What better day to start a blog than July 4th? Considering that the purpose of this blog is to celebrate the freedom that lies ahead of me, it seems only right that the blog be accompanied with some fancy fireworks. Grab a blanket, maybe grab a bottle of wine, find a cozy spot on the ground and join me in awe. It's time to celebrate freedom, both from the Brits back in 1776 and from a past that has kept me from living as fully as I should.
Almost four weeks ago I experienced a head-on collision of high and low in my life. On Monday, June 7th, I spent almost six hours at the Cleveland Clinic having my GFR calculated (it's a lovely test that involves being injected with a radioactive tracer, having blood drawn over and over, and filling up a jug of urine.) It's a long day and I was pretty nervous about what the results were going to be. GFR stands for glomerular filtration rate, which basically equates to how good the kidney is functioning. Kidney, singular in my case, cause I was born with only one. Lucky me. And I mean that sincerely. My sister was born without any kidneys and never had the chance I've been given at life. Indeed, I am lucky. But I wasn't feeling so lucky four weeks ago. I was aware that my kidney function had been on the decline, but I was unsure how bad the decline. So I went home and tried to focus on other things. Like my music.
I was preparing for the CD release of my first full length album, Get Up Girl, and that was far more exciting than peeing in a jug all day. My friend Mal came over and we worked on harmonies for a new song called "Wasted." Experiencing harmony with someone is truly one of the most magical moments in music and when it's good, it's sooooooooo good. I feel like I drift up in the clouds when the notes blend together. It's luscious. And we sat for three hours and made luscious sounds together. I felt music sweep in like Superman and save me from the anxiety stirring about my GFR.
Next day. Collision. I was at work and got a call from a nurse who wanted to set up an appointment with my Nephrologist. "By the way," she said, "he'll be out of town for the next two weeks." OUT OF TOWN? TWO WEEKS? I asked, "do you mean I have to wait two weeks to find out the results of my test." She said, "no, I can fill you in on the results today, but you will need to follow-up with him when you return." And just like that, she tossed over the numbers. "Your GFR is 26 and you are spilling blah blah blah amount of protein in your urine." Blah, blah, blah. She kept talking, but all I kept hearing was 26 repeat in my head. A year and 1/2 ago, it was 34. A year before that it was 42. Two years before that (before my pyleoplasty) it was 80. I was hoping for a plateau (because that's what the doctors had assured me would happen) but got another decline. I remember I was at work. In the supply closet. I stared in the mirror while she advised me about the importance of following up with my nephrologist. Of course. I said thank you and hung up. I walked out of the closet, back into the office and saw the faces of a a few of my co-workers. I knew they could see the news wasn't good. I just kept walking. I walked back into my classroom and joined one of my students in a game of Sorry. I think we played three times, and she won each game.
At the end of the day, I walked out of school and while I was heading to my car, my phone rang. It was not a number I recognized. Usually I don't answer if I don't know the number. But I did. And I'm glad I did. It turned out to be a music critic from Cleveland SCENE, who wanted to interview me and do a short feature in the paper about my show. My first music interview in five years of being a singer-songwriter. I went from feeling like I had been hit by a truck to feeling like I was dancing with Fred Astaire. "You've been under the radar for the past 5 years, why haven't I heard of you?" he asked. That was a very big question and I knew he didn't have time for all the details, so I just said, "I wasn't ready." I wish I could remember the exact exchanges within the conversation. But I was so floored with excitement that I just remember feeling like he was extremely kind and that he compared me to an early Cat Power. I hung up the phone and realized my life was in the midst of major change. For the first time in five years, I was really investing in my music and it dawned on me that the the more I put in, the more I would get. For the first time someone in the music business was taking my music seriously because I was taking my music seriously. Yes, it may just be Cleveland SCENE. But it's a start. And all big dreams start somewhere small.
So, in a matter of 24 hours, I realized that my kidney is failing and my music career is just getting started. I knew the Universe was giving me the freedom to do whatever I wanted with this cup of information. Is it half full, or half empty? I want it full. Not just half full. I want to approach the journey that lies ahead of me with a mindset to always see the good, regardless of how challenging it may be. And herein lies the sweetest of freedom.