Photo by Laura Rudge.
So many once everyday, tiny or low key things have felt huge at the same time over the past couple of months. Tonight I'm on a strangely distant and yet incredibly familiar post gig high. I performed the only song I've written about the last 2 years and did a couple of readings from my writing at a local community speakeasy. It was hosted by Alan Fraser, a sax, trumpet and clarinet player I've known for a large chunk of my life and Laura, an old school friend sang some beautiful close harmony with me.
I was incredibly nervous considering this was something I used to do all the time and wasn't even sure I was up to it. I sat there about 20 mins before I was due on stage, my mind doing what the mind of anyone who knows chronic illness will be familiar with: I'm really cold. I'm so tired. Shaky even. Can I really do this? Actually I'm not feeling very well at all really....am I crashing a bit? How many hours since I last ate? Am I OK?
And I caught myself and talked myself out of it. Remembering how robust I really am. How only a few months ago I would have physically struggled to be here. And more importantly, not very long ago was still being sent into a deep depression over the loss of not being able to make it through even half a song.
And it happened. Sitting under the lights behind a mike felt like being with an old friend you haven't seen for too long. I loved sharing the readings as much as anything. And you couldn't hear a pin drop, the audience wrapped under a spell, on a journey. I messed up the keys a fraction, which always frustrates me when I usually nail the piano but that's the thing about a gig; there is always something that evades you. And that's the way it should be. My voice held out. More than that, I felt a new power in it and in what it was choosing to say. My voice is more growly, low and husky now but only because it has been forged in a fire.
Many didn't know what it had taken to get up there, what a step this was. And there were were friends that did. I spent the rest of the evening swimming in the sensation of being able to do this kind of thing again. And as I finally relaxed while the band finished up, I let it sink in a little. This is another way of being 'back'. But I'm in no rush to perform. No strong pull to seek out more of this yet. Some relatively effortless recording maybe.
I was planning to read an extract from the blog piece The Cupboard Door into the Chasm, that documents how Ashes was written and where I was at that stage of CFS. Not quite the 'unable to move from the sofa to the kitchen' stage but still some of the darker depths I reached. I spent part of the day editing extracts, but in the end it just didn't feel right. I went for the only super short story I've got instead.
Someone pointed out how fitting the title was later on: The War is Over. Because, I have moved on from the darkness and muteness now. As far as any battle is concerned perhaps just maybe, it is. Over. At least every day, every month, something of this is over now.