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

Focus on When - Who are we across time?  

Who are we across time? 

If there was a way to simply display an animation of a fireball going from left to right across the screen right now, then that would be my post for this week.

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My husband has been tuning in the Louis Cole’s new album "Time" and as I (reluctantly!) went on my jog this morning I accidentally hit on Cole's "Big Green Suitcase" and debut album from 2010. It was great! Great to hear a roughness to his sound, great to hear a dramatic mood change on one track, great to hear a kind of isolation not present on his 2018 album. 

Were we all isolated back then? I hear this isolation in my own work from around then. And if I think about it, I think everyone I know was feeling some kind of isolation in their work around then? Why were we all alone?

In Cole 2010 vs 2018, there's an excited, connected shift. 2018 is present in his 2010, and 2010 is present in his 2018. This phenomenon is one of my favorite things.This is a place I love to live. This is a fireball slowly traveling from left to right and taking up most of the page. This is the experience many times for anyone who follows an artist for more than 5 years or so. Right? It's wonderful. It's connected. It's timeless and yet somehow one idea was the predecessor of the other. How can that be when they are both timeless? It's the best!

For Cole, listen to his lyrics. These are not ordinary lyrics. They are silly and serious. They are strange and wonderful. As I listened to his 2010 tracks, and rounded Suzanne Fiol Way on my jog, I traveled across time and envisioned a dialogue of no specific place or time. A timeless dialogue between artists who recognized they had been alone in 2010, but were not actually alone. 

Who else is here who was alone in 2010? Who else is talking now? Who else is up and sees that where we are as artists now - post-disillusionment, post-material dream, post-music-business failed economic structure, post-middle men peddling art for greater gain than the artist receives, post-taste-makers?, post-idols.... who else recognizes a collective new power in artistic dialogue? How deep does this conversation go if artists who have been examining the invisible, connect to collectively examine what can only be felt but rarely seen? I mean, sure, that's what art always is, but I hope I'm talking about something different here. A recognition of themes, themes addressed alone and then connected to broadly.

I remember 2010 as a time of feeling stumped by the question of how. How anything. How would I repay my student loans? How would I ever be a musician? But focusing on how has always been a trap for me. Focusing on when works for me to move forward. When assumes how will be figured out. How, for me, asks how not...a good skill in a crisis (i guess?) when you are trying to find a path of least risk?  

Art, of course, takes the most risk. It's no place for how.

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Back to the question at the start of this post: who are we across time?

We are when.

Our whole lives.

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  1. Poorer

Dive into the grey - Half-baked Part 1  

Or purple as it were.

In our divided American society, and without fake compromise, how do I dive into the grey?

How do I help reveal that reality is not binary?

How do I facilitate conversations with people I know and care about, with whom I can no longer discuss some of the most important issues of our time, because they have aligned with extremity?

The only way I know, is to jump into the grey.

When I talk about grey, I'm talking about the grey areas of life, where the answer requires careful consideration, where blanket policy does not work and where you, the thinker, have to think it out. 

I may have written this before, but I think one of the most UNhelfpul things I have experienced in our society is how "black and white" "right and wrong" "good vs. evil" continually is replayed ad-literal-nauseum. This is completely unhelpful in navigating every day grey.

Here's a light example of the grey I'm talking about. Truth vs. lies. Easy to tell the difference isn't it? Between the truth and a lie? The common morality tale of lying is that it's obvious, the liar gets just desserts and learns a lesson by way of repercussions from the outside world. 

I personally find this kind of tale at best covers the MOST BASIC information about the reality of lying.

What I would find more helpful, is a full picture. What are all of the reasons that make a person lie? What is the pressure that a person may feel to lie? What are the different kind of lies? What does it feel like when you are the recipient of a lie and how does that differ from the truth (so you can more easily spot it next time).

For example, for many years, I thought a manipulative person would be very easy to spot. Their lies would be so extravagant. They would be their own ":tell" or perhaps they might be a "fast talker" an older term that described someone who was really trying to push you and wouldn't let you get a word in edgewise.

But a truly manipulative person can do just that, portray what's false as truth, so easily, that it is as believable as the truth. The only notable difference is either a feeling of confusion, that there is some kind of disconnect between what you are hearing and what you are feeling in your stomach, or a feeling of divulgence, that they are aware that they are telling you something you greedily want to hear. Confusion or your own awareness of your own sense of greed or anger is the signifier, and the differential between someone telling the actual truth and someone appearing (and doing an immaculate job of appearing) to tell the truth. 

Discussion of these micro-tonality seems vital to our evolution and yet missing in public discourse. Public discourse feels limited to crude basics.

Let's dive deeper! There is clearly an unwillingness in our society as a whole to accept that sexuality is not binary. And the root cause of the division seems to fall in 3 categories: religious belief based in perception of scripture, lack of real exposure and connection to humans, and fear. I had the good fortune of studying Latin for four years of high school under now Pastor Lisa Strauss of Buda UMC in Buda, TX, who has studied ancient scripture and now leads what is a self-described "purple" (i.e. not red or blue) church in Texas. I asked Lisa for specific examples of Bible scripture, and she directed me to this article, from which I pulled this text:

"Genesis 19 and Leviticus 

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 is well known. This is where the terms "sodomite" and "sodomy" originate, and it has long been associated with biblical condemnation of male homosexual sex. It is, however, actually about gang-rape. In this story, the men of Sodom seek to rape two visitors (who are actually angels). Their host, Lot, defends them and offers them protection in his house, but offers his virgin daughters to be raped in their place. It is a deeply problematic and complex story that warrants an article of its own, but what is clear is that sexual violence and rape is harshly condemned, and so God destroys the town with sulphur and fire. Despite the linguistic history of the word "sodomite", Genesis 19 has nothing to say about homosexuality or mutually consenting adults of the same gender expressing their desire and love. 

Two of the laws of Leviticus (18:22 and 20:13) seem more pertinent. They call a man lying with another man instead of his wife an "abomination". We should note first that the imagined scenario is a married man committing adultery with another male. It is not describing what we would understand to be a sexual orientation. We might also note the inherent sexism here: women apparently don't have the same desire or their sexuality is deemed too insignificant to be worthy of comment. 

Again, we need some context. Yes, this verse clearly condemns adulterous homosexual sex in calling it an "abomination" (to'ebah), but here are all the other things also called an "abomination" in the Bible: 

Egyptians eating with Hebrews; 
having an image of another god in your house; 
sacrificing your child to the god Molech; 
having sex with your wife when she is menstruating; 
taking your wife's sister as a second wife; and 
eating pork. 

Banned likewise is wearing mixed-fabric clothing, interbreeding animals of different species, tattoos, mocking the blind by putting obstacles in their way, and trimming your beard. 

As you can see, there is quite an assortment of ancient laws, some of which seem to make good sense (such as no child sacrifice) and others of which the majority of Christians no longer keep (such as eating pork and wearing a wool-silk blend)."

To my call for more awareness of the full picture --- Why isn't this analysis more broadly known? Why do we only hear spatters of lines that support exclusion and fear?

In addition to more information, it seems like the only way to combat irrational fear of other people is to build connections to actual people who are different than the fearful person. But how do you get people who don't believe in equal rights to read the ten years of love, care and strife of Team Shimmy to understand how limited rights play out in real lives? Could a person possibly read the chronicle  of this family and not recognize there are two loving parents supporting a sick (and wonderful!) child? From one of their early posts:

"I asked for 2 weeks off the day he [their newborn son] went into the ICU as we tried to determine if he would live or die. When it became clear he was hanging on but really sick and still unstable, I asked to work part time for about a week.  At the end of that week, I met with my boss to discuss options, including dropping to part time for a few months and/or working remotely for a day or two a week.  No dice.   Not only no dice, but I was told that if I dropped to part time, there was no guarantee that I could have my job back...During that conversation, my boss ACTUALLY said to me, "I think coming back to work full time would be great for you.  A few good wins under your belt at work will really help your spirits".  My newborn was in the ICU with a life threatening disease and I was being advised to lean in at work. By the director of a women's health center focused on supporting new mothers and their newborns.  I almost laughed in her face. 

Shortly after that meeting my boss set up a meeting with HR.  I was really looking forward to the meeting, naively assuming that it was called so that we could talk about possible options to help me support my family AND continue to do good work for them.  Thank god I had lawyered up by that point because it was a nightmare. 

The HR rep started the meeting by saying, "I didn't think it was legal for you to use the Family Medical Leave Act for the time you've already taken off [when Simon got sick] because you were just providing emotional support [to Laura] but I did some research and it turns out that it's okay".  I was so in a state of shock from everything that was happening that my lawyer had to point out the insane homophobia in that statement (ie, Laura is the real parent, you are just some person helping her out in the hospital, instead of me being a full parent there to be with my son while he was critically ill).  It only went down from there and ended up with me being presented with document saying I was on probation, despite my stellar performance review 6 months prior."

How can we make caring people more visible so that people can stop being afraid of difference?

And when it comes to what seems to be the third factor, fear? I think that's one people can only look in the mirror to solve. How is it possible not to ask yourself what you are afraid of and why? How is it possible to be so afraid of another human being?

Of course I know, how I've been afraid of people before, points 1 2 and 3 helped me out of that mindframe. Information and actual connection to people is transformative. 

OK. It's midnight. I have to admit, I almost scrapped this post. It seems unfinished, partial, underdone, but there it is. Half-baked.

 

Where do we go when we die?  

Where do we want to go? 

I was talking to a friend who's father passed on. Her advice, which I've heard said before is to ”Please, please. Leave a plan.”  

I sure hope nothing happens to me anytime soon. (I hope to sing my song ”83” well past the time that I'm that age.) However, in the spirit of not leaving the burden on my loved ones, I'll share this: 

Cremate or bury me but only do either in a place you can visit. If you are burying me, please only use a pine box. Don't scatter me in the sea or the wind, but you can set me free in a river as long as its from one spot. If you like the idea of a tree, then please plant a tree to mark my spot, and I’ll dream of welcoming you to sit under my branches, to feel loved, to have time to reflect on life by only looking out on to a field or listening to the wind. I don't need a gravestone, unless you feel like it makes sense and is too weird to not mark the spot in some other rock manner. Better yet, just find a big rock that you love, and place it there. Then you can rest your coffee on the rock while you lean back on the tree me. As far as a service, please thank God for my life and yours. If you want to have some music played, OK, just pick a song you love and maybe something I've never heard. Mostly tell your favorite memories and look each other in the eyes and say ”I love you.” As for my possessions, if I go before my family, then those go to my husband and son. Friends and family are invited to our home in the first few days or weeks after I'm gone to find me in some small keepsake or piece of clothing; I'll want to be close to you too, and it will make me smile to know what you pick. As far as invitees, all are welcome. 

It's funny. Writing that was really a lovely experience and I'm pretty sure people avoid it out of fear of thinking about mortality. 

For all of the dying in our lives, how much do we know about where we go? Centuries of experience - stories from people you know and love - inexplicable encounters - are all kind of hidden. For the most part, it seems like the only public story is: you die and you go to heaven (or hell).  

I don't believe in hell. I mean I believe you can live a hellish life, but I don't believe in a permanent negative place of punishment.  

I believe there's some kind of sphere, like an atmosphere outside of current life and that there are layers outward after that. This was my notion for a long time but I don't know why. I recently reached out to some friends to ask what they have referred to, what texts have they read to gain a more complex understanding of life after death. Some recommendations were the Tibetan Book of the Dead and Kundalini.  

I'm reminded of one ritual in Jewish faith that may be in other faiths too, of sitting Shiva. I still know very little about it and look forward to learning more. From quickly looking at Wikipedia I see it's part of seven stages of mourning. That seems wise. And what a relief for those mourning to have some clear process to travel through together. 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shiva_(Judaism)  

I was recently reminded that we all carry our ancestors with us, spiritually. Some people express this with an altar to pay homage to the lives that came before us. It's interesting to think about, and for me, pretty grounding.

What do you know about life after death? To be clear, I don't need you to prove it. Your word about your experience is enough. And if you don't want to post it on a blog, send me a message.

What have you practiced as a part of your faith in understanding and working through loss? What is or your practice of well being and self care? 

I hope the taboo topic of today’s post doesn't leave you somber! And, if you are reading this and have recently lost someone, I hope this post provides you with comfort and peace. In the words of a friend ”You are not alone.”  

Much love til next week, 

Michelle

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  1. Light To See

New Power  

On the screen is a larger than life size closeup of Harvey Weinstein’s face, and right alongside it is a huge picture of a #MeToo really. That's how Jeremy Heimans opened his talk at the conference I attended for work this week.  

He explained that old power - vertical, concentrated, opaque, in the hands of a few, defined by currency ”jelously guarded”, based on competition - is now in tension with new power - lateral, not always with a clearly defined leader, a current and not a currency, defined more by collaboration than competicure. Old power was the reason why Weinstein could get away with what he did for so many years. New power was the reason he was able to be stopped. 

New power vs old power is a tension I've definitely felt. It stifles me. It's why I haven’t written posts in a few weeks I suppose as all of us grappled with the ugliness of these two powers facing each other, again. 

The conference I attended had 3,000 people there; the product that hosts the conference is making approximately $3,000,000 from the conference. It's a product for nonprofits. 

Heimens is careful not to judge old power as worse than new power, but it's hard not to feel like old power is negative. He cites that a surgery is a great example of old power that you wouldn't want, say, crowdsourced. But certainly the healthcare system as a whole is old power that is being rughtfully challenged by new power. Heimens offers models of successful ”castles”, businesses that operate with old power but are successful at engaging broadly. Apple is the prime example. Magical products designed in secret and handed down to the masses. (The product at this conference is a castle. It is a good product, but just like Apple, its expensive.) 

There are a rich number of examples where he outlines how everything from ISIS to Apple to Airbnb to Occupy utilize new power for good or evil. 

I'm only halfway through this book, and I recommend it for a fresh perspective. I also appreciate that Heimens is, himself, a disrupter. He has and continues to use new power for good. He's not the only author of the book. Henry Timms (creator of GivingTuesday) co-wrote the book.   

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Conversation: 

3.5 year old: ”Owls are nocturnal, right?” 

43 year olI: ”Correct.” 

3.5 year old: ”That means they sleep during the day. Are cats nocturnal?” 

43 year old: ”Yes, mostly, I think. Well, sort of. I'm not sure.* You know what is nocturnal? Bats!” 

3.5 year old: ”Fruit bats? ... Do kitty kats eat watermelon?” 

43 year old: ”No.” 

3.5 year old: ”What about Fruit Cats!” 

YES! 

* cats are actually crepuscular, having both daytime and nighttime activities.  

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Where will we be when I'm 83 and he's 43?

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  1. 83

Lillie Ruth  

We're watching a documentary on Quincy Jones.

Snapshots of Obama honoring Quincy Jones.

Quincy talking about a nervous breakdown and really a breakdown of his entire personal life; he was on empty; he was running. He then took time to reassess his priorities and then move forward. 

The scenes from the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The landing page for their site reads "A People's Journey, A Nation’s History".

Back on the documentary, Ray Charles sings "America, A-merica..." also one of the best I've heard.

A stark contrast of the political reality we are in which warps time. Now seems like forever, but now is just now, just under a year!

Also just under a year is how long we've been in Grass Valley, and that is a decision that has reinforced itself DAILY. It is the smell of actual foliage in the air. It is the air itself. It is space, and grass, and community. It's not without it's challenges. It's still hard to juggle child care. There are still things being figured out.

The mixes of the new tracks are officially done. Eli recommends Miles Boisen or John Cohrs. Both seem great. Going to John Cohrs page I see he just finished a Tony Conrad archive project. I'm sad to remember that Tony Conrad passed away. I was lucky to meet him through Issue Project Room. I don't know how I ever ended up at Issue Project Room, or anywhere really. I've somehow been exposed to a lot of incredible art throughout.

I remember Suzanne Fiol. I am reminded of her every other day. Suzanne Way is on my jogging path. A friend in the woods.

Lillie Ruth was written during those years.

 

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  1. Lillie Ruth

You Me And Everyone We Know  

This week, in thinking about you, you here with me, reading this, I thought about a collage of episodes. 

It's the racist cartoon of Serena combined with the Kavanaugh accusation, ovrerlayed with a pitcure of Anita Hill.

It's the overt and yet somehow less overt because it is absorbed and accepted into our daily being of regular ignorances: race, age, sex. 

Rinse and repeat.

It's you, me, and every woman I know medicating with alcohol, coffee, marijuana, or more. And to be clear, this is NOT a judgment. It's an observation about how it's not just a solo internal experience. I'm also not necessarily talking about extremities.When I say medicating, I mean lifting the mood in any way without the internal effort. So that's one cup of coffee, one drink, etc. It's that me, you, and everyone we know can't actually not do it. Go ahead, try. It's harder than you want to think to not have any of these little things.

On the upside, it's almost November. And what I mean by that is that we're almost to that point we've been waiting for, where it's time to show up. More than ever before women are running for office. Will they win? You tell me.

Voting is one way of showing up, and it's not the only way. People are showing up all over the place, and it's important. To show up.

Oddly enough, though, showing up is still my problem.

Thankfully, I literally ran into my friend Larry this week in Brooklyn. By ran in, I mean I was running to exercise and ran into him. He seems good and it made me happy to see him. I have to send him my newer tracks. He asked me about labels. I don't even know what that means. guess I'll find out through him. I told him how I realized I've spent alot of energy to create music and no energy to promote it. I shared with him how I ignored the emails from Karel. How I wanted to disappear before I read them. He understood. It's a different energy. somehow. to promote vs. create.

I can share an update about the tracks: Eli sent the mixes and they sound great, so now it's about mastering. Next step.

And of course mastering and videos are more money, more money than I have to create the things I'm envisioning. It's great fuel for continuous retreating. Think limited! Ugh.

Five or so years ago I attended a seminar in NYC where they revealed that on average artists go about $10,000 into debt to support their work. That sounds about right. And I don't know what else to say except we have to do it; we have to make it. We can't stop.

I'm also reminded of this quote from Richard Branson "If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”

In contrast, right now, there is a Frontline episode on right now about Harvey Weinstein documenting just how long it has taken to address the ugly truth.

Be visible?

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  1. Fortune

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.

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".

 

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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