It’s dark outside. I’m sitting in MY backyard at MY table marveling at a gift I wasn’t expecting: Not to be housing insecure for the rest of my life. Through some circumstances I could not have foreseen a year ago, and as a result of taking a big risk as I was staring displacement square in the face again… I bought a house. And it’s completely changed my life.
Those who know my story know I was homeless for the better part of almost 3 years straight with intermittent bursts of homelessness on and off throughout my adulthood. Thanks to both kind friends and strangers I did not once sleep on the streets. However, it was stressful and often terrifying. For a large part of that season I was struggling through a rare form of an undiagnosed thyroid disease that was destroying my brain and my body and couldn’t hold together long enough to work the hours to bring money my way either from touring or from side gigs. My tour mates were worried about me because I would sleep 15 hours at a time and have to take every day off to sleep even longer hours. My friends were worried about me because my emotions were erratic and I was unstable. I was worried about me because I thought I was going crazy without the benefit of having no idea that I was going crazy… And, actually, the only person who was not worried was my mom, who wasn’t around to experience the first hand evidence of my painful journey. This journey, for now, has long passed and I no longer deeply identify with it as my thyroid disease is under control, I sleep like a normal human usually, I don’t hallucinate nearly as often, and my brain is healing from the constant stress… so I will say, to make a long story short… I never thought I’d be in this place.
And it’s dark outside.
I have some precariously placed candles out here guiding my way as I scrawl through the overgrown wilderness of my own mind toward what I want to say to you. I’ve been having to chop back large branches and tear out dead trees lately, both figuratively and literally. A six month break from music to focus on a large scale Community Development project that had nothing to do with my art, proved dangerous for my voice, both literally and figuratively, and I am slowly picking myself up, creating new safe spaces for myself, and moving on with things. But this is going to take some time.
Those who know my story know that when I am not on tour I work as an advocate for The Arts in Nashville, Racial and Financial Equity in the Arts, and Affordable Housing for All in Nashville. I capitalize as though those are titles of books as I have because they have become such standard talking points that they feel like book titles to me. I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Actually, I’m sure it’s not. I just don’t know why yet. I’m having to parse out what I CAN ACTUALLY DO from what I ACTUALLY WANT TO DO. To figure out what my voice is ACTUALLY CAPABLE OF and I’m trying to learn not to sprint all the time (I love sprinting. It’s my favorite. It shouldn’t be sustained for months.) I have allowed all these things to become my source of whatever well I’ve been drinking out of and I’m basically trying to find a source of water that is deeper and truer. To learn how to use my voice and perspective in ways that create deep and profound joy and hope. Not to abandon my passions but to allow them not to identify me in quite the same way and to figure out what I’m actually passionate about.
Being able to see any of this is a huge gift that owning a home has provided. My brain has relaxed and I’ve started to lift my eyes up so that I can actually see what’s around me. I felt like bombs kept going off and I’ve just been in soldier mode, trying to rescue people, or hiding from the shrapnel flying around me for a couple of years. And if I’m honest… a lot of that is Nashville’s fault. And I’m trying to work out how to process that as well.
I love this city. Am in love with this city (for better or worse). But the rate of development, the permissions the city has given to people unconcerned about the disappearing culture of the city, and the lack of care for the residents who have made this city amazing, has been hard. I know many people in the city wearing themselves out trying to control the outcome of our direction to no avail. I got lost in this pursuit and it’s time to BE again and just let who I am inform my portion of the city’s culture, instead of trying to steer it’s direction.
So, I have some precariously placed candles on my table in the pitch dark around my house. The forest that my house abuts is creaking and cracking, telling me there are dear just out of sight that I might get to catch a vague glimpse of under the starlight. I feel myself fill. I breathe. I meditate on the Dorthea Lange exhibit I bore witness to today. I meditate on how much I identified with it. I meditate on how much I want people to feel SEEN around me and how much I want to facilitate that seeing in my own way.
There are new things coming. Some of it you will see this year. Some of it won’t be real until 2020 and some of it won’t be available for anyone to see until 2022 and 2023! But there are new things coming. I’m getting back to being an artist. And I am excited. Let’s breathe deep together…
Oh! There’s that deer I thought I might see… a ghost walking the back of my yard in the darkness. After all, that’s usually all we can see of what’s coming. I’m going to celebrate seeing anything at all right now.