Bears, Blueberries, etc
Hi, my love.
T-talk is a bit late today because the ridiculous news is that I spent most of the day in a legendary church in the center of Amsterdam.
Yes, today we filmed a full televised 90 minute Christmas special. You’ll be able to see it on your tee-vee closer to Christmas time, and whatever faith you might be, may I just say from my Jewish self it is pretty special. Gorgeous and ambitious and a lot.
It also just sort of fit the script for the completely nonstop and absurd way things have been happening lately. (I am so sleepy.) Tourists kept lining up at the closed doors and peering through the windows with deep confusion, hoping in vain for this view.
In case you’re one of those tourists, here’s the actual full view of how today looked. I’m sorry! Sort of! Tune back in on December 24th!
Despite the stress that led up to it, it turned out pretty beautifully. I was featured on the Christmas song I wrote (we talked about it last week). While not singing, I curled up backstage in a ridiculous/very me contorted position and tried to type to you a bit.
It didn’t really work, though. I found myself unable to focus or get anything down. In the end I threw up my hands and just sort of hoped that whenever we got home I’d have more words.
(These are words!)
(Evening words, but still words!)
Okay. I have words. But this week, man.
I’m annoyed at myself because even though I tried to do all the right things, I’m still sitting here typing to you feeling like I got hit by a train.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s start with the right things.
Right thing number (1): Partly in preparation for this Christmas special and partly in consideration of my own sanity, I decided to not join José on a trip this week to Montreux, Switzerland.
He got the offer to be one of the fellows at their prestigious academy months ago, and asked if I wanted to join as his guest. Back then I said yes, thinking a little two day vacation would be glorious. I imagined I’d be Julie Andrews song-careening through the gorgeous Montreux scenery while my husband worked.
(Ha! Ha! Ha! At my ever thinking I could just … not work.)
In any event, this week finally came, and COVID still existed. And so did our record label. And my album. And. And. And. I worked up the nerve to do a self care move. It was very difficult to say out loud. (“Hi, honey, I would like to cancel my ticket to paradise because I believe it would likely be better for me to stay in our apartment. Are we cool?”)
That was right thing number (1). I know it, because my dear friend/former roommate Anthony and his partner Eric were in town this week. I otherwise would have missed them, so thank god I didn’t Julie Andrews careen.
Of course this led to right thing number (2): Pie. Sour cherries are no longer in season. Time for a real deal blueberry do-over.
This felt like the kind of self care I signed up for. With José in Montreux, I spread ALL THE WAY out over the kitchen counter. I did my dishes when I felt like it. I let the pie bubble. I let it bubble some more. And there she was in the end, an absolute not pie soup blueberry beauty.
I once again transported it on the tram. A little less fanfare this time, but I’ll forgive my Amsterdamian neighbors.
And eventually I met my darlings on a canal. I happened to snag the last table at a cafe that had just perfect little teacups straight out of a six year old’s birthday party. God do I wish I had a picture of those perfect little teacups, but I was too busy enjoying them. Here is the scene from right before Anthony and Eric arrived. Not as charming as the teacups, but still pretty fabulous.
We ate a lot of pie, we laughed, we shared stories. These two treasure humans. It was joyous to see them as individuals, and even more joyous to see them together. I love Anthony with every iota of my soul, and I just… I kvell to see him so well matched and so happy.
Afterwards we walked through Vondelpark. Eventually it started to pour, so we took shelter under a tree. Eric snapped this epic candid which I might frame and/or have tattooed on me.
Once the rain subsided, I sent them back to their hotel and walked back to my house. The drizzle wasn’t bothering me and my phone was dead (right thing number 3!).
And then the wrong things started.
I turned my phone on.
There was so much label work.
An artist in town.
An upcoming Christmas release to promote.
A full video ad campaign to create and edit.
And. And. And.
I wasn’t able to retreat into that self care space. So I dove in until it was 3 am and my eyes hurt. I woke up yesterday and continued right back where I started.
This isn’t news. I’ve never been great at work-life balance. We’ve literally talked about it before on this very t-talk. In Dutch they call people like me people who “see bears on the road.” The idiom boils down to a way of describing someone who is always on the lookout for potential problems.
(All my love to the Dutch, but in my book that’s just called “Being Jewish.”)
Seriously, though: The Dutch always try to explain this idiom to me as if I don’t acutely live it. Beyond my Semitic predilections, I’m a former executive assistant who worked for two high powered madmen dudes, both over 80 years old. I’m also an empathic middle child with an aversion to conflict. I spent my twenties dating dopey and/or abusive sociopaths who couldn’t get their lives together (my! cat nip!).
You feel me? I am made to find bears. And it is a habit I still find hard to shake.
It’s overwhelmingly difficult, for example, for me to look at the phone when it comes back to life, see the problem and say, “I’m sorry, I canceled my ticket to paradise because I believed it would likely be better for me to stay in our apartment. Therefore I am going to close this phone now.”
So I just … don’t. I dive in. I hunt those bears.
That makes me a very good label head. When our artist didn’t get his merch while in Holland I spent all morning on the phone with FedEx. I located it, hand delivered it and bought him lunch, taking up five of my non-paradise non-sound-of-music hours.
It also makes me a very tired taali.
I baked a pie, yes. I also did the following today, on top of all that other stuff:
Woke up at 7 am to get my hair ready for a 90 minute Christmas special
Found COVID tests for that artists’s entire band
Got that artist’s entire band COVID tested
Located a Christmas tree and ornaments
Bought a Christmas tree and ornaments
Set up said Christmas tree and ornaments
Bought personalized presents for each artist in the Christmas special from small businesses all around Amsterdam
And drove my poor non abusive non sociopathic husband so absolutely up the wall that he lost it on a pushy set of tourists when they rudely asked him to move out of the way of the statue they wanted to photograph.
(In his defense, his response, in characteristic New York excellence, was just … CHOICE and completely correct.)
José was in the right, me not so much. I know that I can do better than this. I deserve better than this.
Because as much as I want it to, the pandemic isn’t ending. Self care doesn’t work the same in a post COVID world. I can’t go see a solo movie, I can’t even get on a tram without feeling enormously tense and hyper aware of droplets and shit. We’re internationally touring, so we’re immensely careful. AKA: We are internationally touring, so we are immensely stressed.
Instead of throwing up my hands though, I am doing right thing (4), while I still have two hours left of this week. I’m asking you a question: How do we continue to work at this pace and also find time for self care when many of our former self care modes don’t work anymore?
If you have any ideas or things that have worked for you, your pie making frond would be enormously grateful. And if you’re just struggling with the same yourself, I am sending you a beam of love from my very messy Amsterdam apartment. I’ll let you know if I find anything this week, myself.
Until then, I love you. See you next week.