From the Rose Bowl to the Hollywood Bowl

I just met the man of my dreams!

Kidding.  I actually went on a run.

I’ve been running the loop around the Rose Bowl and Brookside Golf Course for several years now.  I’m not a huge fan of treadmills, simply for the fact that I don’t have anything to distract me from checking every five seconds how long and far I’ve been running.  Since I just want the ordeal to be over, running outside makes more sense to me.  It also makes me run faster, longer and harder.  Bonus points: a stunning view of the San Gabriel mountains, interesting characters along the route, and you can always count on a fresh, California breeze, no matter how slight.

This evening, I parked my car in the same spot that I have for years, walked towards the faintly-scribbled, chalk START line, and began a slow trot.  As I quickened my pace in the still-too-warm evening air, my mind raced ahead of me.  I thought about the amazing week I just had. My day job has been extremely busy, yet exciting and fun. This morning, I got paid to play the piano and belt out worship tunes at church with some impressive musicians. It’s not overly glamorous, but it’s completely rewarding, and I’m getting more confident in using my piano skills as an actual, decent (and employable) talent.

Last weekend, I performed at the Hollywood Bowl with Brian Setzer. We played three nights of sizzling swing and riotous rockabilly music, backed by the luscious Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.  There were ninety-six musicians on stage, plus adorable swing dancers and dramatic, scorching fireworks.

Thanks, Jess, for the pic. #fireworksformyfriend

Of course there was Brian: a legend; a man who will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the best guitarists in the world. He is a true Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.

Brian is backed by two beautiful, energetic singers.

One of them is me.

My boss is better than yours!

The performances were epic.  I will forever cherish being on that stage, in front of at least 12,000 people each night – singing my heart out.  Most of all, I owned it.  This might sound haughty, but I deserved to be up there, and loved every minute of it.  I will never forget the exuberance and joy that was emitted from my very being.  It comes out in many different forms, but I feel it is most pure when I am singing.  My soul soars.

Performing at the Hollywood Bowl was a dream come true!


A smile widened across my face as I rounded the first corner of my route. One mile down. Suddenly, I had a memory of a September day in 2009, running the very same loop.  The recollection was quite the antithesis of the warm, grateful and happy thoughts I was entertaining at present.

The memory was this: I had just discovered X searching for jobs in the Ukraine, even after he had promised me that he would end his (first) affair.  All hope that my marriage could survive the near-fatal blow, crumbled.  I didn’t know what else to do, but flee.

I ended up at the Rose Bowl, ready to run.

I stuffed my earbuds in as tightly as I could, cranked up the music, and started off.  I was attempting to exercise my feelings of anxiety, depression, desperation and fear, to music.

I wanted loud, pulsating, strong beats, to remind me that my heart was physically working.  I was alive, even though I felt at any moment, I might collapse and die of a broken heart.

The first song helped the endorphins kick in, so I put it on repeat. I picked up my pace, found a comfortable stride, and settled in for the first mile. As I rounded the corner, I carefully listened to the lyrics.

You used to light up the dark
with your unrelenting spark
It always put a fire in me

You used to say I’m the one —
the only ray of sun you could touch
without a fear of burning

What are you telling her now?
While you hold her in your arms,
are you pretending she’s me?

And just how long will you go on
before you realize you know she’s
‘The One” but you’re gonna lose her anyway?

Well, it ain’t over ‘til it’s over
and my world shuts down.
But this comes close, I’ll have you know
It’s just a matter of time

But it ain’t over ‘til it’s over!
But I won’t be made a fool

‘Cause leaving me the way you did was just so

I found myself mouthing, singing, then shouting the words, “unforgivable”, over and over and over and over.  Immediate, uncontrollable tears streamed down my face.  Passers-by stared at me in horror.

I was dying right in front of them, and didn’t give a shit. Nobody would have been able to help me, anyway.

My husband loves another woman. He discarded me so quickly. There’s even a cheesy techno song that accompanies this story.

This is happening.  It’s happening to ME.

Unforgivable. Unforgivable.  She’s the one.  She’s the one. He wants her. Not me. 

I ran and shook; I ran and flailed my arms; I ran and sobbed; I ran and screamed.  I threw my head back, opened up my mouth as wide as I could, and allowed blood-curdling cries of deep anguish to escape my body.

The pain was so overwhelming. I couldn’t hold it inside anymore.

I kept running.  Harder.  Faster.

Eventually I pressed “Shuffle”, and a new song came on: “I Won’t Stand in Your Way”, by the Stray Cats.

I got a low, down, dirty feeling
That I’ve been cheated on, and lied to
If it’s so, then it’s wrong, we’ve hung on for so long
Why don’t we have that magic anymore?

I got a strange, sneaking suspicion
That it’s been going on for some time now.
Something shines in your eyes;
something stirs deep inside.
I won’t stand in your way anymore

You said that I’m just a little boy
Who’s easily led astray
Well, aren’t you the same little girl?

I got a strange, sneaking suspicion
That it’s been going on for some time now.
Something shines in your eyes;
something stirs deep inside

I won’t stand in your way anymore.

I won’t stand in your way
I won’t stand in your way.
I won’t stand in your way anymore.

I couldn’t listen to much of my boss’ song that September day, 2009.  It was almost too much to bear. I don’t remember how I calmed down, but it happened, eventually. I stopped screaming and allowed the sweet, California breeze to dry my tears. I finished running, stretched my legs, and went home.

Three years later, I would stand in the wings while Brian Setzer serenaded me (and an extremely large audience) with “I Won’t Stand in Your Way”. I sneaked a crude video as the spotlight framed him and his shining instrument.  Brian slowly strummed the guitar and began his song as a simple ballad.

And then, it turned into a vastly different experience than when the song was first performed, so many years ago. Brian’s crooning voice soared through the monitors and out into the crowd.  As the orchestra swelled, so did my heart. Tears sprang into my eyes.

This song – one that was once too painful; too raw; too close to my experience; too piercing to my soul – became one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard.

I had a flickering moment of grief —  but it wasn’t the kind of running, sobbing, screaming, out-of-control grief that was so commonplace three years ago. The dull pang of familiar pain was recognized, but quickly replaced by the intense beauty of the life that surrounded it; life that keeps moving forward.

Life that is accompanied by a swelling orchestra and spectacular fireworks.

That, my friends, is evidence of healing.

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