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

You Must Let Go of Something  

The recent blood moon was noted as a moment to reflect on the end of a 2-year astrological cycle.

Just before the eclipse, in the week before, I felt a deep depression. I couldn't identify a reason. It was just there.

As I considered the new year, and the eclipse, and as the moon shone like a spotlight through our window, I could feel a shift in myself in some way. In the middle of the night, I had the thought "Let yourself let go." which I'll apply to letting go of old ways, habits, or as my friend put it, "Let go of fear-based thinking."

And I was reminded of this song from November 2008.

I only remembered the beginning of this son gbut had completely forgotten about the middle or even the chorus. I remember too, when I recorded it, not being sure of whether I liked the song or not, whether I felt it could really stand on its own. I think that's why I even added the "(draft)" part to the name when I loaded the video. 

Here's to letting go to pieces of yourself that don't best serve you.

xo,

Michelle

P.S. We're getting close to the time for me to share a new track for you. For this writing project, I wanted to share a past recorded song each week. This download is Birthday, the third to last track. Looking forward to hearing what you think of all things old and new.

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  1. Birthday

Take My Hand Until You Know The Answer  

I wanted to write this post last week, but I didn't want to overwhelm you with what's in my head. It's pretty negative in here. I've recently more consciously heard the barrage of negative feedback that I think has been an auto-pilot for possibly my whole life. I started to write out a simulation to the experience but it became too much to read. It is akin to immediately questioning or deriding myself for every decision, no matter how mundane, immediately before during and after the moment of any thing I am deciding for myself. 

This is exhausting and makes me want to retreat further. To not post, to not practice, to curl up and disappear.

I am mostly able to look at these questions calmly, but I'm also not able to look at them calmly. I am mostly at the edge of constant disappointment in myself.

I couldn't figure out a cover tune to sing this week; I couldn't figure out how to feel like I could or should cover someone else's song. 

I thought about this song that I wrote awhile ago, "One in a Million". It was designed to sing to myself when in doubt.

It will come as no surprise given my current state that I am not particularly happy with this version. Many bad habits that I hope to shed, some expressions I'd like to change, and even words that I would like to change or extend.

In short, this is a work in progress.  

I also thought of this song because a young friend of a friend, embarking for the first time in trying to realize her dreams, found herself so discouraged about the real world obstacles to achieving her dream. "I want to help these people realize their dream," she said through tears, "but I also just want to be realizing my own dream." All I could think was how there's probably not a human out there who doesn't know how that feels. For that moment, I thought of how easy it is to forget we are lucky. When we are distressed, we don't think of all there is to be grateful for, we despair. We don't remember sometimes even how to be filled with gratitude and trust. 

Also sharing "Things" from a past album, free to download.

 

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  1. Things

Happy New Year - Stills  

It's about this time that the newness of new year wears off. It's still "Happy New Year" for anyone you haven't talked to since the year changed over, but it's definitely now the new year with less of the joyous pause for the moment and more of the gravitational "get into it" motion starting in.

I don't have much to say beyond that for this week, so I'll just post an oldie. Stills.

And, a download from a past album. 

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  1. How to Love

Nancy Sinatra - Sugar Town  

I first heard "Sugar Town" by Lee Hazlewood on a Better Call Saul's Season 3 opening episode. Of course, it existed well before that. Nancy Sinatra recorded it in 1966. The album cover features her in a pink bikini. There are interesting elements noted about the writer and the times

I've had a week of thinking about songs that I used to hear in the Good Will. Songs that play when you are shopping at 2nd hand shops or back then, the grocery store. 

Easy listening (pardon the rain in the background):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In other news, the masters to my new album are complete.

Now to put together my plan...twirls mustache.

 

That's Entertainment  

I was reminded of this song by Karine Denike in something she posted. Maybe it was The Jam's video?

That's Entertainment. I remember this song too from decades ago. For all of knowing it somewhere in my bones, I definitely hadn't thought consciously about the lyrics and the lyrics seemed to fit the theme of the day.

Today I was at the California Arts Council's grantee workshops to support the Nevada County Arts Council and heard/saw a performance by Bernard Brown's dance company which incorporated an amazing recording of Amiri Baraka doing a live reading. (I have to get the title of that audio recording and will post it here once I find it out. It is an incredible poem and performance of that poem!)

I felt like there were some same plane thoughts in the lyrics from "That's Entertainment" as Baraka's piece. 

 

Work In Progress: These Days  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I first heard the vocalilst Nico when watching The Royal Tenenbaums. I remember her low, dry, somewhat out of tune, yet clear tones in "These Days" by Jackson Browne.

She's in between tones a lot, and late on notes in a great way. 

I'm still trying to figure out how to cover this on rhodes. In my practicing, the rhodes seemed to overly simplify the chords. I couldn't find the right arpeggiation for what I was hoping to create. This weekend, I enlisted my friend Emmett Schkloven to practice through it. 

Vocally, there are things I want to adopt from Nico's rendition without mimicking. It's great to try a song that's too hard to get; that will take awhile to get.

There were great discoveries in trying to practice this song and more to be discovered as I figure out how to make it my own. It's still very much in progress.

I hope you find some moments to enjoy.

And, I hope you find time during the holidays to gather with friends and family and sing through a song or two.

 

And, as with every post this year, I'm giving away free tracks each week with each post. Download "Some Folks" and enjoy!

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  1. Some Folks

Live from the Lodge: Cover "Only One"  

I'm posting a new series on Youtube called Live from the Lodge where I will cover songs. First up is a cover of Grey Reverend's "Only One".

Grey's version is extraordinary You can listen and buy his whole album here. I also just spotted that one of his other songs "Watch Me" was on the This Is Us show which makes me happy.

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I've skipped a few weeks of writing on this blog due to the Camp Fire. This insane fire did not affect me directly but did give my in-laws a 12-day scare. Miraculously, they were spared in this inferno. So many people are displaced, gone or suffering greatly from this horrible event. My heart to the many people who are suffering now.

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I did have some random unassembled thoughts this week. Here they are for your consideration:

  • Parallel sad observations about capitalism - that it often, especially for someone whose social or professional status relies on continued support of elite status, can mean that a person is willing to leverage anything - bend the truth, imply false information - in order to maintain that status. Observation number two from a friend: why does capitalism mean you have to be an a-hole?  And of course, as I write this I realize you can be all of htese things in any economic model.
  • Stupid for me, smart for you - There's something strange about why it's really easy to be smart for someone else. Why is it easy to be stupid for myself and smart for someone else? 
  • These Clothes Are for Who? - Working off-site and connecting with people mainly by video makes getting dressed for work a new unique experience. . I mean, when I first moved here, it was a unique challenge of just discovering who I am in a setting where my shoes will always have a light red clay dust to them. I do go to a separate office, than my home, which typically busts a person out of their regular garb, but many of the clothes that made sense in an administrative City office, feel more like a costume than they used to. Ceremonial robes?

On that note, it seems timely that the next song up in the back catalog is "Shoes". 

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  1. Shoes

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