It’s Okay to Not Be Okay – Today I Am Not Okay

We all have our strengths and weaknesses. One of my strengths is that I’m good under pressure. In fact, I thrive under it, which is one of reasons that I always pack my schedule. You give me two or three things to do in a day and tell me to get those things done by midnight and I’ll start an hour before. But give me 17 things to do, and the same deadline and I’ll have that shit delivered by 6. I don’t know why I’m that way, but I’ve been so my entire life.

Three weeks ago I had to make the very hard decision to postpone Connect Beyond Festival. I spent every moment that I wasn’t working on festival planning on reading or listening to every piece of information I could find on Covid-19. There was so much conflicting information at that point and figuring out what was true and false was so frustrating. I finally woke up one morning after little to no sleep and thought, “I cannot in good conscience move forward if it’s going to put people at risk.”

I have put everything into this festival; my heart, my soul, all my savings, and all the credit I have in my name. The point of the festival is to help people create the world they want to live in. We do this through stories, sharing different viewpoints, listening, learning, and collaborating. It involves months of curation of people from around the country, coordinating schedules of bands on tour, journalists, filmmakers with yet to be released films, activists, authors, and various other creators all making the time in their busy lives to come to Asheville. It was really hard to let all of that go.

It was equally as hard to go from running 100 miles an hour, working 14 hour days for weeks and months on end to a dead STOP. I couldn’t stop working and I didn’t. Once we announced the postponement of the festival (which we did a week after SXSW) we started to see live events everywhere deciding to cancel. I always say the music industry is the canary of the economy, and this proved to be as true as ever. I threw all of my energy into helping the music community, and specifically my community in Asheville. I reached out to MusiCares to see how I could help and spoke with my dear friend Josh Blake about what we can do. Josh and I are partners in crime when it comes to trying to help others. I didn’t take the time to process the loss of Connect. I cried for about 4 minutes the day we announced, told myself to suck it up, and went to work trying to raise money for those in the music community who lost gigs.

I decided to look at this sudden amount of time on my hands as a blessing in disguise, and decided I wasn’t going to waste it. My partner is home from the road as all his tour dates with Pitbull are canceled. He’s wanted to make music together for years and I never made the time…until now. We’ve been spending time in our home studio which has been great, and we’ve been cooking and gardening. I’m teaching workouts online as it’s another way I feel like I can support my community during this time. I’ve been sleeping in. Until the last few days, I was still going into Echo Mountain everyday and working as we’ve had sessions with one or two people. I’ve been very grateful for this last bit of normalcy in my life, although that just ended as of Saturday.

I’ve been enjoying my time, but I’ve also been ignoring this feeling in my stomach. A couple of days ago a good friend lost his mother unexpectedly. It wasn’t Covid related but because of the boundaries in place he could not be with her as she passed. This broke my heart for him and got me thinking about all of the people dying right now who do not have their loved ones by their side. What a terrible thing to not be able to hold the hand of your dying parent, or child, or partner. This bothers me so much to my core that it instantly brings me to tears each time I think about it. I am worried about my 73 year old mother who is still working in Florida who is not in great health. I am worried that I too could have to experience this terrible thing firsthand. The news of John Prine being intubated last night was hard as well. I have met John a few times and while I do not know him well at all, I had a wonderful experience with him at the celebration of Cowboy Jack Clement. He said to me, “This is one of the best nights of my entire life, and I just don’t want it to end.” I have a number of friends who are very close to John and I do not want them to have to experience losing him in such a way. Before bed last night I prayed for him, his family and loved ones, which is not something I normally do.

Today is my first day working from home and I woke up with a crick in my neck and a chip on my shoulder. I have been missing my dog that died in June and Facebook reminded me that 4 years ago today she was featured on NPR’s Instagram page for a story they did about Asheville. All I keep thinking is I wish she was still here so I could have this precious time with her, where I can be around 24/7 because she was attached to my foot. I don’t use the word hip because she was like a cat and only wanted to be touching me if we were both sleeping. If you’ve ever lost a pet, you know what I’m talking about.

Then I realized that this was the week that the festival should have been taking place. It’s funny how quickly the days and weeks run together, isn’t it? I also realized that I needed to be “staying relevant” and could do so by sharing past festival content that we hadn’t gotten around to posting. But then watching all the past concerts and panels and workshops made me really sad. I finally began to mourn the festival. It’s not just that I’m sad about postponing. As I said earlier, I created the festival to help people create the world they want to live in. To find ways in their personal life, in their community, in our social/economic/political systems to make change, to not feel so helpless. Right now, as I look around at all of our broken systems, I feel helpless. I know that deep down going through this will help us to change our broken systems and more than ever we need to persevere to use Connect Beyond as a resource to help that happen. But I feel sad, and helpless, and angry, and I’m missing my dog and my heart hurts both for people that I know and love, and strangers I don’t that are struggling right now.

Yes, we are all in this together and we can be in pain together. If you are struggling right now I just wanted to say…me too. And it’s okay. It’s okay to not be okay and for the time being I’m going to sit here in pain and cry and drink too much wine until I’ve had enough of all of it. And then I’ll be here for you when you need me.