Bravery, cowardice, and Amanda Palmer

People have told me I’m brave, and I have been, a lot of times. Maybe I’ll list all those brave things I’ve done and it will help me stop feeling like such a coward. But first, I have to look this bravery thing head-on, because it’s been keeping me up at night, and when my mind starts veering off on its own so completely like it has been, I’ve learned to just go with that. Good lord, I think I’m my own nagging wife.

Once upon a time, bad things happened. For a long time, I hid myself away from the world, afraid. I did this by staying in, and by eating myself invisible (isn’t it interesting that being big can make you so small in this world?). I’d been fed some of this fear by someone else, but I’m the one who swallowed it along with everything else. At some point, my life collapsed out from under my feet. I fell into the deepest rabbit hole, and I stopped even trying to see daylight. That’s a really long sad story, and not the one I have in mind. Because I eventually woke up, got strong in every way, changed everything, ruined things worth ruining, built things worth building, fucked up over and over again and kept on going. And oh, did I dance. I was really badass for awhile there!

Then a couple years ago I slowed down some; I don’t know why exactly. I got (happily) remarried, to a musician who is also a good cook! And I wasn’t working out anymore. And I put 20 lbs back on (not nearly what I lost, but…), and felt more and more unworthy and fat and old. Because the soft body that used to feel like security now just feels like a prison. And that’s where I’ve been for awhile now, and it’s pissing me off that I’ve stumbled again, and it’s pissing me off that I’m so against judging others, but I judge myself so harshly. I don’t deserve that bullshit, but there’s a voice somewhere in my head that whispers old lies to me in my sleep. The truth is I *am* badass. The simple fact of my survival, and the way love still flows through my veins, more than ever actually, that means something. I stand for things, and I have so much to say.

But I’m only just letting that sink in these last few months, and here’s why. Amanda Palmer. At least three entirely different strands of my social media world told me to check out Amanda Palmer. It went something like this: Felicia Day (I was a gamer and guild leader in another life) to Wil Wheaton to The Bloggess to Amanda Palmer *AND* about 20 fellow non-famous writers I’ve never met to Neil Gaiman (I’ve always been a fan, just keep forgetting to follow famous people for some reason) to Amanda Palmer *AND* various and sundry wonderful geeks (actually, this includes Neil Gaiman again because he recommended backing The Infernal Device, which I did) to Kickstarter to Amanda Palmer. And so I said fine, I guess I better click on this chick! I still don’t understand AFP (that’s what I’ll call her from here on, because it is really feeling weird to keep typing her name, and it’s reminding me of Mary Hartman Mary Hartman, and that was pretty nuts to watch as a ten year old). But I know that she is brave and open and someone to admire. I backed the very brief but amazing tour called An Evening With Neil Gaiman & Amanda Palmer and kept coming at her music and personality sideways. Then I heard her song “In My Mind” and I cried so damn big.


I pre-ordered her new album with the Grand Theft Orchestra, called Theatre Is Evil (buy this thing!), and I bought two tickets to see her in Chapel Hill. I had no idea who I’d go with, because my husband had a gig that night, and I wasn’t sure I’d bring him anyway. I realized yet again that I am missing that strong girlfriend that I can trust, and who isn’t afraid to grow with me, who didn’t have someplace else to be or someone else to be with. I also realized that I was panicking underneath because at 46, I’m “too old” to go to this show, I’m not the right demographic, they’ll notice I don’t belong, and on and on. For a couple of weeks I was tempted to tweet AFP and ask if I was too old, but I figured that was kinda crazy, and even though I was feeling exactly that crazy, I didn’t want to out myself. So the show was Friday, and this is Monday now, and I didn’t go. I was genuinely sick, but I’d put the tickets up for sale, cheaper than I paid, on the bulletin board at work before I was entirely sick yet. I told myself if they sold, I’d make someone happy and if they didn’t, I’d just go to the show and push through the fear. Then I got sick, and it was ironic, but also another handy excuse to hide.

Friday morning I found out the show was sold-out, and I found someone who was “looking for a miracle” (and she mentioned the Dead, so yeah, that) and she just wanted to buy two tickets to take her son to the show to see this amazing woman. First I texted, then I wrote, then around 2pm I called her and told her the tickets were hers, free. I did it because I wanted to make someone else happy while I was sick and full of self-doubt. It was really a wonderful feeling! She told me about her kids, and the 15 yr old son she was bringing to the show. She was shocked, and I loved it. Remind me to give stuff away more often.

I ended up going out anyway, but close to home, with a few friends, and did a few new things like eating at a mostly gay restaurant/bar, and listening to original music at a place I’ve always wanted to check out. We can call this demi-bravery. But I didn’t see AFP, and I regret it, even though I knew if I’d have gone I’d have been too sick and tired to enjoy it, and maybe gotten other people sick, and also, anything else I needed to tell myself to justify not going when I probably should have. I did spend the next afternoon learning to sing “In My Mind” though (it took 4 run-throughs to do it without crying), and I’ll be working on learning ukelele this week. I will sing this song in front of other people at least once, because I want to.

And because I’ve had to face my own cowardice, I’ve figured out a bigger truth. I’ve been brave, but I haven’t been brave enough. Because during this same dilemma, I realized I care more about the rights I’ve had and used, and I care that people are trying to take those rights away from the women who are coming after me, and I realized (yes, I know it’s a long run-on sentence, sue me) that “old” people like me have decided somehow we are irrelevant, that the world has moved on to younger, braver voices. But I haven’t finished yet, and I have so many things to say, and those younger, braver women need to hear from us older, brave women loudly and clearly, and I’ve let them down. And I want to fix that somehow.

So I’m going to start telling the truth, even though it is hard and it hurts, and it reveals very tender places that really have never finished healing. I’m going to call these things Truth is, I think, and write them here. And maybe someday I will post the links to Twitter and places like that and actually invite people to hear what I have to say. And also, I’m going to put a damn woman’s rights sticker on my car, which is an act of bravery here in NC, don’t kid yourself!

Also, people started trashing AFP for asking for volunteer musicians, and it was a big stink, maybe still is, and a bunch of bullshit, and you should read about it and think about it because it is a metaphor for your life somehow. She wrote about it:


And this is the picture that Laura took during the show! She also sent me one of her and her son, smiling and looking so freaking cool! Needed that!!

Oh and irony lives here, Neil Gaiman is telling stories tomorrow night with the very cool Unchained Tour in the same NC town, and it’s… SOLD OUT!


1 Comment

  1. Nancy Richards

    You are amazing! Just want you to know I believe that you are amazing….


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