Every once in awhile, I get completely jolted into awakening. It's like the universe taking me by the shoulders, shaking me, and saying, "Wake up to your life. Look! Listen! Pay attention!"
Usually these moments happen exactly when I admit to myself that I just don't know. When I completely surrender to not knowing, and just relax there, it's my way of asking for guidance. I'm opening to the possibility of something waking me up.
Last Wednesday was one of those moments.
I dragged myself to another open mic at Angelica's. After going every week for nearly six months now, I admit that sometimes it's a bit of a chore to get myself there. But I do it because I know that playing music and seeing other musicians play - and frankly, the "you-never-know-who'll-show-up" factor - will feed my soul in some way.
I even brought my computer this time, because I had been on a bit of a writing "roll" before I left the house, and thought I might pass the time by writing.
It was Game One of the World Series, with the San Francisco Giants playing. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. In other words, we didn't expect peak attendance at that night's open mic.
Well, it ended up being proof that quality far outweighs quantity.
A young Asian woman came in, with her father and younger sister standing by the door. She had thick, black hair, with a braid draped over her right shoulder. She was confident yet also eager to please, and approached our table to sign up for the Talent Show. She'd read about it online. She was girlish, pleasant, and in a soft voice told us her name was Kelli.
"Where are you from?" I asked.
"San Bernadino County," she said.
Yes, all the way from southern California. The band was on their way north to Oregon for a gig, and this was a stop along the way.
We were dazed and distracted, already having "written off" the night as a low-attendance, low-energy kind of deal. The sign-up sheet wasn't ready, we had no idea who was going to be a judge for the Talent Show, and we thought it was just going to be a low-key group of friends playing for one another. Meanwhile, we had a computer plugged in so we could get updates on the World Series game that “everyone else” seemed to be watching.
I went onstage with my guitarist/vocalist Randy to "warm up" the room, and we played some songs that I had never played before. The pressure was off, the stakes were low, so the thought was, “Why not?”. I wasn't thrilled with any of the sounds I created, and I frankly wasn't that excited to play. I was doing the closest thing to "phoning it in" that a musician can do onstage.
Across the room, Kelli's table had filled up with two other women, in addition to her father and little sister.
They were last in the sign-up order. And this is what we heard:
A smile spread across my face as I started to bop along with the upbeat, almost Europop/British invasion style groove. They had such an ease, transparency, and joy to their music.
It stopped me in my tracks. I saw a family. I saw togetherness. I saw a proud father, driving his four daughters on a musical road trip up the Pacific Coast. I saw light in their eyes, and a beaming smile on the father's face.
After their three song set as Ramekega, the band, they had signed up Kaira, age 7, to sing her own set.
Here's one of her originals:
Again, I saw the togetherness of a family united by something powerful. I felt it, saw it, heard it, but couldn't name it.
Everyone ended up doing a second set that night. So when I stepped onto the stage a second time, I went inward to acknowledge what I had seen in these girls. They had touched me with their obvious joy and light. They had reminded me of the joy and light I know I have, and I know were once radiating so transparently through my being, but have recently been fogged, blurred somehow.
I played with all the heart I could muster. I was happier. I felt like I had honored myself a little more this time.
And afterwards, I approached the Ramekega girls (Melissa, Kelli, Gabrielle) to know a bit more about their story. Was there another sister? Just one more, the oldest, in nursing school.
And mom is at home? "Our mom passed away. When I was 12," said 16-year-old Melissa matter-of-factly.
"Oh I'm so sorry for blurting that out!" I said as I put my hand to my heart, taking in an even deeper level of what I'd just experienced. I looked from her to her father (still smiling, sitting calmly, beholding all of his beautiful daughters busily writing down email addresses, signing forms, collecting money for CDs). And I really listened to the story. Their mom had passed away. And so this is family. This is it. This is life. This is music. On the road together. Just living the dream. When they could be wallowing in what others call a nightmare.
And then I knew what chord had been struck in my heart. The nameless place inside me that had been cracked open by Ramekega's music came into brief focus for me. It was love.
What I saw and felt in their performance was the pure joy of love when it shines brightly through words, actions, and results.
And that still-incomplete piece inside me is my love. I'm believing that I am getting closer to accessing the fullness of my love for life and everything I have come to life to be and do. And the beautiful girls of Ramekega helped wake me up to what still needs to be done.
Thank you for the wake-up call, girls! Keep spreading your love.
P.S. Ramekega will be back at Angelica's in Redwood City to compete in the final round of the "We've Got Talent" show on Friday, December 17. You can enter too...more details on the competition here>>
Photo credit: Alarm clock by Oscar Megia, used under a Creative Commons License