Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Bass Line

I've recently rediscovered my love for jazz. One type of jazz that has always gotten under my skin however, comes across as a cacophony of discombobulated sound. That is, there seems to be no discernible rhythm. All is chaos & I usually proceed to change the station.

A song like this came on the other day & I decided to sit with it for a while. I could feel the agitation rising up within me as the horns blasted short, random notes over irregular drum rolls, beats & piano plunking. But then I heard it- beneath all of the excess sound, there was a faint bass line keeping time, keeping everything measured. Somehow, even within this subtle boundary, the other instruments were allowed to break out and shout at will. The bass line eventually overtook the chaos & the music became cohesive & orderly once more.

I likened this to an experience of anxiety I had the other day. I had to give a 4 minute speech as part of a 20 minute group presentation in front of my psych class. I was terrified. I could feel the anxiety rising up within me. I shook, I tingled, I flushed. I worried that I might not be able to maintain composure, that I would fail myself & my team mates. But in the midst of this chaos, I hung on to my bass line. It was a subtle boundary that reminded me that I was not the only one who had to do this. And I was certainly not the only one who had never done this. I used what skills I had to calm myself. Deep breathing, positive thinking & positive visualization came into play. I was able to put the situation in perspective: it was only 4 minutes of my life. I could do this. What's more, I knew my material & I knew exactly what I wanted to say. As I spoke, I still felt every bit the intensity of anxiety I had been feeling the whole morning. But I completed my task in spite of it. My bass line allowed me to do what I needed to do. It kept me grounded. My anxiety remained, but it was measured, manageable. After class, anxiety was nothing more than a memory.

In the end, I was told I seemed calm. I was surprised to say the least. Anxiety might be a bully, but I don't have to let it get away with murder. I may not be able to silence it, but if I can find a rhythmn & maintain it, the anxiety will conform to my whim, not the other way around. I just have to stick with it, not change the station, not tune out. In the words of a wise songstress, "The only way out is through".

Friday, May 6, 2011

Fear of Flying

I've been seeing a lot of great herons lately. You can't miss them. They're so huge, so long against the backdrop of the sky. They're not slow, though you would think they would be for their size. They're very fluid, even graceful in flight. I usually see them on the banks of the river or hanging out in a wetland, but I haven't often seen them in the air. They strike me more as grandfatherly guardians of the waterways... kind of majestic, kind of brooding. In flight, they actually seem out of place. I wondered what it was about their presence in the sky that made me feel this way.

I think it has something to do with my expectations: I expect to see herons near the water, not above it. I don't expect to see them flying over buildings & freeways. I expect the heron to remain stationary, in it's own territory. I expect the heron to remain close to the earth because it's so large. But even he has wings to fly & is able to use them well. Weight & territory are no issue. He is just as graceful as any other bird in the sky.

I think what makes me uncomfortable about their presence in the sky is that I see myself in the heron... To see one flying sets my heart on edge... sends hope soaring within me. I don't have to be 'stuck". I don't have to be the guardian of the same old territory all my life. I am not too big or awkward to fly. In fact, if I took to the air, I might find I'm quite fluid, graceful. Perhaps my presence in the sky will catch another's eye, causing them to question their own expectations of others, of themselves...

Children's Museum

I passed by the children's museum today. Lines of little ones with whiskers spilled out from the building, teachers in tow. All of them had their faces painted to resemble some kind of wild animal. The boys ran to a short stack of steps & leapt off like little lions pouncing for prey. They leapt with a roar, without a care. One followed the other until the last one stopped, hesitated & turned back from the stairs altogther.

All these little souls we mold & make... All these little souls we soil & take... Why didn't he leap? Why didn't he roar?