When they only have a B flat part for your E flat Alto

I wake up every morning to a morning routine. Petting the cat. Checking email and Facebook. And most importantly this morning pep talk. It is half prayer, and half self encouragement- to convince myself that this is going to be a good day, a day worth living. And before my feet hit the floor, I have to be convinced… or at least before I get out of the shower… or out the front door to walk the dog.

I realize now that this anxiety and depression, it didn’t start with Ethan’s death… that there are bits of it I have dealt with all of my life. That I grew up in between worlds. Poor. Single parent loud and contentious household. Half white, half asian in a poor latino neighborhood. Mouthy and hyperactive… even though I was the youngest of seven… isolated.

I didn’t fit in with my neighbors, or with the Japanese American church. I wasn’t hispanic. I wasn’t really white. I wasn’t really Japanese. At school I stood out and got attention from teachers and students that was never the kind I wanted. And early on I wanted to be hispanic or white to fit in.

But then I realized I just wanted to be treated like I fit in.

I always had one or two friends who made life okay. I went from being “Sam” and trying to fit in, to “Sabro”. And I found places where it felt like I belonged… and success here and there, I found God,
and I thought I was past all the anxiety and hyperactivity and that strange childhood self doubt.

But it came back.

And there are days where everything is really wrong and I’m looking at people with judgmental eyes, asking God, why they are alive and my son is not. There are days when that pep talk fades with what I see as stupidity and waste enters in. And it is easier to lash out and push and throw elbows. There are days when I can’t face the sadness and emptiness of a permanent loss… and we all know that anger is easier than sadness. And when all I can feel inside is fear and frustration and anger… as intolerable as that may be, it is easier than simply and honestly facing the loss in my life.

And suddenly I am facing the world as that little kid… the one that went by Sam instead of Sabro. Who tried with all futility to fit in, to make friends, to be accepted. And I don’t know how to shut up, or sit still, or what to say. And I don’t know how to slow it all down and take it in.

I just want to disappear. I just want to die.

And there is a pill for that.

Or painting. Or walking.

But most of all, breathing and looking at something to find some stillness. And it doesn’t matter really what it is… but finding the beauty in common, ordinary things… composing still lifes in my head. Listening to the music of every day existence. Finding the goodness of God.

Job is the oldest book in the Bible. In it, Job’s entire life is totally fucked over to prove a point about him cursing God… and even though he loses everything but a couple of lousy friends, he won’t do it. And finally after losing every child in his family all seven sons and three daughters, and being discarded and abandoned, lying covered in sores on the ash heap at the edge of town, he does have that little conversation with God… and God answers by asking Job questions… “”Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” God puts poor Job on trial… asking him repeatedly (and with amazing poetic imagery) rhetorical questions about his knowledge of the hidden complexity of the universe that point out our human ignorance… AND that is it. Job is a finite creature without the ability or wisdom to understand the infinite.

Deal with it, Job.

But here is the thing. The story doesn’t end there. Job repents. Job is healed. He regains his fortune, gets a new family and goes on with life. After all of this, Job realizes that this God is not only real and sovereign and all knowing and all powerful… but he decides that He is good and that life is worth living.

I don’t really know what that all means… or what my initial point was. But I think that is as good as any.

So I had a dream where I was playing alto sax and was handed a tenor part and told to play it… which is fine, but you have to transpose as you go. Altos are e flat. Tenors are b flat. So first I have to know in my head what key I am in… moving down 2.5 steps, or in the case of my dream, from the key of a flat to e flat. Then in my head I just have to move all the lines up 2.5 steps, and here is the trick… what was in between is now on the line. And it is somewhat easier because it mimics the register break on a clarinet… which I learned on. So that a C becomes a G…. (In the lower register what is fingered as a C is a G on an Alto.)

And sometimes life is like that.



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