Category Archives: performing

WHEN DOING NOTHING IS NOT DOING NOTHING

My Friends ~

I went to Fort Lauderdale for the winter. I left behind the bitter onslaught of this past season’s cruel rain, ice, snow, blizzardly winds that my friends, family and neighbors experienced. I escaped. But did I? I may have escaped the weather… but I didn’t escape life.

If you want to skip my saga, and turn back to a good book or a good streaming on Netflix or Amazon or my personal favorite, Acorn TV, I shall not be insulted. I certainly wish I could have skipped it.

old-woman-young-girlHere’s the deal. I still got older. I still became more vulnerable. I still pretended I wasn’t older and more vulnerable. And when I wrote the blog about gratitude I missed the point completely. Let me explain!

January was the flu.

February was the cough.

March was the compressed fracture of the third lumbar resulting from the cough.

A broken back???? Here’s the poem I wrote:

HACK! HACK! YOU BROKE YOUR BACK!!!

Aw come on guys, enough is enough. These are supposed to be the golden years??? I’m afraid only in my fillings.

I thought the gratitude I expressed for January and February was supposed to cover me for the year.  Like the Brooklyn Dodgers of old – I wuz robbed!  The lumbar episode of March challenged all notions of gratitude and for the most part, all my theories of “growing old”.

scooter

As long as I thought I was doing what I always did… a few exceptions like dancing till dawn, drinking champagne from a satin heeled slipper (an orthopedic oxford doesn’t have the same look or feel), cutting my one woman show from an hour and a half to an hour (with relief some said that made the show better… what do they know?), some dietary alterations (no lactose, no gluten, no fast foods, no fun) I thought to escape the label of “old lady”.

And then came the Ides of March. Actually from the beginning of the month, the pain came. And some of you know that without any education, I am my own Doctor, I prescribed continuing pilates, massages, shiatsu all of the remedies that slowly but surely were making my back worse.

Thank goodness for good friends who won’t put up with my complaining and called me on my medical education. “Where was it you got your degree?”  One of my friends went so far as to find me a doctor nearby that was the doctor for the Miami City Ballet. It was high season in Florida. Getting an appointment was going to be at the very least, difficult, if not impossible.

I checked out her website. I have a website, why wouldn’t she?  It said she attended to dancers and performers. I called her office. And before I let her assistant get a word in, I announced I was a performer.  “I’m a little older than most of the dancers and performers she works with, but I am still doing it… performing that is… and I need HELP!” And then, she asked me who the doctor was that referred me, and before I could stop it from coming out of my mouth, I dropped the name of the top orthopedic surgeon in New York City. I knew him slightly, but I never saw him professionally. I got the appointment. And I owe him.

Well, within days of the appointment, after an x-ray which determined I had the compressed fracture and an MRI which showed it was recent (coming from the cough), I thought I would start treatment. Up to that point the pain prevented me from doing anything. But I was told NO!

Follow me on Twiddle my thumbs.Two more weeks of doing nothing, giving the bone more time to heal and then I could begin a program of physical therapy. I had already been doing nothing since January. I have to tell you, I thought I could hear my mother and every teacher I ever had yelling, whispering in my earballs: “Look at her! Nothing! She is doing nothing!” Joan of Arc wasn’t the only one who heard voices.

When I finally received the go ahead, I was like a kid that had won a prize. I emphasize kid because, like a kid I was off to the races. I was going to be the fastest healer this side and that side of the Mississippi… I did the therapy three times a week, I added some stretching and some massage on the other days and by the end of the first week… I was hurting again.

The therapist sat me down. He said a nice thing first. Always start with the nice thing first. “You know you look younger than your age, right?” “Thank you,” I said. “On the outside you’re like a shiny tomato.” “Thank you,” I said. “Inside, you’re an octogenarian and your bones are mushy”.  I laughed. But I did not thank him.

shadow walk dance

And very slowly, and I do mean s-l-o-w-l-y because the older you are the longer is the healing, I am getting it. I read an essay by Ursula K. Le Guin. And I quote: ”Everybody who gets old has to assess their ever-changing but seldom improving situation and make of it what they can. And they make the best of it. As the saying goes, consider the alternative!”

And I love this one from the same essay: “You’re only as old as you think you are! Now you don’t honestly think having lived eighty-four years is a matter of opinion.” You don’t… Do you?

For myself and fellow fossils, there is no such thing as doing nothing. If we have made it through to or any part of our seventies, eighties and ever onward it means we are doing more every minute of every day than ever we did at any other time in our life.

And dat’s da trut!!!

Love ~ Sally-Jane

Video

What was I thinking?

What was I thinking?

My last blog post was about the books and articles I was reading…right?

Wrong!

It was about me putting on the persona of the “intellectual”.

As the minutes (and I do mean minutes) of a summer afternoon rush by, I needed somehow to prove to no one in particular (yeah, probably me in particular) how intellectually intelligent I am.

These last months, I have been feeling, particularly vulnerable. My age is not creeping up on me. It is galloping headlong toward oblivion. Well, my friends, I have an obvious not an oblivionesque personality. As a performer, I desire to be noticed and heard.

After a year of health pauses, I purposely slowed my schedule. It was not very busy to begin with, but enough to keep the obvious personality satisfied.

Now I read many, many books to compliment my many, many interests. I love both fiction and non-fiction. And a glorious day for me is burrowing in at the local bookstore and loading up with at least 7 or 8 books every 3 or 4 weeks. I enjoy buying books. It is my way to support the writer, especially a new author. I do not get to read them all, but depending on my mood I can always find something that intrigues me at any day of the week or any time of the day. I support the library by delivering the already read books to add to their shelves.

That’s my story.

So I thought the last blog I wrote was about sharing my thoughts on my most recent reads; but after seeing this clip from Portlandia and how it nails the need to be au courant and ahead of everyone in important readings, I think something else might have snuck into that last blog.

Plain and simple, it was some hubris, mixed with a soupcon phony intellectual, mixed with mostly, “now what to do with my life that it is almost over?”

“I know! I’ll be an intellectual. And tell other people what and how they should read!”

This is so not me. As I said, It is not about the books. I am a reader. That is one of my passions. The other passion is performing and continuing to make a fool of myself in front of an audience. That has been on the back burner until I figure a few things out.

Hey Guys… I am moving it to the front burner.

I don’t know what form it will take.

But didn’t someone say the fun is in not in the knowing but in the going.

Love, Sally-Jane

ANTIDOTE FOR THE BLUES

Lately I have noticed a “blue” state of mind.  I have always known I was susceptible.  Hey, I even cry at supermarket openings.

I know much of what causes me to be blue are all the electronics… for the most part the computer and the cell.  Land lines are almost obsolete so I don’t count them.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I can’t turn any of them on without being bombarded by explosive negativity.  Words and phrases like EMERGENCY, URGENT, DISASTER, IT’S OVER, WE ARE FINISHED… pound my susceptible nature and I find myself thinking about building a bomb shelter like they did in the ‘50’s.  The worst thing about this happening is  that I don’t even recognize how profoundly I am being affected by all this negativity.  So, how did I discover that I was depressed, blue, anxious and negatively affected?

I went to a high school music concert.

All right, I shall admit it wasn’t an ordinary high school.  It was the Interlochen Arts Academy in the woods of Interlochen, Michigan.  A school well known for its music program, as well as for its dance, drama and art programs.
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The siren call for me was my granddaughter, Kiri.  Kiri is a fine French Horn player and she is graduating the high school this May and this past weekend was a weekend of final concerts.  I had to puddle hop to get there, which if I was only a little depressed before getting on those tin cans called planes sunk me even lower.

The first concert was Friday night and I watched and heard over an hundred young musicians play some very difficult music and fill the concert hall with such a gift of passion and talent…straight from the Bible my friends it was a “…joyful noise.”

After the concert I noticed a spring in my step that wasn’t there before.

The six horns she plays and studies with gave their concert Saturday afternoon.  One after the other played their solos and some horn concertos.  The spring in my step was by now almost a leap.  Who says Nanas can’t  jump!
Sunday was the piece de resistence.  Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.  Combining the Traverse City Symphony with the Interlochen Choir, 100 musicians and 100 choristers. Climaxing with the last movement of the Symphony, Ode To Joy, the rafters of the concert hall shook not just from the instruments and the chorus but from the emotions the music provoked from the audience as we followed every note in rapture, leading to a thousand people standing and screaming bravo, stamping their feet.  And suddenly the classical music hall morphed into a rock concert with music by Beethoven.

IMG_5066Now I didn’t spring, I didn’t leap, I didn’t jump, I flew out of the hall.  And that’s when I discovered I had been depressed.  And I wasn’t anymore.

And that lift came from high school students disciplined and enthralled by what they do .

OK SJ, get with the program.  Yes, I can either go back to my electronic mood swinging instruments (computer, cell) which carries with it so much negativity or I can find my own Ode To Joy.

Hey, guys, if 14 to 18  year olds can give such joy and pleasure and here is the most important word, HOPE, then THIS is my antidote for the blues.

Love ~ SJ

BY YOUR PUPILS YOU’LL BE TAUGHT


Berkshire Music School


It is amazing what can happen if you say, YES!  And I did…

Tracy Wilson, head of The Berkshire Music School called last Friday to ask if I would critique a class of students that were studying to be Cabaret Artists.

Having spent many years in and out of Cabarets…with or without smoke (oh, yes, if they weren’t blowing smoke in your face you were not in a cabaret), or waiters taking and delivering orders and of course, as you are building up to the final crescendo of a very dramatic song,  a drunk yells out, “Sing Melancholy Baby”!

And yet, with all of that, some of my best experiences have been in the Cabaret.  The experimenting  with new material, learning how to think fast on your feet as a lyric goes missing from your brain, there is NO SAFE HOUSE to hide behind.   And most of all because there is an incredible intimacy with the audience…even if you make the connection with just one person, it is a connection you can feel because it is the most intimate venue.

For all those reasons and most of all because Tracy asked me.  What she has done in Berkshire County with all ages of peoples with musical talent at all levels is nothing short of breathtaking.  So yes, I said “yes”.

I showed up at the Berkshire School of Music last Saturday to a Cabaret class taught by Sherri James Buxton with Bob Sheperd as Musical Director.  I was introduced to all.  No one had any real cabaret performing experience.  The age of the youngest was 65, maybe 70 and the oldest was 92.  92!!!!

I had complained about getting out of bed that morning.  Get a grip, SJ.  And if you haven’t heard “My Way” sung by a 92 year old man, you’ve not heard it.  And let me tell you, from that moment to right now, I put my over-the-top sense of judgment (ask my children they’ll tell how well developed my judgmental self is) in the garbage.  I replaced judgment with gratitude:

  • to Tracy for asking me
  • to Sherri and Bob for just being who they are
  • to the four students who performed for a total stranger as if that’s what they did all the time.

I am an ordinary human who feels I have an inordinate right to complain particularly when life doesn’t go my way.  I watched and listened to four people push the envelope of life until it blossomed like the rose you wish you had planted and nurtured.  And yes, they all won the prize.

Each one in their own way went for the dream.  Oh, yes, this was something they wanted to do for a long time.  Life is what happens while you’re making plans, right?  Of course, right!

Many of us go along with coulda, woulda, shoulda.  None of that was apparent in the room as they sang with heart with soul with LIFE.

In my show I ask the audience to check their pulse.  I remind them if they feel it, (and believe me if they don’t they probably didn’t buy a ticket)  GET UP, GET OUT, LAUGH UNTIL YOUR SIDES HURT, BUT MOST OF ALL LOVE!

Oh, my friends there was so much love in that room that morning.

I floated out and am still airborne.  More and more I do not recognize the world around me. But on that morning in Berkshire Music school , students of a certain age were following their dreams and, for me, for just that moment in time I remembered, like the t-shirt says, LIFE IS GOOD.

To you, Tracy, Sherri, Bob… THANK YOU.

Love, SJ

The Road Less Traveled: aka Life Without a GPS

running_girl_sketch_by_toddnauck-d1hr62d

How old do you have to be before you are too old to run away?  Well, don’t ask me.  I was born with the urge to run away and I have a feeling I shall die wanting to run.  It’s in my DNA.

I think it might have something to do with my immigrant grandparentage. “The Cossacks are coming!  Everyone out of the shtetl.”  That’s another Blah Blah Blog.

With this election there has been a lot of talk,”If so and so is elected I am leaving the country”.  I sympathize.  Interesting though, wherever I run I take me with me.

My first adult run away was in 1996.  I was 63.  I was divorced.  That had happened years before.  As divorces go, it was not acrimonious.  We were married 27 years.  The “use by” date on the marriage had expired.  I am not being glib.  There was pain, disillusion, disappointment and most of all a surprising deep love.  I think most of us have learned, usually the hard way, that love is not all.

Then, I had a very intense love affair with a man for 13 years and in 1991, after a long illness in which I was his caretaker, he passed away.  Why didn’t we ever marry?  I could try to give you an answer but since I make it up as I go along my answer would depend on which day you asked the question.  Relationships… can’t live with them, can’t live without them. The last year of his life was important as I was confronted with something that most of us do our best to avoid…Death!

And my most important urge to run came in 1996, when the last of my three daughters married.  I think it is only human as long as the child is not married you are still the “Mommy”.  You have some place to go, something to do, and mostly something to say.  Empty nest? Shmempty-nest!  That too is another blog.

The divorce, the death, the last one married – it was time to run away.  With the help of friends, I rented a house for the month of August in Gascony (Southwest France) and a flat in London for September.  Did I want to be an American in France or an American in England?  Wherever I went, it was clear, I was always going to be an American.  I ask too many questions.  I am too direct.  I am emotional.  I explain how I feel.  Years of therapy can do wonders in some places and make you a pariah in others.

I loved my time in France and on August 31st as I was flying from Toulouse to London, Princess Diana’s car crashed and all in the car died.  I arrived in London as Princess Diana’s death rivaled coronations, weddings, and Edward’s giving up the throne for the woman he loved.

As an American, I watched as a country we think of as quiet and reserved, erupted into an emotional frenzy.  I began to keep a diary.

It is now 20 years later,  I am still divorced, without male accoutrement, all daughters still married with children.  And, TADA!! I’M STILL HERE!

In a recent move, I found the diary.  Moving has to be good for something.  I read it.  Don’t ask me how… yet… but the Princess Diana tragedy was strangely linked with my own journey.  I am still trying to puzzle out just what that connection was and is.

So what has this Blah-Blah to do with the title:  The Road Less Traveled aka Life Without A GPS?  Well, my dears, I am going to take the time to edit and write this story and what form it will take, I know not.  The road is unfamiliar and unknown.  I want to give it my full focus and attention.  This means I am going to step away from performing my shows, dare I say, “for now”.

I have been performing since I was in the womb.  My mother was exhausted after delivering.  It difficult for me to say this, but my performance at Edith Wharton’s The Mount in Lenox on May 12th is my final East Coast appearance.   (There’s a Santa Fe show in early September).

Sketch crowd (2)

Please, no weeping and tearing of clothes.  As a Diva, I have the privilege of doing as many farewell performances as custom allows.

And I shall always be available for special weddings, funerals, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs.

In the mean time, I am waiting to hear from Donald Trump about doing a show for his final rant before he leaves the political arena….FOREVER…please!

Love ~ Sally-Jane

P.S.  CD’s and DVD’s of past shows are available at a discount rate.  They are sold out on Amazon.