Today I am 44 years old. When you tell someone that you are 44 years old, there is baggage that goes with that. Add to that the fact that I'm a (somewhat) stay-at-home-mom, a Christian who is active in church and a part-time home schooling mom, then . . . WOW what baggage. I feel claustrophobic here in the corner I've painted myself into!
But I look back on my life and I'm so much more than the labels that I automatically put on myself right now. In my 20s I was a comedienne, a singer, a performer, a writer and, toward the end there, a newlywed. In my 30s I was a singer, a teacher, a mom, an office manager and, for a very brief but defining time, a patient.
Now in my 40s I'm trying to sort out what I used to be, what I am and what I'm becoming. My 30s seemed to be about going with the flow. I gave birth in my 30s. When you have infants, toddlers and then young kids, your time is not yours. Frankly, most of your time is spent making sure that your kid doesn't die. Think about it! YOU have to feed them, keep them warm/cool, change their diapers, then you concentrate on teaching them to feed themselves, to walk without falling, to keep themselves clean, etc. The first 5 years or so (longer if you have boys) is all about survival. Some lucky moms figure out how to have their own lives during that time (some pay others to keep their kids alive), but a lot of us just get caught up in the day to day of THEM. I know that I did.
Do I regret that? Hmmm. Good question. No, not really. I knew that I was going to sacrifice and I was prepared for that. What I wasn't really prepared for was reentry. That's been rough.
I forgot that if you back off from the performing world, they forget about you. If you say "no" a certain number of times, they stop asking. I see listings all the time where my former band mates are gigging all over the place. My first thought is always, "Why isn't it me?" I know why. It's because I chose to stay home. I chose my family. I stepped away and let everyone know that I was stepping away. I don't really regret that, but I do wish that there was a way for me to fit both in - my family and performing. I have random opportunities to perform here and there. I emcee our church's yearly Vacation Bible School and that is a hoot! Sometimes I perform in skits or plays at church. That helps to scratch the itch, but it's not 100% fulfilling.
What I miss is the opportunity to go all out and get lost on stage and surrender to the moment. I miss singing and dancing and getting the crowd involved and riffing and ad-libbing and not having (many) boundaries. I miss the spontaneity and the passion. I love the feeling of being on stage and completely trusting those with whom I'm performing - trusting them to be on the same page and to go where we, collectively as a group have wordlessly decided to go. It's magic. I know that's kind of cliche and trite, but I can't describe it any other way.
I miss all of that. A lot.
But what I miss most of all is knowing that I'm doing something at which I am good. I knew when I walked out on stage that the audience was not going to be disappointed. It's not a diva thing, it's not narcissistic, it's a fact. I was good at what I did. I prepared well, I knew what worked and what didn't, I took it seriously and I was a damn good entertainer. I'm not great at being a housekeeper. I'm not that great at organization (although the kids do get everywhere on time). I can't stay on top of maintenance and bills to save my life. But I can rock the socks off an audience.
I would love to be able to perform again. The cruel, hard fact of the matter is that I'm getting too old. Oh, I'm pretty much as good as ever. Let me work out my voice a bit and I can get back into stage shape. But audiences want young and hot. As much as I want to believe that I am that, I'm not. At least I'm not young any more. ;-) Could I get gigs? Maybe. Would they be gigs that I would want? Maybe not. Since I've been "gone" for over a decade, where would I fit in? Do I still have "it"? And, more importantly, am I willing to work my butt off to get back into the game that may have changed so much that I can't play it any more?
Sigh. It's a lot to think about.
There is a new game. There's a new stage; a new medium. You may laugh, but I invite you to think deeply about it. My new platform is the internet. I use Twitter, Facebook and blogging as my means of creative expression. I am no longer a live performer (at least full-time), but I do engage an audience regularly.
I invite you to read this blog post by Amanda Palmer*. She is an amazing performance artist/songwriter/poet/ukelele goddess. (Just FYI, there is colorful language so be warned.) When I read this post, I was just beginning to see that I had been using Twitter, Facebook and blogging as a substitute for being on stage. I noticed that random people (not strangers, mind you, but people with whom I am not close) would come up to me at church or in the grocery store and tell me that they enjoyed reading about Buddy's latest exploit, or they would ask me how my dad was, or just tell me that they always look forward to reading what I have to say. Amanda's post hit the nail on the head for me - I'm using these forms of social media as a form of performance. I am using them as art.
I started blogging as a way to keep friends and family informed on what was going on in my life and to record the kids' milestones. It's become so much more. I find my thought processes are similar to what they were when I was writing sketch comedy - I am more observant and I actively think about events in terms of how I'm going to relate them in words. I find myself thinking about my "audience" and the voice of my tweets. It's strange, but it's also liberating. I CAN have an audience. I CAN perform. I CAN be creative. My life has changed and so has my means of expression. It's not the same, but can we ever keep things the same?
In keeping with my rule of not making New Year's resolutions, I will set a goal. My goal for this year is to actively explore the internet and social media as an art form. I want to experiment. I want to expand. I want to actively seek an audience.
Are you on board? Will you help me with encouraging words and with gentle criticism? Will you let me know that you are out there and are reading? I have to admit that I'm better on Twitter than I am at blogging. I seem to think better in 140 character chunks. My Twitter is the same as my blog: Cabin77.
I look forward to what this next year brings.
*I found Amanda Palmer through Neil Gaiman's blog - Neil being one of my favorite authors. I adore Ms. Palmer. Her posts often bring tears to my eyes because she is so passionate and her posts are so heartfelt. I love her view of life and of art. And as a bonus, she has one of the most beautiful smiles ever. I don't always agree with her, but I respect the hell out of her.