I read something today that shook me. Deep. Way down deep, in a big WTF sort of way... it had to do with the local school wanting to arm security guards. And then I hopscotched to an article about the psychological effect of gun violence, drills, and paranoia on young children.
I don't think I have to describe the feeling inside. I think we all feel that horror; it's a mess. The uncertainty. The rage, the confusion, the sadness.
But, here's what I noticed, as I read through the inter-webs: my father's generation grew up this way, during the Cold War. They grew up (our Baby Booming parents) hiding under their desks, wondering whether bombs would fall from the sky. It was "war time." There was the big button. And then we were into the Cold War.
I had a chat with my Dad about his childhood. And it was so different... this was a war machine, not unpredictable civilians shooting each other and kids in schools and movie theaters. So much is different, but still, there were parallels. Duck and Cover, they called it. They hid under their desks when the sirens went off. They never knew when an air raid might materialize. This generation had its share of anxiety growing up, for sure.
I read here about the fear and anxiety over current politics and threats to our safety, and how they echo the fears of the Cold War era. We are re-living those fearful childhoods, through our baby boomers. It's palpable. The tension, the air thick with the memory of it, of hiding. Are we safe, are we safe?
And on the other hand, we have the current kids. The group my son will be joining in the fall. These kids are in the beginning stages of learning "active shooter drills." The Boomers had fall-out shelters, and now we are talking about "safe rooms." The threat is very different. But the fear is real, for both. I shudder to imagine my son growing up in such fear-based, dark world. And anxiety begins to tug at me, too. But then, I stop. I breathe. I ground myself. And I remember...
My generation is a special one. And I'm definitely talking about my own privileged youth: my friends, my school experience. Of course, not everyone had a positive experience, for personal reasons. But I'm talking about the vibe of the nation. The Reagan Years. We grew up in the age of bliss, in many ways
I watched the first choreographed music video, ever, on MTV (back when they just played music videos) along with many of my Gen X counterparts who were lucky enough to have cable. (You just heard Video Killed the Radio Star in your head just now, didn't you?) Oh - ah- oh...
I grew up with Dolly Pops and He-Man cartoons and Voltron and Smurfs. US in the 80s... in the middle class neighborhoods... there were TVs everywhere. Abundance. Too much, I think. We had it good. New Wave vibes and Boy George and John Hughes films. Lisa Lisa. Janet. Blondie. Bon Jovi. The Rubick's Cube. Watchu talkin' 'bout Willis? Different Strokes. Beepers and pagers. Madonna. Atari... Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Frogger. The arcade. Neon shirts. Webster. Asymmetrical skirts. Princess Di. Skorts. Tina Turner. Scrunchies. Keds. Miami Vice. Knight Rider. Human League. Wham! Bowie. <3 The Go-Gos. Mr. T. FAME! Flashdance. Shoulder pads. PRINCE. Garbage Pail Kids. Whitney Houston. Mr. Wizard's World. Mall bangs. Mr. Rogers. Peak Michael Jackson. We Are the World. Hands Across America. Farm Aid. U2, The Police, Sting. Debbie Gibson. Selena. BRUUUUCE. Weird Al. COMING TO AMERICA. Roller rinks. New Kids and Tiffany... we crossed into the nineties and the Seattle grunge exploded! Kurt Cobain and the Nevermind album, oh my God! Chris Cornell. <3 We met John Mayer. Dial-up internet entered the home.
I could reminisce for hours. There was pretention, to be sure, but I remember the freedom, the bliss, the culture, the abstract art, the vibe... like it were yesterday. I think a lot of us do. TURBO AND OZONE! Sorry, that just slipped out. So, we sort of packed it up inside, and carried it along with us. Many of my counterparts still quote their favorite childhood shows and nostalgia. it was so much a part of us, and it was the beginning of an addiction to technology and instant satisfaction, as well.
For a lot of us, our parents worked outside the home. Latch-key kids. Oh, yes... who else had keys around their necks and walked home from school to empty houses? And usually, that was perfectly safe. Not a care. Our biggest threat was the potential weirdo in a van with candy. We had more TV time and we were a spoiled bunch... What we didn't grow up with...was a looming fear of danger and imminent death. We thought we'd live forever, we were invincible. Our battlefield was Love. <3
And for so many of us, it still is. We are Hippie 2.0, streamlined for greater efficiency. Hyper-Connected. Love x Love X Infinity. Nothing is impossible. Stubborn as all get-out. We will survive. Win. Achieve our dreams. Because better days are possible. We've seen them. Great things happen and dreams come true. And good guys win.
i mean, we wanted to solve our problems with dance-offs...
My point here... is that our kids have an amazing gift, to help them navigate through their childhoods.
They have us. The 80s kids. The Gen Xers. The hope-and-dreamers. The big Lovers. The idealists. We were in a magical sort of bubble, as far as violence went. Sure, skirmishes existed, but not in our backyards. Not at home, not in America. We didn't know about any of that, we were safe. We were eating Fun Dip and Razzles and learning about Aids and safe sex. We were saying no to drugs (well, some of us said yes. No, not me. I was a drama queen, but straight as an arrow.) We learned about global warming for the first time. We were learning joy and empathy, indulgence and moderation, not fear and paranoia.
Granted we still had socio-economic division and racial conflict and all the rest. We had the good ol' haves and have-nots. But we weren't living in a constant fear of destruction. As our parents did, and as our kids are. We're in that blessed middle. It's a sacred space, because we've known innocence. We know hope. We know Light and goodness and abundance and harmony. Believers.
We saw the end of the Cold War. We saw the Berlin Wall opened and then destroyed, joining the east and west. We saw resolution. Handshakes. We saw eruptions of joy, celebration, and community. Acceptance. Understanding between diverse groups. We've seen moments of peace and wonder. We've also seen riots and disruptions and worked to resolve them. And with so many social injustices, there is always more work to do. But we're doing it. Tables are turning, grounds are shaking, and ways are changing. Step by step. We've been taking down walls since the eighties.
Why are we unique? Because we are in the middle. And not in a holier-than-thou-super-special-snowflake way.... but, meaning that we are the balance. We can raise children with tools to dream and believe and hope, and to do the work. To imagine. To create. To manage anxiety and emotional eruptions. We can tell them that human beings can love each other, work together, trust each other, and succeed, together. We can instill them with beliefs that are empowering, because we've been there. We've seen bright times, and we know, they'll come again. We can infuse them with Love, in a time of fear. With our feet on steady ground, filled up with hope and that glimmer of Light and peace-time goodness... we can hold space for our parents and keep them grounded. We can comfort our children and guide them through. And we can continue to dream, hope, and imagine a better and safer world. We've seen glimpses of it. We're the ones. We're those people. We're that generation that guides the ship. That lifts and inspires and motivates and makes.
Change happens. Reform happens. Tragedies happen, but we rise from the ashes and demand change. We rip down walls that separate us, we celebrate each other, we Love.
We Love. And we'll keep on...
Hi. That's me. Baby me. Toddler me. Right about the age my son is now. The seventies, man. My brother had given me a haircut, *just before* school pictures. Mom was pleased. :sarcasm font: I think it worked for me.
1970s... Avocado greens and chocolatey browns and burnt oranges and that putrid vomit-colored maize-yellow. Bell-bottoms. My Mom's disco albums. Yeah, vinyl. I learned to dance the Hot Chocolate from one of them. I learned about (and fell in love with) Donna Summer from another.
I saw my grandparents a lot. I had one grandmother who delivered Avon, knew everyone in town (and they still mention her, to this day) and she lived in house dresses (look it up, they're like mu mus..) I had another grandmother who was a NOW (National Organization for Women) cardholder, worked in the city, commuted in sneakers and changed to pumps at the office, knew all the subways, and took us to see Broadway shows once a year. One was Grandma...one was Mimi. Can you guess who was who?
I loved them both, dearly. But I associated with Mimi the most. Honest. Eye-rolling. Sharp-tongued. A riotous and often inappropriate sense of humor, behind closed doors. She was the one who'd laugh so hard that tears would stream down. I get my fire, my sass, my passion, the marinara in my veins, my joie de vivre...from that side. The Italian side.
My other Grandmother, on my father's side (British/Dutch/Canadian)... had lessons to teach, just in her presence. In her stories. I wouldn't appreciate them until much later. They lived hard through the depression, my father's parents, and they both worked at Grumman. They had four boys, and they both worked, and rarely saw each other. They were scrappy, they had to be. They were thrifty, because they learned to be. My grandmother, boy, she could... make a dollar holler. She hit up garage sales, tag sales, thrift stores, and always gave to others the little that she could. We often got new school clothes from the rag bag (donated clothes that we got from the church in Glen Cove, cheap). So she'd often give us things to help out, even though they weren't Rockefellers, either. She wasn't a barrel of laughs or charm or high-fashion. She was a tough old broad. She got hit by a Mack truck crossing the street and broke a hip, in her... sixties? She was up an delivering Avon again, pretty soon after. That's how she was. Tough as nails. Vocal. Opinionated. In your face if you didn't submit. I get my grit and low-bullshit-meter from her.
My childhood was informed by some powerful women, although I didn't see it at the time. I won't tell you about MY mother, because, well, she's alive and well and reads this and it's just none of your business.
But my grandmothers: one was fighting the patriarchy, working, earning her worth as best as she could, trying to lift that glass ceiling up... just a bit. Caring for herself, putting herself first. She came from an Italian family that let the boys go to college and the girls... learned to cook and keep a husband happy. From the get-go, she said... "this stinks." She just knew how wrong it was, how it didn't align with who she was. My mother's side is where I get a lot of my... resistance to conform into a role. Like Becky Sharp, Scarlet O'Hara, Jo March, and so many other controversial figures of women in literature. I will hardly just go and be a wife... Because this fire burns inside... for more. For passion, for exploration, for challenge, for vibrance, for intellect, and color and travel and excitement. For a LIFE, not a sentence.
And I think, through most of her life, (I have a recording of an oral history I did with her, that I cherish), she silently stewed and let a fire grow inside, that would emerge later. And it did.
They're both gone, now, all of my grandparents are, and I feel it's okay to discuss them here.
So entwined with my current writing, Wild Horses and Mistakes, I set out on an intentional journey... call it shamanic, call it psychology, call it catharsis, call it healing the inner child, call it whatever you want... it's all the same to me, with different labels. We are but a story, and we can revisit our stories and pull meaning out, to inform the present. It's all a big spiral dance, around and around and around.
We go through childhood and collect all these stories, these ideas, that other people make up about us, and if we already feel small... we believe them. And it takes years and years of crawling out of those stories, and becoming our own people.
I can see it now, the whole pattern, as it's taught to us (of course, not everyone follows this):
birth: we're given a name, an identity, and put into the "system"
school years: our teachers teach us to memorize things, and often scold us for our originality or finding our own answers. We're often dumbed down for being resourceful or creative. It must be done their way, or we get "bad marks." So, we must get good marks, and so we conform. And often, if we're lucky, we find those one or two special teachers or counselors, that connect... and keep us going.
college: optional, but many take this route. To... fit the right mold to get the right job, to "be what they want," so they get hired to work for someone else's dream.
then...marriage, kids, two cars, vacations: and so we get out of school, we find careers, we find a partner to play this game alongside us. And for a while it's good, life is good. We played a good game, we got there! We did it! We ticked off everything on the card, look!
And then... those lost embers of glowing imagination, of magic, of dreams, of non-conformity start to bubble up through the cracks and demand change. This isn't what I thought. I did everything right, how come I'm not happy? I have a good life? Enter the mid-life crisis. Sometimes, if they're lucky and already have a healthy relationship, couples ride through it together and they both change. Often, they split because one will not change for whatever reason. Or worse, they stay together, yet grow apart, living a show within a show, for the kids, for the neighbors, and everyone is miserable.
Or... maybe you're still single, and none of that affects you at all, and you just feel like you're in a hamster wheel. Waiting for real life to start. For that ship to come in. For something to finally make sense and give you the unmistakable direction that you've been seeking. We've a got a wacky sort of society that breaks us apart and we scramble to put ourselves together again, later in life. And some of us don't make it that far, we become that system and lose our identities, altogether. (But not really, I truly believe that there is always a spark that stays lit.)
I'm not sure what I'm rambling about today, it feels a bit messy. And maybe that's the point, but it has to do with childhood, dreams, and how our fears and self-esteem are managed. I look at this little bright-faced girl and I wonder how she did it. How did she make it to now? And she can't tell me, because she had no idea. She was a child. Innocent. She just woke up and showed up. it was later that she started hiding and living in made-up worlds that made much more sense.
I've been doing this work, this self-study, this inner-journey for a few years now. And at the outset, it was about the present and the immediate stresses of life. And then it was about adulthood, in general, and then adolescence. And so on. It's like time-traveling, revisiting my life, all the way back to here... to early childhood. I think deep within each of us are these innocent children who want to play, dream, fly, sing, dance, and maybe see outer space. And it doesn't always work out that way, because we start believing in the limitations that others give us, throughout our growing up.
And this... is the mess. The bags, the burdens, the stifled dreams in our backpack, that we walk through life with. Unrealized dreams. Attention not given. Perceptions of love withheld. Mistakes, abuses, pain, trauma, fear. Carried forward, in our bones, in our minds, in our memories. Our...mess.
I first got into this intentional self-development, living with my eyes and heart wide open, fully aware, life-out-loud, hoping to heal. To get there. To that place, where I healed it all. And life would be a walk in the sunshine where nothing caused me trouble anymore, because I did all my work. Yay, I'm fixed, let's go heal the world! :throws glitter in the air:
:insert ironic laugh here:
No, unfortunately. And for me, freedom, epiphany, boundless creativity, inner change and transformation comes not in my ultimate and grand healing... but in deep acceptance that I will always have this pack on my back; my mess. My stuff. That stuff can change, things go in, things come back out. New experiences and joy go in, fear and pain go out. But then with adventure comes risk, and more sometimes more pain, so in that goes. And this, I think, is Life. That pack will always be there, it's my story, it's who I am and where I've been. And stories change... I'm constantly emptying and refilling the pack. But I'm owning it. Seeing it, knowing it, being with it. And traveling along anyway, open and trusting, knowing that pack will always be there. And that's okay. Because we've all got one. And I start thinking more about... searching through each other's backpacks rather than... feigning perfection. Because it's a lie. One I won't buy anymore.
And that little girl? That young, sweet, innocent little Stacie? She's still in there and when she's scared or nervous or overly exuberant or excitable, I just carry her too, with everything else. I pick her up, hold her close, and carry her with me (symbolically, of course). Because I can keep her safe and I can do my best to bring her what she wants. I think that's what all of our anxieties are about, really. That little young boy or young girl that has fears and anxieties and doubts and worries... but also, also... big dreams and hope and resilience and magic and wildness and that wonderful, playful, beautiful optimism.
Hello, heart. I see you. I'm listening.
It's been a minute.
I've been doing lots of reflecting, writing, regrouping, lately. As I reflect over the past year, what I've done and seen, what I've learned, where I've traveled, what I've come to see and understand about myself, and about my perceptions of others... I am just blown away, at the process. At who I am now, when I look back at who I was then. I've made another lap around the circle. The absolute truths I knew then, versus the illuminated and ever-changing perspectives that I have now. Oh, these blessed spirals.
And I'm writing through all of it:
Wild Horses and Mistakes: The Year I Followed My Bliss, Accomplished Absolutely Nothing, and How it Changed My Life Forever
(Subtitle is a bit long...it's in progress, but that's the feel of things.)
Meaning, I didn't "do" anything but choose myself, my priorities, my health, my joy, my creativity. I didn't have a list to tackle or a pile of to-dos and must-haves. I followed my heart, my intuition. My wild horses. And that's a concept, in and of itself. It's never just about the horses, is it?
Anyway, I know you'll enjoy getting under the hood, peeling back my chest-plate and seeing my heart and my reassembled guts in this new sacrifice to the Gods of Creativity and Musing. I can't wait to share it and set it free, but I am deep into revisiting, mindfully, each place, chapter, and section.
The Soul writes; the ego edits.
The past year has had me up in the clouds, soaring with birds of prey as they watched the wilds below. Galloping across rugged terrain, not knowing where I was going, stopping at water holes, weathering storms and fire, and just knowing that I'd get there. Somehow. It's had me waking in new places to new faces, smelling and sensing and feeling new things, absorbing new vibrations, and healing on levels so deep that I didn't think I'd ever reach them. It's had me shatter illusions and chase new ones, only to see them disintegrate in my fingers and drip slowly out of my hands, back into the seamless expanse of energetic alchemy that surrounds us. Constantly. And it does. We are, at all turns, exactly where we need to be.
Hold out your hand, take one step, and begin. It really is that simple.
We are sublime players and doers and crafters and actors and creators...who can, at our best, move effortlessly through what may feel like a heavy minefield of pain, disappointment, shattered hopes, dramatic fears, deep loss... and we can get through, easily, with all that we need... when at our best, most true versions of who we are, as living, breathing, dynamic, sensing, beings.
The past year in question began last fall with a trip out to the east end of Long Island, the furthest trip I'd taken solely and purposefully on my own... it was an hour or so away. I stayed in a bed and breakfast and unearthed a sacred chest full of memories, pain, stories, and experienced powerful growth. And that trip began a quest, a Campbell-esque journey of my own. Because I saw that not just solitude, but the allure of the new and strange and unknown, brought the most amazing spiritual insight. In the way of facing our own demons, our most disturbing beliefs about ourselves and each other. Because it's all thought, really. Perception and response.
And I can't possibly sum up in one blog post all the truths I've witnessed, the stories I've rewritten, the deep healing, the pain. The numbing, seething, darkest pain that I never thought I'd see eye to eye again. And meeting it, head on... and surviving through it. And the freedom in that. Finding the most special souls who understood what I was experiencing, as I experienced it. Possibly keeping me in one piece and lending me their strength. Flashlights. Candles and Light and Love and symbolism and reminders and guidance and whispers and hope... and faith. Always faith. Just... keep... going. And the passing of Life before my eyes as we got rear-ended and sent back to the starting gates, at the peak of Bliss and perfection and understanding. Always, the pendulum swings. And the gratitude for those setbacks, for those life-changing illuminating moments: that remind us in such a powerful, unmistakable way... what is truly important.
Self, family, friends, community. And living through to heal. When we take that often painful, scary and tumultuous journey within, to know ourselves, deeply... we begin to heal. In healing ourselves, we heal others. But also, we heal the karmic past, the residue, the eons of pain that lingered heavy in our bones. Women who came well before me and were stricken down and cut out for their wisdom. And the gift that these times bring, in carrying that wisdom forward. In never letting that Light die.
I could write for days about it, and I do, in this new project. I write about a lot of things, though, because really... it's about a divine and very human balance. It's about seeing energetically and intuiting and listening, but it's about using that insight to sculpt the present moment, here and now. It's about meditation and self-love, and also about using your voice and knowing when to let your tiger teeth show, just a little. it's about loving and doting and giggling and cherishing our babies and kids... and knowing that we can also plan and strategize, make the right decisions, and plant our feet firmly in soil, getting it all done, while we dance in the clouds, looking down upon it all in gratitude. It's about a healthy, grounded, free-flying balance of all things. It's about equilibrium, and what it takes to find the right balance, for each of us. Because it's different. That's the key. One doesn't suit all. That's why we do this work. It's why I do. To find what works for me, and to utilize it here, now, in my Life, in my world, for myself and for those that I love. it's about authenticity. Truth.
Wild. It's not about being reckless and obnoxious and surly and crude and promiscuous. Although it can be, without apology, but not always. For me wildness is about nature. That includes human nature. Just as a wild mare runs through a barren landscape, she knows to stop for water when she sees it. She knows to rest. She knows to protect and teach her little ones. She knows when to run and when to fight. Intrinsically, it's in her nature. It's in her wildness.
So, finding our wildness I think, is more about finding...ourselves. And listening.
Good things coming. Wild Horses is writing itself, and I'll not rush it. But it's coming, more every day. Writing it, living it, has changed me. It's brought me back to my natural, wise-woman-wildness in all the most beautiful ways.
For the ladies:
I am asking for your input. I've opened a poll, with great results so far. If you can spare the time, I would greatly appreciate your feedback. If the answer is yes, then simply head on over HERE and submit your responses.
One thing I've found so far, is that we're mostly the same. We have different priorities, goals, and dreams...but the same sort of things hold us back and keep us in place.
I would love to gather as wide of a sample as I can for this; the results will be used for reference in Wild Horses and Mistakes, which is a project largely about women learning to love themselves, accept themselves, find their innate magic, and pursue their dreams with passion.
The poll will be left open through the duration of this writing trip, until about September 24.
Thank you in advance! xoxo
The link, one more time... https://goo.gl/forms/oYdsyfxN6BxMUPs23
I am changing. This is me embracing joy. Saying YES.
It would feel natural to say that I'm "improving," but really what's happening is that I am stripping away layers of nonsense. Incinerating parts of me that were never true. Unlearning things that I took on to get by when things were different.
I am ... more me.
I wrote a novel once. And I didn't feel super-driven to write another, at least not right away. What I've been doing, is working on me. I've spent a year, four seasons, diving into my fears and phobias. Traveling. Observing. Feeling. Writing. Healing. I've discovered in this year of me, that I am a singer/songwriter. This is such a huge part of who I am, and it vanished... once I entered academia and prepared for "a real job." A common tale for creatives.
Side-note: higher ed can be great and I have no regrets. It got me to now, which is great. But it's not everything. If you feel a calling, answer it. Honor it. Hone it. You may wake up one day and wonder why you spent all that time and money for paper and memorized jargon. This is common. On the flip-side, pursuing higher education is a saving grace for some people, it's the perfect recipe to provide growth, independence, freedom, and validation of Self. Follow YOUR path.
I have a new new trunk full of originals, they pour out of me now. I'm addicted to it again. But there was that lingering monster... stage fright.
I am baby-stepping it. I sang an original for my mother, to the delight of positive feedback. But that's my MOTHER. Then, I had a coaching appointment this morning and I schlepped my guitar across the parking lot, feeling quite strange the whole way. And I played/sang my newest for her: it's an ode to the dreamers who are also parents, and it's got 💯 of my heart and soul in it. My coach nearly wept as I finished it, and something happened inside... listen... it's not about me and my nerves. Although my fingers quivered and my feet shook uncontrollably and my voice cracked a few times and I felt my neck starting to gather sweat... my heart also cracked wide open. Wow. What magic was this? Yes magic.
It's about sharing what I've been given.
Indeed. It's about purpose. Again, the world seems newer. Brighter. Beautiful.
Hoping to start recording these little nuggets of deep feels and stories and moments for you. A two week travel/writing adventure starts on Thursday and I should be close to a finished first draft of Wild Horses and Mistakes. I'm so freakin' excited about this. Like, feet-shaking-knee-knocking-excited.
That must be good...
More soon... xoxo
With so much love,
It's been a week since I attended a half-day women's retreat with the lovely ladies at The Life Detox Retreats. This is the sort of event that I always push back, make excuses about, or try to work around. I mean it's half a day! But I promised myself that I'd show up. For starters. I'm so glad that I did, here's why:
I say this a lot...that magical things happen when women gather together, with like intentions. A synergy, a web of interconnectivity, is born that never existed before.
We began around 8 am, which for me, on a Saturday...is ridiculous. I wanted to stay in bed. Lounge, indulge, snooze, and stay in my luscious dreaming. But I promised, and this was, after all, the year of choosing ME (the premise of Wild Horses and Mistakes.)
I rushed a bit, but made it on time. The grass was still cool and damp with dew, the sun was still low. There was a peaceful quiet: a crispness, a clean-ness...about the energy in the air. I remember thinking... this is why people wake up early. For the stillness. Wow. It was beautiful. (Not making promises to become an early bird...)
I wandered in and found the women, chatting, standing, sitting, assembling around yoga mats. We started the day with some quick greetings and introductions from the facilitators and then eased into a gentle yoga routine. It was just lovely, being outdoors on a sprawling and lush estate, surrounded by green, at the foot of the harbor. Hearing the birds overhead in the canopy, feeling the fresh morning breeze on my skin, opening to the whole experience. It was blissful.
As the day went on, and we nibbled on wholesome foods, and moved into different areas for different methods of inner-work, like EFT (tapping), I found that I was surrounded by women from all places in the circle. Some were a few laps ahead of me, and had deeper, richer stories to tell, and deeper, more painful wounds to carry forward. Some were a few rounds behind me. We were all different, we lived different lives. We felt different levels of stress or worry or pain or sadness... and also different levels of motivation, dreaming, goal-setting, and challenge busting. Because there is both, there will always be both.
Dream and envision, while overcoming obstacles and pushing through fears and pain. And the scale of these things will vary; our best looks different at different times in our lives.
There is a balance.
I remembered and brought so much more to the surface that day, and in the days after. How beautiful it is to share our stories, to gain perspective, and to connect with each other. To observe. To listen. To see pieces of myself, in all of these women. How grateful I was just to be there. To witness. I gained a great deal of gratitude and perspective. It was a perfect little reset.
it was solidarity.
But also, the number one thing that kept bubbling up for me, all week... was exploration. Curiosity. Imagination, dreaming, creativity. All of this involved exploration. I had been in a bit of a tug-of-war, for a while, neck-deep in paradox, while writing more of my current project, which is probably the most honest and vulnerable piece of writing I've worked on, thus far. Even in that, there is challenge, a battle, a charge forward and a rush of resistance. It's all part of the experience. The give and take.
I'd thought for so long, and really took to heart, that to be spiritual... was to be silent, obedient, and stoic. Receiving, only. Just be still and grateful, and all I need will come to me. Ohm... OK. Let's get real for a minute, beyond the bullshit and chatter. I have less and less time for it.
Here's the thing with that... in real life: if I were to sit still, in blind gratitude and acceptance of what my life was and never got off my rump to see or do anything new...well, then nothing would ever change. My life would always be as it was, I wouldn't see or do anything different, nor would my son, and I would spend a lifetime limiting myself. Or him. No. Something has to move. Change. Shift. Always.
Writing my first book wasn't so much about the finished product, it was about who I got to be, as I wrote it. As I finished it. And made room for more to flow through. Chasing wild horses, or pursuing our dreams, isn't about what we catch, it's about who we get to be, what we see, how we grow and evolve...as we journey toward them. It's about adventure, the unknown, the other side of fear, the magic and mystery of encountering something new. It's about moments of awe and wonder and magic. To be still and unmoving, is to avoid change. It's safe. Simple. Less threatening, for sure. But to avoid and hide from change is to miss out on growth opportunities, as well as, oh...those simple little things like... bliss, joy, fun, excitement, passion, pleasure, meaning, and magic. All the things that make Life worth living. For me, spirituality is about embracing humanity, not hiding from it, and living in the Mind, alone. It's about coming fully into my body, from my soft stomach, to my head, and all the way out to my finger tips and toes. Being aware of twinges and discomforts and pain and exploring them. Healing them. Also, diving deep into the me inside, exploring there. Allowing emotional pain to surface for healing, and letting it go, and finding myself that much lighter and more free. Closer to wild and unfettered and blissfully abundant, with each healing and release. Stronger and more resilient with each stumble and setback.
To me, this is it. Living full-on, up-close with the Self. Honestly. Full acceptance of all that I am, light and dark. Awareness of what doesn't work, and measured action to improve. All change begins with conscious thought, with an idea, with a seed. But it lingers, unawakened, until action is taken. There must be a catalyst.
Action...is the step through the threshold, into a new world. A leap of faith. A big decision. Facing a fear. A change in plans, a new experience, a flight to another place, meeting someone new... all of these are first steps through that doorway, into a new story. A new adventure. Consciously creating opportunities to encounter new things, face to face. To engage the senses in different ways, to change perspective, to expand.
I am working with a coach now, (I'll gush about her when we're through, I don't want to detract from our work together) and it's doing wonders for staying focused and connected to my creativity. And she said something at our last visit, that stayed and rattled around in my head. Shook things up. It had to do with getting to core wants and desired outcomes, how I'd choose to design my life and experience creativity in a responsive world:
"What if there wasn't a book to write? What if there was no song you had to write and sing? No project to get done? What would it be then? What's beneath that? Without the to-dos?"
Wow. What a storm of stuff! Epic battles started raging inside, don't tell me I can't write! Why can't I sing? Why, what, why... and on and on. Silently, of course. Inside. Me against me. As is everything.
But I considered it, for the sake of the exercise...and some crystal clear truths bubbled up through the mess...
1. I am writer because it's who I am. I'll always write, I always have, because it's just me. It's how I see the world, and whether I share it or not, it will still happen. I live stories; life is art. It's not a have to, it's just me. As much as my arm or my foot is me. The same is true of music. If I went through a day without dancing around the kitchen, holding mini-concerts in the car as I drove, or hearing music within me and letting it out...I'd obviously be very ill or depressed. It just doesn't happen often. So, the answer to that question is: I'd still do and enjoy these things, even if I didn't seek to publish or share them. They're just me. It also made me so much more grateful to have these outlets in my life, and I promised to create more space for them.
2. But what if... if I didn't have those things. What else is it, what is the thing that lights me up, that sets my soul on fire, that mainlines me into Bliss? It's travel. New places, experiences, adventures, people, sights, sounds, smells, landscapes, FOOD. I write and create to process my world, and explain it in my own unique way, but I travel to engage my world. To live. For me, travel is to be in experience of Life, while art is to be in observation of life. (I did say up there that life IS art, so I don't know. Good luck sorting all that out. it might not make sense. It might, though.) Anyway. I thrive on a balance of both. So, if I had no project to work on, if I wasn't writing something or crafting something... I'd definitely be planning my next travel experience.
And here's why all of this is so important: knowing what makes us come alive and feel good, is everything. Knowing what that is, and then doing it, is a recipe for a fulfilling life. It's simple, but it's everything. Human beings, as we grow from childhood and encounter life's slings and arrows, we become wary of joy. We get further and further from it if we don't make an active choice to bring it to mind, and connect to it. Consciously. And stillness, quiet, meditation is key...because in the silence, we hear ourselves again. We hear what it is that we really want. (Pssst. We're still allowed to want things.) Or, we could hear our purpose, or the whisperings of the divine within us, our higher selves, pointing us toward our Truth. Whatever it is, way deep down, that energy, in those buried places, we get to listen to it.
I believe that we don't merely wait for our lives to happen to us, but that we consciously create them. Each day, with each choice. What great reminders I got, this week.
A simple prescription:
Find balance: nourish the body, quiet the mind, honor the soul
Listen and know what you want
Honor that voice, take a step toward what it wants, and live in gratitude of it
Repeat as necessary.
Magical, mystical, music.
"I knew when I was 13 what I wanted to do - I wanted to be a musician." - John Mayer
And so he has been.
I took the night off from overthinking, writing, practicing, Mom'ing, planning, exercising, pain-treating, and everything else...and I let music have its way with me tonight. Not sorry. It was good for me. Even the Belgian White felt medicinal.
It was a blessing, a homecoming...the BFF and I went to Jones Beach to see JM many moons ago, and I say homecoming, because, well listen to this coolness:
Way back when, in another lifetime, we went to this place, under the stars, to see the Counting Crows, Maroon 5, and this John Mayer guy. I was there for Adam Levine, nothing else. Or so I thought. That first time I saw him, John Mayer, I was surprised. I hadn't been a fan of the "run through the halls of my school" stuff. Your body is a what? Ew. I appreciate it now, and know every word, but back then? College days? Competing with DMB, Alicia, J-Lo, Janet, Gwen, Staind, Usher, Maroon 5, and ay dios mio, Enrique.... well, maybe I liked one song on the album: My Stupid Mouth. Yeah, I got that. It resonated. I had no filter. And Neon...great picking, wow. I thought we could hang, maybe, but the music? Eh. Coffeehouse. Chin pubes. College kids, fake IDs. Whatevs. (That was THEN John, I adore you now.)
Anyway, that night, back then, that first night I saw him live, he wasn't a frat kid at a coffeehouse. He brought out an electric guitar. The lights went down, the spot followed him to center-stage, and he started channeling Jimi Hendrix. This was way before the Trio. He just stood there and left it all the floor. He bled. Something magical happened. I felt it. And it spilled out of him, onto the floor, through the fog, across the crowd and seeped into me. I was hooked. This...this wailing, this pain-filled melancholic magic, this kind of connecting...moved me. So much more than the acoustic rhythmic strumming. I remember then, after seeing him, coming right back home, the way I did tonight, and I gushed into my MySpace blog for a good hour about that solo and how it "took me to outer space."
2003. August 25, 2003. Two days shy of 14 years ago. How much has gone down, how much we've seen and witnessed, since those simple days. How much Life has crept by?
And now. What magic is this, in these tones, these lyrics, these sounds, this... emoting... connecting... that brings it all right back. To then. What a gift that is, to create time-travel. To create doorways in the mind to such bliss, such simplicity, such joy. Remembering.
And to create more, here and now. Oh...art.
It's a magic I can't explain. If I was in the blissed-out state the guy a few seats down from me was in, I'd say... it's some epic, mind-blowing, cosmic shit. Yeah, man. Something like that. All those things.
Music. What is it about music that can do this for us?
And it's not all music I connect to in this way, it's what I call the authentic stuff. Connected stuff. It has to feel a bit organic, to me. And that's what it is, right there. It's real. Songwriting... taking in the world, the highs the lows, the waves of bliss and sorrow, the try-it-agains, and the fucked-it-ups, the climbing so high and the crashing so low. The movement, the pain, the memory, the fear, the longing. Imagining. Obsessing. Dreaming. The emotion. And it's this, this capture of raw, of real, of...Life. This is what connects us all. Art. To have an emotional experience, to share it, and to have us feel it, too. Connection. Heart-to-heart, soul-to-soul. This is what the artist, the creator, does.
And it's true for any art. They just take us there. Where we want and need to go. To enter into their world, to be there, to feel, to release, to let go, to heal. To hope, to dream, to imagine, to smile. To pause, to breathe. To appreciate. To wonder. To celebrate.
Musicians, while fulfilling their own need for release and connecting with us... also hold space. They hold for a us a sacred space in time to connect in a world full of distraction. Harmony in a world of disharmony. They give us moments, really, precious moments of unified and focused energy: a whole crowd feeling the same things at the same time. Which is why sensitive folks, well...me, at least... love these events so much. They light us up: we breathe in joy, awe, bliss, melancholy. But together, as a whole, a living organism, an expanding and contracting universe of meaning and and communication, all its own.
I feel blessed to have to gone. Thanks John Mayer. 14 years. Only getting better. We've got creases and lines and joint issues and other things, gen-xers, but, deep down, we're all still 'those kids.' And you took us there. Again. And I am moved. Again.
This is...yes...serious ass-kissing, but also an homage to music; being the glue that binds us. And how lucky you are, how lucky anyone can be: to be up there, living it, and have such influence. What a gift. What a dream, what an inspiration.
Thanks for a great night out.
PS...John Mayer totally admitted to being a guy who likes a good cry. Relevant because I just blogged about that in Big Boys Don't Cry...
what if there is no Meaning?
what if we are here, simply to Love?
To relish in what was once an abundant paradise?
what if...we had it all:
rivers, streams, wildlife, waterfalls?
conscious thought to appreciate it all
and to see and connect with each other?
and maybe somewhere,
in the realm of conscious thought,
we began to question and seek.
the seek for meaning, we had to assign meaning
great, grand, unquestionable meaning,
to such simple beauty and abundance.
we had to explain it to ourselves,
a prime reason for existence,
for what was once Heaven on earth.
to be sure, such paradise came with perils:
natural disasters and unexpected events;
the very wrath and ferocity of nature, Herself.
let us always remember that to be natural
is to be both beautiful and serene,
while also being savage and unapologetic.
utmost beauty and Light in contrast
with destruction and darkness.
this is Life. at its most simple, without pretense
and the delicious sugarcoating that we love so much.
the glaze that makes our lives so palatable and sweet,
the desire to magnify the beautiful
and look past the broken and raw and ferocious.
but we had to find meaning,
we had to, and we do still.
and so we created belief.
and then there were divergent beliefs.
this caused conflict.
and hell on Earth,
as humans battled with their beliefs
in their attempts to understand and explain what was given
in such simplicity and ease in Being.
we are here to work and to Love,
to care for ourselves and others,
to nourish and replenish,
to celebrate, to dance, to smile.
in our search to create meaning,
we've lost our true purpose.
what Life ought to mean:
Love, effort, abundance, celebration, creation, consolation, connection
what we've created in our time here:
conflict, judgments, illness, imbalance, cruelty, distortion, stagnancy, hatred, greed
we've also created:
progress, growth, art, masterpieces,
bold and unabashed testaments to our collective existence.
we bear witness to our searching hearts,
we provide proof of our existence,
we leave imprints, we plan and calculate memories
in a desperate attempt to scream out that
WE WERE HERE.
but what if there is nothing to fix?
what if this is who we are?
what if... Life... is simply this?
but not just to live
but to dive in deep
and live loudly.
to communicate, freely.
to express, to feel,
to move beyond,
to not conceal,
but to show, to share,
to glow, to be aware
of each other, so gratefully.
and how precious is this?
these strings, these precious things,
these tethers, these threads,
a simple tug, a lonely moment,
travels and connects us
to each other, but really,
back to ourselves.
because to see each other's eyes
and to breathe each other's sighs
above and between the
clenched fists and the cries
is to be Love
to be in connection
to be awakened
to know that we are all in it together
it's not how long Life is,
but it's what we do with it.
perhaps this is the question to ask:
not the why, and wherefore, and how-come
of it all, but the what.
deep into Life.
what are we doing with it?