deprivation · level up · music

“Do you hear the people sing?”

8-24-18.jpgOver the summer, while in muggy Massachusetts dorm-living for the month, I began to listen to music again.  There’s a piece of deprivation that can be about things you may not ordinarily peg, like sensations: scent, touch, sound.

When I drove to work last year, during my hour+/- commute I would generally listen to talk radio, getting some “grown-up” ideas into my head especially at the end of a day of disseminating information.   Yet, I’ve noticed, I’ve been putting the music on as I drive this week instead.

In the dorm, I played the soundtrack to RENT on full blast (just like in my true college days!), “The Song of Angry Men” from Les Mis (over and over), and Norah Jones for a mellow roll.  It was surprising to me that I was craving music.  And yet whenever I begin to listen to music again (as this is a common, long-horizon pattern), I feel like the lake diver coming up for air—sucking oxygen into my chest with relief and exhilaration and something like surprise.

I chatted with my friend the piano player the other day and, when he returns from a trip, we’re going to get together and start planning the set list for our duo for the artists’ salon on October 7th (did I mention that’s my birthday?  I did, I’m just stoked).;)

I think it’s two 15-minute sets, so that’ll be about 4 songs each set, and he’s totally down to do whatever feels good.  I’m thinking Norah Jones/Alicia Keys inspired works.  Something languid and liquid and feminine.

When I begin to sing again, it’s the awakening of a facet of my soul that in its drowsing I forget contains everything about love, aliveness, and power.  When I begin to sing again, it’s like falling back in love with myself:  “Oh, there you are.  I had kinda forgotten you were made of glitter magic.”

The arrival back at self reinforces these pieces are here all the time, but I guess a question (fear) becomes, if I see this all the time, will it become too familiar?  Will my continued engaging in something that brings me to life eventually become something that is dull?

Fortunately, not even I believe that bullsh*t.

Sing on, singer.

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goals · music · procrastination

O|M

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About a decade ago, I worked for a Jewish non-profit in San Francisco.  I was a program assistant, so I got to sit in on the Professional Development seminars that I bought the bagels for.  One of these PDs was on program development: there are a hundred ways to do anything, but what is your goal?  Thus, the facilitator introduced the O|M method.

O|M stands for Outcome|Method, and also appeals to the hippie-dippy present in all Jews–well, maybe the Bay Area ones!  On a sheet of paper, draw a T chart with Outcome on one side and Method on the other.  Chances are for each goal you want to accomplish, there’s only one outcome, maybe two, you’d like to achieve.  Once you’ve written that down, go at it! on the right side.

Every and any method you can think of to accomplish this goal, write it down!  Don’t be shy about outlandish ideas; that’s what this process is here to help facilitate: think outside your own box, beyond your preconceptions and doubts and judgments.

However.

Once you’ve generated this list, you need to choose a Method.  And this idea pivots my thoughts today to the “SMART” choices acronym that has been cropping up in my sphere–first Deepak, then financial articles.  Although there is some debate about the wording, here’s my approximation of what Deepak said:

S: Stretch more than I can reach

M: Make everything Measurable

A: Agreement with my inner self and those around me

R: Record my progress!

T: Time limits for acting and getting a result.

It does not matter if my Outcome is to play “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” on the piano by Christmas.  It does not matter if my Method is to practice 3 times a week.

If I do not have a Measurement for smaller actions or a Time limit for taking such actions, I will procrastinate… and I will achieve nothing.  Except self-derision.

Someone said recently, Goals without Action are Wishes.  (And to quote a dear friend, “If wishes were horses, then hobos would ride”!)

I do have this goal.  But I do not have a method that has yet been actionable.  I haven’t had a plan — I haven’t had a method.  So what I think I’ll do is to open my brain to the right column, brainstorm, write down any ideas realistic or un- and help myself overcome just even the very first hurdle.

 

Because surely, if you’re like me, that first one is the highest.

 

awareness · band · creativity · fun · help · life · music · presence

10 minute blog:

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(I know they say, Only speak if you can improve on the silence, but I felt I wanted to give you something this morning. Time is short due to doing my due diligence. And making up tongue twisters, apparently.)
Yesterday evening, I went to pluck one of the remaining
lemons from the tree in the backyard of our building. In it, I found a robin’s
nest with three sightless, flat and feathered chicks in it. Maws up and open.
I’ve been watching robins on the roof next door to me with
worms in their mouths for a few days now, as I sit here at this kitchen table, writing, typing, breathing. But I never imagined there was life happening right there! The ingenuity of the nest-making was astounding, leaves harvested
long ago, now time-reduced to a lattice outline.
It’s the noticing. The small moments when the chocolate
vegan mousse cake you doubted, actually tastes like gilded decadence. When you decide to send a “hugs”
text to your immediate family, just because it felt like a good idea this
morning. When you go back through old pocket calendars, and read all the quotes
and notes you’ve collected, including this rancorous gem from a rancorous man:
“I’ve gotten to the point where patience is a waste of time.” – or this one, “I
have a hard time taking my sanity temperature.”
For reasons hilarious and unknown to me, I seem to find
myself in my second band with folks who are at least 10 years older than me. I
love this. There’s little of the peacock chest puffing, and more of the genuine
delight in participating in something fun, something that maybe we all wish we
did when we were in high school, but didn’t. At least, I feel that way. And
grateful that I get to do it now, when I’m less likely to vomit vodka tonics on
myself.
Instead, I get to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon holding a
bass in a basement with friends, and come home and feel inspired to take out my
own guitar, and find out what I have to say anyway. 

ambition · band · choice · commitment · community · fulfillment · fun · gratitude · happiness · joy · music · opportunity · synchronicity · theater

Band Aid.

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You know, it was right around a year ago last June that I
stood up with a group of 4 other people and played bass with a band in front of
actual people in an actual venue. – I’d started playing in May.
This month, I’m being invited to do so again.
I’ve picked up my bass literally once in the last 6 months,
since our final show on New Year’s Eve, or the final show I played with them
before I left the band to pursue theater.
This switch, this focus of my energies in one creative
direction (one that I’ve always wanted to pursue, but never let myself try or
admit or commit to) has turned out pretty darn well in these last few months: I
got real headshots, auditioned about a dozen times, performed in one play, one
staged reading, and am preparing as the lead in a play at the end of the
summer.
These are all great things.
But I miss the band.
I miss the immediate gratification of playing with people. I
miss the noise, the movement, the sound, the collaboration. I miss the
laughter.
Theater is performance; being a musician is a performance;
but there’s a difference. The former is literally more staged. It’s not like I
have acres of experience in either, and maybe I simply fell in with a great
group of people for my first band – which I did. But whatever the formula is
for happiness, I felt that when I played.
A friend once asked me what it was like to play with the
band. What it felt like. And I took her question with me to band practice that
week, and noticed how I felt as we fiddled and fixed and went over and over and
moved into a rhythm, and went totally off the reservation with funny lyrics and
made-up progressions: I was smiling. I was bouncing on the balls of my bare
feet – the only way I could practice – and I noticed that I felt content, engaged,
in the moment, fun, funny, “on.” That’s what “happy” felt like.
Next Sunday, I’ll get to practice with a new group of folks,
a friend and his friend, to prepare for a potential show in July, before my
theater rehearsal gets going. I’m feeling nervous and jittery – wanting to get
the music charts NOW so I can practice, be perfect, be better – because if you haven’t followed along,
I’ve only been playing a year, and not that consistently at that!
I want to build my calluses back up. I want to remember
where C is on the fret board. I want to bounce on the carpet in my bare feet.
I love this theater stuff, … but I love the band better.
(P.S. I’m just reminded to reflect that it was only a little
while ago that I wrote here that I wanted to “band” again … and here it is. Word.)

authenticity · camping · community · confidence · hobby · honesty · laughter · music · responsibility · self-support

Chop Wood, Carry Water.

Two weeks ago, I wrote this in the Grownupness blog:
“I grasp at things I think I want, but I’m not willing to
firm the foundation to get there – to mix the mortar, lay the bricks. Chop
wood, carry sticks. That’s where I need to be at. Very simply, I need to lay
hold of qualities and actions that I have tried to avoid.”
And so, this weekend, I carried sticks.
The simplicity of camping, even in the complexity of “car
camping” the bastardized cousin of “real” camping, was so easy. It’s so easy
for me. What needs to be done next? Well, we’re heading out down the river for
the afternoon while others go river rafting (a luxury expense I couldn’t
afford), so what did I need to bring? Sunscreen, towel, book I didn’t crack,
hat, water. That’s it.
It’s turning darker, what do we need to do? Get more
firewood, build a fire, refill the water, not at the mercury-laden river’s
edge.
There are things that I know how to do, and this weekend, I
got to see that very clearly. I know how to build a fire, I know you need something
like paper or brush to catch under the kindling to catch under the wood blocks
that were neatly chopped for us in a bundle wrapped with plastic. I know that I
need to slather sunscreen on myself and wear a hat because I’m paranoid of skin
cancer since my encounter with the Australian sun – the sun won.
I know how to make coffee, and put up a tent and roll my
sleeping bag and to remember to bring earplugs and tarot cards 😉
I know how to camp. At least, I know how to car camp.
When I unfurled my sleeping bag, in it was a long-sleeved
shirt I hadn’t seen in two years, since I was in that tent, with someone else.
I played Ghosts of Camping Trips Past this weekend.
Remembering acutely who I’d been with and when. Each and every one of the even
mildly significant and more significant relationships I’ve been in over the last six
years, I’ve been camping with that person. I haven’t slept in that tent alone
in a long time.
This particular camp grounds, I’d been to maybe 3 or 4 years
ago, when I’d been newly dating someone. It’s a beautiful spot on the American
River, up past Sacramento, and almost to Tahoe. It’s amenitied out the
yin-yang, but that’s alright. I remember the photo of me and that person in
that very landscape, I remember the release I feel when I’m out there. Not with
the person, but out there, knowing and feeling confident that I know even that
little bit.
I haven’t roughed it. I haven’t hiked out into the woods and
set up camp since I was 19 and leading a camp group overnight with our packs
into the Appalachian Mountains. And even then, it wasn’t roughing it – That’s
alright. I know it’s something I still want to do.
I wondered why it was, as I went through my previous
camping trips over the last few years, that each had included a man I’ve been
involved with. Was this my test for them? For “us”? Was I only able to be there
with someone else?
No. The reason, I realized, is because I love camping. And I
happen to go and be invited, and then I happen to invite the guy I’m with.
That’s all. Turns out, camping is a hobby, I suppose. It’s likely the only same thing that has occurred with each relationship I’ve had over the last few
years. The only “adventure” or “event” or excursion that has happened in each involvement. It just points out to me
that this is an important thing for me. Something I love.
A way that I don’t feel I need to be any different than I
actually am.
I feel confident out there (yes, even with the general store
and port-o-potties nearby). But I feel like myself. I usually look like a
wreck, and I don’t care. My hair matted and loved by the sweat and dust and
river mist. Caked in various layers of SPF lotions and supportive sneakers. I don’t
look like Xena, I look like me. Like the me I am in private, with no one to
impress or stun or mesmerize. Like the me I am when it’s just me. Whole, and
unabashed, and unprotected. And capable. I usually feel like a leader, or at least like a competent
person when I’m out there. Something those of you who read this blog with
any consistency can attest is not my normal M.O. out in the “real world.”
I needed that. I needed to feel worthy and valuable simply
for who I was/am. Not for how I looked. Or for how much money I had. Or for what kind of job I worked. Or what cell phone I carried. Or degree I had. I could be valuable for my
contributions to the group, be it building a fire, or fetching the water, or
going off to sit and do my Morning Pages out on a rock in the middle of the
rushing river so that I could be more present and emptied of my junk when I
returned to the group. I could be valuable by bringing Madlibs to do by the
fire at night – which led to so much hilarity, and stupid good fun. I could
be valuable by making coffee the first morning when everyone was still asleep
or grumpy. I could be valuable by breaking out the guitar one of us brought for
a little while, and later, sing along harmonies with her, and remember that I
have a voice.
I felt purposeful. I didn’t question who I was or where I
was going or what I was doing with my life. I didn’t have any profound
judgments or insights. I simply “chopped wood, carried water” (no chopping this
trip, but you know what I mean). If I can take that simplicity, and that
confidence, and that sense of pleasure from being precisely who I was/am into
the world, I think I’ll be alright.
If I can dress nicely and put on makeup, and remember
that it’s just a lens through which to see the whole that I am.
If I can breathe in the fire smoke scent of my balled-up clothing and
recall what it feels like when I’m just me, then I think I’ll be alright. 
adulthood · authenticity · band · compassion · courage · dance · discovery · letting go · life · maturity · music · performance · persistence · poetry · receiving · responsibility · self-care · singing · surrender

Pulling a Carmen: 2

When I began this blog-a-day back in November of last year,
my first post was called “Pulling a Carmen,” as I’d been reading and was encouraged by her own blog-a-day postings. In the time since, sometimes I
just find it hugely funny how parallel my path is to my fellow blogger and
friend.
For recent example:
  • I also just starting going back on to the internet dating
    scene. In fact, I have a coffee date today with someone I met on JDate
  • I too have said fuck it, and asked out a dude yesterday.
    Unfortunately, turns out he’s married, but it felt really good to do so.
  • Several of the books that are lining my desk and bedside
    table are travel books about Europe, underlining my intention to take a real
    freaking vacation some time this century.
  • And, I also rented a camera and video camera from the
    school’s A/V department to begin taking pictures again. 

Sometimes I feel awkward about our exceedingly similar
trajectories, as if I’m copying her, but the reality is that independently, we
come to these things, and then come here to write about them. It’s really
funny, and also somewhat comforting to know that there is someone who is
traveling a similar path toward “To thine own self be true.”
On that note, I went to see my friend’s band play in the city
last night, and then headed with my girlfriends to go out dancing in Oakland.
Prior to both these… we went to the Dharma Punx meditation – nothing says
spiritually fit like meditating for 40 minutes before downing coffee with an
add-shot. 😉
But to relate it to the ‘self be true’ part – each of these
are places where I want to feel more connection. I hadn’t been to see live
music in MUCH too long. It’s on my current list of “Serenity Moths” on my
refrigerator (a list of things that aren’t cataclysmic, but slowly and
subterraneaously eat away at my serenity and foundation). Yes, “Absence of live
music” is on there, and so should be “dancing.” I’m a white girl. I have no
ambition or goal to be anything but a mildly flailing Elaine Benice, but … i
love it. The absence of self, the absence of self criticism or posturing or
need to be anywhere or anything else. Lost in the music.
The band brought something else up for me. Like the
“dropping” of the whole acting bent at the beginning of this year, what I’ve dropped
more often than anything is the “being in a band” idea.
As you may know, I have 2 guitars, a bass, and a small USB plug
in keyboard. Each as dust-covered as the next. The bass amp sits as a monument
to abandoned dreams in my apartment.
Last night, watching my friend’s band, I remembered that this is
something I want to do. In fact, I’d emailed one of the guitarist’s wife about
6 or more months ago to talk to her about her own process of getting toward
singing in a band – embracing her inner teenage rock chick. If I had my … well, if I had my own back, I guess, I’d play
bass, and I’d sing. Talk about vulnerability.
This week, I stood practically naked in front of an audience
and spoke my poem into a microphone in a moderately full theater. That isn’t nearly as frightening to me as
standing in front of an audience, singing, or playing.
The truth is that for several years, I’ve been gathering information
about the whole bass playing thing. But, no, I haven’t been playing. A few
years ago, I asked a guy I knew for bass advice, and he sent me a long list of
places to start (which I didn’t pursue). About a year later, I contacted this other guy about bass
lessons (which I didn’t pursue). … And the guy I asked out yesterday is also a bass player. Apparently,
I have a thing.
Every few years, I’ll troll craigslist, and I’ll answer a
few ads for singers. I even recorded myself a little on my computer’s
Garageband to send as a sample. I got a “not a good fit, but thanks anyway” from one,
and no reply from another. And, hey, I don’t blame em. When I’m terrified, it
comes through. I don’t know. I’ve written here about it kind of frequently –
and dismissed it and been “embarrassed” by it just as often.
However, once again, the thing that occurred to me last night as I
watched my friend’s band was another case of “I want to do that” … followed by
“I can do that.” There is no one stopping me, obviously except for myself and
my fears, and that critic that says “Not good enough” and chops me off at the
knees before I start.
One thing I’m working on releasing at the moment, a pattern
and belief and behavior that is just not fucking serving me anymore, is my need
or habit to stay small.
When I was living in South Korea, my friend nicknamed me
“Ballsy Mollsy.” I had the absolute chutzpah and hubris to ask anyone anything,
go anywhere, and do pretty much whatever I felt like doing in the hedonistic
way most drunks do.
However, there is a quality of that Ballsy woman who still I am,
somewhere, and who I want to resurrect or reveal or uncover or let loose – or
even just let into the light a little tiny bit.
I find it’s happening in some ways. And I know to have
compassion for myself as I try to aim in this direction which has been a Siren
song for me (uh, no pun intended) for … oh, 15 years.
But compassion for slow progress, and acceptance of
stagnation are two different things. And I’d really like to move forward from
here.
So, for your reading pleasure, here’s a poem composed about
a year ago. Reading aloud is encouraged.  As is recalling the line “So let it be written, so let it be done.” Cheers. m.
Band Practice
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