Ugh.

 

 

 

Have you ever had one of those days where the challenges were lined up like dominoes, and yet you couldn’t knock over a single one? A day where you just kept turning around to find another domino, boxing you in? Ugh.

 

Yesterday was boxing me in, I tell ya. And no matter how I tried to stay positive, to move on to something else, I just kept hitting those dominoes. And nothing would give. Nothing.

 

It worries me that this is going to be one of those weeks. And y’all – I may not be woman enough to handle it. Yes – I can get things done, but I really don’t want to do it through tears and snot and looking like a glazed doughnut has smeared on my danged face. A little decorum would be nice.

 

But maybe this isn’t the week for decorum. Maybe I’m just going to have to face the struggles and keep pushing against that first domino, hoping it will wobble. That really is how it feels, you know. Like I can make it, if only I can handle one task, one challenge. If I can just get through that, maybe the rest will truly fall into place. Maybe.

 

And so I push…

Rainbows and Unicorns

 

 

I often write here about life’s positive moments. Sometimes I write about wanting life to be positive, about wanting to be positive myself. I do this because I truly aspire to living a life of joy. I honestly want to dwell in the hopeful. In bliss. In rainbows and unicorns.

 

But just because I write in this fashion, it does not mean my life is without its challenging moments of upheaval or disappointment. I break down and I muddle through more often than you can imagine. Sometimes those spells are short. Other times they linger like odors from a fish-fry. I don’t enjoy those times, and because I live with someone, it isn’t much fun for him, either. In fact, I think my downward spirals are downright befuddling to Mister. During those spells, he has said that he doesn’t get it – that I write about sunshine and roses and yet when life pulls me to my knees, I in no way resemble what I share in these missives. And he’s right.

 

For several months now I’ve been battling health issues. This isn’t a secret, as I’ve written of my challenges many times. What I haven’t always shared is how incredibly depressing this battle can be. I haven’t told you about the moments when I sit alone and cry, wondering if my fine-fettle days are behind me. Worrying that my health will continue to decline, as my body just doesn’t seem to be returning to familiar function. I’m no spring chicken, I admit. But I’m not so old as to treat this as any sort of “norm.” And even though I understand intellectually that my brain isn’t getting its full quota of nutrients and minerals necessary for good mental health, I am not always able to layer that intellectual understanding over my depressed feelings. Those are the times that get me. Those are the times that rattle the fault-lines of my confidence bedrock.

 

Maybe my genetic code is just not as well-written as I’d thought. Maybe my good health indicators, while fantastic for so long, have served their time and are now ready to retire. I don’t know. And though I understand a bit about physical function and health, it doesn’t mean I’m able to wave a magic wand over myself and fix me. God knows I’d like to, but that isn’t one of my gifts.

 

So yesterday, when I had a bit of a set-back on the health front, it got me down. Yes – I’ve experienced improvement since seeing the healer. But I’ve not experienced improvement upon the improvement. Capisce? I guess I’m so frustrated that I needed to lose it. And so I did.

 

Today I see the healer again, and I’ll relay all this information to her, as her approach is comprehensive and she’s quite caring. I’m also trying to picture my friend, Jolene. I saw her not too long ago and she told me about going through a particularly challenging health crisis that had her on the most limited diet imaginable for 6 solid months (not to mention meds and other means to a healthy end). I’ve only been following my limited diet (not nearly as harsh as Jolene’s) for a couple of weeks. I keep telling myself that if Jolene could handle her time, I can handle mine. And I keep forcing out thoughts that tell me Jolene may simply be stronger than I. That ain’t easy either, as those thoughts are loud and persistent.

 

Please forgive me for whining. This is not my journal. It is a blog. I know this. And though I seek to write honestly in these missives, I do not aim to complain incessantly. Some days I’m just a little more fallible than others. I hope you understand.

The Bushwick Book Club of Santa Barbara County

 

 

Late last year, a wonderful friend contacted me and asked if I’d like to take part in her book club’s project: read John Steinbeck’s East of Eden and write a song or two inspired by the book. My first thought was – I haven’t read East of Eden. Next, I thought about how – for a variety of reasons – I hadn’t performed in front of real people for quite a while. I ruminated and I ruminated and finally I sat down to respond to my friend’s query…

 

“…The truth is I like your idea / challenge, and the fact that it makes me uncomfortable to think about it

seems like a good reason to sign up.

Maybe. So yes. Put me down as part of The Mission.

I think. Yes. Yes. I’m in.

Am I?…”

 

And with a hit of the send button, I committed.

 

 

At first, as I read I flagged the bo0k with post-its, thinking I’d come back to an inspiring word/phrase/section and attempt to compose a song at a later time. But after a while, I remembered that when the bug hits, that’s the time to scratch it. So I allowed myself to be in the moment and wrote when the light-bulb flashed.

 

Once I’d written the song, I knew I needed to practice. Like I said, I hadn’t performed for quite a while and I didn’t want that to hold me back in my delivery. So I began working to memorize my song (thank you, Franz Liszt for forcing us all to do that) and to tweak my presentation. I knew this wasn’t a grand showcase or anything, but preparation is key. And I wanted to do well. For my friend and for myself. I suppose I also wanted to do well for “Charles” – the character that inspired my song. (It never occurred to me to want to do well for Mr. Steinbeck. Oops.)

 

 

So last week I drove myself to Santa Barbara to get my Steinbeck on, along with several other songwriters. The event was held at The Guitar Bar in downtown Santa Barbara and that joint is gi-gorgeous. Seriously. A few folks referred to it as “guitar porn” and I agreed. The shop’s owner, Jamie, was such an amiable guy and his generosity in allowing the Bushwick Book Club to stage its meetings there is fairly grand. His place is comfortable and welcoming. I strongly encourage music lovers and players to stop in his store, next time you’re in Santa Barbara.

 

 

Anyhoo, back to the show. It was truly fascinating to hear how other folks were affected by the book. Some were drawn to the same language. Some were drawn to the same characters or plot lines. And as songwriters, no two of us were the same. My brilliant friend, Kate Graves, performed a lovely song that was as sweet as it was heartbreaking…

 

 

I hadn’t seen Tom Prasada Rao for a few years and it was good to catch up with him. He was inspired to write 2 songs and I loved them both. But that first one – wow. I told him I want need a recording of it and I wasn’t lying…

 

 

When my spot in the line-up rolled around, I took the stage and va-va-voomed my way through my tune…

 

 

And then it was over. The good people attending the meeting made their way out of The Guitar Bar toward home and we musicians packed up our gear. Jamie and his crew began putting the shop back in order and good-byes were made. I hit the road for my drive back to Los Angeles and left Santa Barbara in the rearview.

 

 

When I think of how easy it would have been to simply not respond to my friend’s invitation to participate, I have to shake my head. Saying Yes to something that made me uncomfortable was a good idea. And I’m glad I did it. Giving my word and agreeing to perform were very real commitments to me. Putting in the time and rehearsing were also commitments. I was forced (by myself) to actually show the hell up. And I did.

 

I’d like to embrace this year with that attitude of Yes that got me through the first presentation of The Bushwick Book Club of Santa Barbara County. I’d like to have a little more faith in myself. I’d like to grab hold of opportunities to see the people I adore most in this world (I’m talking about you, Kate Graves). I’d like to own being Me.

 

 

Here’s to grasping our lives. Here’s to facing fears. Here’s to You and Me.

Limbo

 

 

Sometimes I don’t feel much like an adult. Sometimes I don’t feel like a kid, either. During those times, I feel a bit like I’m stuck in limbo. And I don’t quite know what to do.

 

I’m not a gal who thinks “stuff” will cure all ills. I’m well-versed in that approach, as I was raised in that culture. But I don’t buy it – figuratively or literally (not even during this season of excess). I also don’t believe in putting my head in the sand, as if ignoring life will lead to everything working out. I’ve witnessed more than a few friends choosing this non-action, but it isn’t for me.

 

There have been times when I’ve faced challenges and I’ve chosen poorly. (Many times, actually.) I wish I knew why I continue to fail myself and others, but I haven’t a clue. I could blame my less-than-I’d-like-to-be moments on my humanness, but that well has been tapped so many times it’s nearly dry.

 

The truth is – while I may have my moments of feeling steady in living this life thing, I’m really just a novice, and a farkakte novice at that. I’ve done a lot of work to overcome the ugliness of my youth and I’ve accomplished a great deal. But the mountain before me looms as large as ever and it doesn’t matter how much ground I’ve covered. There’s still a lot of climbing to be done.

 

I share this because I’m in the middle of trying to figure out how to be a better person while not sacrificing my Mikki-ness. I mean, how do I interact with other souls and maintain my own? How do I communicate with folks in a positive manner, and still project honesty? In short – how do I speak my truth, encourage others to do the same and not get hurt or hurt anyone else in the process?

 

I am mortified the answer may be “I don’t.” It frightens me to no end to think that life means constantly being hurt and hurting those we love. I don’t like the idea of any of that pain. Thinking there’s no way around it is almost more darkness than I can handle.

 

I suppose these sorts of feelings are what lead some of us to quit. To give in. To file for divorce or terminate a friendship.  Don’t get me wrong – I know those tough choices are often made for very legitimate reasons, but don’t we sometimes choose to walk away from muddy ground instead of doing the harrowing work of getting through the muck and mire? Who could blame us? Muddy trenches suck. And even if a gal is wearing hip-waders, she still needs strength to pull herself through – one sticky step at a time.

 

Still, I’m not giving up. For even when it breaks my heart, I love life. And I love my nearest and dearest more than words can convey. So I’ll keep showing up, and showing up, and showing up. I’ll keep trying to toughen my skin while softening my words. I’ll endeavor to let things roll off my shoulders and to not add weight to the shoulders of those I love. I’ll keep trying.

 

And maybe some hot cocoa wouldn’t hurt. There’s magic in a cup of cocoa, you know. I’ll take all the magic I can get.

RCGLA 2014 – Day 4

 

 

Day 4. 4 reals.

 

After Day 3′s awesome Volunteer hang, I almost forgot that day’s challenges. Almost. But then the morning of Day 4 arrived and the residue of the previous day had to be cleared away. A re-set button was called for. And I hit it. It didn’t make the difficulties disappear. It didn’t mean there wouldn’t be more challenges. It just meant I decided to not let those moments define my experience. Good choice.

 

Vocals classes went well, with the vocalists all working on their bands’ songs and their individual performance techniques. The campers really brought their A-games and I was super-proud of all of them.

 

Band practices were crucial, as there would only be 1 more day to get those songs down. The band I’m working with pulled together and Finished. Their. Song. You probably heard my sigh of relief, no matter where you live.

 

The fun parts of the day were T-shirt Design and Screen Printing workshops. The campers are ridiculously creative and their T-shirts are spectacular. Some are simple. Some are complex. I was completely in awe.

 

Day 4 is hard-core. The end of camp is near. There’s a lot of stress. Breakdowns occur – for campers and volunteers. I don’t want to paint it all dark, however, as there are also fantastic moments. There’s a ton of joy. So many folks tap into their magnificence and experience beautiful breakthroughs. It’s a privilege to witness. Seriously.

 

I can hardly believe today is Day 5. But you know what? I still feel like I’ve got this. And I do.

RCGLA 2014 – Day 1

 

 

Yesterday was Day 1 of Rock Camp. And it was…

 

It was a lot of things. It was awesome. It was tiring. It was challenging. It was beautiful. In short, it was all the things Rock Camp has come to represent and be.

 

I’d like to give you more details, but as I’m typing this at the end of Day 1 and I’m flippin’ tired, I just don’t have the stamina. I’ll try to do better on the next post.

 

Day 1 down, friends. On to Day 2…

D-Squared T-Squared – Week 2

 

 

 

So week 2′s D-squared T-squared Challenge has been completed. This one was just Mister and me, like the first week’s challenge.

 

I’ve been away from music for quite a while. It’s been my choice, and the distance has been something I’ve felt I’ve needed. I’ve not so much as thought about writing a song for yonks. My guitars have been packed away for ages.

 

When Mister suggested co-writing a song as this week’s challenge, I didn’t put up a fight. I simply got out my old notebook and unpacked “Connie Jean” from her dusty case. As most of the idea for the song came from him, I made him sing it to me so that I could find the melody and chords. Honestly, I pretty much just took what he gave me and followed it. I contributed very little.

 

But here’s the thing: I did it. I didn’t fight and I didn’t fret. My fingers remembered how to play guitar and my voice, well, I keep my voice in pretty good shape. So that part of me sounded the way I expected.

 

I won’t be sharing the rough with you here, as I prefer to clean up recordings before opening them up to scrutiny. But that’s not the point. The point is – week 2′s challenge is checked off. And it was music. And my head didn’t explode (nor did my heart). Maybe there’s hope for me yet. Maybe. Thanks to Mister.

So Many Possibilities…

“White. A blank page of canvas. His favorite. So many possibilities.”

Sunday in the Park With George

music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by James Lapine

 

 

 

Ah, the New Year. Once again it is shining before me, inviting me to make plans. To dream. To aspire. To create.

 

I don’t remember when I hit the age of seeing each New Year this way. I’m certain I didn’t pay much attention to it as a child. I doubt my younger self was reflective or sentimental about each New Year. I can’t imagine I ever teared up at the very gift of waking to a day such as this, back when I was a kid.

 

But I am at that age. I do recognize the blessings of waking to this day. And, heaven help me, I do make plans and I do aspire.

 

And on that note, Mister and I are working out some details for a 2014 challenge. (We were inspired to give ourselves a weekly challenge after following the blog of an ex-pat, living in the UK. It’s a great blog and I highly recommend it.) Parameters and guidelines are still being solidified, but our basic goal is to actively create something artistic, each week of the year. That’s a broad endeavor, and can range from cooking a gourmet meal to going on a photo expedition to reciting a Shakespeare play. We’ve tossed out a multitude of creative ideas, and we’re revved about the possibilities. We’ve not limited ourselves with any rules such as no repeating an act, so there may be multiple photo sessions over the course of the year. (There may be multiples of other creative acts, too. We’ll just have to see how it goes.) As I said, we’re still hammering out the guidelines.

 

We’ve decided to include others in these acts of creation. Over time, our group of friends has come to include musicians, painters, singers, songwriters, comics, actors, sculptors, designers, engineers, chefs, dancers and on and on and on. Art can be found in just about every single vocation on the planet. It’s all in the eyes of the beholder. I know accountants who are amazingly creative. I know electricians whose work can be described as nothing less than art. Creativity is all around us, and we think the inclusion of our creative friends can only serve to elevate this little challenge of ours. We’re hoping we can all take a turn at stepping outside our milieus. That we can broaden our creative circles. Speaking for myself, I’m super-excited to try some new-to-me activities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In my little world, there are many challenges ahead. My rose-colored glasses haven’t shielded my eyes from the truths of life, or from the work that surely lies in store over the next few months. Certain hills are going to be steep. But we’ve got to climb in life. Sometimes there’s just no going around. If I can tell you anything at all about the very little I’ve managed to learn of this living thing, it is this: after climbing to the top of any of life’s hills, the view is spectacular. And so very full of possibility.

 

 

 

Walking in L.A.

 

 

Yesterday morning I hit the sidewalk before 8. As it was early on a Saturday – in Los Angeles – I passed very few people. But the ones I did pass were smiley and friendly. One guy even commented about how happy I looked. I responded, “Why not? Life is awesome!”

 

I said it without thinking. And as I powered down the street, it occurred to me that I had just experienced my natural self. Blurting out those words was a clear representation of me.

 

I face challenges, just like every other soul. My body doesn’t always feel great. My mind is aging. Life is sometimes harder than I ever thought it could be. And still – I love this being alive thing.

 

At some point during yesterday’s walk, I caught sight of my shadow on a green lawn. I had forgotten I was wearing my monkey hat, replete with face and ears. No wonder folks were so smiley. Glad to have been of good cheer.

Life, The Universe and Everything

 

 

Sometimes stuff pops up in life, stuff that’s out of our control. Undesired stuff. Tough stuff.

 

Some people I adore are dealing with such stuff right now, and I can’t do a danged thing to help. And try as I might, I will never ever know how it feels to stand in their heavy shoes. So what does a gal do, in the face of that?

 

You pray. And you hope. And you have your feelings and you acknowledge all of that, and then you try to breathe. Then, I suppose, you start all over again. And again.

 

Loving people involves admitting how very little we actually control. It involves boundaries. It involves holding on and letting go. It’s work. Worthwhile work, to be sure, but work just the same.

 

As for these darling souls, whom I love so dearly, I’ll just keep loving them. I have no idea how their challenges will play out. I’m sure they don’t know, either. And that sucks. But it’s also just the way it goes. No matter the choices they make, no matter the choices made for them, I love them. And there you go.

 

Again, it’s work. For all of us. But worthwhile work, to be sure.