Category Archives: personal stories

With Broken Glass For Us To Hold

I’m so sorry that today’s post is so late. I had good intentions to get it done before a meeting I had but that led to a massive headache. Although, to be fair, the headache did not have one specific cause but many. It isn’t like today is any worse than any other day but life has all built up to be a lot. To be too much. Let me explain. First, there is a lot about my job that is headache-worthy, including a schedule for next year that is terrible, more work on my plate, a significant pay cut and the loss of job security. On top of that, no one knows how school will be implemented. I wish that I felt like I had choices, job wise, but I have few, if any. Then, I have spent the week with my parents, taking my mom to and from medical appointments. Thankfully, she is well but it has been exhausting to always be the care giver. If all that was not enough, the fall election is less than 140 days and the pressure is already beginning. Now, I could take all of that but, in addition, I have had a lot of people contacting me about what to do about work, or the political climate, or their own lives, etc. and so forth. Generally speaking, I like being the person that people can rely on, the person people turn to, the person who provides advice. Right now, though, I’m left feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. I feel like I cannot help any of that as I cannot even help myself. All I want to do is turn away from the world and escape.

I’m even thinking about this escape in my sleep. Last night, I had a dream about the method I have been using to run away from life for the last 15 years or so. That’s right. I dreamt that I was at a Duran Duran concert. Unfortunately, I don’t remember all of the details but I know it as a Duran show as I talked about how many times I had seen them before. In the dream, I went to two different shows as I had a different seat for both of them. I didn’t even mind that my seat for the second show was terrible or that I couldn’t even see the stage really at all. I was just so thrilled to be there. Anyway, I have always known that concerts provide me a break from the everyday hassle of life. They allowed me to get away from my house, my city, my state, and sometimes my country all the while letting my responsibilities to be pushed to the side at least for awhile. I didn’t have to think about my to do list, or how my parents, my students, my campaign was going. No, on tour, it was all about fun and laughing. It was about music and dancing and joy.

I always knew and appreciated the magic of touring. Now, though, I recognize that it was deeper than that. It renewed my spirit and my strength in a deeper way than I even knew. After a tour, I could do more. I could continue to work hard, to give 110%, to fight the good fight. These days, I could use a lot of that as I even more to do, even more to worry about. But, that is not an option. There are no concerts or tours on my horizon. While I am lucky to have friends to chat with via text, email or zoom, none of that is the same as the all-consuming fun experience of being on tour. All of this leaves me sad and feeling less strong, less able to take on the world.

As I finish up the blog, I recognize that I am not alone in feeling overwhelmed, sad, and missing what life used to be like. I know that I’m not. I also can acknowledge that I have it better than many people. I know that. I’m lucky to have good health, a family and friends who care about me, a job, etc. Likewise, I can be hopeful that tomorrow will be better. Until then, I will hide myself away from the world, wishing I could be a concert with fellow fans, screaming, dancing and singing the night away.

-A

-A

A Year I’m Not Likely To Forget

2020 has been a real shit show so far, hasn’t it?

If we weren’t already feeling the effects of being essentially locked away in our homes, or afraid of the what-if’s involved with a global pandemic, angry/mortified/terrified of the decisions being made by our leaders, including one who likes to govern via Twitter…there’s widespread unrest (for lack of a better term coming to mind, and I apologize for the attempt to sum it up in a single word) in the US.

If you’re included in my immediate family, on top of all of that, you’ve narrowly escaped a real tragedy in the past week.

Last Tuesday evening, my husband suffered a stroke. It’s really weird to type that. Even when I say the words, they don’t feel right coming out of my mouth. Since that night, I think I’ve walked on a virtual path of eggshells, not knowing exactly where it’s safe to step. I am beginning to feel the sort of exhaustion that comes with being on edge for nearly a week, and to be fair – we have a ways to go before things might go back to some sort of normalcy. Things like self-care, watching the news, or even deep breathing are all things I sort of put aside last week. I felt like I lived in a cave, really. In fact, I was so absorbed, that I didn’t even about George Floyd, the protests, or even the extent of violent rioting, until maybe Saturday night.

Telling the story is helping me process, so bear with me. Last Tuesday at around 5:30, I went into the bedroom to practice clarinet. The day had been very warm – I’d say it had reached a high of about 98 degrees (F), but it had begun to cool off. That’s important because while I was practicing, unbeknownst to me at the time, Walt – my husband – had decided to walk up to the top of our property to plant three small fruit trees that we needed to get in the ground. He disagrees with me, but I believe it was about 85 by the time he’d walked up the hill. I finished practicing about 6:30, and heard our dog Gizmo barking outside. I went out to investigate and found him at the turnaround point in our driveway/private road down to the house. I walked him down to the house, and set about making dinner.

I found out later that Walt had been up the hill at the time, looking down at me with Gizmo. Walt disagrees with me, but it’s not normal for Gizmo to bark at Walt unless something was wrong. Walt thinks Gizmo thought he was a gardener, and that’s…well, I know my dog. I don’t think that’s what Gizmo was barking about, but I’ll never know.

I’d gone back into the bedroom to fold a load of laundry, and came out to find Walt on the couch, beer in hand, sitting across from our oldest. I paid no attention as I walked to the kitchen and did some dishes, only to hear some commotion. I turned around and Walt had apparently fallen asleep while sitting up, and dropped his beer bottle, pouring out about half of the beer on him. That woke him up, and he and Heather were mopping it up.

This was weird for two reasons. First of all, in all of the time I’ve known Walt, he has NEVER dropped a beer bottle while napping. In fact, the guy regularly falls asleep at night on the couch holding a wine glass, a beer bottle, a small glass of whiskey…and never drops it. Me, I can’t seem to hold onto things while fully awake. The kids and I have always marveled at how he never seems to drop glasses or bottles in his sleep. Secondly, he spilled about half the bottle before snapping to attention, which seemed weird to all of us. I’m the klutz in the family, not Walt – whose reflexes have always been superhero like. This is a man who catches things in midair if I drop them! So, my senses were already on high alert. I think I knew something was off right away.

He walked over to the kitchen to throw paper towels away and I immediately saw that he wasn’t walking normal, kind of stumbling a bit. Not horribly, but enough. Something else, too. He had a weird sort of half-smirk on his face, and that’s not an expression I have *ever* seen Walt have…and good lord knows I’ve given him enough reasons to smirk at me over the years! I called him over and told him to look at me. From the second I saw his face, I think I knew definitively…but I didn’t want to believe.

Immediately, I ran through the stroke checklist I knew: BE FAST: Balance Eyes Face Arms Speech Time (to call 911). His balance was definitely off. I asked him if he could see and he said it was fine, but later I found out that he was seeing double…because why bother telling the truth to your wife when you’re ill, right?? ugh!!! His face was the teeniest bit droopy. His arms seemed to be fine (you have someone raise their arms and see if they struggle to keep them level), Speech – well, he couldn’t say my name (the most alarming thing I have ever heard in my life, by far) and words were garbled. So, that left me with time. Time to call 911…and my darling husband wasn’t having ANY of it. He fought me. I’d go so far as to say he was combative. Heather tried reasoning with him. I tried reasoning with him. Our youngest told us to listen to dad, and Gavin said he probably just had heat exhaustion. Walt was very quiet, and insisted that we leave him alone. I haven’t seen him that angry in a long time. The fact is, even thought I was sure…I wasn’t sure beyond a shadow of a doubt. Then again, I’m not a doctor…and also I’m really bad at fighting my headstrong husband.

We ate dinner, I watched him attempt to cover the fact he couldn’t hold a fork properly, and then, in an act of sheer bravado, as I was putting laundry away, he did the dishes. He never does the dishes. Then announced that he was really tired, and that he would not be going to the hospital. He needed rest from… you know, planting trees….couldn’t tell me how MANY he planted, but he was damn tired.

In hindsight, I should have strong-armed him into the car. I should have insisted. But I didn’t, and Heather agreed we needed it to be his decision. He was conscious, and aside from his being super quiet compared to normal and a smirk that no one in the house seemed to notice besides me, it didn’t seem serious. We went through a dozen other possible ailments, but I kept coming back to stroke.

We went to bed that night, and I couldn’t sleep. I had to have my hand on him the entire night for fear he’d stop breathing. He murmured in his sleep, and I laid there awake. The next morning, he got up late for his 7am conference call, but made his way into the office to take it. I took a shower, and as I was leaving the bedroom he came back in to take his own shower. I looked at him, seeing that he was pretty much the same. The next thing I knew, he was calling me. I went running. He was cold, clammy and lightheaded. That’s when I announced that we were going to the hospital and that was it. I called Heather, she came down to the house and we loaded him in the car.

At the hospital, we had to say goodbye to him at the door, thanks to Covid-19. I didn’t know what to think. On one hand, I hoped it would be anything BUT a real stroke. On the other, I knew what I saw. What I didn’t expect was that the hospital wouldn’t call me. I eventually did hear from Walt much later that day. He texted two words: small stroke. We asked for the hospital to call, which they did not. Later, as in yesterday, we found out that the hospital had gotten the wrong number to call me, and that Walt didn’t exactly mention that they needed to release all information to me, which didn’t help. My advice to anyone reading is to take the time to print out a sheet with emergency contact numbers and be SURE that the hospital knows who to call when and if your loved one goes in during Covid-19. That would have saved me a lot of stress and a few less points on my own blood-pressure meter.

So the end of the story, for now, is that yes…Walt came home. That alone is cause for celebration. I have friends who have already lost husbands, and one that lost hers from a massive stroke, so yes, I am lucky. The unfortunate thing is that no one has a stroke and gets away unscathed. There are some speech issues that he will be in therapy to manage. The confusion I recognized off the bat is starting to go away, the slight droop or smirk on his face is better now, but comes back the more tired he is. Even speaking has gotten better with each passing day. The more he talks, the more pathways in his brain get rebuilt. His personality is mostly the same, although because his speech is a bit of a struggle, sometimes I worry that I lost part of him. This is scary.

And, because I am me – I challenged him to Scrabble over the weekend. The joke was of course, that this may be the only time I’d ever beat him. I was wrong. Not only did he wipe the floor with me, he didn’t lose one single bit of his strategic game play.

It was the first time I was overjoyed to be the loser.

I just want to finish by thanking everyone for checking in on me or sending me notes via Twitter. Thank you for not saying anything on Facebook – Walt was adamant that he be the one to tell his family, and although I desperately needed support last week, I wanted to respect his wishes. I’d also like to thank Simon, Katy, John, and Roger because without their programming last week, I am positive I would have lost my mind. It was hard enough as it was! At least, I had a few things to take my mind off of what could be happening at the hospital, if even for an hour or two. THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. I know you don’t do any of it for just me, but last week – it sure felt that way – and I just can’t thank all of you enough.

I need to sign off for now, as we’re having a home visit from the hospital to make sure that Walt has ever thing he needs to ensure the best recovery possible. I will gladly accept any and all positive notes, vibes, tweets, etc for the coming weeks.

-R

New Playlists and Music Or Not?

This week I took note that Simon has been developing a “STAYING IN” playlist and sharing it via Duran Duran’s social media. First of all, I appreciate that he (or any of the band members share what music they are listening to or would recommend). I think it is pretty cool that he keeps adding to it so it is not just a go check it out once and done sort of thing but works to keep people’s interest longer. I am also glad that there is something that the band is doing on social media just to keep them active and help give some distraction to their fans sheltering in place. Of course, it is not quite the same as some activity in which there is at least a sense of interaction but it is something.

Interestingly enough, though, I’m struggling to actually go over to Spotify and listen to the playlist. Why the heck is that? Do I not like Simon’s taste? Obviously, that is a silly question. How do I know if I don’t listen to all of the songs? Besides, I doubt that there is any person that I’m completely in alignment with when it comes to music. My goodness, Rhonda and I agree on a lot when it comes to Duran Duran’s music but we do verge at times. For example, outside of Duran, I’m way more into Depeche Mode or more electronic bands than she is. People and their tastes are just different. So, no, I’m not judging Simon’s list before I listen to it. Besides, I rather like hearing new music even if I don’t ever become a fan of the artist or song. My nieces, for example, routinely share music they are listening to so that is definitely not it.

Then, I got thinking. Why the heck would I have little interest in checking out new music, especially music recommended by Simon? That’s weird. That’s big time weird. This led me to think back to the music I have been listening to in the past month since I have been home. Then, it hits me. I have not been listening to a lot of music. What? That cannot be right, can it? No, I think that is true. My music has not been getting much action. Of course, I have to ponder why the heck that would be. It isn’t like I don’t have access or time. Goodness, I have lots more time. I can listen to music while I’m working much easier than I ever could when I’m in school. So what’s the deal? Has it been silent in my house? Generally, no, I don’t spend a lot of time with quiet as I always have the TV on in the background, even if I am not watching it.

So what is TV doing for me that music cannot? When it comes down to it, I’m used to having a lot of voices around me during the day. Schools are never quiet. Even when my students are taking a test, there are still students in the hall, phone calls that happen, students who need assistance. On days when the kids are not there, on teacher workdays, I struggle to get anything done. I need the noise to work, at this point. So is that what is going on with me choosing TV over music? Does it better replicate my usual work environment? I think that is part of it, for sure. I also think TV provides voices, people talking. As someone who has been alone for more than a month with at least another month and a half to go, voices help me feel less lonely. My cat is great, too, but his cat language is not sufficient to fill in some people gaps.

I wonder how long my need to hear other voices will last. Will it be something I seek out during this entire episode of isolation or will I be able to move past it so I can listen to more music? Obviously time will tell. I have to admit that I hope this “need” ends not just so that I can check out Simon’s playlist but I can enjoy music more myself, in general.

-A

Full of Fear

Throughout my life, when things have gotten tough, I have turned to music. At times, I gravitate towards songs to steer me away from negative emotions like sadness, loneliness, anger. Other times I find me seeking out songs that match my feelings. When I do that, I’m really looking for words, lyrics to articulate what I am thinking and feeling. Those songs provide comfort as I feel a little less alone, a little more understood.

Interestingly enough, there are few Duran songs that I turn to at those extreme moments of distress. I’m not sure why. Maybe there are few that match my moods of despair or rage. I’m not sure. Yet, I have turned to some music connected to Duran Duran and that is some of John Taylor’s solo work. Anyone here familiar with the song, Johnny Full of Fear? Here are the lyrics that I could find:

He’s walking on the wall

Cause he’s heard it all before

He’d laugh it off, if he could

But his glasses might fall off

The madman’s at the door

Whispering through the floor

Sordid times in life before

Will keep him from flying once more

Johnny full of fear

He’s hanging on a thread

Don’t be afraid of the dark

Don’t be afraid of what you are

Johnny is learning, to feed, to fear

He’s whacking in time

‘Cause his wife gave him some room

Now he’s up to neck in debt

And his partner’s blown a fuse

Well he sits still for a minute

While he’s waiting for some credit

The property’s in ruins

But the suit is good and shiny

Johnny full of fear

He’s hanging from a thread

Don’t be afraid of the dark

Don’t be afraid of what you have

Johnny has known to fear

The messenger

The messenger of fortune

He’s the messenger

He’s the messenger

He’s alone most nights now

More often than not

He’s too much time to think

Gives his committee too much room

He’s thinking of expanding

Taking on responsibilities

I’m, in all, in favor of it

I’ll encourage him every chance I get

Johnny full of fear

Johnny full of fear

Full of fear

I remember the first time I heard this song. I connected with so many of the lyrics on a deeply personal level. The lines about the “madman’s at the door” and “hanging by a thread” especially got to me. True confession time. I have an anxiety disorder. You know one that has been officially diagnosed, is on file at my doctor’s, etc. It is not something that I generally bring up or talk about. I’m not embarrassed about it or anything like that. It is just part of who I am and something that I have to deal with in my daily life. That said, it is rare that I ever see anything like anxiety described in a song. Usually, if it mentioned in some way shape or form, it is not written seriously or with any real understanding of what it is like. This song, though, feels genuine. Now, I have no idea if John Taylor has ever experienced anxiety himself or knows someone who has. I just know that he was able to capture how I feel sometimes.

What made me think of this now? It is probably obvious but with the coronavirus, my anxiety has been seriously spiking. (In general, medical issues are a trigger.) I don’t necessarily worry about myself but I do about my elderly parents (one of whom is over 80 with an underlying medical condition that compromises the immune system). I’m concerned that my niece who has been studying abroad in Ireland now needs to find a fast way to get home. I need to be the calming influence for my students who are asking if they are safe at school. (Good question–is it really a good idea to have a couple thousand people in one building?!) The government’s response (or lack of one) adds to it. I don’t really think there is a plan to really get it under control. The combination of all of this means that I wander around my house, unable to get anything done, unfocused. It has meant not sleeping well and calling family frequently demanding that they check in. Headaches have been common as has the irritable mood that won’t go away along with my inability to calm my thoughts. Then, as anxiety tends to do, it has builds on itself as the lack of productions leaves me with an overwhelming list of things to do and a feeling of being inadequate. I have been describing it as my anxiety has anxiety. It is not fun.

So, as I try to use various strategies to keep my anxiety at a manageable level, I’ll put on a little JT and feel better thinking that someone out there gets it, at least a little bit. That helps.

-A

I Won’t Cry for Yesterday

Simon might not cry for yesterday but I will. In fact, I spent a lot of yesterday crying and consoling others who were also crying. In this case, we shed tears over losing our candidate for president who suspended her campaign. Yet, I feel like this day of grief is no longer the unique, extremely rare event that it once was. Rhonda said it well yesterday–the world is off its axis or something like that. I have been feeling that for a long, long time.

Looking back, this feeling for me started at the end of 2010 with a significantly bad campaign loss followed up by the death of my grandma and beloved cat. I barely bounced back when 2011 hit me with a new challenge in the form of a proposed law taking any rights at work that ended up passing despite the consistent protest of hundreds of thousands. This directly led to changes at work that have made teaching so much harder, so much more stressful, so much less joyful. Still, I bounced back. Then, my father was diagnosed with a significant autoimmune condition followed up with my mother being diagnosed with cancer. (Thankfully, both are doing well.) Through all this, more and more stress was added at work followed up with the worst election results I could have imagined in 2016 along with rejections for our writing. With each event, I grieved. I raged. Then, I pulled myself back up from the dark hole of despair to keep going, to keep fighting. Now, it feels like the hits are coming more and more frequently whether it is concerns about my own health or being smacked in the face by reality when it comes to putting women in positions of power.

It used to be that I wished for moments of joy and for fun. For a long, long, long time, Duran Duran provided that. I look back at 2011 and as much as I’m shattered at thinking about the loss of my rights, I also think immediately about traveling to the UK twice. Those amazing trips counteracted the crap that was state politics and the hits on my profession. I could survive and push through because I had something amazing to pull me out, into the smiling warmth of sunshine in the form of fandom. In fact, Duran Duran has been that beacon of pure joy for so long that I assumed it would always be there. Having this blog and having shows and tours to look forward to have helped me to right my emotional ship for so long. I’m sure that some will say that a band shouldn’t do that or that fandom shouldn’t take on that role. Maybe not but it did. Of course, along with my fandom came friendship, most significantly, my friendship with Rhonda. I could not separate Duran Duran, fandom, this blog and her.

Now, even that aspect of my life has changed. It used to be that when Duran shows were announced or any Duran news would come out, Rhonda and I would instantly contact each other. “This is a Duranie alert,” one of us would voice to the other. We would especially use that for shows that we might be able to attend. This Tuesday, in the midst of finding out some test results on my health and a frustrating all day meeting at work, the band announced some shows. Two shows. In Vegas. There were no messages exchanged between Rhonda and myself. At some point, we might have responded to a tweet or two but no grand announcement with a debate about what we thought about given shows. This isn’t because we are angry with each other. We are not. It isn’t because we don’t love Duran Duran. We do. I think part of it that we are both so wrapped up with what we are up to that fandom is on the back burner. I also think it is because it is one more part of my life that is no longer what it used to be.

I look at my life like sand on the beach. For a long time, the part of the beach that was mine was untouched by the ocean. I built a career in the form a sand castle school and found people to surround the world I created. Everything seemed good. I had my people. I had my career along with my family and friends. I could push for something more fun, more joyful, to reach for the stars to fulfill some dreams. Rhonda and I could do some research and push to write a book begging for publication. I could think about expanding my social circle. Then, slowly, the ocean started to creep into my section of the beach. At first, it just washed away some of the sand-created school building. Then, the loved ones in my area began to fade with more and more splashes of water. All this means that I’m no longer reaching for the stars or trying to improve my beach. It is about keeping what I have, saving what is left. Now, in 2020, it feels like I have just a tiny sliver of what I did. I spend all of my energy not only saving that speck of sand representing me but also to make myself okay with the new normal as each loss of sand brings more grief, more frustration, more heartbreak.

So do I cry for yesterday? Absolutely. I miss the way things used to be when it came to Duran announcements. I miss feeling secure, feeling appreciated, feeling powerful at work. I miss thinking that the world was on the right track, moving towards progress. I miss feeling normal. I miss focusing on what could go right as opposed to spending all of my time making myself okay.

-A

Too Much To Know

Are there moments of Duran history that you just sometimes think about and wonder what it must have been like? On the positive, amazing side, I think about what it must have been like when the band was looking through record deal offers or when the band waited to hear where a song charted. I cannot begin to imagine what it was like to hear one’s song on the radio for the first time, for instance. On the other side of the coin, there are times that must have been challenging. What was it like? How did they push through? Did they recognize the moment of challenge or did they live in ignorance? Did it help that they had each other?

The first moment like this that comes to mind was in 1986. At this time, the members of the band ended their side projects and were looking to come back together to record another album. From what I know, it seems like Roger informed the band that he was not returning early in the year, in the spring. They did not have to wonder, to question whether or not they could or should rely on him. Andy, on the other hand, seemed to drag out either his decision or his telling them his decision to go solo, from what I have read. Now, before I dive any deeper into this time in Duran history, I want to be clear that I’m not judging Andy or Roger or the rest of the band. I suspect, for example, that the decision for Andy to leave must have been difficult and emotional even if he knew/felt it was the right thing for him to do. After all, he had experienced a lot of success with the band as well as many monumental moments. So, I can even understand if Andy didn’t declare his leaving quickly and early. I bet that he must have had many moments of indecision, which led the rest of the band to be in somewhat of a state of limbo.

Did John, Simon and Nick know that Andy was thinking about leaving? Would that have been easier for them to know or was it better to maintain hope that he would return for as long as possible? Is it better to know than not to know? On one hand, not knowing can keep hope alive that maybe he would change his mind, that he would return. Decisions regarding a guitarist would not need to be made and they could focus on other things, Duran and non-Duran related. So what about knowing? If they knew, they could figure out their guitarist situation earlier and differently, maybe. I’m pretty sure that there was some grieving done, too. Knowing probably meant some sadness, some fear of the future, some anger and frustration. Did this change the feel of the next album? I don’t doubt it. Still, was it better that they knew?

You are probably wondering why now am I asking these questions. Do I have a new fascination with the Notorious album or Duran history from 1986? Am I worried that someone is leaving the band? The answer to all of those questions is a big no. Instead, it is a much more personal situation. As I have mentioned a couple of times on here, I have been dealing with some health related issues over the last few months. At first, I thought the problem was figured out and everything was fine or would be. Then, something else would pop up leading me to wonder if there wasn’t something more going on. This week, after ending a long period of denial, I finally reached out to my doctor who agreed that we should run some tests, which have now been completed. I now await the results. Did John, Simon and Nick want Andy to leave? I suspect not. Was it better when they knew for sure that he was going? Maybe. They could grieve, deal and move on. I guess I am at that point now, too. Is it better for me to know? If the results are what I think they are, will I be facing what Duran faced in 1986 with some grief, fear of the unknown while doing what must be done? Probably. I can only hope to be like them with their determination to move on and continue to be successful.

In thinking about that time period, I have to wonder if it helped them that they were not alone. It happened to all of them and not just one of them. Were they all able to support each other enough to be strong? I often believe that the best part of being a member of a team is that not everyone has to be awesome every day. When one person struggles, the other(s) can be strong with them or for them. Is this what Simon, John and Nick did for each other in 1986? As I learn of the results, I can only hope to have the support of others as I get comfortable with my possible new normal. (By the way, I should mention that what I’m being tested for is not life-threatening but still will affect life moving forward.)

-A

I Should Be on Solid Ground

Before I dive into today’s blog, I want to apologize again for yesterday’s lack of a blog. I had hopes that I might be able to do a quick blog of sorts in the morning before I left for work but the brain and computer weren’t working. It might have something to do with me being overwhelmed with finals (many of them still await my grading). Anyway, I apologize.

The last couple of weeks have meant finishing up the first semester and getting ready for the next one. Part of me hates this time of the year as the grading is way too much but another part of me likes that we get to restart. It also means a number of meetings to reset there, too. In the middle of one of these meetings, I had a realization. Bear with me as I try to explain this. It seems to me that there are some fundamentals in which people build their lives. For many people, this foundation of sorts includes family, friends, a career, a community, etc. If all of those are working as they should, life feels good. It doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is perfect, just that it feels normal, safe, relatively predictable.

In thinking about all of this, I realized that my foundation has been shook over the last decade or so. In some cases, there have just been little cracks like my parents have both had health concerns and I recognize that they aren’t getting any younger. Other areas have been more dramatically affected. In teaching U.S. history, we discuss how the United States have ideals that include liberty, democracy, equality, etc. Through actions both at the state level and nationally, those ideals seem like nothing more than pipe dreams, at times. Even with my career, aspects that I expected no longer seem possible, forget about probable. All this has left me feeling shaken, disturbed, anxious, unsafe.

Where does that leave fandom? Good question. When I first started touring, it was all about fun. Life was relatively good and going on tour, posting on message boards just made life a little better. Then, as more and more has happened to shake my foundation, fandom has taken on a different role. For awhile, when the rest of life began to be so uncertain, I looked to fandom to provide the one “normal” part of life. I could count on it to be an escape, a fun time with friends. I desperately clung to it. If you even look back to blogs I had written in 2011, 2012, 2013 you could sense this. I needed the band to finish an album, go on tour, etc. It was the only thing that felt right. Now, I’m not even sure that fandom feels that solid as well and I don’t even know why. Maybe it is simply because the rest of my foundation is so badly shaken that the cracks have hit even fandom. I don’t know. I know that if I were to go on tour, it would still be an amazingly fun time but the going on tour part seems uncertain for the first time.

I don’t know where this goes from here. I have no clue. Really, the only thing I know is that I would like some part of my life to feel safe, that I could trust it. I would the ground to stop shifting beneath my feet. I would welcome it if that part would be fandom. One hundred percent. But like everything else, I have more questions than answers about whether or not that is possible and what if anything can be done about it.

So what about the rest of you? Has fandom changed in terms of where it fit into your life or why you participated? How do you feel about your fandom moving forward?

-A

My Return to Now…or Normal

Tomorrow, I go back to work, to school, after a two week “break”. I put the word “break” in quotes because I still did work (about 19 hours worth) while I was home. This is not uncommon. On top of going back to school, Rhonda and I are resuming writing this blog. I figured that it might be good for me to start my routines sooner rather than later. It is time.

So how was the blogging break? Did it serve its purpose? And how do I feel about blogging moving forward? These are the questions I ask myself. First, for me, the break was a mixed bag, honestly. The positive part is what you might expect it was. I enjoyed having more time and definitely could always use more of it, especially as the holidays loomed. On top of that, I also found myself dealing with a virus that would not quit and some other health issues (nothing major but annoying all the same), which affected my productivity. That said, I missed blogging. I didn’t necessarily miss the self-imposed deadlines but I have figured something out about myself. I need tasks like this in my life. This blog and writing has become needed, but not in an unhealthy one. I found that I need the distraction from other items on my to do list. It helps me stop thinking and worrying about school or politics. Otherwise, I am the type of person that digs into whatever I’m working on with intensity. I’m better on all fronts, though, if I force myself away, once in awhile. On top of that, I think writing helps me process my thoughts. This is never bad and I suspect it will be very much needed in 2020.

Of course, this blog isn’t about me but about being Duran fans, right? It is about fandom. Here’s the thing. I view fandom like a relationship of sorts. I could easily fill the space in my life that is reserved for Duran with other things. Now, some might say that I should but that would be sad and sad for me. No, I want part of my life to be taken up with Duran. It gives me joy. I like being a fan. Of course, over time, the way that I express my fandom has changed. It used to be that I wanted to talk Duran all day, everyday. I don’t feel like I need or even want to do that. Instead, I would prefer it just to be one part of my existence, in balance with the others. In order to keep that balance and my fandom/relationship alive, I still need to nurture it, feed it. If that isn’t going to be chatting online about the band, all the time, then it could be this blog. I like directing my fandom in this, going to shows along with reading, researching, etc. I’m not ever going to be the most popular Duranie on social media and I’m okay with that. My fandom doesn’t need that. However, I look forward to continuing to share my thoughts and feelings here in a format that works for me on multiple levels.

So on that note, I look forward to getting back into the groove next weekend. What did I miss while I was gone? What should I check out? What should I write about?

-A

Howl at the Wind Rushing Past My Lonely Head

It happens like clockwork. It seems to happen every year at the same time. No, I am not referring to the fact that we get to move our clocks back an hour this weekend (I’ll take that extra hour of sleep, thank you very much!). I am talking about the feeling that each and every day is rushing past me, that I’m barely hanging out to my to-do list. It is a feeling like I’m attempting to walk a tight rope and one wrong move, one gust of wind and I’m falling, ready to crash and burn. What causes this every year? What is my plan to survive? What does this have to do with Duran Duran?

I know that I had the same feeling of being overwhelmed last year. I think I figured that it was the fact that I was working on a campaign that was reaching its conclusion in a couple of short weeks. Now, though, I can say that the campaign (and any campaign at this time of year) adds to it but it isn’t what causes it. No, it is all about teaching. This time period marks the end of the first quarter of the school year. Practically speaking, this means that I have a lot of grading to do as well as report cards to fill out. Did I mention that I have 120 students? More importantly, it means that I can no longer deny that the school year really is here. I cannot go back to summer. No, I have to push through to get to the next summer. On top of that, I have to admit that these grand ideas I had about how much I would be able to do in addition to teaching related tasks were simply that; grand. They were also false. I’m lucky to get even a part of my work done on any given day. Forget about organizing my closet. That is definitely not going to happen. Nope. It is hard to do those extras when I’m working between 50-60 hours a week as well as everything I need to do to maintain a household.

So, now that I recognize that this is my reality, how the heck am I going to survive it? I don’t have any shows coming up. I don’t know when Duran might drop the next album. The answer is that I have no idea how to deal. You would think that after twenty years of doing this gig that I would get how to do it. In fairness to myself, the job has gotten harder. A lot harder. I keep trying to do various things in order to be more efficient or to create some sort of weird balance without being able to sustain the changes for more than a week or so. For now, I am trying to take it one day at a time while I brainstorm a potential solution for the 256th time.

One idea that almost always comes up when I mention this problem is to either quit my job and/or all of the other tasks that I do (like writing this blog post). First, when it comes to my job, there are definitely aspects that I would give a lot to change but there are others that I love. I have some great kids this year, for instance, and I love seeing my kids grow up, graduate and become amazing humans. On top of that, I kinda need something to pay my bills (not to mention Duran Duran tickets!). Moving on, what about dropping my political activity? As much as I would like to ignore what is happening, I would never be comfortable doing that. So, what about letting go of this? I could stop blogging. I could stop doing research and writing about fandom. I could. But I don’t want to.

Here’s the thing. One thing that I have figured out over the course of my life is that I need all of the above in my life. I would never be happy if I dropped the extras outside of my paying job. I just wouldn’t. Both activism and fandom are in my blood. They make up who I am. On that note, I’m back to where I started, trying to do it all.

-A

Astronaut Anniversary and Turning Points

This past week, Duranland celebrated the 15th anniversary of the release of Astronaut. As we all know, this album was the first album after the Fab Five reunited and certainly represents a time in which Duranies flocked back to the fold, excitement was at an all-time high and the future seemed nothing but bright. I, for one, always appreciate acknowledging the big dates for my fandom but this one make me think on a more personal level.

Feel the New Day

Duran’s reunion in the early 2000s came at the perfect time for me, personally. I had spent much of the late 1990s and early 2000s settling into my adult life in a new city. I remember how laser focused I was at that time to get started in my career and to do what needed to be done just stand on my own two feet. I only thought about how to get a full time teaching job and how I would pay the bills. There was little time and money for much else. Then, I found a way in to the district with a teaching job, but outside of my original license. I still had much to learn. In this quest, I found myself back at school. This time I was adding a master’s degree and additional teaching certifications. Finally, after a few intense years of teaching full time and going to grad school, I graduated.

At that moment, I literally felt like my world opened up simply because I would no longer struggle as much, financially, and had more free time. I was ready to turn my focus, my energy into some other aspect of my life even if I didn’t know what that was. Enter Duran Duran. Now, I had been a fan since I was a kid but I was no where near the fan community at the end of 2003. I knew that there was a reunion and shows but that’s it. I avoided looking too carefully, too closely to not lose my focus on grad school and my career. But once I was settled into my career, I was ready. At the same time, someone I knew mentioned that she, too, was a big Duran fan. After a quick search, resulting in me hearing Sunrise for the first time, that’s all it took. I became obsessed.

I sought out everything. Internet searches helped me to fill-in any gaps that I had, including the band’s history, albums, videos, solo and side projects and more. Everyday felt magical and like my birthday because there was so much to find, to watch, to listen, to buy that I couldn’t get enough. This, of course, combines with all of the new news that came out. In 2004, for example, it seemed like there was something new each and every day from hints about the album, to appearances, to video clips from the band and more. In the process, I found my new focus. I had to find others who felt so much for this band, too. Message boards called out to me and I tried out many before I found the right one. This led to much time spent on those boards, chatting with other fans, and making plans to attend a fan convention and begging for a tour.

Looking back, that time was so fun as it felt like all Duran, all the time in my mind, in my free time. Everything felt so positive and I ignored anything that potentially would put a damper on my fandom.

Is it out of choice that you’re here next to me, or just the aftermath of moments as they pass?

15 years have gone by. My love for Duran Duran has not waivered. Looking back, I recognize that in many ways, my love has been weaved into my life. It isn’t this special, must spend 24/7 on it to express it, to reinforce it, to find others with the same feelings. No, it is now way more secure. It isn’t like a flame burning bright while being under threat to burn out. Let’s be real here. A lot of Duranies during the Astronaut era went all in and did not come out the other side. It is like they checked off some boxes on their fandom bucket list. Once that was done, they were out, ready to move on. I chose the other route. I chose to normalize my fandom, to just make a part of my existence in order to keep it going.

Here is where I think the fandom analogy of romance works. In 2004, it felt like I had just started a new romance in which the subject of that romance could do nothing wrong. It was definitely the honeymoon period. Many fans want to live in that honeymoon and are not willing to hang out passed that. They don’t want to deal with the negatives or the less-than-exciting times and others of us accept all of it. Again, in a early romance, you might spend most of your waking hours with the subject of that romance. I did that in 2004 with Duran Duran. Now, I don’t. It is like my parents who have been married for 52 years. They don’t need to constantly talk about each other or be with each other all the time to know that they love each other. The same is true with me and Duran Duran. I can and do have many things in my life that get my focus, including teaching, politics, my family, writing and researching and Duran Duran. For me, I need all of those in my life to be happy. So, at times, I miss the intensity of those Astronaut days but I recognize that where my fandom is now is more securely fastened in my heart and in my life.

-A