32 & Foolish: “I had to steel myself everyday.”

Five years ago, I decided to use the fact that friends and family feel obligated to you on your birthday to do some collective good – thus birthed the “Whitney Birthday Benefit Concert”. The deal is the same annually – I put on a concert and all the money raised for the night goes to support something or the thing associated with the person who has made an impact on my previous year. For year 32, I am unbelievably grateful and thrilled to partner with Alive and Kickin: The Twin Cities Premiere Senior Ensemble composed of rockstars ages 65-93. A&K was founded by Michael Matthew Ferrell with co-direction/music direction by Jason Hansen, a fellow Catalyst. What began as a choir has now grown into something closer to a human services organization using music and performance as its primary tool. If you’ve never attended an Alive & Kickin’ concert, I can’t wait for you to meet them. Learn more HERE.

I’ve discovered that I find greater intention in my birthday concerts if I have a really specific idea to creatively dig into. What inspires me the most about Alive & Kickin’ is the way they so openly embrace sharing their own stories. It is the core and heartbeat of the structure of their performances and “32 & Foolish” will honor this idea. I wanted to pose the question to the group “what advice would you give your younger self?” to curate from and thankfully the cast let me spend some time with them to provide me with guidance. Much like attending one of their concerts, their stories made me both laugh and feel incredibly moved. I look forward to sharing all of what I learned in February but I want to talk about something specific today.

I was on a run this morning, listening to the recorded conversation for probably the third time as I debate ideas for songs. I’m unsure if it was the nature of the past few weeks, but I caught an unexpected tear run down my cheek as I heard again a story that seems to resonate so intently right now:

“I had to steel myself every day for what might come that day. The women of today don’t actually know what we did.”

She’s right.

I have no idea. I know I am deeply grateful for it. I know I am lucky because of it. And I know I’ve much to learn still about how one gathers strength in times of conflict. How one holds, builds, sustains internal power in the “gut check” days.

I feel a lot of things about being a woman in this world right now.

I feel more aware of it than I ever have.
I feel more aware of the negativity I’ve unknowingly (or knowingly) given permission to. I feel more aware of how far we’ve fallen from the desire for common ground.
I feel more aware of how complex and nuanced the human condition is.
I feel more aware of how threatening expectation is.
And how dangerously close expectation walks with hope.

I often feel unequipped to know where to start to better be an ally so I try to learn as much and as frequently as I can. I say “help me understand” when I don’t think I do. I don’t pretend that I can empathize with situations that are so wildly beyond my reality; instead I’m working to always give space for reflection of situations that are so wildly beyond my reality. I have stopped trying to predict human response so that I can selfishly feel more prepared and instead have built in time for processing. I halt the feelings of anger because when I move to angry, I get stuck, it’s just who I am. Now is not the time to get stuck. So when I feel negatively, I try to spend more breaths with disappointment, frustration, even sadness; emotions I know I can do something with.

I’ve realized, I too, am steeling myself on some level. And desperately, carefully, attempting to not let that steel stop my heart from staying open. Maybe there’s a way to make that steel composed of something softer. I’m not sure yet. I don’t know. I’m trying to get really comfortable with admitting how much I don’t know. 

But I look forward to continuing to listen to this conversation to see what more I can learn.

I will be sharing promo materials in the new year and I will dedicate a post to telling you a bit more about “why Alive & Kickin’” and what you can expect on February 12th. But for now, I just beg everyone to dig deeply into kindness. Rediscover respect. Listen more. We can do better by each other. In fact, we must. With no time to waste.

Sending light to you and yours,

Whit

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