Well, I guess technically I am 26 today as it's already 12:16am in Nashville, TN, but for the sake of San Francisco time, I will remain 25 for another bit. It's hard to believe a whole year has gone by since I wrote my last birthday's reflections.
This is what I'm experiencing on the precipice of my next year: humongous gratitude. The last two weeks of recording have been incredible. My toil, and my purposes, and my work has come through the sieve and into the present moment, and it has been such an enriching experience to finally see the record take shape. Those that have worked on it have been some of my favorite collaborators so far, and those that inspired my writing continue to be held with light in my heart.
It's really a mixed bunch of emotions.
I came to Nashville nerves a-jitter, tired, and depleted in a few pretty major ways. Flash forward a few months and in two days I will leave for the winter with new tales, field findings, between 40-60 lbs of "meals with friends," and a sense of profound love for those that have both hoisted my sails and buoyed me. I feel a sense of home here, with these friends and these artists, the sense of community, and the Deep Wells Trailhead.
My time here (internally) has not been smooth. I spent so much of the summer trying to wrestle my own mind, trying to figure out what it was that needed to be heard, trying to understand the pains and misgivings and habitual paths I've accumulated over time. So many questions remain unanswered and so many neuroses left unturned. The summer kicked my butt every single day - except maybe the day that we all went out on a boat and drank beer on seahorse floaties. That was an excellent day.
But it also gave me so much. Friends, music, things to think about, and ideas to germinate. Allowing myself to be here financially, mentally, and creatively was the best thing to happen to me in my 25th year. At times it felt like I was pulling my own teeth, but I am freed knowing that I gave myself the time to hold out my arms, and the adventure gave itself to me.
Some Things I Learned Off the Top of My Head
1. Everyone loves a cast iron skillet dessert of pretty much any kind.
2. Discomfort is inversely proportional to lesson learned.
3. Comparison is the thief of joy.
4. I like being employed. I dislike being unemployed. I look forward to the day when my employment is soley my artistic endeavors.
5. When people tell you who they are (and/or who they're not), believe them.
7. Writing is an essential part of my life.
8. Say yes. Say no. Request a pause that refreshes. Feel good about all of it.
9. Running on a treadmill is a lot easier if somebody else is telling you what to do the whole time. I literally prefer it, and figuratively despise it.
10. Having good friends makes everything so much more palatable. I want to keep making, growing, loving, and showing up for them.
I am signing off for the evening so that I can make my yoga class tomorrow and be functional for more time in the studio.
Farewell, 25 - ya little devil, ya little charmer.
Luluc's recent release, Passerby, is not to be missed. Here they play a few songs live at the beloved NPR Tiny Desk Concert.
I had the pleasure of meeting up with Joseph LeMay on Friday and let me tell you - it set the tone for a wonderful weekend. I've been thinking about his music since seeing him play in a friend's backyard last month and finally thought I ought to reach out and see about a chat. Nashville is real good for that. I'm never surprised, but always so grateful, when people say "yes" to coffee with a stranger. It's led me through some pretty lovely conversations, into some wild evenings, and up the stairs to the treehouse where I now live, and where I look at the leaves change each day. This is the grist for my mill of late.
Give Joseph's music a spin. You won't regret it.
They say imitation is the highest form of flattery, but maybe it's also ought to take timing into account. It's easy in an age of speed, information, and saturation, to feel like many of the good ideas have already been taken. Joni Mitchell already played in open tunings and her lyrics far surpass what I imagine I might write one day. But the originality of what I make doesn't ever so much rouse me as the interpreted efficacy of - and need for - its message, as well as the process/community/connection it seeks to cultivate. Maybe it stems from an upbringing in the theater. Maybe it's just my current process. My hope is that music will always be made, heard, and used in that endeavor. Why do it if it doesn't connect you to a feeling that you are not alone? Even aloneness is experienced by everyone. Perhaps a more streamlined question asks, What can I do to connect myself to others in this work?
I'm meeting a ton of beautiful people this week and experiencing much of my life from the position of being new - new in town, new to the cultural and topographical scenery, new to unemployment, new to these tribes, and even new to myself - the old friend I have ignored and who knows me by heart.
Grab a glass of something, sit back, and enjoy.
I had wild plans to get to a dance party in town tonight but there is a thunder storm outside. Before moving to Nashville I had a pretty strong aversion to thunder, or rather, a pretty strong aversion to dying. The overpowering clap and roar make me think of my most recent transgressions and I usually end up running in panic, despite the distance counting my dad taught me as evidence to my safety. I was recently sitting in the Kroger parking lot mustering up some courage to remove myself from the vehicle and walk through said thunder to purchase my dinner. The realization struck (for lack of a better term) that at least if I died during this walk I would be working towards something I was truly passionate about. That was a nice revelation.
Still, my pace was brisk.
Every now and then I stumble across something or someone that takes my breath away. Today it's Lenka Clayton. Check out her amazing project, Artist Residency in Motherhood.
Here are a few of my favorites from her work:
The Distance I Can Be From My Son (Back Alley)
2013 / video series / 1:53 min
I especially love the description on the tail end of "Women's Intuition (standing men)." It inspired me to think of this time in Nashville as its own little residency, with an outline of terms & conditions coming down the pike tomorrow.
Good night, ya crazy dreamers.
In a moment of hump day realness (#hdr) today I found myself sitting at the Frothy Monkey, a place where I have had some solid writing sessions each visit past, but this time in a sort of desparation wondering what the hell I was thinking moving here. I constructed a few lists, as an anxious soul often does when confronted with discomfort of the unknown, including such hits as:
- "Overarching Goals for the Next Three Months & Beyond. No Wait Just Three Months For Now"
- "Poems That Have Made Me Feel Better About My Life, My Choices"
- "Things I Feel I Have Failed"
- "Ways In Which I Become Distracted"
And finally, this list of questions that flowed quite organically from hand to page. I knew some of them had been simmering on low-burn in the pit of my belly, but others took me by surprise and didn't really demand an answer, just an acknowledgment of their presence. It takes some amount of vulnerability to write most of them here, but I wonder how many other people are asking these same questions, and if perhaps we might be able to share in our living of them:
- What do I hear when I am quiet?
- Do I like who I am?
- Can I be happy by myself?
- Who am I without the structure of work and forms of continuing education?
- Am I worthy of taking time away from working society? What pressures does this create in terms of the need/hope/expectation of creative output?
- Do I have something unique to say + is it necessary + is it time?
- Can I build a life around this path that allows me to be present for the people I love when they need me?
- How will I measure my growth in the next few months?
- How will I know when I've succeeded or failed?
- Will I be disappointed if something doesn't happen + what would that be?
- Am I a good enough artist be part of the professional community eventually?
- Why am I here, standing in the midst of fear and aloneness, if no one forced me to do it?
So in the spirit of the great adventure, let's get to it.
"I Go Down To The Shore"
I go down to the shore in the morning
and depending on the hour the waves
are rolling in or moving out,
and I say, oh, I am miserable,
what should I do? And the sea says
in its lovely voice:
Excuse me, I have work to do.
-Mary Oliver, A Thousand Mornings
It's fascinating how I have to learn the same things over and over again sometimes. Reading my last entry from nearly eight months ago, I'm struck by how many of the same lessons have been present in the past year, again and again. Perhaps they will keep appearing in their various shades and forms until I am able to incorporate them as reflex. I hope so anyway. There is gold to be mined yet.
I write this post from my little room in a little house on a little street in East Nashville's Riverside Village. I dig almost everything about it except the fact that I feel like I'm waking up in Satan's underwear drawer every morning due to the heat and humidity. Who knew I was such a wimp? Maybe Satan's underwear drawer is a bit of a stretch but I often feel like I'm melting. I suppose all I can do is hope that the weather parallels my greater goals for purification and distillation.
Last year I came through Nashville for the first time while on a mini tour for The Reckoning EP. I had such a good time enjoying the city in autumn, seeing some incredible live music, eating delicious food, and meeting so many nice people. The experience swept me off my feet and watered a seed I've had somewhere within for many years to get myself here. Back when the thirteen-year-old version of myself had a Music Myspace, my Top 8 (oh yeah, remember that?) were all Nashville-based. It feels fitting to be here now in a lot of ways, and also so strange to be feeling around in the dark, looking for the texture of something without knowing its exact shape.
Around New Year's I had the idea to get here by the end of 2015, and chartered my sails thenceforth towards making it happen. We make plans and God laughs. Here's what happened shortly thereafter: I lost my job. I had my heart broken by two friends. I got a few heavy whacks from the universe. Friends, family, a creative residency, and some sort of whispering moved me onward and upward. In the midst of the chaos, and for reasons still very unclear to my better judgement, I decided it would be the perfect time to begin running so I started running for an hour three mornings a week before the world awoke. I gave myself eight weeks of commitment and a few times, for a few moments, I was able to slip into that underwater world they say comes with running once you stop wanting to die. Happy to report that by the end I looked like Charlize Theron. In "Monster."
The first six months of this year felt like training ground for a void into which I have since jumped. Each question demanded an answer: yes, still, yes. It was emotionally exhausting, it was physically demanding, and the resonance of my response was illuminating. I'm still unsure if this is "my time" to be here but I keep remembering Amy Poehler saying, "Great people do things before they're ready." And I want to be great. I want to show up for whatever it is that needs sustenance in my life, and be a resource and conduit for that vision, however blurry, until it becomes clear.
Six months and a budget met later, I found myself loading up my car with one of my best gals and putting myself behind the wheel. It seems bizarre that amidst many other things in my life that seemingly required much more courage, getting myself to try on Nashville for a few months produced so much fear. But I do think it's a courageous thing to move somewhere where you don't really know anyone and you can't buy alcohol for half of the weekend.*
I think I must have read Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet eight or nine times in the last year. I've gifted it to those going through parallel journeys. I've quoted it ad nauseum to my roommates, my teachers ("I'm getting it! I'm trying to get it! I don't get it but I want to get it!"), and mostly to myself as I've stood in the shower at midnight and wondered how I will make it through another fifteen hour day of chasing toddlers around LACMA and making sure eight-year-olds learn the importance of please and thank you. It's been some kind of belly-flop towards grace.
Here I am. I'm breathing and sleeping and trying to write. I bought a ClassPass to help get my ya-yas out. I'm going to bars on my own and fighting the urge to nurse a single drink alone until an acceptable amount of time has passed and it's time to return. At least most of the time. It's been less than a week, but still. If you know anyone who I should befriend, reach out. If you live here and you want to walk through Shelby Park sometime when it's not as though we are swimming on feet, yes, let's.
More to come.
*Sidenote, a new friend told me about a discount liquor warehouse called Frugal MacDoogal and I will go on name alone.*
I took my last yoga class as a 24-year-old at 7 am this morning with one of my beloved teachers, Jerome Mercier. As we moved from pose to pose I meditated on the fluidity I am seeking in my transitions. Recently, getting from one pose to the next with consciousness and some seriously focused breathing has become the main focus of my practice, on my mat and in the world. In yoga, we talk a lot about the alignment and expression of poses – what a “finished” posture looks like, or rather the mistaken notion that there is even such a thing. My favorite teachers have always taught that a full pose is an expression of growth, of rooting down to rebound up and out, and that, perhaps most importantly, the idea of balance is actually about navigating the moment-to-moment gracefully in the midst of incredible movement. My practice helps me access a place of stillness within the flow of my physical and mental body that has influenced the last many years of my life, and this past year has been no exception. It keeps growing and evolving and I am grateful for it.
Here are just a few of the things I have learned in this quiet.
I have to fling myself over the cliff. It's just the way it is. I count my lucky stars for the most amazing family that I could ever hope to call my own. Composed of friends, teachers, relatives, and one-time-strangers-turned-dearly-loved, you people are the tops. I take such relief and joy in this. And while I would be blessed to stay within this nest for any period of time, amazing things happened in my life in the last 365 days that were in response to my being out of my comfort zone.
Shortly after I turned twenty-four, I journeyed to Montréal for six weeks with a seven-month-old baby not knowing any French. I found a deeper connection to my smallest pal, my own independence, and most probably related to the latter, a lovely romance. I also found chocolate almond croissants, warm from the oven and layered with all that is holy. I made friends with long, grey afternoons and rainy walks to my new sangha: light wood, exposed brick, heat, and live music. I went to concerts, museums, and cafes by myself, and with a teething infant ready to help me indulge in the quotidian treat at the drop of a hat (us gals have to stick together). I unplugged from my usual routines and developed new ones within the structure of adventure and a dramatically colder environment. When I look back on this time, nostalgia casts a warm, cozy filter over any memory of snow and ice. It was all worth it for the settling down.
I began my next several hundred hours of yoga teacher training. I was nervous to set this new chapter in motion, at once feeling overwhelmed by the responsibility and guided by the opportunities that kept clearing the way for me to participate. I let go of the obligation to do it and the doors leading down the path swung open. I took two weeks off from work, sugar, and a social life to devote myself to a Viveka intensive with my teacher, Annie Carpenter, and twenty-some fellow practitioners and soul friends. Funny enough, the journey towards detachment – of going beyond the various sources of color in my daily world – invited me back into an awakened and vibrant connection with my life. My body was stronger, my head was clearer, my heart was lit, and I was ready to show up. It hit the refresh button just in time for spring.
I took up surfing quite simply: by buying the necessary supplies and throwing myself into the sea. I now look forward to frequent board meetings with my dear friend and fellow nest-pusher-outer, Jackie. We refer to our sessions as our personal office hours #POH and our productivity is reflected appropriately. While the ocean is actually a place of great comfort to me, looking like a complete and utter idiot amid the sea of veteran surfers of Tower 22 reminded me of one of the best bits for coping: crack a smile. Laugh as you both try to “catamaran!”* your boards by each stepping a foot on each. Take pleasure from the face plant in two feet of water. Oh, it can be done. Enjoy as you drop into that perfect wave and ride it to shore as the sun sets behind the Santa Monica mountains, foam and warm currents reminding you that you are a rubber duck in a giant bathtub. Bow humbly as you try to remove your wetsuit and reveal your birthday suit. Then collect the money that is rightfully owed. You’ve got a happy hour to get to.
I began working with a woman who helps artists transition out of the grind of a regular work schedule into more creative time and space, with the ultimate goal of devoting oneself over to her soul’s endeavours fully. She believes the world needs more artists and I believe the world needs more people like her. Much of our work has been about chipping away at the layers of fear that re-direct – if not paralyze – my process, mostly in my personal life and history. I'm learning that all of this runs into my creativity, but it doesn’t have to dominate it. The alchemy of turning fear into motivation, experience into insight, and the muse into the perceptible is a gold I continue to mine. At times it has made me feel dejected, heartbroken, anxious, depressed, malnourished, physically ill, short of breath, fearful of my choices, fearful of germs, fearful of heights, fearful of falling, agoraphobic... (What About Bob, anyone? Sidenote: cinematic genius.) This, too, I recognize as part of the reckoning. The past year’s experiences have emboldened and legitimized my right to feel all of the feels, look at them, and watch what happens as I let them go, one by one, in favor of my gypsy core. The idea that a truly sustainable, creative life has a place waiting for me to step into it is still a brave assertion on my end. Onward I dare.
After returning from the holidays (and the mind map of goals I made during a particularly fantastic New Year’s Eve in a yurt on the Point Reyes National Seashore - another Yes Woman experience) to Los Angeles, I began making a semi-regular trek a few hours south to record ideas for my EP at a friend’s home studio. I had recorded all four songs the summer prior during a weeklong house sitting stint in San Francisco, but an exquisitely timed and well-built virus shattered my hard drive, taking with it all audible evidence of that work. Cheers! Lesson learned (sort of – I mean, should I have two hard drives now? Because I don’t. But I do backup a fair amount more in the cloud and Dropbox… feel free to leave any pearls of wisdom below. I didn’t learn a thing, did I?). I digress. I recorded an EP! After several years away from my musical endeavours, I slayed the dragon to get back on that wagon, armed with love and encouragement from what I imagine to be you, my dear readership. I didn’t know how or when the project would be completed, but piece by piece, month by month, the songs unfolded as I leaned into the unknown with a discipline of its own, culminating in the final session’s spontaneous arrangement, “Loose Ends.” That is how it happened. Writing it, making it, releasing it, and playing it (now in multiple states) reignited my love for music in a profound way, and helped me re-imagine a creative life I thought had, in many ways, gone the way of the wind. But wind does an incredible thing to things that chime: it turns storm into song.
Ten other things I have learned this year, in no particular order:
1. It’s healthy, positive, and a sign of self-awareness to set boundaries, even in your closest relationships. It doesn’t mean you take away a smidge of your love. It means you can ultimately give the best of yourself without losing yourself (or your sanity). This is really hard. It’s also really valuable to the longevity of relationships, and the well-suited ones seem to navigate it in the end.
2. If you still find yourself with a doggy after eight months of fostering him, he’s probably here to stay. Let him be your totem, let him walk you, and let him be your dear friend on a weekend while everyone is at Coachella and you have the flu or food poisoning or most succinctly want to die. You ultimately get the better deal.
3. Sign up for the “Do//LA” newsletter and then actually DO LA. Get out wherever you are and do things. Keep your chin up in the smog. Smile. Be authentic. This one is still a work in progress but I have made remarkable strides since finishing “Friday Night Lights” and deleting Pot & Pan Thai from my contacts. Buy the tickets when you see the link and then move your work around to accommodate the outing, not vice-versa.
4. Walking to the sea at 3 am might not cure insomnia, but it will at least remind you of your place in and of the world. Just don’t make this your new habit in addition to the mid-night waking because then you will need to uncork the codeine cough medicine that works on your constitution like the infamous potion of Friar Laurence.
5. Be a YES-Woman.
6. “You have to stay later than you want to at the party for the time being,” – my brother. This one I learned from one of my older siblings, who recently moved home with my incredible new sister-in-law after several years in Barcelona. (And the Spaniards know how to party; a nap is included in their work day). You don’t want to be the first to leave, and you certainly don’t want to be the last to leave. At least on a regular basis. As he tells it, you’ve got to wait for that sweet spot when things get a little weird but people get a little more true, and maybe there’s some clarity and/or a boyfriend to be gained in that haziness. See #3. Interpret as you will.
7. Drink more water and eat more plants. Also don’t forget to water your plants.
8. Follow up with people. Crack the whip. Make reasonable requests (or maybe even “unreasonable” requests – use the theory of relativity and a general sense of respect) multiple times if need be. Most of the time people aren’t reluctant, they’re just extremely distracted. You might be too, but your allotted quiet each day will hopefully reflect that back to you. React.
9. All things subject to change.
10. To close with a final message from my previously mentioned beloved yoga teacher: “Go slow. Feel more.” Enjoy whatever it is that you love, or want to love, or even once loved: for what it does give you, will give you, or has given you. It’s all happening and if we don't sit down to savor it, who knows where the experience will go or travel or disappear to next? All we have is now.
And now is pretty f*&@ing amazing.
*Not a verb, nope. Go with it.
I'm not sure but out with the old and in with the new and look for more ramblings shortly!