It’s Saturday night and I’m sitting on my balcony overlooking the Thames, enjoying the cool breeze, the night air, and the music coming from the party boats as they pass below. It’s simply lovely.
This first week of rehearsals for Jenufa have been amazing. I love my colleagues, the music staff, this city, and the work. The process of finding this character and walking through her incredibly heartbreaking journey has been more exausting than any other role I’ve sung. Every moment of the opera is real, important, and intense. Each day this week, I have left the flat around 9:30am, returned around 6pm, and crashed in bed by 9:30, completely spent. I spend the rehearsals being thrown around by emotional men, calapsing on the floor in anger, anguish, and horror, and vocally experimenting with color, word stress, dynamics, and tempi. I have loved every minute of it and am excited to start up again on Tuesday, but know I also very much need some rest.
The work is wonderful and incredibly familiar. No matter where I am, the music is the music and the craft is the craft. This, I know and understand. Days off are another matter altogether. After spending the past 8 years studying and being a young artist, my time has never been my own. Young artists tend to be in multiple shows at once, so a day off on one show means a rehearsal for another. On the rare day off, it usually had to be spent preparing for upcoming recitals, auditions, and the next opera. This is the first time in my singing history when I can just focus on one thing of the time being. My next role won’t start until the end of August and I actually have it mostly learned already. I can finally allow myself to do one thing well, without feeling over extended. This wont always be the case, as my career progresses, the hope is that it will be filled with work, but for now, I’m going to enjoy this luxury.
However, this time also begs a brand new issue. The daily markers in my day have been stripped. My Chicago apartment, neighborhood, routine, regular workplace, and especially the people who walked through daily life with me. While I am an introvert, the people in my life are vitally important to me. I have nothing short of utterly fantastic people in my life. My friends and family have always been deliberate in being witnesses to my life. I am a verbal processor and love to dissect in discussion and debate my day, experiences, world events, philisophical and theological concepts, and my work. Suddenly leaving the constant of having people who know me and enjoy the same thing around every day has made me take pause and figure out what it is to live without physical witnesses present in my day to day life.
It’s been odd to not actually feel lonely, but to suddenly be highly aware of being alone. It isn’t accompanied by sadness or longing, just the curiosity of how to find and feel tangible meaning in day to day life, when meaning use to come from the verbally processing what I had just lived with those around me. Skype is amazing. I’ve already had multiple skype dates with friends, family, nieces and nephews, and, even with the time difference, have lots of wonderful people checking in, asking about my day, and always making me feel remembered. So, again, this experience isn’t of being lonely, just literally, physically alone. It’s also different from every time I’ve moved to a new place by myself. I’m not here long enough to need to find friends outside of my work colleagues (who I LOVE getting to know and will also continue to be constants throughout my career). I’m in a temporary, resigned state of being physically alone. It seems obvious, but is still an experience I’ve had to process.
An interesting development has been that, as the presence of people has declined, my awareness of the presence of God has increased. I have a constant, sweet, feeling of companionship always in how I experience God, but being alone highlights this in a really beautiful way. Perhaps this is why I am not lonely. I don’t actually FEEL alone as I go about my day, just void of human presence. I do have a witness to each and every moment, it just doesn’t look or feel the same as with people. What I love the most about this is that I can experience and process my day without having to explain myself or deal with the frustration of not being understood accurately. I am completely known. Recent events over the past year have shown me how fundamentally important being known and understood is to me. It is the core of all my close relationships and I have a deep desire to know others in this same way. I love “getting” people and feeling like they “get” me.
It’s been interesting for me to process through this aspect of my relationship with God in recent years. Most people who know me, know my love of the intellectual side to faith, my desire to understand, to challenge and to be challenged, and to engage with people who agree and disagree with me. As someone who isn’t a “high feeler”, my emotional experience of God often looks different from many of those I’m around in my faith communities. My relationship with God isn’t a fiery struggle through anger and trust to overwhelming exuberance, nor is it cold, complacent acceptance; it has simply been a steady deepening, a slow revealing of Himself and who I am, and a constant in life’s losses, changes, and struggles. As it turns out, what I value the most in my close human relationships is exactly how I feel about God. And I love that.
And, it seems this blog may end up being a place I do my “verbal processing”. As I sit here watching the umpteenth party boat go by, I’m simply feeling grateful for where I am, the love and joy I have in my life, and the Constant that gives meaning to it all.
*It should be stated that of all the party boats, I’m torn between wanting to be on the one playing swing music and the one playing Whitney Houston/Michael Jackson… However, I am certain I would massively avoid the one playing the Macarena.