After all, when I made my demo, I didn’t think I’d eventually be living in Los Angeles for love and not for music. I also didn’t think funeral and wedding singing would stick, that I’d continue to be summoned to witness life’s big transitions, or that my pop music pursuits would dwindle. I didn’t picture myself clinging to 500 compact discs, each identical square redundant, obsolete. I didn’t think a pandemic would pause our lives — and that those CDs, which were intended to be the doorstep to my future, would become the cause of a recurring fight.
When the coronavirus confined us at home, and Alan and I were laden with the disappointment of unemployment and our postponed winter wedding, he embarked on another naked cleaning spree. I stood face-to-face again with my resistance to let go of the CDs. Alan, as determined (and nude) as ever, held up an abstract painting he’d made with his nervous quarantine energy.
He ripped it up in front of my eyes. I stared at the scraps of red, gold and white.
An hour later, he surprised me with a new painting, made from remnants of the last one, puzzled together in pieces I never would have thought could fit. It was beautiful.
Even though it took Alan years to add layers and touches to his self-portrait, he could dispose of it in a moment. And while my spectator neighbors might have thought Alan and I were breaking up, I was falling more in love. The fact that Alan draws hope, humor, even enchantment from the world as it is, despite its letdowns and losses, inspires me to embrace the mystery of what is to come.
He also inspires me to re-examine the mystery in what’s already happened.
All those years when I sang at funerals and weddings, there were sacred, momentary echoes that those love ballads and mourning songs left behind. I sang in vast churches, wooded backyards, muggy funeral parlors, snowy cemeteries. As my voice rang out, new truths washed over me — finally I’m starting to see them. I can view the universe as it is; I can hold and behold both grief and beauty. Those songs were like the shine of sun bouncing up from Alan’s gold frame. They were flashes that happened so fast, I could only detect their dimming. And yet surrendering to their end evoked something I can only describe as a feeling of eternity.
Someday we must let go of all that is precious — our loved ones, dreams that never materialized, and what we made in and of this world. These truths birth our common pain, our collective grief. They don’t always make sense, but Alan leans into these mystifying, often terrifying truths with abandon. And this gives me courage.