The Cardinal Diaries: A New Year & Uneasy Sense of Déjà Vu

by | Jan 24, 2022 | Featured, The Cardinal Diaries

It’s Chapter 6 of Lauren Margison‘s series, The Cardinal Diaries: A New Year & Uneasy Sense of Déjà Vu! If you missed the first four instalments, you can read them here: chapter one, chapter two, chapter three, chapter four, and chapter five. Below, our titular soprano grapples with a case of the post-show blues & questions the very nature of performance – both on and off stage.

I found myself looking back today. Not a long way back, though, only a couple of years. So much has happened during those two years that they carried the weight of an epoch. I was looking back because an unsettling feeling had been burrowing into my mind; its name was déjà vu.

The new year had brought me the gift of hope, a gift I treasured above all others. I had been holding it delicately between my cupped palms like a firefly caught on a warm June evening. I didn’t dare peek to see if it was still there. I had to have faith. One day, I couldn’t stop the ever-growing sense of déjà vu from prying my fingers apart; and away flew the hope.

I checked my emails with a scowl, and found that my second gig of the year had been postponed. I grumbled to myself before wandering over to my desk and picking up the journal I had kept in 2020. I knew what I was doing. I wanted to wallow. Sometimes wallowing feels easier.

“April 15th, 2020:

Cancelled. It’s been cancelled. It’s all been cancelled. Each new cancellation feels like an immortal hornet, stinging again and again. I keep looking at it, thinking to myself, ‘Why won’t you die?’ I can handle it, I think. I have a safe place to live. I have a home with my parents. I have a room. I have parents that are able to take the pecuniary weight from my shoulders while still giving me the dignity that allows me to posture independence.

I gave my landlord the month’s notice today. I will have to bid farewell to the apartment I’ve poured my heart and soul into. I’ll bring my plants to my bedroom here. I will bring them in one by one, and I will speak gently to them, ‘You’ll be happy here, the way you were happy there.’ I will speak to them with that saccharine tone reserved for those speaking from a place of privilege, masquerading as a place of discomfort…”

I flipped a number of pages ahead.

Cardinal Diaries

The Cardinal Diaries, Chapter 6, “A New Year & Uneasy Sense of Déjà Vu”. Illustration by Alya Stationwala

“June 2nd, 2020:

“I’ve been wading through the molasses of indolence, calling it by the name of tranquility. This morning, however, I stopped short in front of the mirror.

Something clicked. Something screamed. Perhaps within myself, perhaps without… perhaps I don’t know what I’m saying. We are a few months into the pandemic, and finally the inner scream had built up enough volume that it could no longer be ignored. What was this? Was this real? Would everything truly just trickle away into memory? I stood in the bathroom, staring at myself in the mirror, tears stinging my eyes, and feeling sick to my stomach. I felt like I was witnessing the annihilation of the performing arts. It appeared to me that every other type of entertainment was being protected. Sports were being coddled like an egg. Why were the performing arts being shown such Dickensian indigence? I can’t ignore the alarm at the empty bowl pompously handed to the arts. ‘Please, sir…’

‘It’s fine,’ I said to my reflection, ‘I’m fine.’ Was I? Isn’t the first sign of not being fine having to tell yourself you’re fine? I knew that I had spoken the lie, hoping the statement would sew a seed of truth. All I could do was swallow hard to send the frog in my throat back down into the pool of emotions ignored… or at least saved for later.

What do I have if I’m not preparing for a gig? If I’m not madly learning music or planning out my schedule? The first couple of weeks of rest were a welcome reset, but now the hours are too silent. My mind can’t keep skirting the pain. I have to face the insecurities, the fears, the precariousness, the transience of life and of the state of the world. I am looking at the swirling eddy of uncertainty in front of me and for the first time in my life have no distraction to place in its path. I have to jump in. I have to face the shadows.”

Cardinal Diaries

The Cardinal Diaries, Chapter 6, “A New Year & Uneasy Sense of Déjà Vu”. Illustration by Alya Stationwala

I looked up from the journal. I have faced many of those shadows these past 18 months, I have sat with them and listened to their pain and found a sort of peace. However, they never truly leave; we can’t hope to enjoy the sun’s warmth before us without the shadows following behind.

I didn’t want to wallow anymore. For some reason, there was a glimmer of a smile on my lips. It had hurt, in 2020 and it hurts now, but there were times between then and now that were joyous, and exciting, and beautiful; and there were times that were tear stained, and painful, and ugly. The evanescence never stops. The precariousness never stabilizes. We are not immortal, nor is art.

“I don’t want to look back anymore.” I said to myself. “I think I’ll try not to gaze too far forward, either.” I picked up the pen next to my day planner and tossed it into the top drawer of my desk; in its place, I put a pencil and an eraser. I looked around my room at the plants, the books and the crystals sitting where I’d placed them and heard my parents’ faint chatter emanating from upstairs. “Let go,” I whispered to myself.

Today, I had coffee, sunshine and the faces of two people I love. Tomorrow… who knows?

fatphobiaLauren Margison is a singer and writer from Toronto, Ontario. A graduate of the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio, and the Atelier lyrique of the Montreal Opera. She was a first prize winner of the George London Competition. Lauren continues her vocal training under the tutelage of Richard Margison and Valerie Kuinka.


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