Just a Little Space
Our beloved dog died at the end of July. Our sweetest, dearest, beautiful 13-year-old beagle, Georgia- the "first child" my husband and I brought home to be ours back in 2000. The first little soul to begin to really teach us what it feels like to be a parent, and to care about another creature so fundamentally and deeply. She left us after a year of battling serious heart disease. It was her time to go. And like every perfect moment she spent with us in her endless loving presence, her ending too was perfect- fairly quick- fairly quiet- filled with love and kindness.
I was devastated and ripped open. Even knowing that this day was coming for the past number of months only barely prepared me for the real moments of loss that suddenly fell softly and mutely like a heavy layer of dust over everything. The emptiness of the house, huge. The silence of her absence, deafening.
We wrapped up Georgia's doggie beds and stashed them away-- too painful to see them lying around the house out in the open any longer. We cried and held each other as a family. We sighed and stared into space. We ate a sullen quiet dinner without our beagle's constant barking for table scraps. We cried again, and we hurt and ached.
And then the sun came up the next day- as it must and always does after a soul rocking, heart stopping day like July 23rd was for me and our family. And the sun came up the next day. And the next.
And two days ago was September 11. And though the edge was duller, the swirl of pain and loss still stirred itself in the depth of my gut. The memory of that indelible day and the days that followed manifested in that deep realization of how precious our time is and how fiercely and brutally mayhem can sweep through a life. You never know how much time you have. Nor those whom you love and cherish.
And sadly, in an achingly timely way, I received another piece of death news on this evening of 9/11, two days previous. A friend of mine from Venice had been found in his home earlier in the day- having passed away in his bed the night before. A friend who was a huge presence in our neighborhood, as friend, as neighbor, and most publicly and significantly- as creator and proprietor of the local music club, two blocks from my house. The club that had just gotten its legs last year, that has just really started to cook. It's my favorite place to play- the place that feels like home away from home. It was Jeb's place- his dream brought manifest. And now Jeb, despite being only in his mid fifties, robust of health and filled with life and spirit, left this earth totally unexpectedly, a mere two days ago on 9/11.
And yesterday, the sun came up again. Rather beautifully, actually. It was a beautiful morning here in Venice on Thursday September 12, 2013. As if to fly in the face of death and loss. The brilliance of the sun was bright, the warmth of the air golden and lovely. Southern California morning weather at her finest.
And on the evening of Thursday, September 12, I left for the theater in Santa Monica, to perform for the third time in a spoken word salon called Tasty Words that my dear friend and writing coach, Wendy, hosts every month. The theme for the evening was Music, and I had written an autobiographical piece about two musical influences in my life and how these two women have, as bookends almost, helped to inspire and shape my musical endeavors in the past two decades.
It somehow seemed fitting that I was performing at this time. Having spent the last few days in heavy editing mode on this piece. Both equally in appreciation and disgust at my own writing - deep into the process of finding out how different the animals of writing for the page and writing for the stage really are. Even when it's just for my own voice! I find I am a wee bit wordy when putting pen to paper, or fingers to keys, and so, as a musician, when I'm looking to inhabit the rhythm of a piece I've written, it's tough to find my way through all the multisyllabic, comma laden, run-on sentences. (When the fuck are you getting to the period here, Holly?)
Basically, I've been winding my way toward understanding that old "less is more" adage. And the key to this is-- space. Allowing for space- for pauses and time to explain what you mean to say as opposed to three more adjectives. And four more sentences. And another paragraph of exposition. You just sometimes need- time. And space.
I must have let this lesson sink in well enough as last night's reading went off pretty well. It was overall a very strong show, actually. Great stories- good writers and performers all. And I noticed the moments that worked best for everyone, including myself, did have this element of space and time attached to them. The rhythm and flow is just so elemental to the story coming across- to the message or the narrative landing.
And the sun came up again this morning- as it most always will until it ends up engulfing this little third rock from the sun on its path of self destruction in another billion something years. The sun came up again and my first thought of the morning as I heaved my feet over the side of the bed was-- you did good last night, kid. And, more importantly- that's all that's needed, Hol. Just a little space. A little space to let it breathe. Because when you allow for the space, you can move forward. The moments will land. And your string of these moments- the path of YOUR life will feel less tangled and stickly. Like your writing, and your performing. It will all flow with more ease and grace.
And now back to Georgia. And Jeb. And the circle of life and death that I feel I've been forced to develop a more present relationship with recently...
As everything does tend to come in threes, I probably should mention that two months before we lost our beloved dog, and three months before this neighborhood lost its beloved club owner, I also found out that my ex-stepfather had finally succumbed to pancreatic cancer. After months of aggressive treatment and then final weeks of peace and pain management, he passed in the hospital surrounded by family. And this news hit me harder than I thought it would. I hadn't spoken to Michael in well over a year, but to hear that I'd never ever be able to speak to him ever again buckled my knees and sent me bowled over and weeping on the floor- awash in a sea of memories of him when he'd been my mom's husband and one of my greatest supporters and fans. Though never a replacement for my actual living father, Michael was one of the dearest men to me for a large chapter in my life, and hearing about his absence felt like a big hole had been ripped out of my fabric.
So death goes.
But I've taken away something essential so far from this triptych of death in my purview recently. Death in three parts: 1. Close to the heart but not in the everyday. 2. Death in my house, so close to the bone it's in my almost every waking moment. And 3. Death in my world nearby in a precious place near and dear. This essential element that has been resonating in my soul is this: that in order to live- one needs space. Space for the communication to occur. For the real person you are to show up for a moment and be present. Just a little space- to hear the pauses of your life- of your rhythm. Then the story of you can tell itself. And that's all we got, is our story, and the moments that make it up. Because someday- maybe sooner than you know, it will be all over. You know this for sure. Your story, too, will be done- at least this time around.
The days immediately following Georgia's death were slow and long and sullen. Filled with many hours of the quiet heavy dust of loss. But fairly soon, the horrible fog lifted, and we were able to talk about her- remember her- celebrate the beautiful shining life she had led. To remember her little quirks and times gone by spent in her snuggly, warm company. She was - as dogs generally are - 100% present. Always available for love. Gorgeous reminders of consciousness- pets can be. And so it became somehow surprisingly easy to shift away from constant pain into wistful, sweet memories. Because there was nothing to pine over or worry about with the passing of our dog. She was here- she lived perfectly- she left and she's gone now. Unlike most human relationships I've had, this one was so simple, elegant and whole. So when she died, Georgia in a most loving way started to teach me how to properly grieve too.
And the crazy thing is- from that experience, I found space inside myself I didn't know I really had yet. The space- the capacity- to have loved that deeply, and to have lost daily connection with that soul. It was mostly conjecture up until the point of losing a daily friend who felt more like my child than my animal. All of a sudden- I knew that pain. And somehow feeling it lifted something else away, and I became more ready to go along my way. On my path.
Death has come knocking three times for me this year. I hope there will be no more for a long time, but I of course don't know and can't control any piece of that. Death has been sudden, and sad and inevitable all at once. It has come expected and unexpected. But it has been a patient teacher too. Turns out, I can love and embrace it all and then lose it. And the sun comes up the next day. And I get to keep working my particular strand in the weave.
I guess I just need a little space.