Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Whatever it takes





When I was 14 years old I stood outside the boys’ locker room after a high school basketball game with a team from Australia to ask if anyone knew Daniel Johns from the teen rock band silverchair.

If you know me at all you’ve heard the name. At the time my entire existence was meaningless except for my undying love for a boy I had never met. But I KNEW. We were soul mates. Both of us would be ok if we could just find each other. In fact, the whole world might be ok.

And so I set out to get famous.  

Clearly we could never get married if he didn’t know who I was, and—ahoy!—there was a guitar. (Hindsight is now telling me that becoming a folk singer was not the *quickest* or best way to get famous, but it was somewhat convenient and promising at the time.)

Nothing was going to stop me. I researched exchange programs to try and get placed in his town, I begged my mom for plane tickets to Toronto (from Washington state) because at an in studio performance I was SURE to meet him (and then, of course, Voila!). I talked about him to everyone.

And stood outside the boys’ locker room soliciting total strangers for information.

This was a thing I wanted badly enough to do whatever it took. 

I didn’t care what anyone thought. 

Anyone. 

And I wish I felt that way about anything again, ever. 

More often it’s like the Meatloaf song: “I would do anything for ________, but I won’t do that…”

“That” generally referring to being too uncomfortable, risking too much, compromising dignity, facing fears, or, as it’s sometimes blatantly said, going balls to the wall, doing our best, giving our all. 

God forbid we actually give our all to something and fail.

God really forbid we give our all to something and succeed.

I want things. I look ahead to my life and I see a lot. I see things I can’t fathom not happening, loves I can’t fathom not loving, dreams-come-true I can’t fathom not coming true. 

What am I willing to do for them? Am I willing to do that? 


Are you?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Summer Rain




I bought a new car yesterday. I traded in my 20 year old beauty Sabine and after they took her away I sat on the couch and sobbed, unable to even go outside and look at the newly manifested beauty I had wanted so much.

I was NOT a person who *could* buy a new car. It's amazing how much I feel the need to really hit that one home to the world at large. It was a completely farfetched idea, and I was just crazy enough to start looking online for Prius C's in baby blue. Just to dream, and maybe get the cosmic ball rolling. I would name her Charlotte. 

Turns out all you have to do to buy a new car is find it and promise the people you'll pay money every month. Turns out I can do that. Turns out from start to finish my impossible notion became reality in under two weeks.

Looking at Charlotte was uncomfortable, driving Charlotte was uncomfortable. I did some errands, sizing her up fiercely in the parking lot each time I returned to her. IS THIS ACTUALLY CHARLOTTE....IS IT REALLY HER....THIS IS NOT MY CAR. Sometimes it was a whisper, sometimes a scream. 

I realized that I was uncomfortable, not because this isn't my car, but because it is.  

Here's to blowing what we *can't* do out of the water. 

Charlotte and I will be just fine. As we headed out for dinner and some music last night it began torrentially raining, wild storms completely out of the blue. For a state that is back to being all but on fire after the terrible flooding this spring it was a miracle and a spectacular blessing.

I had a sudden moment of clarity, and asked Will if he remembered the factory name of my car's color. 

I saw the same realization twinkle in his eyes and he smiled. 

"Summer Rain."



Saturday, July 2, 2016

Every Square Inch



I just took a shower, and then put lotion on every inch of my skin.

I assure you I have never before done anything to every inch of my skin, short of sweating many a summer (and spring, and fall) day in Texas.

About 18 times along the way I tried to shortcut the plan.

I don’t really need to go below my knees…..my arms are fine…..getting the middle of my back is hard, that’s good enough….sheesh…

But every time I made that tiny (and let’s admit it - tiny) extra effort I was delighted to feel like I was rediscovering a new part of my body, that long neglected something-or-other that didn’t command any particular negative attention from the Big Bad Wolf, but is sort of blobbed into the hazy grey of everything-else-except-those-very-few-parts-of-me-I-think-are-pretty-ok.

This whole process took about four minutes, and I’ll go ahead and say it was pretty flippin’ revolutionary for little old me.

And actually “little” and “old” describe with a fair degree of accuracy the range of the physical growth scale I seem to inhabit. 

Little: I’m the baby of the family and no matter how much I grow I never catch up to my big brothers. I rely—confessed with something less shameful than shame, but still some not-so-proud-of-ness—on my little girl charms way too often. It’s a defense at times, a “this is the best chance I have for this person/these people to like me,” and sometimes it can be just plain crushing to my 34 year old self esteem. 

Old: I’m 34, and that’s, like, almost 40… (Maybe at 40 I’ll finally identify as a woman rather than a girl??) I feel old in that I’m worried about the day I wake up in a body that no longer feels (or looks) like mine and will have missed All the Days of taking advantage of loving the heck out of the one I once had. 

I don’t feel grown up yet, but worry that I’ll suddenly be, well, too grown up. 

Little girl going on little old lady.

Love, love, love…..love….love, love…..love…..

Love.

Real actually love is what I showed myself today. The kind that shows, not tells. 

I can make the effort to put on flattering clothes and make up, poise myself in the mirror in the best angle of light, and breathe a small sigh of relief as I tell the reflection (with at last a shred of conviction and belief!) that she’s beautiful before snapping an obligatory selfie that will probably never be posted. 

But to take four precious minutes out of my day (says the girl who took pleeeeenty of “precious minutes” to do a great many other less than useful things since she woke up) to even acknowledge—let alone praise and do something nice for—every part of my miraculous freaking body (have you given any thought today to just how insanely cool these things are??)

That’s new.

That’s big.

It’s kind of the biggest thing, actually. 

Our intentions, our a-ttentions, are the most powerful tools we have. It’s what aligns us with the good stuff, the stuff we want, and makes the signs and arrows along the way a lot more easily recognized as such.

As much as some part of me has wanted it, my intention hasn’t actually been to be healthy and the best physical version of myself that I can be. How could it be when I’ve been ignoring and avoiding and turning away from the things that would actually make it possible? There’s a deeper intention at work.

And it’s one that’s pretty hard to look at.

Before I wrote this, or knew I would write it, I made myself jot down some of the yucky thoughts that my post shower shower of love brought up:


I’m not allowed to be beautiful

Why do I deserve to love my body when so many others can’t/don’t love their own

People will think I’m trying too hard if I take care of myself

People will think I’m vain if I take care of myself

My beauty makes other people feel bad about themselves


Deep breath……

Yeah, those are hard things for me to look at. 

I’d like to say that it’s been a while since another woman has said to me, “I hate you; you’re so skinny!” 

But it hasn’t. 

I’d also like to say that the last time it did I didn’t respond by saying, “Oh thanks! I hate you, too!”—hopefully said with enough reluctant sarcasm to not be quite so awkward….

But I did, and it was.

You don’t diminish others when you shine. 

And you certainly don’t make them feel better about themselves by putting yourself down. (See ridiculous above example.) 

You deserve to love you. Wait, scratch that. You don’t have to deserve it. 

Just do it.

Four precious minutes at a time.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

"I am a person who _____________ ."




I woke up yesterday morning and worked out.

That statement probably doesn’t mean much to anyone but coming from me it means a great deal. 

It was the first time since I was obsessed with this ridiculous (but awesome) Jane Fonda VHS tape as a teenager that I have gotten up in the morning and really moved. And not only did I move but I did deliberate things to build muscles that today are sore enough to make me feel like I was hit by a truck.

I truly want to be healthy. I truly want to feel good. I even like (reasonably) early mornings well enough. My mom and I have both had the goal for as long as I can remember to do a push up. She’s worked real hard at for a while now. I haven’t. 

I don’t actually believe that I’ll ever be able to do a push up.

OR

closer to the truth is that I’m terrified of the body that would be able to do one, because it wouldn’t be mine.

My body has stayed roughly the same since I was in fourth grade. It has grown in weight since then and my knees are not so painfully knobby, but for the average observer there are no real ups and downs. 

I know I’m lucky. If I eat as badly as possible (and as a teenager I pretty much ate as badly as possible—anyone else binge on Jiffy peanut butter, PB Captain Crunch and Aunt Jemima’s on Wonder Bread in the middle of the night? Anyone??) or if I eat like a saint (at least compared to some) my body will look the same. 


People assume that slender people are healthy. People assume that I'm healthy. It’s been a weird thing feeling the need to assure them at times in my life that I really wasn't. Where the heck does that come from??

I'm not unhealthy; I can climb a flight of stairs but might get winded doing so. I could probably run for my life if I had to but am really crossing my fingers that I won't have to. I like healthy food, though many of the things I like best to put in my body (coffee, alcohol and honey greek yogurt to name a few) aren't. 

I started playing a game in the last year or so. It's called "I am a person who __________" and the game is to fill in the blank. The goal is to fill it with things you want, and notice even with small somewhat meaningless things how much resistance there can be to a statement. 

I played it one day by wearing a belt. I never wear belts. I put one on, declared "I am a person who wears belts," laughed out loud and went out into the world to do errands. It was weird, but I rocked it. It felt good. I got home and my mama called. I answered the phone and there was silence for a few seconds. "Shawnee?" she finally asked. She didn't recognize my voice. That's the power of play.  

In general "I'm a person who likes change." I love new places, new experiences, new people, new songs, new clothes, new understandings of myself and my world.

But I'm terrified of changes in my body.

My body is the one I've had forever. It's familiar; I know it inside and out (well, not a lot of the inside but some). Even the parts I'm not super stoked on are better than the unknown. If I could suddenly have the body I "wish" I had I doubt I'd be able to enjoy it. Because it's not me

The voice that would be able to say "I am a person who works out (or does yoga, or runs, or even stretches for god's sake!)" has not been willing to speak, not even a whisper.

But I woke up yesterday morning and worked out. 

And guess what? Just like that a 20 year streak was broken. A hard and fast rule in my psyche was demolishedIt wasn't perfect. Certain things were difficult and painful, and my body was subject to many awkward and compromising positions. 

BUT

I did it, and that's all it took. One action, one morning in May, and I am now a person who works out.  

Whaaaaaaaaaaaat??

That's power, and that's beauty, and really, it's just plain fun.

I bought work out clothes. If I can move tomorrow morning I will most definitely get up and do it again. I'm excited to work with my body and see what happens. 

And if I can change that big one so easily...what else is possible?

Now read out loud and fill in the blank:

"I am a person who ___________...."


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Day 9&10~ Live Through Fear

I don’t have any good fears to claim the day I traveled. It was an eventful day, involving me losing my phone during last boarding call leaving Austin and getting it back just in the nick of time, then heading out to catch the shuttle to my rental car without remembering that I had a suitcase to pick up at baggage claim. The day was actually marked with a genuine fearlessness and enthusiasm, and welcomed, very much so.

I’ve noticed the pattern of expecting everything to go wrong, but mine goes beyond outside forces. Usually it’s expecting that I’ll be the one to mess it up, and I’ve caught myself being struck by literal cold chills or a hot face as my brain scans the radio waves for possible disasters and finally catches onto one. It doesn’t matter how far fetched the story or how slim the odds, I will find some possibility or another that I have done something horrible and should’ve known better.

A little at a time it’s getting easier to not believe these stories, and to not let them consume me, especially when there’s nothing I can do about it. Worrying is my brain’s version of fidgeting; it’s hard for it to sit still.

My first show of the tour was in Easthampton, MA, which is beyond charming. Luthier’s Co-op is way cool, too. It’s a luthier’s shop with a bar, not to mention a bar with a whole lot of local goodness on tap. I decided during date night dinner with myself and my rain boots prior to the show that I would write a set list. Then I decided that I would stick to it.

I have never once in my entire career written and stuck to a set list for a full length set that I can remember (and only have a couple times for shorter ones). I used to write set lists in order to arrive at a gig feeling as prepared as possible, but it usually backfired as I’d get a look at the venue, and the people that may have been there early, and decide that I’d gotten it all wrong. Every set list I’ve ever written felt just plain wrong when it came time to play.

That night was no exception. I got up there, looked at the first song on the list and cursed myself 100 times over. It’s an intensely personal song, and practically a cappella, which made me tremendously nervous beginning my set in a somewhat lively room. But I took a deep breath and started singing. And something marvelous happened. That room quieted down to silence. The tendency is to try and get the attention of an audience by being louder than they are, but inviting them into my quiet space was pure magic. It felt wonderful.

It’s such an interesting thing with music, because it’s such a powerful creator of ambiance. It sets the mood of a room, and when I watch artists perform, whatever song they are playing is exactly the right song for that moment, for that time and place. How could I be thinking about any other song in the world but the one they’re offering to me? On the contrary, whenever I’m up there deciding on the spot what song is exactly the right one to play at that moment it’s impossible to choose it. You just can’t, not when you’re trying to fill a space rather than create it.

I let my audience at Luthier's know what I was up to, with the whole fear thing and finally following a set list, and proceeded to give a really great performance. Playing the songs as they were written on that list completely freed me from the worry that I’d made a bad choice and allowed me to put my whole heart into what I was doing. It was a huge shift for me. It told me that these were the songs that are important. These are the songs that deserve my attention, my nurturing, and my trust. These songs are my gift. These songs are my soul. These songs are what inspire me to spend weeks away from home in order to humbly share them with one tiny corner of the world at a time. I have no business being out here on the road if I don’t fiercely embrace them, and believe wholly in their integrity.


This was possibly one of the best things I have ever done for myself. Amen.