musician

Finding The Other Side

Whenever I find myself in trouble or hear the woes of others, there is a unifying theme. Everyone is searching for what is on The Other Side of their current strife.

Is is health? Is it a new job? Is it love? Is it love undone? Is it wealth? Is it peace? Is it a trip? It seems for most as if The Other Side is one or two magic things that will make life seem beautiful, whole again. I am learning The Other Side is not that simple or concise.

If you imagine life as a circle you continue around, there really is no Other Side. You will always have closures, new beginnings, and in betweens. Going in circles is dizzying. Most of our world is forced into a linear progression where if we achieve #1, then we can continue on to #2. While I don’t want to go in circles, I know that I have done #1 on many occasions, and #2 never comes. Am I a failure? No, not at all. Maybe I am just not meant to have that #2. Life is not tidy enough to remain linear.

IMG_1010

So how do we pull ourselves out of circles or off endless, hurtful, linear paths?

I like to break down The Other Side into moments I live each day.  This past year, I did not deserve to lose my job. Today, I really don’t want to face oncoming health challenges. I’d love to see what is on The Other Side of these challenges. Also today, I looked in the mirror and realized I made the successful conversion to being a vegan. I am working steadily on my book and job search. I have volunteered and put so much good back into the world while I have

been out of work. And, most importantly, I have people who love me, get me. These things are Other Sides, too. They are not necessarily big moments or solutions to major issues. They make a difference though.

Other Sides can be the in betweens. They can be slides off of vicious cycles. They can be as simple as a glass of tea after a tough day or as complex as a cure for our disease. They can be what is in us waiting to come out or what is outside of us waiting to lift us to new heights. Appreciate them all. It’s how you keep living when life punches you

Advertisements
Standard
musician

How I Cured The Funk

IMG_0357.jpgGoodness gravy, I was in The Funk for the last several months of 2018. With a job situation rolling roughly into a tough close and an overwhelming schedule, I felt like I was doing nothing well. I questioned myself, and I questioned others. I will stop sort of saying this was depression, but my trademark optimism and desire to rise in the mornings were absent.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical or mental health professional. Check. I am a compassionate, empathetic person. Check. So I’m going to share how I have blasted into 2019. First, let me share some truths about The Funk, particularly mine.

I was hitting the wine bottle too easily, especially as my job came to an end. I was sedentary and exhausted. I felt remarkably uncertain about what was coming next. I felt angry about working so hard to come to this place of uncertainty. I was also angry about how I had been treated, and at times, disappointed in how I treated others while under stress. I passed up opportunities to sing and dance, two of my favorite pastimes. Then I felt the guilt that comes with all of the above. I realized I might need help, but I also wanted to see if some changes would help because I did not feel was beyond my own repair.

Over the last four weeks, I did the following 5 things:

1) SAID NO: I learned to say no to activities that were not mandatory and potentially done out of a false sense of obligation. I was apologetic and pretty open with others about my need to focus on me and a pending job search. I found 99.8% of people were awesomely supportive.

2) SPOKE TRUTH: I spoke truth to my family and friends about where I was at mentally. I am a sugar coater. I am a practicing optimist. I want to help others. I don’t want to be helped. This was a tough step, but I now get why it is so important. Your brightest light to cut the darkness comes from those who love you FOR YOU. They want to be your champions. Let them.

3) CHANGED HEALTH STUFF. Yep, now I am going to get into the physical health stuff. It matters. It will look different for each of us. For me, I started to physically move more and more each day. From hiking in the snow to dusting off an elliptical at home to a short toning workout, I made myself move more every day. I’m not a fan of big workouts, yoga, running etc. Physical fitness needs to occupy a tight, well-defined portion of my day. Let me tell you even short workouts help.

I also went dry and started a whole food, almost vegan diet. This was pretty radical. I LOVE RED WINE. I was using it as medicine though. That’s not good, so I quit all alcohol. I found out that when I did,  I did not miss it. I can love it from afar in a still corked bottle. This is my second time in recent years going dry. I might keep it that way this time.

Changing my diet is still a learning process, but I am not hungry, and I have eaten some amazing things, including a delicious frozen treat from 4 ingredients: Organic frozen peaches, plain yogurt (vegan if you need), real lemon juice and agave nectar blended together. I ate an avocado with Sriracha and red grapefruit for breakfast this morning, and it was a simple energy infusion to continue the job search.

4) WROTE IT DOWN: I started my blog up again. Now we have come full circle. Here I am sharing with you how I came to be back here sharing. It’s a beautiful circle. I don’t think I would be here if I had not done #1-#3 above. I am also practicing my banjo and guitar more steadily and exploring writing some new songs and editing a novel which has missed my love.

5) EXPLORED: I am learning what you were does not have to be what you become. I’m exploring career shifts and casting a broad net. I am also trying to find a new balance between live, work and play. What I had was not working. It drove me into The Funk. It is so uplifting to simply admit this and start exploring a new course. I have forgiven myself.

I feel great coming into this new year. The job search and some good me time activities are fully operational. I am more emotionally available to family and friends. I have energy and The Funk has lifted. If it did not, my next step was to seek some medical help for it. There should never be shame in this. Whether on your own and/or with the help of others, you an get out of The Funk, too.

Final, Extremely Important Disclaimer: I did not have suicidal thoughts during my way down time. If you do, please, please, please reach out below:

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

 

Standard
musician

Feeling The Quiet In Between

img_0249I am noisy. I am always working, engaging others, listening to music, moving, learning, reaching for new heights, and for the most part, growing. To say my life has been chaotic since my 20s might be an understatement. I knew nothing of The Quiet of which others speak. You know, those meditative types with an awesome balance between work, play and rest. That has never been me…until recently.

Life hands you changes, many changes. They can be good or bad, or something along that spectrum. The year of 2018 will deposit in my memory bank as a year of tough changes. It was also a year made of noise I did not like. Everything was loud from demands on my time to the spaces where I worked and lived. I could not find any quiet, even in sleep, and I suffered mentally and physically. I was sleepless on an early morning mid-December morning where I could hear every noise in the house, and I decided I would only find quiet and peace if I made it.

You cannot control everything that happens to you even though you have great power to make things happen.  I need to find a new career, raise a family, get healthy, write, make music, and most importantly, love my people. My noise is not going to disappear in 2019. In fact, it might get louder for a bit. This is where the In Between becomes critical.

I was hiking yesterday with my daughter. My life did not have space for a hike yesterday, but an unusually warm, sunny day in January in Michigan is a gift you don’t refuse. We hiked a wooded path along the Red Cedar River. It was beautifully silent as we made our way. We did talk to each other and stop to take photos. I had no demands during that time though, a time I made during a busy day: An In Between. I could feel The Quiet in me. The noise stopped, my pulse steadied. Everything was going to be okay even when I exited the trail of my In Between.

My life will never be completely quiet. I do not have the luxury of long stretches of nothingness, and I am pretty sure I designed my life this way. Changes will continue to happen, whether I make them or take them. There is still a quiet I can find during the In Between that will be the salve to heal and the glue to keep it together, an essential oil of peace.

 

Standard
musician

Joy is Simple

Joy is freshly baked monkey bread, hot from the oven smelling of sugar and spice.

Joy is fresh mangoes, juicy and sweet, sunshine in a little dish on a rainy winter day.

Joy is a desk etched with the scratches of time where a tree grows inside while an old tree passes outside, completing the circle.

Joy is looking for one bird in the bush and finding many, nature’s symphony of life and potential.

Joy is simple. Joy is you.

Standard
musician

Breaking the Band

I’ve had my share of bad people in 2018. Whether it was selfishness, greed, insecurity, or all of the above, I’m coming in hot to the end of this year and overdone. I am a loving, forgiving person by nature, so to find myself in a place where I don’t want to do either is unusual and uncomfortable. I am trying to find peace as I move into 2019 no matter what continues to happen or doesn’t with people. I need an analogy. Bands.

U2 has been together many trips around the sun. They’ve had hits and flops. Egos have risen and been bruised. There has been love and love lost. Yet, they continue to travel together in the same composition of their Bono mullet days. Both love and forgiveness had to fuel this longevity.

Now let’s talk Fleetwood Mac. They fired Lindsey. THEY FIRED LINDSEY. They have all loved and hated each other, some two or three times over. They’ve swapped secondary players in and out of the band, and they have swapped with each other, to keep some momentum to the legend they have become. Whether you like them or not, and whether you are Team Lindsey or Team Fleetwood, they are arriving at a new version of peace before they retire.

Simon & Garfunkel. There is no repair or true peace for them. They are forever frienemies. I saw Paul on his farewell tour with my son. There was a sad beauty to him as he spoke of Art. Some bands can’t be repaired. The individuals can go on to find peace and success even if a tiny heartache remains, waxing and waning as their days grow shorter.

You knew I would have to mention the Beatles. Sometimes pressure and Yokos break the best of them. There is tragedy in the loss experienced after the break. Every time Hear Comes the Sun plays though, I can see those four young lads stepping out onto the stage for the first time, breaking hearts and making parents angry. They left something permanent and transformative no matter what happened between them or to them.

Bands arise. Bands break. Some bands remain for a long time, in perpetuity either by staying together or through the legend of their music. Life goes on after bands break. Life goes on after people break. My band broke in 2018. My guitar and banjo are packed and ready for new music, an improved soundtrack of my life, in 2019.

Standard
musician

The End is a Beginning

It could have been a worse day on Wednesday, December 12, 2018. I worked a full day until I was called into an office at 4pm and asked to work no more for my employer of the last four years. I was welcomed to stay through 5pm. I opted to gather up my belongings and simply leave. This end was over a year in the making, and I drove away from it sad and elated thinking I am still alive, and I am made of good things. It could have been worse.

The story of how this end came about is for other days. I am more interested today in how beginnings occur. I am a writer. I know how to start a story on paper. I am not paper. I am flesh, blood, brains and feelings. You could put a likeness of me on paper. You only really know me in person though. It has been a long time since I have been a person with a clean sheet of paper, no plans, and a beginning. It is terrifyingly exhilarating to be here.

So what is a beginning other than an end to something else? Fueled by love and moxie (and maybe a little wine), I will define my current beginning as a place to make the next magic of my life happen. I did not leave my skill, my experience, my writing, my music, or my rollicking good humor at the latest end. I did not leave my tribe there either. I brought them with me to this beginning. I will think about what I didn’t like about my last story. I will sadly leave some characters behind. Other than that, I am good to go.

I will find other ways to make a living. I will resurface passions left in the shadows. I will face other ends. I will not lose my love or gratitude. I will live this new beginning with strength and passion. An end is a beginning. Once it is over, you start again, wiser, more free, and full of possibility.

 

 

Standard
banjo, bluegrass, musician

I’m Having a Foggy Mountain Breakdown: A Banjo Player’s Lament

I am telling myself it is time. I have been playing banjo for a year as of 2/14/2016. Nothing says love like a banjo, right? I am ready to take the relationship with Earl, my Deering banjo, to the next level. I’m about to have a Foggy Mountain Breakdown.

For those of you who don’t know, Foggy Mountain Breakdown is the penultimate banjo song demonstrating the bluegrass speed and style of the late, great Earl Scruggs, banjo master. We will talk bluegrass technique and history another time. I am focused on the rite of passage this song is for a banjo player.

It is not clear to me what the rules are for when you learn different things on the banjo, so I am trusting my instinct. I have done this right so far. I have the Scruggs authored guide. I have weekly instruction. I have standard and forward backward rolls, fine tuned with daily metroGnome practice (it is a gnome indeed). I can even find my way around the banjo to create some of my own songs with rolls, slides, and pinches. I feel good about my progress in a year. So why Foggy Mountain now?

Foggy Mountain is a hard song to learn. It teaches you to use basic banjo techniques in a new and extremely challenging way. In my opinion, it breaks some of the rules I thought were hard and fast. I love breaking rules. This song is also a joyous, break out dancing, yeehaw hootenanny of a song. Quite simply, I am ready for the challenge.

If we never challenge ourselves as musicians, we can still be decent and create enjoyment for others. If we challenge ourselves, we can become great, not necessarily for others, but for ourselves.

Since I started looking at the tab and watching videos to help me learn this song, I have sworn profusely and told Earl I never want to see him again, only to come back to him requesting forgiveness 30 seconds later. I am in love, and I could not think of a better breakdown to have than this one.

If you need to see & hear the magic, check out Earl and Steve Martin (yes, the Steve Martin) do it justice:

 

Standard