“It’s just the sheen,” she said as we looked at our options in the sand ahead of us. I thought it had looked a little wet from the rain, and possibly the tide. I wasn’t sure if we should continue our advance upon the sand.
The day was one that I had officially taken off. No working, no shows, no practice. Just me, my friend, Kimmie, and the two little dachshunds to take off in my car and head out to the Washington Coast in the pouring rain. Kimmie had never been to Ocean Shores before and this was the journey meant to inject us with the salty energy of the ocean.
About three weeks prior I had found myself in LA again for the third time in the last two months chatting with one of the musicians after the show. “What do you do?” he asked.
I replied with my typical, non-typical answer, “Whatever I want.”
He pulled his head back, “What are you, some kind of trust fund hippie?”
I laughed. “No nothing like that.”
I realized that my reply of “whatever I want” was the truth but also not exactly the truth.
I don’t have a guaranteed source of income. I still have to worry about paying the bills. I still have a mortgage payment which can feel pretty steep on the months that I don’t happen to have a roommate. I have adult things to worry about like filing my taxes on time and replacing the flooring in my home because my dog tore apart the carpet trying to get to a rat that decided to lounge about in the crawl space. But these are all things I choose to worry about. These are the responsibilities that come with “whatever I want.”
I don’t work in an office any more but I work nearly every single day, usually for a lot less (or no money). Whether it’s a musical rehearsal, a show at a club, a set of music on the street at a farmer’s market, words written on paper, traveling to another city, giving a a ride to a complete stranger, or walking someone else’s dog… I’ve got work to do.
While this is all work that I want to do, I’m beginning to feel like my plate is full. The juggling act between getting work done, making tangible money for the bills, and also having a few moments to relax in the bath is sometimes becoming a struggle. I know that once I start feeling the tension of the push and pull, something has got to give and hopefully not my sanity.
Nearly a year ago, I left my comfy, rewarding, and well paying spot at the office in downtown Seattle. The plan was to sell my house and live in a van. I had even bought the van I was going to live in and had cleaned it out as well as insulated it. Market conditions on my house brought forth the reality that I couldn’t actually sell it without owing money on things like agent and title fees. Then a couple nights in the van brought forward the reality that I didn’t really want to live by myself with two dachshunds in a Dodge Ram van. What hadn’t changed was my desire to travel more and play music to anyone who was willing to listen. So over the next year the van came on several tours with me with several bands as I tried to expand my world of music by playing with more people in more places.
In a world where a lot of who you are perceived to be is based on “what you do” I wanted to be able to continue to tell people the answer “whatever I want.” Which, of course, means that I am constantly asking myself, “What do I want?”
I could look back and spout the things I have done, the list of accomplishments and the resume of activity that shows I am fully capable of taking on the world. I could talk about all the things that I want to do and what I can do, but those are just wish list items of a person that doesn’t exist yet. The two questions I continue to hold up in front of myself are “What do I want?” and “What am I doing about it right now?”
So those same questions approached me when I found myself on my rainy day off with Kimmie on the beach of Ocean Shores. I had stopped the car and we were facing north with the beach to our left the the shine of the sun leaving the horizon behind the clouds. It’s a rare thing, but you can take your car onto the beach in Ocean Shores and drive your way around designated areas.
“It looks wet,” I said. “Maybe the tide has come in.”
“It’s fine,” Kimmie said. “It’s just the sheen.”
The sheen of the sun on the wet sand showing us the shine that was in front of us.
“Let’s do it!” I said as we drove forward and within a few minutes the Toyota Corolla came to a halt with spinning front tires.
“Um…” I said, pressing on the gas and feeling the engine whirr along with the tires. We stayed stationary with the engine grumbling underneath us. “Ummm…” I said again, realizing that the engine on its own wouldn’t get us where we wanted to go. The sand was too soft and we had sunk about six inches into the damp sand.
I looked at Kimmie with her slight frame, fuzzy hat, and the stylish wig that whispered the story of her cancer and told her, “Here, take the wheel and I’ll push.” What choice did I have? I needed to get the car out of the sand and the action necessary to get “whatever I want” was to get out and push.
I got behind the car at first and realized that centimeter by centimeter, I was pushing the car further into a mire of wet sand. “Wait!” I called out from the backside of the vehicle. “Put it in reverse. We have to go back.”
With my hands placed firmly on the hood, I pushed. There was no clearance and Kimmie was hesitant to put her foot on the gas. “I know it’s weird,” she admitted. “It’s in reverse but I’m afraid of running you over!”
A small amount of coaxing and coordination found me with my knees in the sand using the tops of my thighs as leverage on the grill along with my hands on the hood. The car began to inch backwards and then started moving by the foot without any of my grunting and groaning.
Once free of the sand trap, I started giggling. Even though I was the one that drove forward and got us ensnared, I was relieved and amazed at what the two of us could do together when there was no judgement or anger. Cooperation and a common goal united us in the steps it took to take to set us free. The dachshunds were deliciously oblivious to their near peril.
I took it as a lesson.
“You always do,” Kimmie laughed when I told her that out loud.
Chasing after the sheen. Looking at the clear, yet perilous path and becoming ensnared in the idea that we have to just “keep moving forward.” Sometimes you need a friend to take the driver’s seat for a moment and push with all your might to go back just a few inches. It’s not giving up, it’s getting out and gathering up.
So while the last year hasn’t gone exactly as planned, I’m inching backwards to gather myself for the next forward leap across the gap. Maybe it’s not in that Dodge Ram van but I’ll see more of this country, share more of my music, and speak more of my words out loud to actively listening ears. Whatever the plan, I’ll do what I do. It’s up to me to take from this life whatever I want. It’s what I do.