Today I was brave. Today I was very brave. It’s not the time yet to talk about the details, but I have to say–brave is scary.
You know the old truism: “Bravery is not the lack of fear. Bravery is feeling the fear and moving forward anyway.” For the last few weeks, I’ve been fighting enormous fear. I’ve been fighting dread and self-doubt.
I’ve been hovering near the edge of the cliff, skittering back and forth like a scared animal.
Today, I jumped off the cliff.
I’ve jumped off that cliff before, and I flew. But over the past few years, I’ve become very comfortable. I’ve become very sedentary.
I’ve forgotten what I’m made of, and I’ve allowed other people to tell me who and what I am.
That ends today.
Still petrified. But at least I’m not stuck on the ledge anymore.
Keep watching this space for more details.
Sweet dreams, fellow travelers.
Background Music: Sara Bareilles – Brave
Still reading Anna Deveare Smith’s Letters to a Young Artist. I intersperse it between other reading, allowing my subconscious mind to digest and process the information in its own time.
Today, I read an amazing quote from her March 2003 letter entitled “Urgency:”
Don’t even bother coming out onstage–or doing anything in the realm of artistic communication–if you don’t have a sense of urgency. Nothing is cool here.
Smith in the next chapter discusses “The Death of Cool:”
So the death of cool…would do what? It would probably bring more tones, more color, more emotion, more love, more raw spirit, more argument, more energy. More authenticity? More compassion? More laughter? More tears? More open hearts?
Try it. Be uncool. As uncool as you can possibly be….Be hot.
These words were a revelation to me. In my youth, I was as far from cool as I could be. I didn’t eat the right foods, follow the right musicians, wear the right clothes, or lust after the right celebrities (or gender, for that matter). I laughed too loudly, argued too fervently, and imagined too wildly for most of my peers.
I was a geek, a nerd, an oddball, a wierdo, and a spaz.
Somewhere along the line, I learned to conform. I learned to fit in…to a certain degree. Enough to keep a job. Enough to avoid controversy. Enough to get by.
But that conformity came at a price. With conformity, I wrapped up my energies and passions and enthusiams, making them user-friendly and as inoffensive as possible. I buffered the world against my “uncoolness,” which probably made a lot of people much more comfortable around me.
But I died a little, too. That part of me who went wild with enthusiasm over Broadway musicals, worried passionately about the plight of the sea mammals, she kind of took a back seat to the me who could create excellent spreadsheets and write great business correspondence.
But I only died a little, and it seems a ghost of that person still mucks about inside me.
Because when it comes to science, I’m uncool.
When it comes to politics, I’m uncool.
When it comes to music and art and literature, I’m uncool.
When it comes to Doctor Who, I’m totally uncool.
And at the ripe old age of 47, I think I’m coming full circle with my geekiness.
At the risk of being absurd, I believe embracing my lack of cool might be the coolest thing I’ve ever done…
Peace to you–
My wife Kathryn and I have very different concepts of comfort and wealth. We both enjoy eating out and traveling. Kathryn, Taurus that she is, is a little more fond of material goods than I am and is not ashamed to admit it. I, on the other hand, will gladly spend my cash on experiences–good books, music, theater, etc. Neither of us is going to spend $13K on a dog, like a certain peroxide hotel heiress recently did, but we both have our moments of self-indulgence.
I bring this up because we’ve been reading a book together called Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. One quote really stuck with me from the introduction:
More is better; this is the motto that drives us. It’s the motto that leads us to trade in our car every three years, buy new clothes for every event and every season, get a bigger and better house every time we can afford it and upgrade everything from our stereo systems to our lawn mowers simply because some new automatic widget has been introduced.
I remember reading that and looking up at Kathryn. “Are we like that?” I asked. No, of course we’re not. Even if we had that kind of money, we would not be like that. it made me wonder why people do such things. Why do people have to fill their lives with things, and do those things make them happy?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not an ascetic. I have a laptop ($200), a Kindle (a gift from a friend), and a nifty little MP3 ($40) player that has my music on it. I have high-speed Internet and a subscription to Netflix (streaming-only) that I enjoy the heck out of. I eat in nice restaurants as often as I possibly can.
What I don’t understand is, if I already have a television that works perfectly fine, why would I need a new one that only works slightly better? If I already have a car that gets me where I want to go, why should i go into debt to buy a newer one that…well, still gets me where I have to go?
When we obsess with filling each and every cranny of our lives with more and more stuff, what exactly are we trying to stuff? Time? Space? A feeling of emptiness?
I only binge eat when I’m miserable. Is that why people binge shop?
I find that the older I get, the less I need to be happy. Good company, good ideas, good food, good music, and the time and health to enjoy them all are pretty much what I crave after the basic physical needs are met.
Maybe if we stopped trying to fill up every empty space with stuff, and got around to the business of creating happiness for ourselves, we would find that we didn’t need all that crap to begin with.
(Oh, and just in case you wanted to know? Kathryn’s version of materialism includes a well-stocked kitchen to cook in (or the resources to eat out if we don’t feel like cooking), nice clothes to choose from, enough money to vacation at least once a year, a car that she doesn’t have to worry over, and a clean, safe neighborhood to live in.)
Yup, we’re practically channeling Paris Hilton, aren’t we?
Background music: Elysium, Honor Him, Now We Are Free by Lisa Gerrard and Hans Zimmer
Driving to work this morning, I heard a piece by composer Aaron Copeland that was new to me. I’ve always had a wide-open space in my heart for Copeland, who along with George Gershwin, represents in my mind the quintessential American spirit. In contrast to Gershwin’s jazzy style, sometimes frenzied, sometimes languid, Copeland’s style always spoke to me of endless spaces, crisps lines, and the often-tense blending of harmonies.
It was an unusual start to the day, considering where I’d been over the past few days. The tenderness of the song reached out to me, lifting me from this dark place that’s been my home recently. Maybe it’s because when I hear Aaron Copeland’s music, my mind immediately visualizes the stunning beauty of the American Southwest, particularly the home of my soul, Arizona.
One of the biggest challenges, especially in times of stress, is to maintain an openness of soul. When times are difficult, my first reaction is to curl inward, clutching my life into a tight fetal position in order to protect myself from the harsh and painful elements all around. For a highly empathic person, I’ve never had great psychic shields.
The music of Copeland is like a shield around me, pristine and beautiful and big and open, creating a buffer space where my soul can rest and rejuvenate. This makes sense, psychically, if you consider we are all created of energy. Music, in its highest form, eases our energy into balance, softens our jagged lines, and soothes us in a way few other things can.
I week or so ago, I decided to create a playlist of all the songs I’d recommended as background music on this blog. The official playlist is almost exclusively instrumental. I’ve also created a supplemental playlist featuring more upbeat, popular music. I’ll keep adding to it as I go along. I hope you enjoy them both, and that the songs bring as much peace and joy to you as they do to me.
Good night, dear souls.
Background Music: Aaron Copeland- Quiet City (feat. Wynton Marsalis)
Enjoying a quiet Sunday with my Sweetie. Tomorrow will be the anniversary of our hand-fasting. We’ve been together almost 15 years, but we were joined two years ago today at a small ceremony in Phoenix.
No matter how difficult life gets, it’s great to know you have a partner and a friend to face the road with. I do love my wife so very much.
I hope you are all having a great weekend.
Do you want to know what my favorite saying is? “Today I learned…” (with “This week I learned…” as a fair back up). To me, there really is nothing more thrilling than learning something new, being exposed to information or ideas I did not know about, and meeting people who share a different point of view with me.
In my pursuit of stuff to learn, I have sort of chucked away conventional common sense and glommed onto the words of William Butler Yeats: “There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.” That’s right. Despite all the training given to me in childhood, I talk to strangers. In grocery lines, in restaurants, at stop signs, the ladies’ room–pretty much anywhere conversation is possible. Strangers are infinite sources of knowledge–you can sometimes learn more from a stranger than you ever could from a friend. Strangers challenge your status quo and push you to move beyond your comfort zone.
One of the best friends I ever had, Renee, was met like this. I saw her in the hallway at college and she happened to be carrying a binder with an 8×10 photo of George Takei as Sulu on the back. Now, this was long before it was “great to be Takei,” when he was just an actor in a failed sci-fi show. But I saw that picture and my dealie-boppers twitched. I pointed and yelled, “Sulu!” at her. (Yes, I was in college….) A friendship was born out of two strangers bonding over a photograph. And while we shared a lot of interests, Renee was very different from me and challenged me to move beyond my own limitations.
So many of the wonderful, crazy, inspired experiences I’ve had in my life have stemmed from the fact that I don’t let not knowing someone get in the way of an intellectual or spiritual connection.
In this light, I want to point you toward a web-site called “I Talk To Strangers.” Robbie Stokes was working at the United States House of Representatives when he made a decision that would astound most people. Determined to not just change the world, but connect it, Stokes sold everything he owned and began a journey. He challenged himself to meet and talk to as many people as he could, and encourage them to do the same.
Imagine that for a moment. Dedicating your life to meeting people, and inspiring every person you meet to do the same. Can you fathom the ripple effect of such an act? Stokes could, and he’s bringing others into the wave. His site offers opportunities for volunteering and employment, as well as blogs and videos.
All because one guy wanted to meet people!
What could you do, if you were brave enough (and crazy enough, perhaps) to follow your passion? Where would you go, and who would you become?
What an amazing world we live in, and what amazing people for us to meet! I am going to volunteer, and I’m going to keep talking to strangers.
Sleep well, and dream of fascinating conversations, my friends.
Just so you know, this is my background music for the moment. Feeling nostalgic for my paternal grandparents tonight.
When I was a kid, I hated this kind of music. It reminded me of Saturday mornings in my grandparents’ car, driving around Raceland doing errands with them. It reminded me of wedding receptions, long after the thrill of party food and the potential for cake was gone.
The music was symbolic, in a way. An audible attribute of the small towns of my youth–Raceland, Thibodaux, and all those towns down the bayou. Listening to it reminded me how trapped I felt, not just by the small town-ness of it all, but by my connection to the land and the history there. I wanted to be something special, exciting, not just some kid in a boring car listening to music I couldn’t understand or sing along with.
I wanted so much to get out of there. Not just out of the car with the Cajun music, but the smallness of my world. I wanted to be someone important, do something important. I didn’t want my biggest accomplishment to be 20 years as a sales clerk in the local office supply store.
It’s amazing what you don’t appreciate while you’re in it. Not that I would want to go back to my childhood, but I would love the opportunity to talk to my grandparents from an adult point of view, ask them about their lives, ask them about their dreams and challenges and joys.
Truth be told? I don’t remember much of my childhood. I wasn’t present for so much of it. I was somewhere else, in a made-up world, living a made-up life that pleased me more than the one I had.
But I do remember the music. And believe it or not, it’s actually kind of grown on me.
So, I lift the proverbial glass to my Grandma Reina and Grandpa Merrill, who are probably at a VFW dance in Heaven right about now (or playing cards at a kitchen table with their noisy, French-speaking friends). I didn’t know you well, but I sort of wish I had.
Good night, dear souls. May your dreams be sweet, and may the soundtrack of life always contain a bit of nostalgia.
My 30th High School Class Reunion is this weekend in New Orleans. I will not be attending, but I find it amazing how different things are now than they were at the time of the last reunion. Five years ago, I had absolutely no contact with anyone from my high school class. Now, thanks to social media, I’ve reconnected with many of them. Some of the folks I really liked in high school are no longer people I really want to hang with, and some people I absolutely detested have blossomed into amazing, fascinating adults. I see them so differently now, both as adults and as the teenagers they used to be. With the perspective of time, things that were once painful, hurtful, or just plain infuriating take on a deeper, richer texture.
My former classmates seem to have a different memory of me than I have, too. It’s funny, seeing your past self through the reflections of your adult former classmates. When I think back upon my younger self, I see a nerdy, awkward geek who never came near to reaching her full potential. My memories of myself back then are harsh, judgmental, even hateful at times.
But some of the words I hear now about that younger me include kind, smart, funny, creative – characteristics I never would have attributed to myself at the time. Whose memories are accurate – theirs or mine? And if I was wrong about myself then, what will my future self see differently about the person I am now?
I wonder if my classmates remember themselves the way I remember them? The hilarious pranksters, the so-smart-they-were-intimidating-intellectuals, the beautiful ones, the healers-of-broken-souls. No matter what their pictures on Facebook show, I still see them young and healthy, the girls in their red and grey plaid skirts, the boys wearing grey slacks. I see them in their band uniforms, prom dresses, big 80s hair, full of potential and fear and excitement.
I was not a popular person in school, although I had my circle of friends. For so many years, I looked back on my school days with bitterness and regret. But tonight, in the shimmering glow of nostalgia, I realize that these clever, outrageous, cruel, boring, funny, intense teenagers formed the cauldron in which my future self was clarified, strengthened, and distilled. And all the good memories and bad are merely ingredients in this wonderful amalgam I have become.
So, my old friends, while you are partying this weekend in The City that Care Forgot, please know that I haven’t forgotten to care about you. Please take care, be safe, and maybe we’ll see each other at the 35th.
Go, E.D. White Class of 1984!
No matter how hard you try, sometimes you slip. Sometimes, you forget you are a soul experiencing a physical existence. Sometimes, you forget you are eternal and powerful and full of light.
Sometimes you get dragged back down into the mundane, the harshness, and the pain of life. Sometimes it gets cloudy in your mind, and you believe the drama you’re telling yourself about this, that, and the other thing.
Today I let myself get dragged back down, and it hurt. Forgetting who I truly am is dead painful. Thinking that this break-neck life is all there is–that’s pain.
I am lucky. I have a support system in the form of my wife Kathryn, my darling friends and family, and a host of teachers available to me through their writing, music, and art. When I slip, they are there to catch me.
Let me be here to catch you…
- when you forget that you are infinite.
- when you forget that you are glorious.
- when you forget that you are Divine.
We are here,now, in this space for a reason. We are not just organic consumers and creators of waste products.
When you speak, let your soul shine through. Tell your true story, that story that only you can tell. And never forget that this (waves around to the so-called Real World™) is just a story we tell.
Tell a better story. Choose kindness.
Love, my friends.