When I was in high school, if at any point my emotions started to boil over, I employed a small act of rebellion to blow off steam. Instead of screaming or slamming doors or breaking fragile objects in those moments, I would grab my car keys and go for a drive. With no shoes on.
Barefoot driving was one of my earliest attempts at true self-assertion. I wasn’t going anywhere (Ozark and back, most likely) and I didn’t ask permission (huge transgression, ps.), but the risk of eventual trouble was absolutely worth it. For those few minutes, blasting the radio and gripping the steering wheel, I felt like I was in control.
(I think the barefoot part was just for dramatic flair. I’m so mad I don’t NEED shoes. I’m not GOING anywhere. I’m just DRIVING, damn it!!)
It felt so good.
…Tonight was a barefoot driving sort of night.
Feeling too restless to sleep / Facebook / cry / snack / go on a cleaning bender (my grown-up go-to steam-blowers), I worked out my emotions on Kearney Street.
Going nowhere, but still in control. Not a bad feeling at all.
When I got home, however, the restlessness returned. (You can drive away from your problems temporarily, but they stick around. Damn them.) So I turned to another old habit: the piano. I’ve dabbled here & there in the last few years, but it’s been a long time since I’ve felt the freedom of getting lost in music. Not thinking, just playing. Letting go and feeling in control at the same time. Some measures sounded so pretty, I got mad about it.
It was a good time.
My second grade recital piece, “Country Gardens” — (which made the occasional background appearance on US Acres from Garfield & Friends) — is my go-to party trick, not only because I can play it upside down. (For realizes. America’s Got Talent style.) I’ve had this song memorized for over 20 years, and I can still play it effortlessly, no matter how long it’s been. And it always makes me happy. Like I know something, even if that something is simple and small.
Playing “Country Gardens” tonight, I realized that if you asked me to write out the sheet music, I could probably do it, but it would take a long time. The notes are buried in my brain, and hardwired in my fingers, so muscle memory just takes over. I imagine I’ll play that song on a tinny piano in a nursing home someday. (When I’m 205 years old. Because of science.)
Music! A rediscovered storehouse for my restlessness. Now when I feel like boiling over, I won’t have to escape. I can make something out of that stirring in the night. Still barefoot. Different keys.