest, may I suggest to you / May I suggest this is the best part of your life / May I suggest, this time is blessed for you / This time is blessed and shining almost blinding light / Just turn your head and you'll begin to see / The thousand reasons that were just beyond your sight / The reasons why, why I suggest to you / Why I suggest this is the best part of your life."
I think that every person in the venue last night felt that these words were sung directly to them, and such is the power of great songwriting. There was a feeling as each phrase rang out that the whole room was holding its breath, a credit to RM's arrangement and delivery as well as to the punch of Susan's words. I love the audacity of the song, the way it breaks through everyone's notion that their "best" moment was or will be some other moment. The easy reference Susan makes to our ways of evading our lives in the exact now. And the gentleness she employs in reminding us of the obvious but overlooked brilliance of the life that's staring us in the face. Gosh, how hard this is to truly know. (And I've been practicing meditation for over a decade, not that that necessarily means anything!)
Certainly the idea that my best life is behind me is one that has haunted me during this time away from Girlyman. With the perspective of some months away, it's easy to look back at the years of shows, songs, and tours, as some channeled, divinely inspired epoch. The truth, though, is that while that time contained moments of enlightenment and plenty of peak experience, it also contained pockets of fear, boredom, monotony (think fourteen hour drives), bad food, hauling ass, smallness, and ego. Such is life. And how comforting and true to think that this is what makes right now the very best - that it contains all of our humanness and imperfection, our striving and missing and occasionally hitting the mark. All of our potential, distilled, in each moment - even if we're just snotting our way through another box of tissues (OK, I'll be honest - another roll of toilet paper). Hearing this last night was exactly what I needed. No one promised me anything, but the suggestion was enough.
So thanks, Laurie, Abbie, Molly, and Susan! You made my month. Not that you had much competition, but still. And I sincerely hope that none of you gets this flu.