I'm home from the tour in a week. I've done all the worrying that I can do about Irene. But now I have to stop, for the sake of my mental (and physical) health, and pull it together.
I've never believed in end times, apocalyptic prophecies, or any of that nonsense, and I still don't. But after 3 weeks on the road and bus-induced sleep deprivation, Mother Nature's bitch-slapping of NYC had me confronting and challenging my own iron-clad belief systems. And it was terrifying. (First an earthquake, now a hurricane. WTF?)
Despite all appearances, I was a nervous wreck for a few days. I started to wonder if I'd actually be spending the end times on a tour bus going thru Kentucky, Illinois and South Dakota. Panic and dread were making it hard for me to focus. Onstage I felt like I was phoning my performances in; backstage I was avoiding people because I had nothing to say and couldn't make eye contact with anyone. I was nervous, restless, pacing around the venue, constantly moving as if I were trying to get away from myself (which I was).
Mindful living is knowing that we can decide how we react to our experiences. That's why lukewarm cups of bitter-tasting coffee don't get tossed across the catering room in disgust. That's why I didn't kick the speakers in when the bass amp crapped out 2 nights ago during soundcheck. I was keeping it together and behaving rationally, but my anxiety and frustration were still simmering under the surface.
But last night, I put an end to it. Nervous, edgy, anti-social…that's not me. That's not who I am. Tensing every muscle in my body, in an effort to suppress uncontrollable sobbing fits, doesn't help anyone. My job right now is to be a calm, reassuring voice on the phone to my family, and then get my ass onstage and rock out. And that's what I did last night, with the help of my awesome band mates and our tough-as-nails crew.
I took a deep breath and made the decision to let go of my fear and panic, and act from a place of strength and calm instead. I hit the stage and let the music wash over me and rejuvenate me, as I have my entire life. Last night's show in Aurora, IL rocked harder than ever to the sellout crowd, and we all knew it. The post-gig vibe on the bus was jubilant, as it can only be after a kick-ass, sold-out show. We all deserved the credit, but I was relieved because I was back, baby.
Of course I'm concerned for the well-being of my loved ones, and for the well-being of my city. But my loved ones are doing everything right, and they've got it under control. My dad is at my place, taking the air conditioners out of the windows. Jill is strong, smart, and cool under pressure. Our apartment is in a brick pre-war building, and it's stocked with groceries, flashlights and batteries. My family is handling their circumstances calmly and efficiently. I should be doing the same thing.
I'm incredibly fortunate to do this job, and I'm living the dream. I'm also a fragile human being sometimes, and occasionally anxiety gets the better of me. I'm not afraid to admit this, but I'm also not afraid of facing it down and defeating it before it stops me in my tracks. I also can't always do it alone; I'd like to take this moment to thank Steve Murphy, Toni Freeman Greene, Ian Williams, Mark Volman, and Barron Melton for their calming words of reassurance when I needed to hear them the most.
Be strong, New York. Don't be scared, but don't be stupid either. This, too, shall pass.