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July, 2015

Control is an Illusion

by Webmaster

July is half-gone and I'm just getting to the monthly column. I'm still trying to get caught up from things that happened in May. Each year I intend that the year will be a fabulous one. Each year, it is, but it does not happen without "growth experiences:" "interesting" events that challenge me and force me to develop more coping skills.

I've decided that this year's lesson are designed to teach me, once and for all, that "control" is an illusion. I need to be change-ready. I cannot be complacent or stuck in a rut. I get to roll with the punches and take things in stride. Easy to write cliches. Not so easy to live them.

If I list all of the bizarre and annoying things that happened, you'd think my life was less-realistic than a sitcom on TV.

  • In January, I went night-blind after a reaction to the pneumonia vaccine that caused my arm to swell up like a New England Patriots' football. My optometrist told me to get my blood sugar tested. My primary care doctor refused to order the test and forbade me from going to Walgreens.
  • I got sick after that and spent four weeks recovering from the nastiest flu bug ever, and used the time to write a novel. I never knew I was going to write a novel.
  • I spent early May finishing editing and formatting Mom's book of family stories. I added a lot of pictures and some other chapters including an interview of her and her father's autobiography. She got to hold her book in her hands (she was blind) and hear it described to her. I got to put my computer in the shop while I went to visit her. It crashed so many times while I was finishing her book I thought I was back on a PC again.
  • The windshield wiper on the driver's side of my truck failed. In a hellacious downpour. On I25 heading into the Tech Center at rush hour.
  • My dogs came back from the kennel and got sick . . . all over the wall-to-wall carpet upstairs. I had to move into the guest room and clear out four rooms for the carpet cleaners.
  • My basement flooded. I found it on Friday morning on my way to Denver for the day. The sump pump failed. I got the plumber and the water damage people out on Sunday. It took over a month to remove carpet, carpet pad, baseboards, vertical boards in door jambs, insulation in the walls and 2' of drywall all the way around. Shelves were removed from closets, furniture and appliances were moved, and a lot of furnishings were moved upstairs to make room for the work. Crews came and went on their schedule, not mine.
  • The insurance company told me I was covered, then said I wasn't, then said they'd cover part of it but not all of it, then paid almost enough to cover all the work that was done. I have two years to rebuild the basement.
  • I discovered the previous homeowner did some electrical work in the basement and it wasn't to code. I can't start rebuilding the basement until the electrician comes back. I thought I was done with the electrical repairs when he came out in April. Surprise!
  • My neighbor up the hill got water in the basement of her house. She decided to fix her water problem by bulldozing her yard and mine, and putting all the extra dirt from her yard into mine. Without my permission. We have strict covenants and procedures. She decided they didn't apply to her. I get to play spy and take pictures and keep records and attend meetings.
  • Mom died suddenly at the end of June. I flew back to Phoenix for her funeral. Friends traveling across country came to visit me. I moved back into my bedroom 2 nights before I left for Phoenix. They let themselves in while I was gone.
  • Two weeks later, a good friend of mine had a massive stroke. I dropped everything to spend as much time as possible with him in the hospital, a 100-mile round trip.

Not what I was planning. I was supposed to have the house completely cleaned out and the yard work done by now. I still have 5 rooms to clean and an entire basement to rebuild. The only "yard work" I've done is rebuilding the output from my sump pump and cut down a 7'-tall thistle I named Audrey. If the front yard wasn't a swamp, I could get a haying machine in and feed horses for months.

By today, I was supposed to be caught up and free to spend the rest of the month revising my novel--remember the one I wrote last winter? Instead, I'll be weed-whacking grass that's up to my shoulders and putting 6 folders of pictures onto web sites.

So, what does this have to do music and performing?

In the middle of all of this, I helped produce and performed at the Pikes Peak Cowboy Gathering at the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs. I intended to print up posters and distribute them. I intended to solicit donations for the silent auction and sponsorships to help pay the performers. I was lucky to show up on the day with all the things I was supposed to bring with me.

I was asked to bring my sound system in case the one provided wasn't sufficient. It was. But, I was ready, just in case.

We'd planned to have the main performances outside and an open stage, quieter than the main stage, inside. The bulk of the attendees were inside, the wind came up, rain threatened, and it was decided to move the show inside. That decision was made during the time I was performing on the main stage. I finished my poem and helped move the CDs and silent auction tables inside. It coincided with the end of the silent auction, so I put on my treasurer's hat and handled the payments for the silent auction items.

I was supposed to perform a couple of co-written songs with my co-writer. He went out for lunch and didn't get back in time for my set. Because I brought the sound system, I had no room for my guitar. A friend said I could use hers, but she was using it on the indoor stage while I was on stage outside. So, I changed my set on the fly. After we moved inside and I finished my treasurer duties, I joined my co-writer on stage for one of our two co-written songs.

We can practice all we want to get our material solid, but we can't practice handling changes.

We can't control the bizarre things that happen on stage. Band mates get sick or tied up in traffic, but the show must go on. Outdoor stages are subject to weather. Sound systems fail. Electricity goes out. The best day for ticket sales has an unexplainable lull in attendance.

No, we can't control those things. But we can control how we react to them.

We can get upset and throw temper tantrums. We can act like a 2-year-old deprived of a cookie. It's expected in a 2-year-old. It should not be expected in a professional performer.

So, we can choose to roll with the punches and take things in stride. We can laugh it off and include the audience in the joke. I introduced the poem I wrote to Founders: Bands, Singers, Songwriters, Solo Performers, Sidemen, Instrumentalists, Performers, Entertainers, Musicians, Places to Hear Acoustic Music, Locations, Venues, Clubs, Festivals, Business and Services Supporting Acoustic Music, Music Stores, Musical Instruments, Music Teachers Ernie Martinez's music, turned to my right and said, "Take it, Ernie." But Ernie hadn't made it back from lunch and wasn't there. I turned back to the audience and said, "I guess you'll have to imagine the music."

They laughed, and one man yelled, "What key is it in?"

"A, I think. 4/4 time." I laughed then performed the poem without music. I still got applause.

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