As I sat down in front of the computer to write today's piece, I find myself going back in my mind to March 16th 2013, the date of the most recent Showcase of Original Music. There I was behind the sound-board hearing Susan Buslett's name being announced as the next open mic performer and watching her make her way - with some assistance - to the stage. As I pictured the scene again in my mind, I wondered silently how she felt in that moment, in front of mostly strange faces, about to put herself "out there" after such a long time. I remember feeling her nervousness empathetically, but could hardly imagine what kind of physical effort she was having to exert. That part is important and you'll understand why when I tell you some of her story. But first; since this series is about inspirations, I thought it might be a good idea to see just what the dictionary says about that word. Here's what I found:
in·spire (n-spr)v. in·spired, in·spir·ing, in·spiresv.tr.1. To affect, guide, or arouse by divine influence.2. To fill with enlivening or exalting emotion: hymns that inspire the congregation; an artist who was inspired by Impressionism.3.a. To stimulate to action; motivate: a sales force that was inspired by the prospect of a bonus.b. To affect or touch: The falling leaves inspired her with sadness.4. To draw forth; elicit or arouse: a teacher who inspired admiration and respect.
5. To be the cause or source of; bring about: an invention that inspired many imitations.
Inspiration can be, and often is, a two-way street. My connection with Susan Buslett and her eventual performance at The Showcase is a perfect example of that. Susan and I were introduced through a mutual friend a couple years ago. Over the course of time and with the aid of some material solicited for this blog, the picture of her journey is now much clearer. Susan began her performing career singing and playing guitar back in 1977. Becoming a mom in 1983 meant juggling responsibilities with dream chasing and so music became, by necessity, more of a part-time endeavor. Being a mom was not the only big event that year. She also wrote and recorded two songs that received air play. Now that might not sound like a big deal today, but in 1983, it was still quite an accomplishment. There are not many performers out there, when asked if they have recordings someone could hear, are able to answer "Yes, and I have them on vinyl." That's real records folks, round black plastic discs and pretty damn cool, if you ask me. Life must have looked pretty good at that point and I imagine what happened next could have hardly been imagined as a possibility in Susan's mind. But then tragedy never announces its arrival nor does it discriminate when choosing its next victim.
With a blinding flash and the grating sound of crushing metal, Susan's life took a horrible turn in 1996 when she was involved in an automobile accident that left her with a serious spinal cord injury. As you can probably imagine, there have been multiple obstacles to overcome in the effort to recover some semblance of her former life. It's been a long, trying process dealing with doctors, hospitals, red tape, pain control and rehabilitation, not to mention her struggle with her ability to play guitar and sing again, which were both affected by the crash. It might have been enough to make someone else give up, but not Susan. By finding the courage and desire to perform on stage that night, for the first time since 1996 (except for some church singing to tracks) as nervous as she may have been and as uncertain of how her hands or voice would respond, Susan was an inspiration for me and reminded of how much I have to be thankful for. Oh, but you know what? The crowd provided her with their own inspiration in the form of some enthusiastic applause.
Inspiration... it's a two-way street.