A thought

Science is the pursuit and application of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world following a systematic methodology based on evidence.

Belief in science does not mean an adherence to immutable doctrine. Our application of knowledge should change as available evidence changes. Reexamination is a part of science.

The best we can do is to make the most rational and methodical decisions we can, given the information we have. And when that information changes, we’ll need to revisit those decisions.

That’s science. Let’s all be scientists.

Dedicated to the acquaintance that doesn’t believe recommendations from the WHO or CDC or any scientific organization because “they change all the time”.

Point of view

Sometimes you need a different point of view.

Fortunately we’re dog sitting for some friends in Tiburon, so the view from my office is pretty spectacular for the next few days. A lot has been going on in the last week; it’s good to have a change of scenery and a little time for reflection.

Expressions

Since the mask mandates have been in place I’ve put together quite a collection of face coverings.

It helps of course that I have a friend who’s a brilliant seamstress, a mother with too much time on her hands and friends who are constantly gifting me scarves and kerchiefs. For many, masks have become a sartorial choice (maybe the only variable in a uniform of leggings and tees for some). Even during these pandemic days, our outfits can be a form of self-expression.

Which is ironic, because these face coverings cancel out much our ability to be expressive.

As face coverings became de rigeur I noticed that Pinkerton, ever the reader of body language and facial expressions became confused when I would call to him at the park. Was I annoyed? Excited? Serious? Playful? He would trot up to me cautiously, looking into my eyes, trying to read a face that was mostly covered from view. I imagine that other dogs are probably confused as well.

Then I started thinking about infants and young children, who learn about human behavior and interaction largely through tone of voice and expression. What effect do masks have on their mental/psychological development? Or do they grow up assuming that everyone outside their home walks around with their face covered?

I’m very sensitive to facial expressions, body postures, unconscious movement. I like to read people non-verbally, as picking up on their physical energy gives me an indication of how to best approach them. Take away the possibility of seeing a facial expression, and it throws me off balance. It’s literally harder to get a read on people.

My friend Lilly and I, on our weekly walks, jokingly play a game called “hilarious or furious” in which we try to guess the other’s expression just by looking at their eyes. We know each other well enough that we guess correctly, but what if we weren’t so close?

I wonder how mask life will continue to impact us. Sometime I feel that the physical barrier constructs a psychological barrier, a visceral reminder of our separation for others. We each are apart, behind our own little curtains. And for me it exacerbates the sense of unsettledness that feeds into my anxiety.

It’s hard to feel anxious. It’s hard to feel anxious during a global pandemic. It’s hard to feel anxious during a global pandemic when you can’t get a read on anyone walking down the street.

So in many ways I’ve become more verbal, and also aware of the rest of my body language. I’ve also made a conscious effort to smile behind my mask, hoping that the crinkle in my eyes will translate. I’ve been waving a lot more. It’s just that I can’t wait to actually see people again.

Life intervenes

It’s 10:17 pm and I’ve suddenly realized that I haven’t written my post today. There’s a lot going on right now – we’re trying to figure out if there’s any way we can stay in our current apartment, but it looks like we can’t afford to do so. The logistics of moving mid-pandemic are disheartening, but life is life and I’ll figure this out just like I’ve figured out everything else.

That being said, my brain is tired from the number-crunching and my eyes are a little bleary from staring at real estate sites for the last few days. So please forgive that I have little to offer you today.

I wrote last week about practicing acceptance. My mind today is full of what-ifs and why’s. I suppose some part of me is waiting for things to get better, or at least to have a brief respite, and neither seems to be in the cards. Today it feels like defeat more than acceptance.

But acceptance also means accepting the days that you don’t have the fortitude to practice acceptance, if that makes any sense. And I can accept that…

What I did this pandemic

So, Taylor Swift is dropping a new album tonight. Artist release albums all the time, of course (that’s what artists do!) but the catch here is that she wrote, recorded and released an album all during these 5 months of lockdown.

Now, I’m a big fan, so this is great news. The music-consumer side of me is delighted to have something new to listen to.

The musician side of me reacted with a noxious combination of resentment and guilt.

When the shit hit the fan in March and our lives were put on pause, many of us, in an effort to find a silver lining, made grand plans to use this opportunity to do something we had no time to pursue pre-pandmic. Maybe we could finally clean out our closets, learn Italian, write a novel, take that online art course, read to our kids every night, meditate, lose weight, bake the perfect sourdough levain. Many of us were ambitious.

The reality of quarantine, of course, was anxiety and inertia.

And the truth of it is that my closets are still a mess and my Italian hasn’t improved. I feel like I get lost in the fear and frustration of our current global situation on a daily basis, and therefore don’t get anything done. I feel like I’m not producing anything, not generating income, not acquiring a new skill, not improving myself, not taking advantage of “down time”. And at the same time, Taylor Swift made an entire freaking album.

Comparisons are useless, of course, but that doesn’t mean that our minds don’t go there. And when we do so we can’t help but feel lacking in some way. It’s at the core of my own constant struggle, of not doing enough, of not being enough. And it can send me into a tailspin.

So today I’ve decided to practice some acceptance and to treat myself kindly. To find contentment in the simple acts of getting up, making coffee, caring for Pinkerton, supporting my husband, being available for my friends. To keep my gaze firmly on the day that is front of me, my own day, the one that only I can live. To move from comparison outward to focus inward.

But of course, at its 12 am ET release, I’ll be downloading that album!

Not a good day

I try to keep positive and busy and flexible but sometimes I just want to pull the covers over my head. I miss what I do. I miss my colleagues. I miss traveling. Being away from creating music for so long nudges my anxiety up day by day.

I’m just…really missing this today.

Self (un)awareness

Pinkerton is improving by leaps and bounds. It’s hard to imagine that 2 months have passed since his accident – like everything in quarantine times, it seems like both yesterday and last year, all at the same time.

That he can walk, run (albeit crookedly), have a ball-chasing instinct, climb the stairs we bought for him to get up on the couch – it feels miraculous to me, given that his hind legs were fully paralyzed eight weeks ago today. We’re in the midst of starting some physical therapy – stretching, balancing – to get the nerves firing and to help rebuild his weakened right hind leg. It’s a process.

I don’t think he realizes that anything is different.

Dogs are blissfully self unaware (or is it unself aware? that doesn’t sound right to me). They aren’t comparing their present with their past, or bemoaning a loss, or anxieties about future pain. It doesn’t matter that Pink is not ready to hike with us on our favorite trails – and may not recover enough to do full hikes in the future – his happiness in in being outdoors, with us, enjoying the sun.

And perhaps he likes being carried around in his specially designed backpack.

As I type, he lounges contentedly on the couch, waiting patiently for me to give him dinner, to scratch his belly, unconcerned with the scar across his back, his slight limp. And I try to live moment to moment with him.

A word about words

I had a few concerned messages concerning last Thursday’s post, and I just wanted to clarify that my Munch-ian post was a tongue in cheek attempt to capture our general zeitgeist, not some horrible news on my part! Also, fun fact: the original Norwegian title was “Skrik”, or shriek. Also, does anyone else get a Macauley Culkin from “Home Alone” vibe whenever they see that painting?

Also, it brings to mind the exhortation of Japanese amusement park management that roller coaster riders not scream aloud, but rather “scream in (their) hearts“.

OK, on to the main part of today’s discussion.

Words are important to me as a writer. They are even more important now as they offer my major creative outlet during this forced pause in music-making. I try to be very careful about my use of words, because I understand the weight they carry, and and I am sensitive to the way others use them.

As I’ve been spending more time curating my presence on various social media platforms, I’ve received, via comments, DMs, messages from my website etc., more communication from a wider variety of people on a more consistent basis than I ever have before. And there are a lot of words being used that make me unhappy, and I have a feeling that they might make others unhappy too, and thus are worth discussing here.

So, let me dissect one of my least favorite phrases.

It is never appropriate to call someone, especially me, a “young lady”. Well, OK, you could call me “young lady” if I were 16 and you were my grandfather, or if I were 16 and you were my mother admonishing me for some teenage transgression. Since none of these scenarios are true, it’s best not to call me a “young lady”.

“Young lady” is patronizing at best, demeaning at worst. If it is being used as a supposed term of endearment, I would suggest a long, hard look at the meaning behind the phrase, given the nuance of implied authority.

First, “lady” is a British title, or something girlfriends lightheartedly call each other.

Second, “young”. I know I look “young”. I know that “young” is a relative term. However, why are we putting age into consideration? What is being implied?

That because I’m “young” I have “so much ahead of me” (written by more than one well-meaning social media follower)? Well, first off it’s untrue. I am middle aged. At very best I might have as many years ahead of me as behind me, but that’s being a bit optimistic. Second, this comment implies that I’m in some sort of nascent stage of my life/career, when in truth I’ve been in the music for 20 some-odd years, and at this point I am mentoring, not being mentored. By defining me by “youth”, assumptions are then being made about my skills or experiences based on an extremely superficial assessment. And I’m immediately infantilized.

That being called “young” is somehow a compliment? I know I appear much younger than my biological age (by the way, does anyone else feel like they’re permanently 29, or is it just me?), and I suppose that this is beneficial given our society’s obsessive focus on youth. But I don’t need to be reminded of this. There are some marvelous aspects to getting older (as well as the creaks and pains), and being denied the respect of experience and accomplishment and sense of self because of this obsession with youth is painful to witness.

And how is age germane to any conversation that doesn’t involve voting, drinking, or AARP?

As women, we are constantly scrutinized. What we wear, how we wear it, the shape and weight of our bodies, the lines on our faces. We are expected to inhabit some strange world of permanent youth, an impossible suspension of time. We are judged by our appearances – as if toned biceps (but not too muscular, please) and wrinkle-free eyes (thank you Botox) were some indication of competence or character.

As all women, I’m on the receiving end of constant commentary that belies this scrutiny, no matter how well-meaning. It is belittling. It is exhausting. It is infuriating. And there are so many ways, and on a daily basis, that we live with these indignities, big and small.

Which is all to say, please, please, never call me a young lady.


Thought on Time

All of a sudden it’s July and in a week it will be 5 months since lockdown began.

I’ve often heard that time seems to speed up the older one gets. I don’t think it has anything to do with the vagaries of the space-time continuum, or some sort of mystical notion. Rather, it’s a matter of proportion and experience; the more days we have behind us, the greater and longer our point of reference, which in turn informs us in our experience of the present. A year is an eternity for a child who has only experienced six others; it’s comparatively short for someone who has lived 40.

“How did it get so late so soon?” 

Dr. Seuss

But these Covid times have somehow altered my perception of time, and there’s an unsettling unevenness in the way in which I experience a day, or a week. On one hand, there are many days that feel endless, purposeless, the hours dragging. On the other hand it feels like weeks have slipped by in the blink of an eye. And for many weeks I’ve been wondering if I’m an outlier in my perception of time both expanding and contracting.

Feeling that time is constantly warping around me is disconcerting, to say the least. I find myself having a difficult time remembering if a conversation occurred yesterday, or a few weeks ago – the insistent sameness of my days blurs the boundaries. And I’ve caught myself on many an occasion glancing at my watch and being surprised that so much/so little time has passed, defying my perception of it.

I’ve experienced a fluid awareness of time during meditation, and in my deepest sits I lose the sensation of it entirely, so that the sounding of the bell brings me not only back to my environment but also to the passage of minutes. This kind of fluidity can feel wonderful – as if I’m suspended in stillness and gently dropped back on a calm current of seconds, minutes, hours, as if nothing has been disturbed.

But in these months I’ve also been acutely aware of the sense of losing time, of time being disturbed. I feel the loss of time when I would have been conducting, making music. Time with friends, time with colleagues. Time in the many marvelous cities I frequent. Time when I would have been working, generating income.

And then I have to remind myself of the preciousness of this finite resource. In the aggregate of all the time of the world, our lives don’t even occupy the fraction of a blink of an eye. Time is fleeting. And there isn’t really enough time to be spending time mourning the loss of time.

So I’ve been trying, in my own way, to be more aware of the progression of minutes and seconds and weeks, to be present in them. To not waste my moments now contemplating a moment that didn’t happen. To accept the passage of time, in its ow time.