Friday, February 14, 2014

Amanda Palmer is my Patronus

Lots of people have famous people that they think of as embodying a specific portion of themselves. I have a girlfriend who swears that Beyonce is the living version of her sexuality. Another friend believes Louis C.K. is—in fact—his conscience brought to life. I don't let him watch my children (he knows why).  And I always thought this was something akin to stroking your ego. I mean, it's awfully grand to think that instead of Jiminy Cricket, you've got Louis C.K. sitting on your shoulder telling you to "go ahead and eat that piece of cake, what the hell, you're probably going to be dead from a fucking heart-attack soon anyway," but if you sat down and thought about it, that's kind of depressing.

So I resisted from doing this personification, it just seemed kind of... douchey. 
And then I had this really weird dream....

I was walking into a house. I knew there was going to be a party in the house, and I was excited about going, but I was also anxious because I felt like I didn't belong at the party for some reason. But I didn't know WHY I didn't belong, and that's why I was anxious. So I'm wandering through this house, which I think was a rundown mansion type of thing--like something from a movie set in the South (think Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil or Gingerbread Man).  And everyone was hanging out, and kind of being chill, and I was still wandering from room to room because I just couldn't find a place that seemed like it was ok to stay because all I could see were people enjoying themselves and I was so anxious. And then I turned around a corner--because at this point I figured I would just leave--and ran smack into Neil Gaiman.

As an aside, I met Mr. Gaiman in person once. He signed my poster (to Jenni: Endless Wishes), and colored in the ankh on Death with a silver sharpie. I still have that poster rolled up and safely stored away.

Anyway, back to the dream. He was dressed in typical Neil fashion: black tee-shirt, darkish jeans, dark shoes, and impossibly good looking tousled hair. Neil apologized in his soft British voice, and told me that he was glad he ran into me. Apparently we were on friendly terms in my dream, because... why not? And I was confused and apologized and told him I was thinking about going home because I just didn't feel very good, and he said, "not until you say hi to Amanda."  Now the Amanda in question is AMANDA FUCKING PALMER*, so there is no way I'm going to say no regardless of how awful I feel.

So we wander into what looks like a comfy looking den, with squashy cushions and ottomans and built-in bookcases with paperback books and a nice fireplace with a comfy looking fire. and sitting on a particulary fancy moroccan pouf was Amanda. She was carelessly strumming a ukulele, not really playing it, but making a clever little melody just the same. She was talking to a pretty girl with long brown hair, speaking in a hushed tone that seemed perfectly appropriate to the room in question. As we walked in, she looked up and smiled and apologized to the girl who got up and walked out, briefly hugging Neil on the way out.

Amanda gestured for me to sit down on the ottoman across from her, and I but my feet didn't seem to want to move. Neil gave me a little nudge, "she won't bite you unless you ask her to, I promise." and then he giggled. Still, my feet wouldn't move. Amanda got up slowly, uncrossing her legs and setting down the uke on another footstool. She was dressed just like I always thought she would be, comfy sweats hung low on her hips, a t-shirt that hung off one shoulder and feet that were gloriously bare. She gamely took my hand and led me to sit by the fire, sitting me down on the pouf she had been sitting on, then curled up like a cat across from me, tucking her legs under her and looking at me with what felt like unblinking eyes.

"So," she said, "tell me." I picked up the uke and started strumming it absent-mindedly, focusing on remembering chords, but not talking. A few moments pass, and I finally look up at her. She's just sitting there, a smile playing on her lips, but not saying anything. waiting... waiting for me to say something. And finally I just start talking, and it's like someone opened a dam. I'm talking about how I felt about people I know dying, why I was upset that I couldn't play my uke at my mother-in-law's funeral, how I felt like I was being put into a role in my family that I didn't want to fill, everything. And she just sat there listening, nodding on occasion... sometimes reaching out and touching my arm lightly and squeezing slightly, and eventually I run out of things to say.

And she sits back slightly, and says, "well? feel better?" And I say, "well a little, I guess." And then I'm caught up in a hug, and it's like nothing I've ever felt. I don't like to be held normally. Even if I like someone I pretty much just allow myself to be held--my body doesn't fully relax. My husband is probably the only person besides the kids who I have allowed to hug me fully and be hugged in return. And this reminds me of a hug like that, except it's somehow more. And then I realize in an instant, that Amanda Fucking Palmer is my patronus.

She's not a physical manifestation of some bullshit part of my personality--she's like a patronus in the Harry Potter books--she protects me from the dementors, and allows me to escape with my mind intact. And I pull back from her slightly to look at her clearly, and she smiles a wicked smile and says, "figured it out, did you?" And then we both laugh and collapse back on the impossibly comfy couch that has now taken the spot of the poufs. 

And from there the conversation turns to ukulele technique and she shows me an easier way to do the D chord, which I can't manage very well because I have a wonky pinkie. And then we laugh about wonky pinkies, and in the middle of another laughing fit she smiles and touches my hand again and starts to tell me what I need to do to keep myself healthy. And it's silly things: drink more tea, remember to actually hold your abs in when you do poses in yoga because you're going to hurt your back, try to show the kids physical affection, always hold hands with your husband when have the chance... and speak your mind.

And then she gave me another hug and whispered something in my ear (I don't remember it) and Neil said, "it's time to wake up, I think." And I woke up.  I remember looking at the clock, and realizing I didn't have to get up for another 1/2 hour or so.  So I settled my head back down on my pillow and thought about what my mind was trying to tell me.  I reached out and took my husbands hand and laid it across my stomach, feeling the callouses on his palm through my tee-shirt and waited for the day to begin.

Later in the day, after we had dropped off our kids at church camp, I finally told him how I had been feeling. And it was like ripping off a band-aid—it felt so much better. And then when I got home, I finally sat down and played my uke again.

*If you don't know who Amanda Palmer is (outside of maybe a throwaway Twin Peaks reference), then you are a sad human being and should google her right away. Also, in addition to being my ukulele hero, she is married to Neil Gaiman.

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