Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Little Things


I've got a lot to do right now. That's it, really. And at this moment in time it's particularly tricky because “right now” does not mean right this minute, nor does it even mean today, or tomorrow. “Right now” means sometime in the next several to 6 months, or a year....or as long as it takes if I'm not done by then.

I'm at the final stages of recording a new album that I'm terribly excited about, and working on my strategy for promoting that to the best of my ability. I've got another musical side project on its way to making an awesomely magical debut very soon, and am working to update my internet presence so that I am representing myself and my art in a manner that is pleasing to me. I'm beginning to write more, about things, like this, for you (and me). I'm working on fulfilling Kickstarter rewards for the incredible backers that have made SO much possible for me, and booking a North East tour for October. I'll be back home in Washington soon for two weeks playing shows and doing photo shoots, and am working on the finishing touches of a music video that I shot and edited all by myself. I have a new desktop computer, and a laptop and hard drive that are still a complete organizational nightmare. I'm rather desperate not to let that spill over, which is exactly what it will do if I don't get the system into place NOW that I haven't been able to come up with for the last 4 years. I'm maintaining a photography business and expanding my experience and presence as a photographer, one requisite of which is learning a daunting new editing program for the PC, and dealing with the thousands of neglected photos piling up from musical performances and the like. I have no less than 11 creative sites that need to be fed with content in some sort of regular and inspired fashion, and am in two weekly songwriting groups that each demand something musical and at least 2 minutes long every 7 days. I also have a growing list of songs that have (alarmingly) never been recorded (dating back to Forever), and need to be before I lose them. Right now the number is somewhere in the 60's. That doesn't count any of the projects we're working on around the house, or my song book, or my renewed motivation to make more things from scratch in the kitchen, eliminating more cans, bottles, and plastic packaging. The list does, indeed, go on.

None of that has to be done Right Now, and I kind of wish it did. I can work miracles with a deadline; I can barely work, period, without one.

The Motto:

LITTLE THINGS ADD UP (and make a big difference).

That's how you get statistics like “Each year, Americans throw away 138 billion straws and stirrers” (The Green Book, Elizabeth Rogers and Thomas M. Kostigan), which is truly unfathomable (as are most of the statistics in that book). So many tasks feel like scaling the side of a cliff rather than climbing the steps of the Eiffel Tower. I find myself skirting frantically around the base, looking for any step at all that will get me just a little bit higher, and being discouraged when I can't find one. The hardest part of doing anything for me is breaking it down into things I can actually DO, boxes I can actually check off of a list. “Organize your f%*king computer” just doesn't cut it, and won't, no matter how many times I write it down. Recording 60 songs is a tremendously daunting task, but recording one song sounds lovely. I can even break that down into __ choose song (check), __ practice song (check), __ record song (check!). It's that thing you hear about people not going to school because it will take too long to get a degree: the time will pass anyway. The next two months will pass anyway, and if I can record a song a day (hello new iphone!) from that list then, by jove, come September 16th I will be done (and insanely proud of myself).

The Other Motto:

DO IT SCARED (and badly, if you have to).

If you're afraid of something now, you're likely going to be scared of it until you do it. Sometimes that sucks, but I really think it's just the way it is. I don't know how many times I've finally brought myself to do something just to find out that there were a whole lot of other surprise prerequisites that I could have been working on in the meantime, had I known. I'll admit, I'm scared of pretty much everything in some way or another, but really most of it comes down to the unknown, and the unknown comes down to trust. There's never a promise of how things will turn out. We can only do our best to decrease the margin of error between what we want to happen and what happens. It's a beautiful chaos, the paths we all carve from the fabric of earth and space and time, and the manner with which we choose to traverse them. Sometimes I'm exhausted and asleep in the ditch, or somewhere near it, and other times I'm dancing like a wild woman, kicking up heels and dirt into the sky.

I can't be so afraid of making mistakes. It's paralyzing. We all mess up, but we still have to venture bravely forth. That's why I'm going to post this in a minute and not hide it away in a folder on my desktop.

Here's to the little things, the small victories. May they always add up. 

*The magical work of art above was painted by Brittany Beug, and is one of my absolute favorite things in the world. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Underneath It All

Untouched raw photo by FireMakeupArtistry by Jessi Pagel
...And then I got my hair and make up professionally done and had a really good photographer take pictures of me. Only the second time in my life THAT'S ever happened, the first being when I was eleven years old. I've had a whole 21 years since then to solidify and further complicate the relationship between who I actually am and who my self image thinks I am. I think for most of us there's a world of difference.

I wanted to write about the experience because it really seemed to have an impact on people seeing me like this, and I was somewhat overwhelmed by how many of you expressed a preference for me as I usually look—i.e. without make up, and I was really touched by it. I understand what you mean. Yes, I look really, really “sexy”—in one shot I think I look a lot like Julia Roberts, in another Natalie Portman, but only in the ones I didn't consider necessarily attractive did I look at all like Me.

We love people for their quirks, for the familiarity of the lines on their face, their smiles, the comfort and confidence we feel in who they are. Many of you didn't recognize me at all in this picture, including my own mother. Some face paint, lighting, a lens and some talent and we can be anyone we want to be—which I think can be really good for us, in moderation (like all good things in life).

I think it's important for us to play, to take on roles, to make ourselves the creative canvas sometimes. It reminds me that people only “see” what's on the outside, and guess what? If people see me like I am in this picture they're guaranteed to have a different impression of me than if they saw the “normal” me. That's neither good or bad; is just is. It's a tool, to be used for creativity, for strength, for fun, for growth, as long as it doesn't take you over, as long as you can come back down and remember who you are underneath it all.

A lot of us learned, through some means or another, that wanting and enjoying the spotlight makes us selfish or full of ourselves. I'm not sure what it will take for me to get over this one, but having a really amazing photo shoot done felt like a really healthy and positive step in the right direction. I mean, let's face it: I'm building a career that revolves around being, quite literally, in the spotlight, and the more I can learn to be comfortable and truly enjoy it the better an experience it will be for the people supporting me.

I'll admit, even looking totally not like myself I still felt wholly vulnerable in front of the camera.  I asked Sanjay to please not take any shots of my knees from the side, and looking over the photos find myself cringing at many a wrinkles, hairs, teeth and, yes, my knees. It's exhausting isn't it? The curse that each of us carries to scrutinize every tiny part of our incredibly magical and amazing bodies? There has to come a point of surrender, that I'm still working hard towards. I've learned enough to know that no one—like, NO one—is paying any attention to my knees, unless, of course, they hate theirs too. They'll be looking then, but unless they hate theirs in the very same way I hate mine, they aren't going to see what I see. No. One. Cares.  But me. What's the point?

I'm very familiar with the wide spectrum of feelings I have inhabiting this body, going about my business in the world with it, looking in the mirror at it. A lot of people think I'm really beautiful, and a good person, and I do my best to see myself that way, just as I want the beautiful people in my life to see themselves as I do. I catch glimpses here and there, and I'm grateful to all of you for that, yet there is no one in the world that sees us the way we each do on our darkest days. Perhaps we're not really as terrible as we think we are......? It's a noble idea.

I was relieved when I washed my face at the end of that day to find both that mine was still there—wrinkles, freckles and all—and that I was happy to see it. I know many of you were too.  

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Today is the Only Day

The prompt for my photo group today is a word to live by.  This is for them.  I’ve also been reading about Christine Kane’s idea of going into the new year with focus on a single word that resonates with you and will keep you focused and grounded.  Thinking about that, there are a few that come to mind.  Here are those thoughts.

Kindness?  That covers a lot of it.  The world needs more.  Very few of us are truly kind to ourselves, even if we’re very kind to others.  And who hasn’t experienced a random act of kindness in your day that brings tears to your eyes and reminds you of the inherent goodness of peoplekind.  And the best part?  There is no gesture too small.  Kindness covers a lot.

What about Intention?  How much of the world goes around just because that’s the way it is and very few people feel they can do anything about it?  Sometimes we get lucky, sometimes we get broken.  We do things out of obligation, we do things out of reaction.  We do things because we’re too afraid to try something else.  We say and do things we don’t mean.  Intention means pointing yourself in the right direction.  Isn’t that huge?  What if we truly set our intentions, and then acted in their best interest?  Miracles, that’s what.

Speaking of Miracles.....that could certainly be my word.  How is it not a miracle that seeds grow, that music in made, that people fall in love?  Magic is all around us all the time, in such vast totality that we lose sight of it.  What if we never forgot?  What if we always remembered that magic is the very life that flows through us?

Action?  All of us dream, at least if we let ourselves, but so many dreams lie dormant and un-nurtured due to all sorts of unhealthy things.  I think all the time about what I need to be doing to move my career forward, or get to that next step, or for God’s sake beat the odds.  I also think all the time about those emails I need to write, that friend I need to call, or that Thank You card I need to send.  I spend a lot of energy on positive affirmations and imagining what the successes I want will feel like, but all that doesn’t do a lot of good unless I act on them.  Nothing is going to fall into my lap.  Things aren’t going to do themselves, and things undone weigh on me, bringing all sorts of yuckiness with them.  

I’m afraid of my wasted time.  I’m afraid of waking up without fear because only then can I truly regret all the days I let it rule me.  If I never wake up then I don’t know it’s a dream.  

Whatever word I choose, whatever word you choose--today is the day to live by it.  Today is the only day.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Day 5

Well, it’s Day 5.  I lost count of how many times people were surprised when my sweetie would tell them he was heading out on a seven week long adventure--without me.  They were not necessarily surprised that he would do it, but surprised that I would “let him.”  Not only would I let him--not that it’s at all my place to allow, or not allow, him to do things anyway--but I pushed for it.  Sure I miss him like hell already, but who’s to say that we can’t enjoy that?  Who’s to say that the missing isn’t beautiful?  I let him take this trip, because my most important job as a loving partner and friend is to notice what makes his heart light up, and encourage whatever that might be.  

And yes, I chose to stay home.  I chose the 100 degree heat, the 8 foot tall weeds, the fire ants and the empty house, because along with that I also chose chickens, a Nana cat, and a big blank canvas with very few distractions on which to focus a driven and tremendous desire to get “caught up,” and to create.  

Creation isn’t just about making art; it’s about learning to see art in the everyday things that you do.  When I wrestle the 8 Foot Jungle in the backyard, I’m creating; when I do dishes and fold laundry and put together Goodwill boxes, I’m creating; when I organize my studio, I’m creating--even if it’s just space; space is good.  And of course there’s photography, preparation for the record I’ll be making in December, and about 300 other creative ideas that were gleaned from a giant hand-me-down stack of Country Living and Martha Stewart magazines.  My boy is allowed to be a tiny bit terrified by that (but he’ll also be happy that I used “gleaned” in a sentence for the very first time :)

I just feel like I’m constantly daydreaming about having it all....all the TIME, that is.  All that precious time that nobody quite feels they have enough of.  And right now?  I have a bunch, and by jove I’m not wasting a drop of it.  (Ok, maybe a few drops.)  In fact, I’ve taken the daily To-Do List to a whole new level by creating a system in which every task is assigned a point value.  Even the daily things like watering the garden and cleaning the kitty litter get points, so that even if all I do in a day is take good care of the living parts of our household, well, that’s worth something.  (So far today has nothing on yesterday’s whopper: I clocked in--or out--at 1:15am with 51 :)

I know it’s easy when we’re in long term loving relationships to begin forgetting, or even fearing, who we are without the other person, but I think it’s important to remember, and to embrace it.  The better for us to grow; the better for us to be able to truly support one another, without being afraid of growing apart.  There’s always risk in growth, but I believe wholeheartedly that to really be alive we must take it.  

So here’s to friendship, love, life and adventure; may we know when it’s best to “allow” them.  I must go now to feed the Nana cat and give ice and treats to little chickens.  And yes, I get points for that.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Best Day of My Life

I had a memorable cashier at Whole Foods on Sunday, the day before my 31st birthday.  She had a huge smile and was very personable and something about the way she told me to have the best day of my life the following day, like the idea had just struck her and she thought it was the greatest thing, was unforgettable.  It WAS the greatest thing; it IS the greatest thing, that each day we wake up into is where all the action happens.  It’s where all creations are made, where all seeds are sown, where all dreams are dreamed, where all hearts are broken and where all hearts mend.  Every kiss, every laugh, every song, every hug, every cup of coffee and glass of wine, every great conversation, every small thing that matters, all happen Today.

No day is inherently more extraordinary than any other.  Some we can’t wait to get here, some we can’t wait to get gone, and some, well, just seem to go a little unnoticed.  But one thing remains true, the days are exactly what we make them, no more and no less.  We are all creating, all the time.  We are all artists in that way.  Life is a canvas with which to paint our dreams.

I had a really, really wonderful birthday, full of love and gratitude for all of the amazing people (and freakin' sweet new Goodwill dress :) that helped make it so.  I have yet to answer the question, but the first time someone asks me how old I am and the answer is 31...well, it’s gonna be a little weird.  You gotta understand that the baby of five older brothers never gets to be THIRTY-ONE....yet somehow, here I am.  
I’m planning to make this a really big year, full of many of those “someday” dreams that I’m just going to make happen.  Because I want to.  And because, for the first time in my life, I really feel able.  Growing can be scary because we don’t want to look at and admit to all the things we don’t know, and there is so much I don’t know.  But the great news is that I’m surrounded by extraordinary people who have learned the things I want to learn,  who are doing the things I want to do, and who are so generous in their willingness to help me.  

So here continues the journey....that I cherish oh so much.

And today?....

Today is the best day of my life.  For it is the one that I am living.