My husband and I went to see singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams perform on Thursday. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go. I was raw and exhausted from the week. But I told myself that a few hours away from my computer would be good for me.
They were, but the concert was more than that; it was a gift. You see, Lucinda Williams had a stroke three years ago. Having seen her several times before, the change was apparent. In the past, her onstage persona was defiant. Life had tossed Lucinda around, but she would not be beaten. She wore her rock and roll heart on her sleeve.
On Thursday, she was softer. She was helped to the stage and needed a hand to move from sitting to standing. She isn't able to play the guitar yet, she told us. Her feelings of gratitude were apparent as she thanked her band and her crew for looking out for her. She clearly enjoyed the appreciation of the audience – not as a star needing accolades, but as a 70 year old woman, grateful to be known and loved, and glad to be here for it.
And boy, was she here for it.
For two and a half hours she sang, mostly standing, telling stories about the songs, with home movies playing behind her. She let the audience see her life -- the struggle to put one of her English professor father’s poems into song, her sad alienation from her brother, the thrill of receiving $250 for her first recording on the Folkways label, and the journey to writing her own lyrics, to knowing she had something to say. She didn’t always know.
For her final encore, she belted out Joy, an exhortation to reclaim joy. “You stole my joy, I want it back.” The song, originally written for a specific person, also felt like an exhortation against the stroke, against despair, against giving up. I found myself in tears – and thinking about how to share this burst of fortitude with you. Here’s what I know:
Lucinda Williams wasn’t “better” before the stroke. She was different, for sure. It was a joy in those years to see her with a guitar in her arms. But this Lucinda is beautiful and vulnerable and lets herself be seen in a new way. Her musical talent still shines brightly; her voice still pierces -- and pierces differently now. The performance was a gift. We too are a gift in our vulnerability, in letting ourself be seen, although it's easy for us to forget that.
The human spirit is beautiful. After a week that was hard on my soul, these are the words that came to me at the concert: Don't bet against the human spirit. Even at times of tragedy, we reach towards something better. We reach for love, connection, humanity. We reach to share with others. We reach to heal and to help. Feeling connected to that part of the human spirit was a gift and it highlights the importance of staying connected to that gift. That might mean choosing a walk with a friend over watching the news; it might mean taking time away to paint or to read poetry. It certainly means rejecting the words of others that break or belittle our connection to the human spirit.
I shed many tears this week and this too was a gift. I’m grateful Lucinda’s final song brought me tears. I’m grateful my voice broke when I spoke to students at the end of the week. I’m grateful for all the feelings because they are the source of my humanity, our humanity. That shared humanity can get lost in the intensity of current events and it's what I want to nurture now.
How good to be reminded. ❤️
This week, when you feel tossed around emotionally by current events big or small, stop and ask yourself what you want to be connected to. Do you want to feel more connected to yourself, to others, to God? Do you want to feel more connected to your body, nature, the beauty of humanity, or your ancestors? Knowing what kind of connection might help can guide you -- whether to poetry, a walk, coffee with a friend, a bath, or a good meal. And if you don't know, just start and find your way as you go.
The concert fed me by connecting me to the beauty of the vulnerable tenderness of being human. Sometimes when things feel difficult and we don't know how to help ourselves, the question, "What might feed me now?" can help. That's the topic of this week's podcast.
This week's podcast helps to answer a useful question: What feeds me? It is such a important question of self care, but often, we don't know how to answer.
It's an especially helpful question to ask during challenging times. This week has been very hard for me and for so many people I love. I hope this podcast reminds you, whenever you need reminding, that we can feed our body, mind, heart, and spirit even when life is painful, even when our efforts feel not enough.
In this episode:
❤️ The power of choosing what emotion you want to grow
❤️ "Being fed" as a form of connection
❤️ Why we have to ask "What feeds me now?" regularly
Take a listen and let me know what resonates.
P.S. Lucinda performing "Joy" in 2017
P.P.S. Last week I shared box breathing as a tool to try when you're feeling anxious. This week, I want to share the tool of practicing micro-mindfulness -- just two minutes to focus on one of your senses. For example, rub your fingertips together lightly and focus on the feeling. Use your vision to focus closely at an object in front of you, noticing its shapes and shadows. Listen to sounds close at hand and sounds far away. Short sessions such as these are the core of a program called Positive Intelligence (PQ), started by Stanford professor Shirzad Chamine. Practicing these micro-sessions throughout the day trains our nervous system to be able to drop into greater calmness and relaxation by focusing on our senses in the present. Try it and see how it feels. If you're interested in the full PQ program and want to hear more, reach out to me, as I am able to offer the six-week program to clients.
⭐ I love being connected to you ⭐
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