Writing this from a hotel room several storeys above Houston’s sidewalks. Usually our Houston residencies are filled with cool weather, friendly faces, and ease. This year has been unusual. We still have some of my favorite friendly faces around, which is lovely. But the travel to Houston was long and tedious (hours on a plane with no ventilation, an aborted flight attempt, and an arrival late enough to miss all connecting flights, which warranted renting a car and driving from Austin to Houston in the black of night.), and the humidity has curled my hair and haloed the street lights. The view from the 17th floor is actually quite lovely…like my own private Lite-Brite.
I’m reminded, in sharp relief, how valuable time is. (Rough segue – bear with me.)
For the long travel day and the crazy hair and the swampiness? Well, it serves as karmic payment for several days of good singing, for reunions with pals and artists that I’m crazy about, for quality time in a city that I rather enjoy. I’m reminded that the same lunchtime deluge that drove my pals to hysterical laughter as we dodged raindrops and piled into a car was likely the straw that broke the camel’s backs for a singer who has driven/flown/bartered for a couch to sleep on/paid a coach or teacher for a 10 minute audition that can’t survive the logistical obstacles that preceded it. Now, this isn’t a reflection on the performances we heard today, it’s just me putting myself in their shoes and thinking “Whoa.”
But moreover, do I not owe those singers 100% of my time and attention?
So then I have to ask: why do I not give that same amount of attention to everyone who stands in front of me? When did I become able to skim faces and not take them in? When did cutting off sentences become acceptable behaviour?
We spent time in San Francisco with a young mother and her little boy. And, as tired as that little man was (and he was pooped), he still made eye contact – constantly – with all of us. Martha Stewart symbolizes unlimited free time – her creative crafting and meticulous planning appeal particularly to the chronically overscheduled. (Speaking from experience, natch.) But who is the patron saint of focused attention? Of listening until someone is truly finished talking?
I submit that our largest obstacle is in distraction. (And by ‘our’ I mean ‘my.’)
So when you see me, tell me a story. Musical, personal; fact or fiction. I want to hear the whole thing. I may never be an ace, but I’m interested in at least trying to emulate that patron saint, whoever he or she is.