Saturday, November 26, 2011

I'm getting better

its been 6 months since steve passed away. It feels like so much has happened.

when I left birmingham, about a year and a half ago, steve gave me a candle. and he told me that when I lit the candle I could remember him. and every wednesday night, I would light my candle in new york and send him a picture of it. and he would send me a picture of his candle, burning in alabama. steve loved symbols; he loved them unapologetically. and he would say that when you remember the people you love, they are not far away from you. they are with you. he wrote to me once that I was never far from his thoughts, and in this way I was always close.

life in new york is better than I ever imagined. I'm finding people and music that are more beautiful than I ever had hoped possible. I love being in the city - a place where I feel like I can be unapologetically me. I find myself being challenged as a musician, challenged with new ideas, and I find myself breathing deeply, for the first time in awhile. I'm getting better.

I'm getting better in all sorts of ways. I'm playing piano better. playing the piano seems like this elusive skill that I've been developing ever since I was a child, but its exciting to see certain skills develop that are purely and visibly a result of encountering so many different and new styles of music, and getting to be involved with so many different types of projects and records. I'm getting better at songwriting. Its fun to meet so many people who are interested in writing songs together. I'm getting better at recording music. I've been making records for over ten years, and I still feel like I'm figuring out how its done. I'm getting better at taking pictures. I'm seeing light more quickly, and I'm seeing expressions and people and knowing I've got shots faster than before. I'm getting better.

and I'm getting better in other ways, too. I'm not fighting so much. I'm letting things go, and learning (slowly) that so many things I thought were important, well, they just weren't. in alabama, I had so much I was fighting. and I still believe I was right to fight everything I was fighting. but it is so lovely to not have to fight anymore, at least for now. I'm taking some time, and I know I'm a fighter, and I think that's a good thing. I'm a lover, too.

and I'm learning to love better, and this is maybe the best thing. to be honest, I've always been a lover. but I've learned over the last few years especially what being a lover costs. it means being far away from people who give you the most life. it means being vulnerable and getting hurt. it means waiting through the silence. it means watching people go, pieces of you with them. and sure it means lots of good things, too. but I guess I keep being surprised at how the sorrow and the love really do, truly, go hand in hand. I carry a lot of sorrow, and I think that makes me better too.

steve died 6 months ago, and I haven't really felt it yet. I remember the last time I saw him, about a week before he died. it was in the hospital, and I was there with brooke and melanie and margaret, and steve was being funny. when I saw him I tried to hide my shock - he had lost all of his weight, and all of his hair. honestly, he looked terrible. he struggled mightily to breathe, and he had a cough that made the room shake. he saw me and his eyes were so bright. and he said "here I am! skeletor!" and for the next couple hours I sat on his bed and we talked and he was as funny as I'd ever seen him. I held back all of my sorrow while I was with him, and once his pain meds took over and he could no longer hold his eyes open, I hugged him and walked out. It was in the hall, around the corner from his room, that I knew steve was really dying. I've had other friends die, but not anyone like this. cancer is so terrible. and I knew it was the last time I was ever going to see him, and I leaned against the wall, and I couldn't breathe. I just wept. brooke waited with me.

where do you go from there? its hard to know. one foot in front of the other, you keep on.

a week later, I was on the road, driving back to birmingham for steve's funeral. it was a terrible, wonderful week. and now, 6 months later, I feel like steve's absence is starting to creep in. the relentlessness of loss, like the relentlessness of the coming seasons, it is unavoidable.

I have so much to be thankful for, and steve's death makes the beauty and love I share in all the sweeter. the laughter of my niece as she sits in my lap and tells me stories. the setting sun casting its golden light across manhattan's skyline. a candlelit apartment, and a bottle of wine with brooke as we talk and watch the city lights and wait for sleep. the peace and comfort offered by my always present, always loyal dog como. playing music in new york city with my newest friends, who give me more life than they ever could realize. riding motorcycles across the american south, sleeping in the forests. long talks with my mom or dad. or any of my brothers and sisters. the constant pursuit of music. the enchanting promise of love still to be found.

all this beauty. its getting better. the bitterness stings as much as it ever has. and yet, the sweetness has never been so sweet.

I miss you, steve.