Last week, I got depressed. At first, I was puzzled. I had just had one of the best weekends of my life. Our MLK@JFK had gone better than my wildest dreams. On Friday Feb. 2, we’d put on an assembly at my daughter’s middle school that included SOCA kids reading their poetry, the Amherst Area Gospel Choir singing, Mr. El-Are, local rapper/activist performing, Ousmane Power-Greene lecturing on the power of song in the Civil Rights movement, the A Cappella group singing “Glory” from Selma, and the Jazz band playing “What a Wonderful World.” The assembly closed with the whole school rising and linking arms as I led them in “We Shall Overcome.” Then our sold-out show at the Iron Horse, with Kalliope Jones opening, on Saturday was as gratifying a show as I’ve ever had. Finally, on Sunday I got to sing my new songs at my beloved West Cummington Church.
Usually, any one of these days or events would have elevated my spirit for weeks. So why was I so sad? I felt empty. My mother said maybe I was a vessel. I treated my depression the way I usually do–by rearranging and decluttering. This time I focused on my library. So now, all the fiction is alphabetized, and I have bags of books lining the back of my van, to sell and donate. All my poetry volumes are together, as is an impressive spiritual library–Buddhist texts mingling with Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton, all in alphabetical order.
Other factors contributing to my depression: I posted a piece on Little Blue, as I do every week. But no one read it. My blog’s readership has plummeted in the last month, ever since Facebook’s algorithm switcharoo. I hadn’t realized how much it’s meant to me to feel as though someone is reading this blog, following the progress of my backyard house. Also, I lowered my caffeine dose to half of what it had been (still over the max for my weight, but gotta start somewhere). Also, I have gained two pounds.
My agent still hasn’t gotten back to me. That’s why I notice the two pounds. It’s a handy gauge, being a recovering food addict. I turned in my manuscript right before Christmas, and she still hasn’t responded. Suddenly I am vulnerable. Also, Patty our manager says what I wrote right before the MLK retreat is true: Albums are obsolete. We got our report from CD Baby. Here is a partial rendition:
$0.02 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through iTunes – Apple Music – Australia
$0.01 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through iTunes Match – Canada
$0.23 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through iTunes – Apple Music – Canada
$0.01 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through iTunes – Apple Music – Switzerland
$5.44 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through iTunes-Europe
$0.01 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through iTunes Match – Europe
$0.01 for DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION SALES through iTunes – Apple Music – Europe
The Nields might never have album #19. Instead, maybe a loose collection of songs, at best a digital album. No more CDs. Writing this hurts so much, I want to look away. Of course I turn on my body, my sweet under-appreciated body. It’s not so much that I am blaming it–I hope I am more recovered than that. It’s the old threadbare idea that if only I were super thin, nothing would or could hurt me. When I am Awake, I am not fooled by this construction. But it can be there under the surface, a low hum that I am only aware of as a color. Rust red. It comes out as criticism of myself, and exhaustion that can no longer be managed by overusing caffeine. Nothing for it but to feel what’s real.
Little Blue is now neither little nor yet blue. And she is consuming me with decisions. The architect asks me to choose a weathervane. After considering a hummingbird (beautiful, delicate, always in motion, just as artists need to be), and a butterfly (duh), my family settles on the Owl. But which owl?
Or, we could mortgage our house and sell our children and get this one:
And I had to choose colors for the kitchen cabinets, and then tile to go with them. After rejecting some dead-looking olive green painted cabinets, I choose distressed black. I’ll spare you the details of the cabinet door choices, mitred edges and beaded vs not beaded, and about fifty-thousand other micro-choices.But what about tile? Which of these greens????
I am beginning to merge with this house. Is this the new me? In my twenties, the struggle was how to house the artist in me. And I took it out on my body, making my body conform to the dictates of the pop world, trying to emulate Madonna and all the Waifs who paraded through the magazines and MTV, and through the Grammy parties and the major label offices. I had to learn that my body was a sweet shelter that I dwelt within, and neither Me nor Not Me. I had to learn respect for it. Now, with so much of my attention on this house in the backyard, my future writing/retreat/music studio space, I am wondering if the next step is for me to be a container for others.
In my massive library reorganization, I uncovered a book ordered over a year ago at the urging of my friend, psychologist Carrie Hatcher-Kay. It’s based on Richard Schwartz’s Internal Family Systems therapy, a Jungian/Buddhist/Family Systems blend. The modality is speaking strongly to me right now, and every time I read this book or meditated on my “parts,” I felt calmer, more centered. It shone a light to the tunnel out of my sadness. In the aftermath of the big weekend, I felt like a fist unclenching. Maybe part of the depression was just the emptiness one feels after a lot of energy has been exerted in a direction–in my case several directions. As the days went by, nurtured by the new modality of “parts” work, I began to feel better. My body settled, and I noticed I was much more available to my kids. I was less reactive and more interested in just being with their experience, rather than trying to change it. I stopped worrying about the 2 lbs.
The roof is finished, almost. The guys are building the cupola now. Next week, plumbers and electricians come to put in the circulatory system. By the beginning of March, the metal roof will be placed on the top. Over the weekend, I chose the stones for the fireplace,
I have a crazy window from the old barn that I have designs on for a work of art to hang above the mantle. Today, I had the thought, “What if I forget about my novel and my album, and instead become a Family Systems therapist, putter around and make art in my unqualified way, parent my kids and take care of my body? What if Little Blue really is my future? Would that be enough?”
Someone wise said to me today, “Isn’t it great that you aren’t working on a new album, and that your agent hasn’t given you your next set of instructions? Now you can focus on your house! And you would be losing your mind right about now if you had other projects due. You don’t know what the future will bring. This is what is in front of you. This is what you have to do now.”