Having grown up in South Florida, I am familiar with natural disasters. Hurricane Wilma came whipping through on my 16th birthday, but hurricanes give you time to prepare both mentally and physically. The March 3 tornado came in the middle of the night without warning and devastated my East Nashville neighborhood.
The tornado also brought my first panic attack. I’ve experienced anxiety before but nothing like a panic attack. The month after the tornado my panic attacks would come in waves and always unexpectedly. Hearing the wind pick up would bring back the emotions of that night. I was in the house with my roommate as the tornado passed over. There were pieces of someone’s roof flying around my bedroom where I was sleeping minutes before.
It’s a pattern in my life to keep busy when I am struggling with something. The week of the tornado I volunteered to help with the cleanup, made about a hundred sandwiches, hosted and performed at a benefit show, and made countless decisions on when and how to repair my house. I kept myself quite busy. Pre-Tornado and post-Tornado I was and still am a busy lady. I run a community string organization called Lockeland Strings and I am a session violin and viola performer. Take all of that and mix it with the constant need to be hiking, running, spending time with people, and essentially just avoiding FOMO at all times.
The last place my partner and I stayed before finally moving back into our house was a garage turned one bedroom apartment owned by a sweet woman who agreed to let us stay as long as we needed. We were tired and grateful. This was also where we sheltered in place at the beginning of the COVID pandemic. So much came up for me when I began to slow down. To say questions came up in this stillness would be an understatement. It caused me to ask myself what is my purpose without all of my labels? Who am I without all of the things that I do? We have felt this collective grief whether we’ve lost loved ones to COVID, lost financial security, or feel the loss of the life we had pre-COVID. Whatever the reason is, we have all come face to face with grief at some point during this pandemic.
I don’t think social media is the answer for genuine connection, even when we’re being told to stay home and stay away from our community. It means a great deal to get a call from a friend these days so it must mean a great deal to them if I also call and check in. I love Nashville because of my community. This is the community that showed up for each other after the tornado. I also love my Nashville community because it is filled with creatives. So many musicians have been out of work this year due to the pandemic but I have seen them continue to create and find ways to stay afloat. I’m grateful to have had a record to work on to keep me connected to people and connected to my creativity.
My new record is called Dark River. It reflects on self-discoveries I’ve had when I’ve forced myself to be still and quiet. I started noticing I was being very critical of myself during the pandemic because I wasn’t filling my time with my usual busy schedule. I was simply stuck with myself and stuck with my feelings. The song, “All the Time,” was written mid-pandemic as a conversation with myself; a reminder to practice self-love and that I’m enough just as I am.
It’s been one year since our first COVID lockdown and one year since the devastating tornado in Nashville. We’ve all experienced grief and loss, and had to sit with ourselves and ask a lot of questions. I’d like to believe that I’ve grown throughout this strange year and learned more about myself. Maybe you have too.