Impatience

At the present moment, I am safe, I am healthy. My loved ones are safe and healthy, if distant. My immediate needs are cared for. There’s food. Shelter. Coffee. Slippers. Pianos, guitars. My fountain pen has a ton of refills waiting in small boxes, even if I did run out of the cool colors first. My plants are thriving from all the chemicals we’re exchanging in such close proximity as they absorb every conference call, Zoom happy hour, family FaceTime, phone date. I breathe out carbon dioxide and they thrive on it and feed me oxygen in return, an odd snapshot of organic green juxtaposed with multiple screens and lighting rigs, carefully concocted digital office space. The bed may or may not be made, you’ll never know because I’ve carefully framed what you can see through my computer screen. I love doing my makeup so I still do it; I hate doing my hair so most days I pull it up, it works better with the headphones anyway.

I am safe.

The other day my throat hurt and I contemplated death. It got better. The other day a sharp pain in my side, different than my usual endometriosis, had me googling ruptured ovarian cysts, and whether or not a trip to the ER was really necessary. Risk infection? Only if I can’t walk. It subsided. One day my eye was red, my mom said that’s one of the symptoms sometimes. Googled to confirm. It went away. Maybe seasonal allergies. Maybe I got some sunscreen in my eye again. I’m still healthy – for now.

Financially safe for now, one of the lucky few still getting paid — for now.

I am safe.

I spend a lot of time lately daydreaming about my future. Our future. My brain can live there all day. My future house with plenty of natural light, a cozy window seat for writing, my future garden where I lose track of time and my shoulders turn pink, my future children who will cry and laugh and learn and explore, a world where I can hug my family and friends, we can sit together, pass the salt without fear, hold each other without fear.

The other day, staring into the bathroom mirror, my brain and my daydream were forced to snap to the present. Making eye contact with my reflection, I was forced to reckon with impatience.

I don’t think of myself as impatient. My type A friends deal with it; I watch them get frustrated when timelines don’t move as quickly as they’d like. I’m sometimes smug in my ability to let things roll off my back, just wait, just trust, I tell them. Why am I so zen and you’re stressing for nothing, it will be okay. Aren’t you lucky to have a friend like me with such wisdom and perspective? Sitting over here, immune to impatience. Well I’m learning I’m not immune after all. I’m stuck. I’m here, objectively safe but reckoning with the fact that I’m not there yet.

My God, why have you forsaken me? What is this plan? Why am I simultaneously more fortunate than most people, but still grieving, still scared, still overwhelmed by the distance between where I am and where I want to be?

I am safe, for now. But my future is not where I’m standing for now. I’m standing at the bathroom sink.

My journals are full of the past, I can pick any one of them up and time travel back there. My present is objectively okay, as okay as any of us can be right now. My future is a question mark. I still spend time there. But it’s not as fleshed out as it used to be.

Be still, and know I am God.

But-

Be still.

No. Surely there is something I can do.

Be still.

I did that. It was fine. I liked it, even, but I’m done.

Be still.

Yeah, but if you could just give me a timeline of how much LONGER I needed to be still, I’d happily be still and set my watch to when it was go time again. I’d backwards plan to make sure I emerge back into society my best self, my most beautiful, like a wedding countdown, I’d say 3 weeks out, amp up the workouts, 2 weeks out, buy the plane tickets, one week out, fill my calendar with shows and social events, one day before normal, a mani pedi, done by me, of course, look what a great job I’ve done making do, being self-sufficient, low maintenance.

Be still.

Be still, when it’s enjoyable. Be still, when it’s hard. Trust, when you have reason to hope. Trust, when you can’t see the ending. Be still. This is hard. I’m with you.

Love in the time of Social Distancing

I’ve been doing this thing lately where I wake up at around 1am and can’t go back to sleep for several hours. While we’re all trying to stay home during this pandemic, time has lost its rigidity; I can nap in between digital obligations, the line between daytime clothes and nighttime clothes has blurred or disappeared altogether, impending shows or deadlines are now all canceled or in flux, so I’m struggling to be motivated to be productive. “Is this thing I’m working towards still happening, even?”

The week they announced schools would be closed, I’d just had a horrific week without a ton of alone time to process things, and I welcomed the idea of quiet, stillness, and a break from the routine. For a few days, I delighted in the stillness. I wrote. I drank coffee. I re-read old journals. I cleaned.

Over a week in, with who knows how long we have to go, I have to stare down my demons. Usually, I jam pack my schedule so tightly that I need to leave one obligation early to arrive at the next one late, and that way I’m flooded with — what? — relief, intermittently: “Whew! I made it!” Adrenaline, dopamine. What I wouldn’t give to be racing down the highway, right now, one eye on the clock, a sense of purpose and urgency. I’m now on withdrawal from that chemical cycle, and I acknowledge that it is possible — possible — that I use “busy” as a self-numbing defense. A crutch I’m now without.

We’re being asked, collectively, to prioritize. To love and care for our neighbors by staying away from them. This is love. Love in action. Empty concert halls are love. Empty stadiums are love. This love is a struggle, it’s painful, it’s inconvenient, it involves hardship and sacrifice and lost income and tons of fear and uncertainty. It is love nonetheless.

I daydream about before this began. Thinking nothing of walking through busy hallways. Pawing through clothes in a store. Adjusting a student’s hands on their guitar. Borrowing a pencil. I daydream about when this ends. The gigs, the hugs, the reunion with loved ones. Man. We should all walk around positively giddy when that happens again.

So we’re alone, together, for the time being and it’s temporary. I identify as an introvert; but I realize balance is key for me. Too much time around others, I’m drained and need alone time in order to check in, recharge. Too much time alone, I can become self absorbed, and need others in order to remind me my thoughts and perspectives are not the only reality. My problems are not the only problems.

I hope you are safe and I’m so proud of you for doing what we’re doing.

Vulnerability

There’s a Brené Brown special on Netflix currently, all about vulnerability. Her talk hinges around the Teddy Roosevelt quote:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt

A lot of Brown’s talk hinged upon the fact that living authentically involves risk. It involves looking foolish. It involves making mistakes, or getting hurt from time to time. It sucks. But it’s better than the alternative of playing it safe. Living authentically and showing our scars and hurts is actually what connects us to other people.

Yeah, that scares the shit out of me.

In not quite un-related news, I sent some demos to a producer, Mark, and started the ball rolling on planning an EP. Scariest shit I’ve ever done. My inner gremlins were going crazy and saying all kinds of shit.

“What if your singing sucks?”

“What if your words are cliché? What if your very THOUGHTS are unoriginal?”

“How dare you think so highly of yourself? Who wants to hear this?”

To sum up: WHAT IF YOU LOOK FOOLISH? I had Brené Brown’s words ringing in my ears as I held my breath and sent the demos. I haven’t played these demos for anyone. Not a soul. It felt like sending journal pages to a business associate. Now Mark’s first impressions of me might be that I’m a freaking mess.

I texted my friends Dani and Kristen (they introduced me to this idea of inner gremlins, by the way) because I knew they’d understand my panic. They were incredibly supportive.

I have three songs I feel are ready. I want two more.

Selecting the songs has been a challenge in vulnerability in and of itself. Of course, I want to put my best foot forward. But I already have a couple of self-empowered songs on there. I think I’m missing one that says “I don’t have the answers.” “I’m hurting, and I can’t sum it up. I don’t know what the lesson is here.”

Those honest songs are the ones I gravitate towards most in other songwriters; but writing them myself is going to be an exercise in looking like a fool. In admitting that I’m not all buttoned up. I’m working on it.

P.S. If you get the chance to read any of Brené Brown’s books, or watch her TED talks on YouTube, or watch her Netflix special, I highly recommend it.

Don’t Ask Permission – Write Drunk, Edit Sober

Just keep writing. I’ve been reading a book called “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron, since last year. I keep re-reading sections of it since having finished it over the summer. No matter who you are — lawyer, actor, musician, teacher, painter, broker, whatever — I recommend this book.

One of the premises: we are creations. The desire and the instinct to create things is to fulfill a divine purpose. To get closer to God, or the universe, or whatever terminology that works for you.

One of the tactics in the book describes “Morning Pages” — a ritual in which you write three longhand pages, each morning, without going back and editing or re-reading. Don’t share them with anyone. They can be as trivial or as deep as you need them to be.

I’ve found this to be such a helpful exercise. For me, sometimes, they describe a weird dream I had. Sometimes, they describe mundane errands I need to remember. Sometimes, they’re my deepest fears. Sometimes, they’re song lyrics.

I think the most helpful thing has been turning off my “edit” button as I write. Just keep the pen moving. Don’t judge what you’ve put on the page. You can always come back to it later, massage it, make it work for you.

I used to wait for inspiration to hit. Now, it’s a daily discipline, and I’ve come up with a ton of insights and songs. Please, don’t ask anyone’s permission to create what you need to create. Keep on swimming.

New Music I’m Listening To: Maggie Rogers

Maggie Rogers.

My friend Emily (who always listens to THE coolest music) introduced me to Maggie Rogers earlier this year. I saw the video of Pharrell listening to her song “Alaska” and being blown away by it.To hear Emily describe her, she’s so pure. She’s in the zone.

Not to be melodramatic; but when I listen to her stuff, it changes what I aspire to be.

When I record my own stuff, I used to think: “I’m not allowed to use head voice.” When I listen to Maggie, she makes head voice sound hip.

When I listen to my stuff, I used to think “I have too many harmonies.” You guys. Maggie Rogers has harmonies all over the place. And they sound vibe-y and clubby as hell, somehow.

Not to mention, she is a producer. Girlfriend is goals. I think I have her to thank for a new wave of courage. Please go check her out.