So…now what?

I’ve been on the road for a little over a month now. That’s not entirely true. I left NY at the end of September, spent a week with my family in MA, then drove south and west for the next two days until I got to Durant, OK (always pronounced DOO-rant in my head) where I’ve been posted up at my best friend’s house for the past month.

My first two weeks in Oklahoma were spent housesitting and managing my friend’s husband’s law firm while they were away on their honeymoon. And yes, I do realize that quitting one soul-sucking office job at a law firm only to immediately start working in another is rather ironic, but the fact that it was temporary and helpful to people I love makes it okay.

Speaking of things that I love…

I LOVE not having stuff anymore. I love that I don’t have to worry about getting my broken toaster fixed, or replacing the hallway light bulb that blew out eight months ago, or the fact that the number two express cook button is the only one that ever worked on my microwave – because I no longer own any of those things!

I really do think about all of my possessions in terms of weight now. I’m constantly asking myself if the value of a particular item is worth the weight of carrying it around. The answer is typically no. Hence, I’ve lost a ton of weight lately and it feels fantastic.

Unencumbered as I am with the burdens of everyday things like a home, possessions and a steady job, you’d think I’d be starting my journey from a place of ease and complete freedom. But that’s not the case. I’ve discovered, much to my chagrin, that my new lifestyle is fraught with its own complications, like…

– Crafting a pithy response to seemingly mundane questions such as, ‘Where do you live?’ or ‘What do you do for a living?’

– Figuring out what day of the week it is.

– Creating a budget and sticking to it, so you can postpone your inevitable return to the real world.

– Learning the best methods to avoid getting stabbed to death by a drifter.

Or, wait. Since I am a drifter, am I supposed to be the one stabbing people? Ugh. I have so many questions. Who knew being a shiftless layabout was going to be so much trouble? I mean… I don’t even know how to tie a proper bindle yet! How am I supposed to survive?

Seriously though. Removing all of life’s difficulties doesn’t automatically solve your problems. Seems obvious and yet, I was oddly floored by this realization. Simply eliminating the things that make you unhappy doesn’t guarantee that you’ll necessarily be happy with what’s left.

You still have to ‘do the work.’ I apologize for the therapist-speak, but it’s true. Take away the distractions of everyday life and you’re left with a vacuum. You need to fill your time and space with something, and it’s really tempting to choose the wrong things. It’s all too easy to let the days slide past in a haze of television, Facebook, or booze if that’s your thing.

So here I am, in Oklahoma of all places, trying my best to value this time like the gift that it is. Here’s a brief recap of what I’ve been up to:

I’ve driven nearly 4,000 miles. In this car…

IMG_8356

With this much mileage on it at the start…

IMG_8368 These are some of the places I’ve been so far…

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 4.54.54 PM

This is some of the stuff I’ve seen and people I’ve met…

IMG_9374

IMG_9373

[Austin, TX – with my favorite podcasting duo, Seth and Jonathan, from Uhh Yeah Dude.]

IMG_9617

IMG_9632[Fenton, MO – with author and all around great guy, Patrick Rothfuss.]

 

IMG_8503[Oklahoma City, OK – keeping track of the score of the OU/TX game with some of my Sooner friends.]

IMG_0020[Chillin’ on the front porch at Dwight D. Eisenhower’s crib.]

IMG_9523[Hiking in Eisenhower State Park.]

I also ate what could quite possibly be the greatest meal of my life at a cattle ranch in Soper, OK. Fried okra picked from the garden that morning, fresh baked cornbread, brisket you could cut with a spoon, and the most perfect homemade fried chicken I’ve ever encountered. I’m telling you, this chicken was a revelation. My friend’s mom said she’ll teach me how to make it the next time I come back this way. That alone would make it worth the trip.

When I’m not actively adventuring, I am writing, singing, reading, cooking, eating, laughing, spending lots of time outdoors, getting exercise, helping my friends around the house or at the office, and trying not to waste too much time staring at a glowing screen of any kind.

Most importantly, I’ve gotten to spend a ton of time with my best friend. That’s been the best part. Luckily, she and her husband don’t seem to mind having me around, which has been great for me.

Though I’m loath to leave, it’s getting to be about that time. Time to keep moving. See what else is out there to see. I’m going to take one more week to enjoy the comforts of home while I figure out what comes next.

Drop me a line if you want a well-behaved house guest!

Happy trails…

S

 

 

Chase the Wind

In my last post I alluded to the fact that I’ll be embarking on a journey into elective homelessness in the not too distant future. This is mostly true. At the end of August I gave up the lease on my NYC apartment, where I’d been living (happily?) for the past six years.

At the same time, I took my experiment with minimalism to the next level by selling or donating roughly seventy-five percent of my belongings. I no longer own anything that doesn’t fit in my car. I’ve still got a ways to go, but I feel like I’ve lost a hundred pounds in the past few weeks. There are still several things that I didn’t get around to selling before I had to be out of my apartment, but my parents have graciously allowed me to store those things in their basement for the time being. (I promise it won’t be too long!)

I also quit my job. I gave my one-month notice a couple of weeks ago and my last day is September 26th. While, in many respects, I feel like I won the job lottery when I got this gig, it’s definitely time for me to leave. And though I’ll miss certain aspects of having a day job (namely the regular paycheck and killer health insurance plan), I’m really excited by the prospect of not being a day-dwelling office monkey anymore.

IMG_7835[See?]

What I am going to do with all of my newfound free time, you ask?

Well, I’m going to drive across the country. Not just across, all around. I want to see America. I’ve lived in the northeast my entire life and I’ve wanted to take a road trip like this since before I could legally drive. I figure, with any luck, I’ll never be this single or childless again, so it seems the perfect time to go.

I know some might think me irresponsible for quitting a good job, particularly in this economy. But, as I explained to my family, while my day job provides financial security, it also robs me of my energy and my ability to live as a creative person. I’m sure there are lots of people out there who are able to have both a job and a creative career, but unfortunately, I don’t seem to be one of them. For me, staying at a job that leaves me feeling empty at the end of the day just so I can make enough money to be able to afford an expensive apartment in a city I’m only living in so I can keep working at the job I don’t want… That’s irresponsible.

For the past eight months or so I’ve been building up my savings little by little. In June I implemented super strict austerity measures which, when combined with the added income from selling my stuff and the fact that I’ve been living debt-free since 2006, has allowed me to set aside a nice little chunk of change.

But wait, aren’t you an opera singer? Don’t you have to be in New York to do that?

To that I say there are plenty of singers who don’t live in New York. I’m quite sure my voice will still work wherever I choose to live. I don’t particularly care that I’m leaving at the start of the NYC audition season, either. Audition season will still be there next year. Besides, I might try to arrange a few in-house auditions during my travels, though that is not the goal of my trip.

What is my goal?

Simply put, I don’t have one. No, that’s not true. I just don’t have an easily measurable one. My goal is to edit my life. To turn down the background noise in the hope that I’ll be able to hear what my heart has to say. To stay open to new opportunities as they present themselves and live in the moment, rather than getting mired in the past, or too worried about the future.

There are still so many things that I aspire to do and be, but for once in my life I want to focus on the journey rather than the destination. As I tend to be the sort of person for whom things are black and white as opposed to gray, I’m taking that sentiment literally. I have no final destination in mind and no set time limit in which to find one.

That said I’m not just going to drive around aimlessly until the money runs out. There will be a bit of that, sure. But I’ve got a whole host of amazing friends and family all over the country that have invited me to stay with them, and I fully intend to take advantage of all offers, picking up temporary, part time work whenever I can. I’ve also got a few singing gigs lined up which helps.

Basically, I’m going to chase the wind for a while. If you’ve read Patrick Rothfuss, then you’ll know what I mean. If you haven’t, then you should. Yes, I’m talking to you, Nate.

Despite the uncertainty of my immediate future, I’ve never been more sure of a decision in my life. I’ve received so many little signs from the universe telling me that I’m doing the right thing. For instance, the day I officially decided to give up my apartment, my job and my stuff I was re-reading one of my all time favorite books and I came across this passage…

“No man is brave that has never walked a hundred miles. If you want to know the truth of who you are, walk until not a person knows your name. Travel is the great leveler, the great teacher, bitter as medicine, crueler than mirror-glass. A long stretch of road will teach you more about yourself than a hundred years of quiet introspection.”

–   Patrick Rothfuss (The Wise Man’s Fear)

I sure hope he’s right.

Much love,

Sarah

Call me Yoga Bear

Yoga

Remember around this time last summer when I published that handy guide on how to make it look like you’re exercising without actually having to do anything?  Apparently I didn’t either, because I went to my first ever yoga class this week.  (Not counting those trial classes of Bikram yoga I took three years ago. That was less about exercising and more about not dying from a heart attack, heat stroke, or the stifling stench of hipster B.O.)

Besides, this yoga class was free!

As it happens, I’m away for an opera gig for the next three weeks. One of the perks of this particular contract (apart from getting to stay in a fabulous estate on Martha’s Vineyard) is a free gym membership. So despite my hated of all things exercise, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity. Because honestly, the only thing I hate more than exercise is turning down free stuff.

I chose yoga class because I already own a mat with matching bag (both of which have been languishing in the trunk of my car for the last eight months) and I thought it was high time I got some use out of them.  Also, because my only other option was to hop on an elliptical machine for an hour, which usually ends with me becoming so engrossed in watching my fellow gym-goers or a Maury Povich marathon on TV, that twenty minutes will go by before I realize my legs have stopped moving.

So I went to yoga. It had a fancier name, but I don’t remember what it was called. I only know of two types of yoga anyway: the unbearably hot, imminent death-inducing kind, and regular. This was regular yoga.

As expected, I fell down a lot.

The instructor’s name was Sian.  Not Sean or Shawn, but SheAhn.  She was lovely, and British and impossibly flexible with wild hair and lots of tattoos – the epitome of cool.

The way I see it, if your parents name you Sian, there are only two possible career paths open to you: yoga instructor or massage therapist…possibly a nutritionist or an herbalist or a life coach, but you’re for sure going to be working in the health and wellness sector.

Sian had us put our mats in a circle so we could make eye contact with one another, and so no one (namely me) could hide in the back.

I placed my mat next to an elderly woman we’ll call Agnes.  I’d put Agnes at about eighty-three years old, roughly 5’7 and 160-170lbs. Compared to all the other toned, tanned, middle-aged women (and one dude) in the class, I felt my chances of looking like an idiot would be somewhat diminished if I sat next to someone who was both elderly and probably at least a little bit infirmed.

The class started and Agnes gave me an encouraging smile. I smiled back and before I knew it, I was ass-up in child’s pose, breathing loudly through my nose as per Sian’s instructions. I tried to quiet my mind and focus on my breath, but I couldn’t seem to shut off my inner monologue.

What the hell am I doing here? Everyone else looks like they’re a professional yogi and I’m wearing sweat pants and an old t-shirt. If I’m going to keep doing this, I should go to Lulu Lemon and buy some proper yoga clothes. I also should have gone to the bathroom on my way to class. I wonder if that hot guy will still be in the weight room when class is over? I’m really glad I remembered to put on make-up before I left the house. Man, I could go for a grilled ham and cheese sandwich right now.  Oh crap, everyone else is standing up. Get up, you mouth-breathing mongoloid!

My inner monologue can be kind of a bitch sometimes.

On top of that, I kept getting distracted by the smears of make-up and sunscreen staining my pristine new mat. I tried to wipe them away as discreetly as possible, but I didn’t have a towel or anything, so the only cloth at my disposal was my black sweatpants, which was infinitely worse.

Note to self: Wearing zinc-based sunscreen and a full face of makeup to the gym was not your best idea ever.

As the class progressed it became increasingly clear I was out of my depth. I had to take a knee, or drop into child’s pose – the yogic equivalent thereof, several times. Sian was very understanding and encouraged everyone to work at their own pace, though for most people it meant contorting their bodies into even more frightening positions in order to ‘increase the stretch.’

When we got to side planks my arm was shaking so violently I fell down. Twice. As I lay panting on my still trembling forearm, I noticed Agnes’ arm was solid as a rock. A rock with a lot of underarm flab, perhaps, but a rock nonetheless. I couldn’t help but be impressed and I silently cheered her on as I hoisted myself back up and moved into downward dog pose.

Then Sian instructed us to move into three-legged dog, which is basically regular downward dog with one leg in the air, knee bent like you’re about to take a leak on a giant invisible fire hydrant. Feel the stretch as the hip joint opens. But all I felt was hot, tired, and a little bit ridiculous. There we were, an entire room of adult women (and one dude) bent over with their legs in the air. I wondered idly if three-legged dog was a real yoga pose at all and not just some inside joke known only to yoga instructors that they trot out whenever class starts to get dull.

My musings were put to an abrupt end when Sian moved from three-legged dog to standing split, which looks exactly like it sounds – one leg straight on the ground, while the other is stuck straight up in the air…or hanging limping at an eighty-degree angle if you’re me.

Agnes couldn’t do it either.

We moved on to some standing poses after that and my confidence grew. It’s a lot harder to fall down with both feet on the ground.

I was bent over in a wide stance, my finger tips barely touching my mat and my head hanging between my legs, giving me a clear (though upside down) view of Agnes, who was in the same position except her head and forearms were resting gently on the floor.  I watched in horror as she braced her arms beside her head and slowly lifted her legs into the air until she was standing on her head. THEN rather than falling to her knees to come out of it like a normal person, she flipped her legs in the other direction, dropping into a back bend.

Bitch did a headstand AND a back bend! At eighty-three! I can’t even touch my toes! While I was hunched over on my mat in a sloppy semblance of child’s pose, head turned to the side so as not to drown in a pool of my own sunscreen-tinted sweat, there was Agnes, upside down, smirking at me, like the back-stabbing bitch that she is.

I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so betrayed.

I left class in a bit of a snit that day. But I was determined to go back and show that Agnes a thing or two.  So the next morning I dragged myself out of bed and, despite the fact that all of my muscles were screaming in pain, I made my way to class.

This was a different type of yoga. I think it was called Kripalu, which, roughly translated, means you will walk with a limp tomorrow.

The instructor for this class was a woman named Jennifer. Her teaching style was very different from Sian’s. Where Sian was badass, Jennifer was gentle. In Sian’s class the music ranged from Tuvan throat singing to “Purple Rain” while Jennifer seemed to prefer mostly repetitive, new age, chant-like tunes.

Jennifer’s class, while by no means easy, was definitely more my speed. Which is to say, slow. I fell down a lot less in her class. Make no mistake; I still fell down during side planks, just not quite as often.

Agnes wasn’t in this class so I couldn’t flaunt my vast improvements, which was a shame.

Even without Agnes the showoff, there were still plenty of opportunities for me to feel ridiculous in class. For instance, Jennifer had us do this weird breathing exercise where you take a deep breath and on the exhalation you stick your tongue out and open your eyes really wide. She called it a lion’s breath.

lion's breath yoga

 

 

 

 

 

 

I call it a Gene Simmons.

kiss-gene-simmons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then she gave us five minutes of free play at the end of class, or as she explained it, time to explore the ways in which your body wants to move. Then we took a ten-minute shavasana. (Which, for all you non-yoga folks, basically means naptime.) I felt like I was in kindergarten again. It was pretty awesome.

I still think I prefer Sian’s class though. She’s much more straightforward. Apart from letting us know which pose came next and how to move your body to get into said pose, Sian didn’t talk much. Sometimes she would get us into a pose and leave the room for a few minutes, whereas Jennifer gave almost nonstop encouragement and instruction.  Things like…

Let’s be in conversation with our hamstrings.  

Explore and honor each life-giving breath.

Allow your mind to focus on the space between the thoughts.

She also had an annoying habit of describing the various poses without using any articles or pronouns.

Head floats above shoulders. Shoulders float above hips. Hands press to earth.

How am I supposed to talk to my hamstrings, honor my breath and focus on the space between my thoughts when I can’t stop mentally correcting her grammar?

This is why I don’t think I’ll ever be good at yoga. I really do want to become stronger and more flexible, but I fear the spiritual aspect may be beyond my reach. For me, turning off the mind and observing without judgment is even harder than side planks.

I’ll try again tomorrow though. I’m far too stubborn to let an improbably flexible octogenarian or an undisciplined mind get the better of me. Well, that, and it’s free.

Everybody’s got to make some sacrifices to the rock gods…

photo (5)

Dear Old Texan Who Rented Us His Family Vacation Home,

Thank you so much for allowing us to stay in your beautiful, palatial, and very well appointed home. It being the weekend of the Austin City Limits Music Festival and all, I’m sure you had a lot of interest from potential renters. Thanks for choosing us. We had a wonderful time.

I can’t tell you how nice it was to be able to come home after a long day of rocking out at the rock show and soak in the hot tub or take a refreshing dip in the pool, then drift off to sleep in one of your comfortable beds. Don’t think that the thread count on those sheets went unnoticed. It was much appreciated! Ditto with the spa towels. Thanks for going the extra mile there.

Oh, and the tech! I’m not very good with technology so I don’t have any idea what even one of those thirty-five remotes controlled, but it all looked very impressive. And I must say, the giant projection screen over the pool was a nice touch.

photo 2 (2)

The grounds around your property are lovely as well. We particularly enjoyed the fire pit and the pond…though I must admit, I was a bit wary of the hobo living in the shed out back, but he turned out to be very friendly and made for an excellent neighbor.

You’ve been so kind and generous; I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the incident that occurred on Sunday afternoon.

You see the rock show was cancelled that day on account of rain. I guess some parts of Zilker Park were literally under water. Everyone was highly disappointed.

Fortunately, we are a resilient bunch, and decided to make the best of it. We cracked open a bottle of champagne, cranked up some Lionel Ritchie (the would-be headliner of the show) and spent a relaxing morning in the hot tub. Easy like Sunday morning, am I right?

Sometime after the second bottle of champagne and that ‘hour of power’ that seemed like a good idea at the time, someone came up with the brilliant notion of inviting all of the displaced musicians and fellow rockers over to the house. ‘If we can’t go to the rock show, then we’ll bring the rock show to us!’

Frankly, we didn’t think anyone would show up and I think we were all a little bit shocked by the turn out.

At first it was just our small group and the crew from Atoms for Peace. Even though it was beyond cool to meet Thom Yorke and Flea, I’ll admit it was a little awkward at first. They weren’t really equipped for an acoustic set, so there was a lot of feet shuffling with hands in pockets and not a lot of direct eye contact. Then someone suggested we set up a beer pong tournament. Things got a lot less awkward after that.

That shit got competitive real quick! Rock stars do not fuck around. They also don’t take well to losing at beer pong. Especially after taunting a drunk and belligerent Thom Yorke by screaming Radiohead lyrics at him every time he tried to make a shot.

Long story short, that’s how come your table got broken. Sorry about that.

Things settled down a bit when Shuggie Otis arrived with Neko Case. (They carpooled.) They seemed relatively unfazed by the destruction in the dining room, whipped out their guitars and played an impromptu show in the kitchen. It was pretty incredible.

Then Noah and the Whale and Phoenix turned up in a party bus and things got rowdy again. I don’t know whose idea it was to start skeet-shooting with your fine china, but it happened…and it was all kinds of fun. And honestly, if you didn’t want people breaking into your china cabinet (or your gun cabinet for that matter) then you should really invest in proper locks. I’m just sayin’.

photo 1 (2)

As for the golf cart in your pool…that one is all on Franz Ferdinand. Those limy Scottish fruits know how to party!

It was while we were all distracted trying to fish the golf cart out of the pool that Flea decided to jump through your projection screen all Animal-from-The-Muppets style. You can’t take your eyes off that crazy bastard for a second!

When the kids from School of Rock showed up I knew there was going to be trouble. Those kids can drink! And that little girl who plays the bass is a mean drunk. I don’t think that poor hobo ever saw it coming. We found most of his teeth though, and I’m sure his scalp will go back to normal once his stitches are removed.

You’d think the kids would be the ones responsible for the puking in the hot tub, but no. That was Valerie June. She might be a badass blues player, but homegirl is tiny! And I have no idea where that jug of moonshine came from.

But nobody, not even the drunkest among us, ever thought in a million years that the man himself – LIONEL RITCHIE – would accept our humble party invitation. Even the other rock stars were stoked to see him.

Call it naiveté, but I was hoping for a handholding, ‘We Are the World’ type of sitch. Alas, that was not to be. When Lionel says he’s going to party ‘All Night Long,’ he fucking means it. He was tearing through the house jumping on the furniture like a little kid, except he had a bottle of Jack in one hand and a fifth of Jame-O in the other. I think he was legitimately trying to dance on the ceiling and I, for one, wasn’t about to tell him no.

My recollections get kind of patchy after that.

I remember walking in on some crazy shit in the garage. I’m pretty sure a certain folk singer was doing a line of what I can only assume was blow off of a certain blues singer’s…well, suffice it to say, you need a new pool table. And new pool cues. Maybe just don’t go in your garage anymore. Yeah, that’s probably best.

Then later someone foolishly asked Lionel Ritchie to stop jumping on your bed while singing ‘What Does the Fox Say?’ ad nauseam. He got super angry and punched that hole in your bedroom wall. I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably regretting not charging us a security deposit, but don’t worry about it. We gave Lionel a sharpie and asked him to autograph the wall. He did his best. It sort of looks like his signature. Sure, it probably would’ve been better if he hadn’t drawn all those lewd sketches underneath it, but you can still sell it on eBay and make back the money for the repairs. Assuming you even want to get it fixed. It is pretty epic. I mean, how many people can honestly claim that Lionel Ritchie drew a dick on their wall? Not many, I’m guessing.

Other than that, the weekend was pretty quiet. Though several members of our party did get stung by scorpions in your backyard. There’s also a huge hornet’s nest down by the pond. We collectively decided not to sue, but you should really take care of that.

So…I guess that’s it. Thanks again. See you next year!

Fondly,

[omitted]

photo 3

Holy Dead Polar Bear, Batman!

Hey Texas…how’s all that taxidermy treating you?

And I thought I’d seen everything after this:

IMG_3166 - Version 2

Oh how wrong I was. [Note: If the sight of dead, stuffed animals mounted on display units upsets you, you should skip this post.]

Let me back track. After a throughly enjoyable, surprise three-day weekend offit was back to ‘work’ on Monday morning. My fellow cast members and I were scheduled to sing for a private event at the home of one of the Abilene Opera board members. That sort of thing is pretty standard in the opera business. The singers entertain the crowd and generate excitement for the upcoming production, while the monied patrons eat finger sandwiches and drink coffee or wine, depending on the time of the day (usually wine, though). 

The only difference between this gig and your average afternoon opera luncheon was the house in which it was hosted. For one thing, it had an über modern design – basically a large, angular, concrete block with glass doors that invoked a feeling similar to that of walking into an urban dentist’s office circa 1976. But rather than posters of giant floss-wielding cartoon teeth, and a cheery receptionist with a pencil cup full of tooth brushes, this was the sight that greeted me upon entering the foyer…

IMG_3251

[Not the set of pearly whites I was expecting.]

Then there was this guy…

IMG_3223

And his friends…

IMG_3222

At first I was struck by the novelty of the whole thing.

IMG_3224

And I had a little fun with it…

IMG_3185

[Rawr!]

Then I walked further into the house and saw this…

IMG_3221

And this…

IMG_3220

And this little guy…

IMG_3250

Then it struck me how very real and alive these animals used to be and I got really upset and kind of queasy. I mean, I’m all for meat-eating, but these animals weren’t hunted for food. This was entertainment, pure and simple. Except there wasn’t anything pure about it. There were so many stuffed animals – endangered animals – in this living room, I couldn’t look anywhere without coming face-to-face with death.

I couldn’t even look up at the ceiling without seeing something terrifying.

IMG_3183

Hey ya’ll, who’s ready to sing some arias! Where should we set up? Next to the giant stuffed bear? Yeah, that sounds about right. Except then we’ll have to stand directly on the zebra skin rug and my heels keep getting stuck in his mohawk… Whatever. Let’s just do this thing.

And we did. And it was awkward and more than a little unsettling.

Sorry for the creepy post.

Until next time…

S