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

Morning and A Seventh Heaven  Podcast

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."

 

/
  1. Who You Are

Personification  Podcast

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

/
  1. Here It Is

What's Your Politics?  Podcast

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.

/
  1. Because of You

Push, When Push Comes to Shove  Podcast

Push and pushiness. 

"When push comes to shove..." 

Hustle. 

And other  - in my mind - dying paradigms. 

I've let people push me. Push in this post has a negative connotation. Or maybe it has a negative connotation out in the world. Why are you pushing? Why am I pushing? Why is pushiness so loud but masquerading as silence - a silence that says "DON'T SAY THIS! NO ONE SAY ANYTHING ABOUT THIS!" 

Think about the contrast between pushing and inviting. The difference! So stark!! 

I've let people push me. 

I suppose you could say that's "pushing me around". I suppose it's the same. I always  let it happen because ultimately I didn't care about the pusher's agenda. Whatever time was needed was needed more immediately for them to refocus on the goal I saw they needed to help to achieve. I could spend time looking back on the adversarial feelings they were inspiring OR, I could move forward more immediately, grabbing their attention, convincing them to move on the present. 

And in this way, I think I thought I was somehow magical, that I was somehow transforming aggression just because I wasn't seeing it reappear the same way. I thought this was a way to demonstrate value and that truly demonstrated value was irresistible, contagious, exponentially reciprocal. 

But it's not for everyone. And not addressing the truth - of how things aren't working in our society - of how things aren't working in day-to-day interactions - only perpetuates bad behavior, poor treatment of people, disrespect. 

I've been accommodating. It's a gross word when you think about applying that adjective to yourself. I've accommodated sexism, racism, imperialism, colonialism, needyness, self-centered-ness, any kind of uncomfortable-ism that wants to place itself above other people. My accommodation looked like silence, or an awkward joke to try and break through reality. It looked like being stunned. It looked like 4 or more hours of trying to write or rewrite communication to someone. It even looked diplomatic or neutral. Sometimes confrontation actually should have all of the fire of emotion that it hit you with. I think? Maybe not. 

I think about the future consequences almost immediately. Will everything be harder? Everything? 

Maybe. 

- - - - - -  here is the boundary - - - - - - - 

Now what happens when it's crossed? 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Probably nothing. Probably it's just over. And good. 

More room for all the things that don't push but invite...

That's where it's at. for me. for my family. for my friends and loved ones. 

Invited. 

You are invited. 

YOU are INVITED. 

You are welcome.

/
  1. He & She feat. Mr. J

Where do you want to be in 6 months?  Podcast

In the summer of 2007 (i think it was 2007), I hopped on a plane to Manchester  with Tim so I could make an album.

We spent the week in the studio with Dave Jones (aka Zed Bias) and Sefton Mottley. Zed and Sefton had written the music and I would write the melody and lyrics. That was our agreement and it was a very clear conversation before we started collaborating, which I appreciated. zed's an honest business man. Clarifying the terms before we started working made it possible for each of us to give fully to the project.

Before we started working, he provided me with a contract that honored my equal participation as a co-creator. I hadn't seen a contract for work before and what I appreciated was that it was simple, clear and honest. A reconfirmation of great decision to collaborate.

We created 10 tracks (In & Out was created earlier that year during the RBMA Rome session) in that week. 

--

I'm a Patreon subscriber to Sarajane Case and her June video workshop really killed me. I still have to re-listen to it a few times, but here's what sticking:

"Where do you want to be in 6 months? Now is your time to stop, think about what's working, what's not working, make a plan to move forward or decide if you want to let something go.... Anything is fine, I just want you to choose it.

Where do you want to be in December? "What do I want my life to look and feel like on a regular basis?

What kind of projects are you working on? Eating? Fitness? How do you want to finish the year? Now is the opportunity to set the tone for that."

She suggests writing down 4 goals to achieve by December. Then setting markers at the halfway and monthly points.

This used to come naturally to me. Now it feels really tough, but here we go:

1. I don't want to be rushing or rushed.

2. I want to regularly exercise and reduce caffeine and alcohol consumption.

3. I want to have a real plan for my next album that insures it reaches a broad audience.

4. I want to have an artist residency in Nevada County.

--

i saw an advertisement for the Huichica Music Festival. A group called (((folkYEAH!))) is presenting the festival and seems to regularly do things I like up and down the coast. They are featuring Linda Perhacs, who is a great artist, 73, with one other album that she did in her 20s I think. She came out with "The Soul of All Natural Things" in 2014 and I remember really being into her song Intensity then. I'm really appreciating Children right now.

/
  1. Higher

Own It  Podcast

It’s taken me longer to write this week’s post because my mind has skipped around to a few topics. I may or may not sew them up here. Maybe you can? 

Heart and mind sunshine explosion 

There's not a person I know who doesn't thrive on feeling like they are in the right place at the right time. Or maybe even that they are in the right place just before it is the right time. 

What is that, exactly?

Why does immediate connection provide such amplified confirmation? And how is it that disconnection is so disorienting? 

Last Monday I was able to attend the Creative Placemaking workshop hosted by Nevada County Arts Council. Grass Valley, Nevada City and Truckee are all part of a newly recognized rural arts district. There are only 14 arts districts recognized in the entire state of California. 

It felt like being somewhere just before something amazing happens. I feel like  I am in some lucky time portal where I can contribute to the planning, where I'm not living in the after effects of activity, but where I can be an architect.  

It was inclusive, passionate and energized. 

And I don't really know what to do with myself outside of that kind of energy. It's honest, it shakes (in a good way). I was amped the whole day! 

I actually had a conversation with an attendee about coffee. She had left it behind after moving here from LA. 

It reminded me of a conversation with another close friend about alcohol. ”I realized I only need it after a day working at a job I don't like.” 

This is something I’ve explored before. I haven't found anything further on this. I still drink coffee and alcohol.

The feeling of sunshine exploding from your head and heart is so high that when you encounter anything that is less, it's dramatically depressing. It is night and day. And it calls on a person to confront. And confrontation is so much harder than pointing out mistakes and walking away. It feels heavy. It feels fraught. It is the opposite of feeling like sunshine is exploding out of your heart and mind. 

And you must own it. Again and again, it’s up to you to own it and spare your own sanity!

You to say you disagree or were hurt or upset and why, even when you’re afraid the other person won’t relate or understand. 

You to eat healthy and exercise and figure out how to live your life. 

You to be honest no matter what the cost. 

You to learn to hear your instincts and develop that skill through practice.

You to be more responsible and not be wasteful. 

You to let your hair go grey (if it’s a voice that’s nagging you - very much not a care of mine if people decide to not be grey!) 

You to know you are not alone; other people relate to you.

Thanks for reading, 

Michelle

/
  1. Prayer for the Confused

Pastrami and Preferred Architecture  Podcast

Multi-floored buildings packed with people are great examples of giant pastrami-like layers of ideas.  

Delicious, but I don’t want a meat lover’s sandwich right now, or ever actually, but that’s just me. All good if that’s your thing. 

I have a preferred architecture. I forgot I did. Or I never thought consciously about it until now.

It operates in curves and waves. It is a rolling diagonal of tree covered mountains. It has equal parts blue sky and clouds for remembering that life is bigger. It swoops in and out of time. It speeds up on a wind current, and slows down to rest. It takes in the sun and connects dreams to experience regularly.

Now I just have to remember that when I’m between pastrami slices. 

This week I overworked again. I felt I had to, which is a problem I’m having. I felt it was the only way out. It cascaded across the week until I felt a panic on Saturday night. I started thinking “I could take on that project at 8pm and work til midnight or 1. After all I won’t have internet on the day’s drive from Portland to Grass Valley on Sunday and Monday I deliberately took off in order to really recoup, get myself, the house and fam prepped for the week.” Something in me said stop. Perhaps it was the part that was aware that I had confused three projects during the week, and that I would never have the clarity of mind that I want if I keep diving in. It’s not effective. Overworking is not effective. And it’s not my preference despite somehow having a PTSD muscle memory response and continued bad habit of participating in it. 

“I have to” and “I can’t” are my horse blinders. Here are some that I discoverered were active without my conscious signoff. Some of these hurt to think about in the sense that I realize I wasn’t the person who thought I could, who broke through whatever wall was in my way. Acting - I can’t be cast. There’s no one who looks like me or my family on the screen (This was back in the 90s.) I can’t have money/get credit. I can’t pay my bills. I have to break my back for things I believe in. I have to work for little to no money. I have to feel separate. 

That’ll shape your perspective and break your heart a little in the - as Michael Pollen said on a late night interview on his book Reluctant Psychonaut, “I am not my ego.” - sense. 

How to reapproach? Stop. Stop before I start. Stop again. Stop ‘til it feels like a risk; ‘til it feels like I’m going in the wrong direction and until I see a new one.  

That works.  

I didn’t let myself overwork on Saturday. I can see the three hours I need on Tuesday very clearly and they can wait til Tuesday, when I’m rested. This is much better than 5 hours on Saturday, exhausted, panicked and not seeing clearly or feeling confident about my work. 

Not following the “fight” reflex makes space for me to see my preferred line: green,  ascending, multi-dimensional, calm, conscientious of the structures my actions exist in, in order to move from reactive to responsive, transcend, find, operate and build in superstructures. 

—- 

“With a Thought” ends our Chapter 2.

/
  1. With A Thought

Pace and Space  Podcast

"It's rarely possible in a high pace, high profile, high pressure environment, to reflect on what you're doing." This was said by renowned pastry chef Wil Goldfarb in Volume 3 of Chef's Table. He's talking about why he disappeared from NYC.

I can relate to that. And it's timely to read this on vacation after six months of really over-working and going back forth from NYC. NYC is for doing (Love!). Fast (Love!). Well (Exponential Love!). NYC pace. A pace that I sought out by living in different cities and enjoyed most of my life. There's an overtone to all of that activity and it's intriguing. 

I wouldn't say reflection is rarely possible, but it's not a kind of evening bath soak of a reflection. It's a how-fast-can-you-say-ok how-fast-can-this-observation-become-second-nature  how-fast-can-you-incorporate-what-you-just-learned kind of reflection. That has it's own refreshing power. You learn and you move on, as fast as you can.

As fast as I can is also, for me, a way of not dealing with a longer term reality, or a lack of vision about a longer term reality. I used to be able to see an end goal or feel some kind of end feeling. I think it looked like recording; I don't think it ever looked like touring. Now I don't know what's over there. I have a vision of Sarah Vaughan at the piano and a memory of my dad saying "not many people know she used to play piano too" Is that me at 50? What is 6 months from now? What is 5 years? I couldn't tell you. I have to rebuild those skills. I've lost them in cities.

Not everybody loses those skills in cities. Some people have them and stick to them. They're disciplined.

I know how to be disciplined. I remember charting out my day in sometimes 5 minute increments of activity. I was fine in losing myself in that kind of chart when it was about skill building, but when it was about artistic career building...the magnet reversed. I can't explain how or why the record stops but it's a firm unwillingness kind of a feeling. A haunting feeling that work in that direction is just work to sign up for the bad pyramid scheme of broken capitalism, and endless sign up of courses to learn how to, video after video of search engine optimization, of how to be a better salesman. For what, again?  It doesn't add up and so my road tends to stop right there.

I don't know where to go when it comes to economizing. And by that I don't mean that I don't know the myriad mechanisms. I mean  I don't want to sell myself or my work (short). Personally anyway. I'd be happy if there was someone else who wanted to sell it for me. (And that's probably what everyone who is no longer having to sell something for themselves gets to say?)

This post marks the near end of Chapter 2. And now I have a looming feeling. We're catching up to the present day. I don't have a plan.

I say near because the whole time I've been writing the post, I've actually been thinking I would be sharing "With A Thought" which is the last track on the album. Today's track is actually "Problem with You" which makes more sense than it should considering it's from more than 10 years ago.

Thanks for this time and space together. This is my new weekly residency. It is the space where I can share developed and under-developed ideas. It is the space for me to reflect, with you, and I'm grateful to have it. I build these thoughts on short walks to work, or moments before bed or in the morning, in conversations through the week. I'm not in NYC but I still live a high-paced life where the only time to write this is the 30 minutes before I "need" to post it on Saturdays. It's the only artistic discipline I feel like upholding right now as I shake the marbles out of my head and try to make sense of it all.

/
  1. Problem With You

Some thoughts are energizing.  Podcast

and others aren't.

Why? 

--

This track features writer Genevia Wylie. I like collaborating with Genevia. We can talk about a sparse idea and she sometimes has words to lend. In this track she's also speaking her words. That's hard to do. 

Speaking over music is maybe even harder than singing. 

Speaking over no music is probably the hardest thing of all. A super moon.

Lexicon.

/
  1. Lexicon feat. poet Genevia Wylie