Covid-19 Taught Me The Purpose of Stillness

May 2, 2020

Yesterday, I was finishing the build on my segmented-aluminum endcaps for Joybug’s interior design. (Yes, I’m still plugging away at her restoration.)

Building endcaps was for the longest time, a project that intimidated me even from a distance. As it drew closer, it only got scarier. Granted, I had met each prior task by learning the skill necessary to do the work. But this was different – this was art. 

Art is my speciality, so it’s rather ironic that finally, when it came time to be artistic, I got cold feet. Anybody can grab a wire brush, put it on a drill base and remove rust on a frame. Anyone can learn to buck rivets. Anyone can install bolts, nuts, washers. Even my marker lights, which had a steep learning curve, felt like pragmatic work. But now it was time to give my girl, a soul. 

I’d always dreamed of creating interior end caps that would be the “statement piece” inside Joybug. And now, with the foundational work complete, the 12V wiring done, and the 110V being worked on, I realized that the vision I’d been working towards all this time was now at my door. It was time to take that vision and make it reality. But for any artist, this is scarier than it seems.

Creating templates for my first end cap out of poster board

A blank page for a writer may be intimidating as hell, but it’s also full of possibilities. A writer recognizes that as he or she writes a story, all the possibilities of what could have been, are narrowed down to fewer and fewer, until at last the creative work IS what it IS, and can be nothing else. There is beauty in that, because something new is born. But there is a fear too in the process of narrowing what might be, into what you ultimately create.

So it is with the sculptor and his lump of clay – every cut removes what could have been, and when he is finished and the clay dries, he cannot go back: his creation is finished.

When the Muse speaks to me through music, it is like a picture in my mind that is unfocused and blurry, but on fire. I choose notes, melodies, chords and lyrics to bring the picture into focus. If Joybug was to be the greatest “story” I have ever told, then choosing every nuance of her design was paramount, as it would ultimately birth her into life.

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When the COVID-19 Pandemic hit hard, it yanked the emergency brake on in my life. I typically keep a very busy pace; working 6 or 7 nights a week, 3 or 4 days too, gigging like crazy. Working on Joybug in between when I’m not too exhausted. Life has been for a long time, a blur.

Even when I got sick with Mono almost 20 months ago, I didn’t stay still for very long. I waited 2 months on bed rest, and 6 months before deciding (while still sick) to travel to the Middle East and Europe for a 5 week solo trekking adventure. I lost my apartment during that time, so when I came home, my life only moved faster. I moved 3 more times in the next 9 months. Yet I STILL decided to write a one-woman-show, rent a theatre, and perform my original music and poetry for the first time in 6 years. I also decided to record and release another album.

The stress of my living circumstances, coupled with working late nights, and stretching myself to the limit, caused my Mono to become Chronic Activated Epstein Barr Virus…which I am still living with to this day. Everyone told me to be still. Everyone told me I was doing too much. But it felt like telling a bird not to fly.

The COVID-Pandemic grounded me because it made gigging impossible. Working late nights became obsolete. In fact, I haven’t played a single gig since March 7th. And with the days stretching out in front of me like a blade, I found myself back at Joybug, with nothing but time, and I sat on her floor in the cold winter air, and I listened. I became still.

Building Segmented Aluminum endcaps

Joybug always reveals the wisdom of my heart when I am still enough to listen. And she told me two things:

  1. Focus on your health – slow down, sleep long, eat well, breathe. Recover.
  2. Do not fear making the “first cut”, or writing “the first melody” or inking “the wet page”.

She told me that in a time where everything felt like it was being breaking down around me, this was the time to build. Build my body. Build my strength. Build my immune system. And Build my Joybug.

Thoughtfully. Slowly. Meditatively. 

So I began to rebuild my body – choosing not to worry about where the money would come from, and put my faith in God. I went to bed early, I ate extremely well, I slept long hours, I laid in the sun. I started to rebuild myself and make peace with my illness.

And I started to rebuild Joybug again. Specifically, my end caps – taking my time, creating drafts from poster board, and then when I was ready, from aluminum. I fell in love with the process. It turns out, that metal speaks to me. I love the cold, smooth texture of metal, I love how you can play with it, I love how it reflects light, I love how it changes when exposed to the elements. Metal is alive.

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In the weeks of isolation during COVID, I poured 40 hours into building two segmented-aluminum-endcaps for Joybug. The first one has mistakes, that hopefully only I will see. But just like every other part of this journey, the mistakes have created a physical diary of not only her rebirth, but my own. I could walk a visitor through her, and show them the journey of the 800 hours that have transformed me from a girl who couldn’t hold a drill, into a metal worker. That is the beauty of Joybug. 

And yesterday, for the first time in almost a year, I was able to walk 30 minutes at a fast pace and break a sweat in my neighborhood without crashing with fatigue and needing to nap. It was so amazing to feel my heart rate rise (inability to recover from exercise is an CAEBV symptom), and put on gym clothes. No, I’m not the girl who can run 16 miles a week anymore, but walking my neighborhood was bliss.

And towards the end, as I neared my home, I even got caught in a sun shower. It was divine.

COVID has taught me that being still isn’t about not moving, it’s about building an awareness about how to move, how much to move, and when to move. This lesson, for me, is golden. I may have everything to fear in this pandemic crisis: no income, an auto immune illness, and even after the reopening of America, a job that will put me at high risk performing in bars with drunks and an inability to protect myself with a mask.

But I have to say, I feel immense peace right now within myself. And I feel protected. I feel still. I feel good.

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