I Don't Know What I'm Doing Most of the Time

Little Door Lets It In  

I want to forget myself. 

I want to forget the moment I thought I had to do x, y, or z instead of getting straight to it. 

You know what I mean.  

Out of the this and that and too much contemplation and straight into action and more consecutive action. 

Isn't it funny that way?  

Motion propels motion. 

So MOVE!  

NOW!  

one tiny little bit is enough.  

Til you remember: 

You are movement. That’s all there is for you. 

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  1. C'est la Vie

Birthday  

It's mine today! Here's a song I wrote in 2010. 

I walked this and a few more songs this old and older last weekend with Tim Bulkley on drums and Scott Prawalski on bass from Bear Flag Trio. It was an exciting first rehearsal after what's been a pretty long break for me. It also feels nice to approach songs like this after so many years in between. I'm excited about how this and other songs will sound!

This year's birthday includes a day off from work, yoga, and a 1-hour phone session with Sarajane Case to develop my launch plan for the new music and show broadcast idea that is brewing in my head. I'm sure many more things will come from it if the course outline is any indication...and this is just through September and early October.


Hope you have a great day today! Happy Birthday!

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  1. Brave Grace

* Poof! * You're Back In It  

It’s true you need to change your habits by your own effort, but sometimes you need a catalyst. Maybe it’s a fast (on purpose or on accident from the flu!). Maybe it’s a change of wall colors. Maybe you chop all your hair off. Maybe you give away all of your clothes or get rid of every old thing you never use. To turn you away from the old distractions. 

Lucky for me I've had all of the above. And now its fall. 

The air is cold. It's an activator. Where did it come from? From left, going right and forward and swirling down. It was just a thread. A pin. A note. How does it know where it's going? 

It softly shakes the trees. Time to get up soon. You've been sleeping in the sun. Heart open. Golden sun soak. But now the cold glint tickles your nose, it rustles you a little, you have to move; it's time to move. 

I feel lighter. I'm running.

I smile. I laugh! 

------------>>>>>There’s time for everything.<<<<<<------------------------

There is time for everything. It's what I was searching for. This gift that's been there, waiting for me to align. 

I found you current! Ha HA!

This time I’ll keep with you. I'll run trough the woods. Forwards and backwards dancing along the gravel. 

What a gift. 

Isn’t that the magic of life? 

* Poof! * 

YOU'RE BACK IN IT.

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  1. Eager of the Years

You Make Me Want To Share You  

In your purest form, your most raw or silly, you make me want to share you. 

I want to find whatever it is you need to get to whatever next place you are going.

If I can, I want to introduce you to your hero, so you know: you belong. 

,so you know you're not alone; so I know I'm not either. 

But I don't always find the channels.

I can't always bridge the chasm in our world.

I only have You.

Your story - our story. And the opportunity to remember:

"Love is a continuum".

 

-

Special thanks to Diana Tsuchida for posting this video which inspired the above, and reminded me that we can't always imagine what will be. Leadership is active; it lives only in this moment.

That's all for this week, folks.

Much love,

Michelle

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  1. In & Out feat. DJ Eurok

Luck and Imperfection  

Earlier this week I thought this post would open with an acknowledgement that I am an incredibly lucky person. As I write it, it looks pretty arrogant, but that's not how I mean it. I mean my life, as I've lived it, has proven to be pretty lucky. Incredibly lucky to the point of not always being able to explain how lucky. 

Luck, coincidence, whatever you call it happened again this weekend when attending a wedding of a friend from the East Coast who now lives on the West Coast. Among the attendees of the intimate wedding? One of my college roommates, Jennifer Colliau, whom I hadn't seen in 20 years. It turns out that my friend who was getting married, had, of all places in the Bay Area, secured a job in a bar managed by my college roommate whom I have not seen for 20 years. This is the kind of coincidental circumstance that happens regularly for me. That's what I mean by luck.

Luck is a funny thing though, right? What is luck?  Interestingly, if you look up "luck" the defintion is not just positive:

From Mirriam-Webster luck is "success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one's own actions" 

That changes it a bit. Who wants to be lucky?? And of course, there are many who say success can only come with failure, so...right back around.

In any case, it was nice to see Jen. She's opening a bar across from The Fox Theater in Oakland soon. Will look forward to seeing some of you there!

I've had a weird dance with luck. I'm superstitious about it. I think I have to live in gratitude to have access to it, and I have fears of my life any time I think I may have jeopardized whatever weird luck I have. 

Do you see this? The dichotomy? 

On the one hand, I am very lucky. On the other hand, everything can and will fall apart unexpectedly.

On the one hand, I live in gratitude and can feel I am riding on an unseen current, effortlessly gliding to new and great things. On the other hand, my own imperfections - poor decisions made, or really even anything less than best decisions made - terrify me into thinking I will be disconnected from that luck.

It's not logical...in case you're trying to add it up.

Here's some luck and imperfection all in one. At this same wedding, placed in the woods (where kids play in the dirt), my son began to play in the dusty dirt and was soon covered head to toe in it. I didn't want to stop him and the environment seemed nurturing of a 3.5 year old being able to dig and play. It was a wedding in the woods and people were camping etc. Still, when a guest pointed out how nice it was to see a child play in the dirt, how they would never see that in the foreign country that they were from, I could only hear it as a comment on imperfection. His behavior and mine were imperfect. To someone. A stranger. I let it pass through my head and decided I had made the right decision, though I just wished it wasn't such dusty dirt. Now isn't that gross? An appearance closer to perfection would apparently have appeased my ego. I guess in a sense, I'm lucky it was such dusty dirt. There's no real mistaking it or glossing it over into something else.

Back on the luck side, in my son's dusty adventures he found three marbles in three separate locations in about a soccer field size area. I don't know if you've ever placed a glass marble in very dusty dirt, but it pretty much becomes invisible. Yet, he found not one but three marbles. (He also found one today in an unsuspecting location on the side of the road.) Pretty lucky!

Here's a weird thing...typing this all out makes me consider how these two - Luck and Imperfection - have been coexisting all along. 

I am very lucky, and everything can and will fall apart unexpectedly.

I am imperfect, and I am still lucky, and everything can and will fall apart unexpectedly.

Crap.

I had a moment last week where I remembered Suzanne Fiol. She's also on my jogging path with a street sign for SUZANNE. I miss her. If you didn't know her, this obituary says some good things: http://www.brooklynvegan.com/suzanne-fiol-is/ (I also love the URL for this: Suzanne Fiol Is)

I also can't believe the insane chaos that was endured when she passed. What a kind of lonely hell that was! So many people wanting to fulfill her dream and having only their versions of what she envisioned. Maybe that's the point, but it sure was hard. It's hard not to have someone to check in with. It's hard to challenge yourself to make the best decisions that are also the hardest decisions. It's hard to get along with other people! It's hard to trust. It's hard to be honest.

It's also hard to lead other people when you have no way of translating your gut, when you know luck, and when you know what direction to go in and need no map. Other people need maps, and you kind of have to provide them.

I know...talking in rambles here. That's how it goes this week.

Thanks for being here and thanks for listening.

P.S. This is Mama. Photo by Harrison Bulkley.

 

 

 

 

 

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  1. Madrina

You Have to Get Your Hands Dirty  

You have to get your hands dirty. 

You have to look at the stack of papers that will help you move forward and stop dragging them around for any more weeks. It's been a month. The edges are frayed, even!  

What do the papers say? Same stuff as the goals post. They say where you're supposed to be and possibly where you aren't.  

You have to get your hands dirty with commitment, and be uncomfortable, and be OK with that discomfort.

You have to let up on drinking because the 25 pounds is not going to lose itself. 

You have to stop leaning on coffee to make it through the day.  

You have to actually reach out and connect with other human beings, and count on them. 

Count on them to: 

Help you. 
Understand you. 
Guide and advise you. 
Show you shortcuts to your best self. 
Keep you in motion. 

Keep you in motion. Keep you in motion. Keep you in motion. 

That was much easier when it was anonymous in a City. 

OK!! Enough stalling... Let's look at the papers. How do I really stack up?  

#1 Career: successfully plan album release 

I contacted Eli to see if the tracks are done.  I took a webinar by Jasmine Star about social media posting. She emphasized consistency, which is one big anti-magnet. Why is consistency so hard right now? I talked to my friend Dawn Carlson who is an amazing designer and manages the marketing for her business MAS Design. I didn't actually ask her any questions about marketing, though. Oops. Stalls. I thought about writing to Nikki McClure, but then chickened out. I did not reach out to Ryan.

#2 Health: Exercise Daily 

I am running 3-4x per week.  

I am not doing yoga 10 minutes a day. I am doing 1 stretch for like 2 minutes 3 times a week. I am better about packing my lunch but still not so great at making sure to do it. I have reduced alcohol. I have not gone to sleep earlier. I have reduced coffee most days and replaced it with water.  

#3 Creativity: Be Visible, Show Up, Collaborate, Perform 

I did not look at that song from Evan’s friend. I did not reach out to Clevenger, Mezzacappa, or Sadigursky. I did not book any dates in NYC. I have not started broadcasting songs. I found out how and where to book a show in my area and have not made the call to book the shows, and subsequent rehearsals. I did try and nudge a friend to do a recording of his music at our house this fall. I did perform as Penny Youngman and separately as myself. 

#4 Happiness: Be More Present, Expand Culinary Skills 

I have not started regular meditation. I did not sign up for a culinary course. I did find individual recipes and try out unusual things for dinner meals. I did not start planning meals for the week on Sundays. I did book a babysitter once a week to make a date night possible! I have reduced dark mental dwelling greatly and have been more forgiving and curious about my own idiosyncrasies. I did make fresh blackberry jam!

That's funny. I feel kind of OK.  

Hmmm. 

P.S. ”I love you just the way you are.” (Thanks Mr. Rogers and Nicholas Ma for making ”Won't You Be My Neighbor” - Go see it now.)

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  1. You Can Win

Introducing Penny Youngman  

Sometimes you have to outside to go inside. 

When I was in theater school at USC, there was an acting exercise where you would exaggerate your interpretation of lines, which would help you discover new colors and dimensions for expression that wouldn't be apparent to you without stretching. I've used that exercise regularly to get outside of my preconceived notion of my voice for singing.

I mention this exercise, because it also holds true for finding new dimensions to your humanity. Sometimes you have to leave your house, go outside, walk by water, be off the clock, lose your cell phone, etc. to be able to center yourself. 

And that brings me to Penny Youngman. Three years ago Penny was born out of a wig and a great party. I was at an annual gathering of friends. A ridiculous somewhat square-shaped-headed blonde/pink wig with braids was available. I put it on to be funny, and then proceeded to be seriously ridiculous. At this gathering there was an annual Hootenanny for friends to perform, and I proceeded to do a small stand up act. It was decided in the moment. I would re-tell Henny Youngman's jokes. Reading from my cell phone, in this ridiculous wig, I read the jokes, and as the outdated words spilled from my mouth I found myself yelling a loud "WHAT?" in response, followed by that familiar rim shot sound, the live drum punchline response. Penny's first performance also included an element of slapstick; I think this first year involved me setting the microphone so preposterously high that I had to jump to tell these jokes. 

The next year's gathering came. There was that same wig and there was the microphone. I decided I would cartwheel on and off the stage and tell 2 or maybe it was 3 jokes. The first involved allowing the audience to watch me work hard to get as close to the ground as possible with my body and the microphone. Then, after a beat, Penny said "I call this "How Low Can You Go". I can't recall her second joke that night. The closing joke involved lying on my back with my feet and legs in the air - feet adorned with socks pulled up and placed in flip flops. I did a little 1-2 scissor dance with my legs and then in the microphone whispered "SOXY!"

This year, Penny would be a premeditated act. One day as I was jogging to Justin Timberlake's Mirrors, the lyrics seemed too perfect for the times we are in. It was settled. Penny would impersonate Donald Trump in an outrageous dance routine, singing to himself in the mirror, "You reflect me, I love that about you. And if I could, I would look at us all the time." Midway through this comedy, Trump would transform into Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and begin to sing to the audience "Yesterday is history. Tomorrow's a mystery. Oooh!" finally making an ultimate transformation into Princess Leia singing "Girl you're my reflection, all I see is you. My reflection, in everything I do."

It would be incredible, hysterical, and seriously ridiculous.

And it was.

And then, later in the Hootenanny set, I played an older song of mine, with fresh openness. A clarity that wouldn’t have been there had I not allowed Penny Youngman all of the room to stretch.

Here’s Penny from her 2016 set. A fool in her prime, a fool all the time.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


SOXY! 

:)

P.S. Don't forget to watch the new Robin Williams doc.

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  1. Love Everlasting

Morning and A Seventh Heaven  

Too much to write. Not enough. The thoughts are scattered again, so here they are, again, in pieces.

I'm running around the track.

I'm listening to "Morning" by Beck...The album this is on is one of the best-produced albums I've heard. I've listened to it intensely several times for years. Every corner is considered; it's a beautiful reality. It sounds slower than it used to. I wonder if the pace of activity around me when I used to run to this in NY was syncopated into this and so it seemed faster. I am in a slower pace in CA. I feel the shift. I hear it in conversations. I wonder if I come across as slower now to people in NYC. "This morning, I lost all my defenses...won't you show me the way it used to be."

I turn the corner of the track...The image of a bonsai garden comes to mind. Beautifully crafted reality. It's a dance. For a moment, I think about art work as just an atom that an artist has decided to focus on. A focus on one aspect of reality. A push of reality. How we push reality all day. Through our jobs, through our politics, through our art.

"Love keeps coming back, there's nothing left for me to give." as I listen to Sasha Dobson's latest release "Nothing Left" I'm reminded of not pushing reality. Not doing a one-person piano move through life. Not banging my head against the wall. Not working hard; working smart and letting go.

The lyrics to "A Seventh Heaven" by Gordon Stevens, which I had the luxury of singing on, come to mind. Listening to the track Adam Shulman's playing reminds me of Fred Astaire and Tim Volpicella's guitar turns into a horn or a flute in some moments. Gordon called me the other day to share that he'd been thinking about the lyrics lately. "I cannot see what waits for us, nor feel it, could it transport us? To netherlands sublime, beyond the pulse of time, to stars - A Seventh Heaven - who's to know? Will it come quickly? Must we seek it out? What motivation? Quietly withdraw and tempt stagnation? Risk a fatal move to try and catch a glimpse: of what and when and where and why." I haven't called him back; my pulse has been buried.

In the early 2000s I went to an acupuncturist to deal with sluggish allergies. I told her I'd been running outside to try and break out of the sluggishness. She pointed out that I was allergic to pollen and running in it. She told me my pulse was buried.

Activity - activeness - and cities. For all of my city years, I've always had restorative breaks. In these breaks, I've usually gained a stronger sense of self and my art and what I might offer to the world. And each time I would go back to a city and feel lost in the activity, confused on my direction.

I've realized that I associate being active and action-oriented with feeling worthful. Without action, I am worried there's a deep dark truth to confront: that I'm worthless. It feels silly to write, but that's been the driver possibly my whole life. It's one thing to be productive; it's another thing to be productive because you're scared. And I'm terrified. Of being worthless. Of rejection. It's why I've never pushed an album past the point of recording. You can't lose when you don't try, isn't that the phrase? 

So now to figure out worth without busy-ness...value without fear of rejection.

Setting goals helps. Sarajane Case advises setting 4 goals every six months along 4 themes. Career, Health, Happiness, Creativity. I'm not used to thinking about all of these areas at the same time. I've certainly focused on Career and Creativity in swings. Health in swings as well. I've never set a goal for happiness before.

Here are those clarified goals for me by December:

Goal 1: Career - Develop a plan to successfully launch the new music I recorded / Create work rituals that settle me down from busy action-ness into thoughtful progression
Action steps: Finish tracks (contact Eli Crews), Find animator (Talk to Goh Nakamura and Lisa Schatz), Get PR organized (talk to Ryan Hobler), Figure out Artwork, Rework office and music spaces  + Create daily routines.

Goal 2: Health 
Action steps: Practice Yoga (any amount) daily, Do a full practice of Yoga 1x a week, Continue Running 4x week, Reduce coffee to 1 cup a day, Reduce alcohol to weekends

Goal 3: Creative - Secure a 2019 residency / Be Visible Again ->Reconnect with Past Collaborators - Reach out to New Collaborators
Action steps: Work on the song of Evan Francis' friend that he sent you, Reach out to Nathan Clevenger, Reach out to Sam Sadigursky, Reach out to Lisa Mezzacappa and finally have coffee with her, Build a next live band based off of my new recording and other works, Practice daily (any amount), Actively seek out and listen to things that are new and unfamiliar

Goal 4: Happiness
Action steps: Stop dark dwelling and emotionally freezing and be more present, Actively seek out and make new foods and recipes, Book a babysitter regularly, Start meditating, Start writing on real paper and not just digitally, Go to sleep earlier more often

It feels embarrassing to share these, but there they are. 

I was supposed to attach calendar dates to the action steps, but I haven't quite gotten to that. Still in a buried heart beat. "Be-yond the pulse of time."

 

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  1. Who You Are

Personification  

Personification 

  • the attribution of a personal nature or human characteristics to something nonhuman, or the representation of an abstract quality in human form. 

I think I was in fifth or six grade when I learned the first part of this definition and and that there was some kind of disdain for it. Disdain is stronger than I mean, more that there was societal quiet disfavor for it. 

I found this description on yourdicitonary.com which gets to what I'm alking about 

  • It is when you assign the qualities of a person to something that isn't human or that isn't even alive, like nature or emotions. 

That's what I'm talking about. The kind of sense that nature and emotions are not alive. But that’s not true in all cultures; it's not true for me. 

Here are two sisters: 

Here are two cousins:

When we talk about diversity, when we talk about listening to other ways of being it’s much more challenging than finding broad strokes for agreement. It’s about daily interaction and radically different approaches to, for example, looking someone in the eye, to how you view conversational interruption. It's sentence structure, acronyms and emphasis on unusual-to-you phonetic sounds. It's about acceptance that other societal structures have something of value to enrich your life. 

Exclusion and prized exclusivity keeps us from enjoying all that life is actively offering us, creating rules around what's not, instead of nurturing understanding for what is. 

Some say our society is an enneagram type 3 society - extroversion is prized, exclusivity is coveted (i'm recalling so many micro-apartment ads that I walked by in Williamsburg in the past few years), there is only 1st place, there is only hard work. 

From Integrative9's website:

At their best, others will experience Threes as hard-working, principled and receptive, offering the gifts of hope and integrity to the world.

In an unhealthy state, the Three’s over-expressed need for achievement may seem self-important and inconstant. This stems from a sense of self-worth that is built on what the Three does, rather than who they are.

I mention our country because it's almost July 4 and as we celebrate all that we all, I want to acknowledge that this undercurrent is true in my experience. And yet, we know that introversion has value, inclusivity is an acceptance of reality - it's not a choice, and that bronze and silver are achievements too (funny how even typing that brings discomfort!). We now know that there is smart work that better replaces hard work.

My wish for this Independence Day is this: 

Let us free ourselves from viewing life through a what's not lens. 

What is? 

What is - in all its gory glory. 

What is that is with or without you. 

What is in that second part of the definition of personification and how can we better represent the abstract in our human form.

Peace and love til next week,

Michelle

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  1. Here It Is

What's Your Politics?  

A friend from college just launched an incredible podcast breaking open the conversation around teen mental health. It's focused on the situation she lived through with her family, but it's also not just for people with kids. She's talking about us; our society. She's looking at the statistic - suicide is the 2nd leading cause of teen death -  and taking a step forward to point out the invisible walls that keep us isolated and invite people to engage. If you do nothing else, please listen to A Girl I Know.

And listen to this song by the artist Father John Misty. (I grabbed the title from this post from the lyrics.) I'll hope to do justice to a cover of this soon.

Mental health is a challenge, I think, for most people I know, myself included. I've experienced that tar, stuck to my insides, unnamed, sinking. I experienced it the other weekend, which is why I didn't post anything. It woke me up on Saturday night and sat there. It disappeared on my morning jog and reappeared when I ate my dinner. "What's wrong?" asked my husband. "Black hole," I said. "Oh" he said, knowing what I meant, "You had serious brows." I had already talked to him about it, which helped. He asks if I talk to my friend. I say yes, and that helped too. I was beating myself up, like I often do, about some or other instance, a moment, something I said, something I did or didn't do. 

What is a black hole? Well, from NASA's site:

"A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light can not get out. The gravity is so strong because matter has been squeezed into a tiny space. This can happen when a star is dying.

Because no light can get out, people can't see black holes. They are invisible. Space telescopes with special tools can help find black holes. The special tools can see how stars that are very close to black holes act differently than other stars."

I wonder if anyone has tested how you can feel them.

It is in these moments, when I'm rubbernecking in my mind, that the common advice -  that people can choose to hold on to thoughts like choosing moments in a stream; just grab on to another thought - feels impossible. It feels like it couldn't work to look at something else. But I must. 

So I exercise again. 

I meditate. 

I talk to friends. 
I read. 

And I recognize i may have no resolution to the feeling. It may just linger and then it may just move on.

Or I just look up things I don't know about.

Like black holes.

If you didn't know, Stephen Hawking's voice was shot as a song into a black hole. It will get there in a 3,500 light years.

But a real shift took place on Tuesday when my efforts to look up new things brought me to Enneagrams. I learned I'm a competitive achiever, not competing with other people, but competing, constantly, with myself. I realized that kind of competition is what had made me so good at achieving goals. I learned I'm a self preserver and that I'm action oriented. I could probably have known these things with out the enneagram report, but it was actually helpful to see it all in one place. I'm great in a crisis. But the question is, who and how do I want to be when I'm not. I don't really want to be in crisis mode with myself, so who do I want to be? How do I want to be different?

Guess I'll find out next week. I signed up for Sarajane Case's Goal-Mapping Workshop. She's pretty great. And her workshops help you take quantum leaps without feeling like it's a Herculean effort. I'll get an email each day next week and at the end of the week I'll have a plan for where I want to be in December.

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  1. Because of You