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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Looking Back On and Celebrating a Year's Journey

My initiatory, bardic year has officially come to a close and now I can look back and reflect on some things I've learned, what I've accomplished, and what I didn't.

First, I didn't accomplish any of my goals from my initial vow, though I did get a bit more than halfway through the Bardic Handbook and did a lot of the exercises.  I did hold one women's creativity group meeting, but that fizzled out about as soon as it came together.  I barely danced, I didn't make a costume... but I may have repaired a few things... and I didn't write even one song! 

I did a little better with my second vow.  The first goal was that I decide to matter everyday.  While I didn't consciously do this everyday, I like to think that I accomplished this one.  It has been a process, but now I know that I matter, what I do matters, and hey, you matter too! I also met my goal of 30 consecutive days of creative action (even though it may not have been exactly consecutive).  I have to say, that it was really fun and it brought some important things to light, mainly that creative actions can be microscopic in the greater scope of things, and still have a profoundly positive impact on one's life.  Making the intention to do just one creative thing every day, made me feel good, successful and less stressed.  I love that I didn't define what that creative act had to be, it just had to be creative.  I did it because it was fun, and for no other reason.  That is what remembering how to play looks like, and there's nothing better than playing, am I right?

Okay, so I didn't go out and sing a bunch with others, in performances or otherwise.  I didn't get a hammered dulcimer, write a lullaby for my baby ("hey, I don't suppose you want to come out now, do ya?") or put on a bardic salon.  I did, however, discover that I don't want to pressure myself to sing, to be a singer or do anything having to do with music unless the passion for those things returns unbidden.  The fact is, I just don't feel it anymore... and I'm okay with that.  As for the dulcimer, I'd still like to get one someday, but hey, why rush a good thing?  If I'm meant to have one, I will have one, when I'm ready for it.  The bardic salon got traded in for a blessingway, which was a beautiful preparation for my impending initiation into motherhood.  I shared this event with my closest lady friends and wouldn't trade it for a billion bardic salons.  The lullaby I was going to write for my baby is living inside of me, just waiting to be sung the first time I hold her in my arms.  I've sung many a lullaby for other people's kids when I was a nanny, and I anticipate that it will be just as much of regular ritual with my daughter as it was with all the other little ones I've loved.  These lullabies just don't get recorded or written down.  They live in the moment, channeled in soft and gentle tones, exactly as they need to be for baby and me, and that's what's so wonderful and magical about them.

So, things didn't turn out how I anticipated.  I had no idea that this year would bring with it all of the intense life changes and revelations that it has.  That's why I didn't accomplish all of the specific goals I set for myself.  Maybe on another plane, my life would have danced in and out of circumstances that favored my realization of the (rather arbitrary) things I was aiming for, but here, it just wasn't meant to be.  The biggest lesson I've learned from all of this is that taking life as it comes with a good measure of grace and acceptance, will always lead to the most important accomplishment in life, that of growing even deeper in to your highest potential.  What more could I ask for?  After all, this whole project was ultimately meant to bring me to a greater place of self-understanding, a more solid foundation from which to stand (or jump, or dance), and to help me find a stronger connection to my creative self, my God-self, and my Creator.  In that context, I can say, mission accomplished!  Yay for me! 

There is another lesson I take from all of this, which may not be as profound as the one above, but I think it will help me as I move forward (and maybe it will help you too).  I picked way too many goals all at once.  Sure, they were all interrelated, but really, I could have taken one of the goals from my lists and spent an entire year on it.  I tend, in my ADD sort of way, to want to do it all NOW, thank you very much!  Unfortunately, all that multitasking actually leads to lower levels of productivity and sub-par outcomes.  It's overwhelming and usually impossible.  Considering my circumstances, I don't feel bad that I didn't accomplish most of my goals, but I recognize that under different ones and in the past, this lack of accomplishment would have made me feel like a failure.  It's no surprise, that piling on more than one person can reasonably handle is just setting them up for the fall.  I realize now that I need to be more realistic about what I can actually handle at any given time.  I am not a super woman with two brains and six arms, so I shouldn't set goals that require such mutations.  In the course of this year, I have learned some things that will help to improve my goal setting abilities.  The most important thing I've learned for goal-setting (and life) is patience.  I finally have some of it.  Yeah, amazing, I know.   In order to have patience, I have also had to foster the ability to go with the flow, let go and to be grateful for what I have in the present.  Now I know better when to persevere, when to give up and when to shift gears and I don't beat myself up for any of it!  Yowzers!  This is big, it's huge, it's super awesome and profound and I am endlessly grateful for this shift in me. 

So, now what?  Well, now I'm going to keep learning about how to patiently aim towards my goals, one tiny step at a time, all whilst going easy on myself and you know, having some fun.  In fact, I'm not gonna even bother setting goals for myself if they aren't fun for me.  What's the point?  I'm not doing anybody any favors by setting out to accomplish things that I don't want to do, just cause "I have to" or whatever.  I'll only be helping y'all out if I stay true to my heart and go for my wildest dreams.  Why not join me in the process?  I'll be blogging all about it over here, just for fun, of course!

Oh, and I can't forget... 

I now pronounce myself a more wizened bard than the novice bard I began this year as.  I am now officially, a Bard of Life (in my second year in a lifetime of years to come)!  So ends this journey.  Thanks for joining me, it's been great! 

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Bardic Vow - Upscaled

Click here to read my Up-Updated Bardic Vow.  Life has a funny way of taking you to unexpected (and often wonderful) places.  I'm grateful for everything that this year-long journey has given me.  In many respects, I am not the person I was when I began.  I have grown in leaps and bounds and that's the most I could ever ask for.  Here's to the next year and all the unknown adventures it holds for me!!!

A Rant... on Life.

I'm pretty sure that I've said this all before, but in different words.  Repetitions and reminders are good though, so here it is...

There's something about every individual that makes them completely unique and infinitely similar to others.  In other words, oftentimes, that which makes us distinct is the very thing that connects us to others, because they too, have something of those distinctions in them.  This is a paradox, a contradiction of sorts, and it is the often confounding task of every person to find that unique cocktail of qualities that will make them more relatable and ultimately more true to their own perfect nature.

I've been asking myself what unique qualities I would like to share with others.  What do I have that would serve my own need to curiously engage in life as well as serve the curiosities in others in ways that no one else is offering them?  Is being so distinct and so relatable even possible?  I suppose what I am getting at is: I want to stand out and fit in all at the same time.  I want to be a leader, leading others back to themselves, not to some set of intellectual concepts, not to a spectacle of my ego, not to a mythology of life that they have to adopt in order to feel real.  I want to do this by way of leading myself back to me, ever more deeply connecting to the never before manifested truth of myself which is the immortal and infinite truth of everything that has, does and ever will exist (another paradox, for ya).  I want to lead by example. 

Perhaps, even wanting that, I inhibit my ability to naturally fall instep with myself.  I have a desire, yes, but in order for that desire to manifest, must I let go of it?  Again, a paradox.  In order to come more fully into my true nature, I must stop wanting to come into it and quite simply, be it.  If I feel out of step with myself in some way, I can simply stop and start again, with a new step. 

The only thing that keeps us from ourselves is our own resistance to ourselves.  We get in our own way and we have only to choose to stay in it or to get out of it.  As the Borg so eloquently put it, "Resistance is futile."  If life is meant to be lived, why resist it?  Resistance creates boredom, passivity, disappointment, and stagnation.  What's the point, if that's all we get? 

Wow!  This world is so full of wonder and possibilities, there is adventure and insight to be had around every corner, there are excellent lessons to be learned and healings to journey through.  Wouldn't you rather step into life (even if they're very small steps) this way, instead of stand in life with all the tension and control and fear that is resistance?  I know I would.

But I digress.  I seek only to grow throughout life and live as an inspiration to myself with the hope that somehow, said inspiration will be contagious to others, such that it can spread like a horrible epidemic across the multiverse and make what we call life something to be truly grateful for.  I want this, because quite selfishly, I want to live a content and happy life, full of all of the good and bad and wonderfully strange things that make existence all worthwhile. 

So be it.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


We are not alone in this dance,
where shame strikes the core
and real broken hearts stop bleeding.

It is still here,
where the pain of everything
is dead 
like Winter is dead.
Dormant and waiting
to push through the anger
of Spring.

It is never fair to quantify pain.
As though yours or mine is more significant
because more was broken at the surface.

Swallow hard, 
the horse pills of life,
they say.
But what's not told,
is the story of containment that begins to brim over
and seep this toxic waste
silently into the soil.

Gently, the living suffocate
beneath the held breath of blame
as we all "buck up" and bear it.

Here, our tiny ones hold better wisdom;
wail and flail in the inner storm
gasp and groan
as the chaos surges through
then lay, all calm in the quiet pause
and with equal abandon bask 
in the light of joy.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Photo Shoot Fun!

I love that I've let myself off the hook.  I've removed the pressure to be creative and I'm just letting the urge hit me as it comes.  It's no longer about striving for something, no longer about becoming something or proving something.  It's about enjoying my life, about exploring and indulging in my curiosities.  It's not about perfection, it's not about being good.  It's about being real, authentic and being exactly where I am in the moment.

Today, I felt creative.  I decided to sing a song and record it in Photo Booth.  I didn't like it much cause I don't really know the song and if I'm going to share it, I want to really know it, like a good friend.  That way, I can actually introduce it to others, share it, let it show itself through me.  Maybe I'll work on it, maybe not.  We'll see.

I also got inspiration to take a few pictures of myself in Photo Booth.  I don't know anything about photography and obviously the little camera on my computer isn't going to take the highest quality pictures in the world, but I had fun playing with the limited lighting in my room, the back lighting of the window and posing for the camera.

The above picture just happened to come together very nicely.  I tried to do variations on it, but I couldn't recreate whatever it was that came through me in those few seconds.  It looks so spiritual to me, with the light on my face, looking upwards, hand on my heart.  I think it captures a certain energy that comes with being pregnant.  This state of being is one of the most physical states one could be in, but concurrently, it is also a very spiritual and emotional state.  It's creativity in the most tangible form.  I feel like growing this baby puts me in closer contact with my own creator, by putting me so intimately in the role of being a creator.

This is the most important creative project I've undertaken to date and it's only the beginning.  It's a project that I am so fully dedicated to and that I know will teach me untold lessons and give me many unexpected gifts.  I'm so grateful for being given the opportunity to become a mother.  It's something that I've wanted for a long time.  I'm curious to see how this new phase in my life will effect my creative path.  One thing I'm certain of is that it will help me see my world in a wholly new way and that alone is ripe for discovering new vistas of creative inspiration.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Found Words

I am in the process of shedding the detritus of my past, in thought and form.  In the process, I came across some interesting bits of writing.  Here, I offer some highlights, edited to better suit me now.  They were all a part of one stream of consciousness composition, but stand better alone, extracted as they are.

1.  I'm looking to put more emptiness into my life.  
Space and silence and simplicity.  
Time for being, doing and thinking... nothing.  
Surrendering to each moment.
Life is only this moment.  
This, I often forget.

2.  Each moment I must 
remember, unlearn, and relearn.
Repeat, repeat, repeat.

3.  My love is deeply buried beneath your wounds, my wounds.
I've agreed to eat your acid, as you eat mine, as I eat mine, as you eat yours.
We've agreed to pull us down and feed our fears.
Your pain grips you and it clings to mine.
They see one another and they want to survive.
Your pain needs a reason to thrive, it needs a cradling and mine does fine.
My pain wants reassurance that it's the worst of the worthless and yours says it loud and clear.
You're lost in a void, a fog, a loop.
I'm right there with you.
It feels as though we're leagues apart.
Yet we're holding hands and drowning one another and clipping our wings and crippling things.
Our most toxic selves slip into this dance so effortlessly.
Somehow we believe that we can get what we desire this way.
Instead we are gifted with sorrow and our hearts leak what little remains.

Monday, April 9, 2012

OMG!!! What do I do with my life?

It's a question that has haunted me for many a year, one I've thought to have answered a number of times, in my youthful naivete.  Alas, the thought has been occurring to me of late, particularly regarding my creative endeavors.  In fact, this question has always, in one way or another, revolved around my creativity.  This is because, from an early age, I decided that it was my talent which would get me somewhere in the world, more particularly, my talent for singing.

Up until age 18, I knew what I was going to do with my life, thank you very much.  I was going to go to college and major in vocal performance with a minor in theater.  I would then do whatever I needed to do to become a professional opera singer and possibly also a pop artist ala Tori Amos.  This track would lead me, quite easily into a life of abundance and leisure where I would enjoy living in an old Victorian farmhouse in the countryside with my husband and children in the off season and travel the world performing for loving fans the rest of the time.  My vision of the future was both romantic and tragically naive, despite the fact that I did have the potential to make a career for myself as a singer.  The truth is, I was clueless about how the world worked and how much work it would take for me to accomplish such a gargantuan task.

When my first year at college began, reality slowly edged it's way into my world.  First of all, while I had the voice, I didn't quite have the demeanor.

Before entering college, rebellion against the world and a raging anger toward my parents lead me towards punk, alternative and indie aesthetics and philosophies.  I wore a lot of tomboyish outfits with ironically girly accents, I was a self-proclaimed bisexual in a school where I didn't know any other kids who were out, and I loved sitting around reading about Wicca and listening to my humble collection of LP's and 7 inches.  I didn't listen to opera or classical music much, accept when I had to learn a new song.  I loved singing the stuff, but I was definitely more a fan of modern music.

Of course, the music program at my college had it's fair share of eccentric students, but I couldn't seem to find others that had quite my mix of quirks.  These were quirks that I really wanted to explore at university, being in what I had dreamt of as a hotbed of intellectuals and artistes, far more mature and sophisticated than the obnoxious high school students I had more than gratefully left behind.  Sadly, it didn't take long for me to discover that I was surrounded by almost as many average-minded people as I had been in high school.  Even the teachers seemed to lack imagination, having very specific ideas for how they would like to groom me, in order for they, themselves to shine in the light of my impending success.  To make matters worse, I came to understand that in order to "make it" I would have to play at politics, kissing ass and conforming to certain norms, probably for the rest of my life.  It was obvious that I didn't fit into the mold I was being presented with, and I didn't want to be shoved in.

My displeasure at these realizations and a palpable, though veiled anger stemming from my parents divorce while I was in high school left me feeling lost and led me to seek escape.  I'd arrived at college with the express intention to avoid alcohol and to be very studious, inspired as I was by my then teetotaling older sister.  I even chose my college in part because it was a dry campus and didn't have a Greek system.  Unsurprisingly, it wasn't long before the lure of parties, booze and pot broke down my resolve with the help of my first roommate who took me out the first few times.  This gave me the perfect impetus by which to dampen my emotions, I'd found my escape mechanism. 

While I didn't let this new found pastime completely derail my academic and creative pursuits, it definitely contributed to a burgeoning sense of failure in me.  It lead me into careless trysts with young men who had no real interest in me as a person, which only reflected my lack of self-respect.  It dumbed me down and made my work sub-par.  I was wracked with guilt for my transgressions, but I couldn't and wouldn't really face it.  My beautiful dream of being a singer began to crumble all around me and the hint of cynicism that I'd begun to adopt in high school through my admittedly suburbanized punk-rock aesthetic began to overtake it.  I grew ever more disenchanted with my experience at college and the alienation that it fostered, so I decided not to return the following year.  Along with great skepticism from my parents, this decision incited the wrath of my voice teacher who insisted that I was never going to sing again, despite the fact that I asserted my intention to return to a different college within a year.

Admittedly, not everything was negative during my first year at college.  Ironically, I found refuge in some intellectuals outside of the academic setting through my first "real" boyfriend, a city local.  These people read voraciously, talked philosophy and art and were the first examples of autodidacts that I'd ever encountered.  This totally blew my mind and expanded my world view.  My boyfriend had dropped out of school after the 8th grade and had no formal education after that.  He didn't, however, stop learning.  He was one of the strangest, most brilliant and creative people I'd ever met.  He was also wildly temperamental, immature, unemployable and living with his mother.  The other highlight for me was a class on 20th century music which spanned a variety of musics in the Western Classical tradition and it's various influences, from Impressionism to Jazz to early electronic music, which was equally mind-expanding and inspiring.

All of the above events led me to decide to enroll in a much more unconventional college, where it was likely that I would encounter kindred spirits and be able to experiment more freely with my above mentioned quirks.  As planned, I entered this school after working for a year at a multinational coffee chain that I'm embarrassed to admit ever having been affiliated with.

Still filled with cynicism and more aimless than ever, I attempted to construct a new dream from the rubble of my old one.  While I did find myself in a group of true peers and was excited by the prospect of exploring the previously uncharted territories of experimental and electronic musics, the demise of my songbird dreams and subsequent self-destructive behaviors had thoroughly dismantled what little confidence I'd had in myself.  This was not a recipe for success at this school, where self-direction and discipline where the prerequisites for obtaining a worth while education and experience.

I found myself in a situation where on the one hand, I was being challenged and exposed to new and exciting opportunities and concepts, while on the other hand I was surrounded by predominantly male peers and teachers who seemed to be struggling with their own set of insecurities.  This often translated into an egoistic competitiveness, or as a (male) friend once described it, the penis check.  Being without the motivations of the testosterone laden human contingent, I didn't feel the need to compete in such a way.  However, I was deeply affected by their posturing and began to feel incompetent because I couldn't join in the mutual masturbation over specs, gear and the like.

Instead of reaching out and finding the mentorship and support that I truly needed, I receded into my shell and projected a deceptively confident holographic image of myself into the world.  I tried to be authentic, to take risks, to express myself deeply, but I couldn't seem to break through the over arching feeling of loss that had embedded itself inside of me with the advent of my dream's demise at my first college.  While I was still using my voice extensively in my work, in a way, the prediction of my voice teacher at college no. 1 was coming true.  I wasn't singing anymore.  I slunk away from most opportunities to sing with my classmates, and where I did sing, I was full of fear.  I don't think that this was entirely apparent to others, but to me, it was a constant struggle.  I had some good experiences at this second college, but I certainly didn't leave feeling successful.  I was full of new dreams and ideas for what I wanted to do, but found myself too groundless to grow and harvest them.  Many things I didn't finish and what I did complete, was stunted.

In the course of the three years I spent there, I adopted a decisively radical, us vs. them, political philosophy as a defense against the rawness and vulnerability that I felt inside.  I hated the status quo, the mainstream, money, society, and in many ways, life.  While I still wanted to do music, performance and creative stuff on a regular basis, I didn't want to "sell-out", so I decided that I was never going to make money at it.  Instead, I figured that I could go into another line of work, which would allow me to work part-time and support my "creative habit".  I chose to go into massage therapy, because I was genuinely interested in holistic health care and I had this notion that it would be easy work, easy money, and that I would be good at it. 

About two years after I graduated from college, I enrolled in massage school.  The 18 months I spent there was a breath of fresh air.  It was growthful, nurturing and fed a curiosity about life and the human body that had been emerging in me for a number of years.  Massage school made me a better person and aided in my own healing.  For once, I felt supported and included.  After the confusion of my college years, I had a tangible goal ahead of me.  Once again, I had a dream to reach for.  By the time I had completed my massage certificate, I had become a nanny, a doula (birth coach) and had specialized in prenatal massage.  I also kept up my creative pursuits, after a fashion, here and there, in the way of dance, music and art, but that part of my life was still too laden with the dust of disappointment to be very satisfying.  Still, my new career as a massage therapist would give me the time I needed to resurrect something of my childhood dream to navigate the world by my true purpose, my creative talents.  So, with my new goal in sight, and in spite of growing health problems, I got my license to practice and set out to start a new chapter in my life.

Much to my chagrin, I soon realized that my rosy colored dreams don't often translate into reality.  Sure, I had grown immanently more cynical over the years, but paradoxically, I was still the same, head-in-the-clouds romantic that I'd always been.  Unsatisfied with the life I was living, I was always escaping into the potential future of my desires, while turning a blind eye to the sticky reality of the briers I'd become tangled in.  Being extremely sensitive and ungrounded (something that massage school unfortunately didn't fix for me), I found rubbing the bodies of strangers to be anxiety producing and painful.  This is something I should have copped to while in school, but I didn't recognize it for what it was at the time.  Massage as a career became an unlikely prospect.  While I did work part time on and off for a few years, it certainly wasn't the support for my "creative habit" that I'd hoped for.  So much for having a tangible plan with a predictable outcome.  My life's path and purpose were yet again in question.  What do I do with my life?  What is my purpose?  Why can't I focus on a singular creative goal?  Why can't I make a decent living for myself?  These and many other questions have since lead me through a maddening maze of cause and effect, trial and error, oftentimes confusing and only further implanting a sense of failure in me.

Since I left massage school, I have been shooting in the dark, attempting to answer the above questions.  I have been trying and striving, seeking alternative kinds of work, joining various types of choirs, making business plans that never see the light of day, and voraciously reading books on creativity and one's life purpose.  I've spent countless hours attempting to "mechanically" fix myself in order to yank it out of me (whatever it is).  I've fretted, worried, pushed myself, avoided things, procrastinated, and put half-assed effort into creative projects.  Still I've soldiered on, which, thankfully has brought with it some wonderful blessings.  I have learned and grown in leaps and bounds and I am more grounded and clear headed than I used to be.  I like to think that I have become at once more pragmatic and realistic, whilst remaining a romantic.

The last two years have been some of the most transformative of all.  By way of an extremely harrowing intimate relationship and a host of personal losses, I was taken through a much needed, albeit painful initiation which shattered my sense of self.  Through this trial, I was faced with the choice to remain broken or to regenerate, recreate and rediscover myself.  I chose the latter.

Now at the precipice of realizing a much sought after creative dream, that of having a child, my belly becomes round and juicy with life and what really matters begins to emerge out of the shadowed compost of my past.  I am beginning to realize that these questions, plans and goals are futile.  The truth is that I do have some great talents, but that doesn't mean a damn thing in terms of what my life needs to look like.  Perhaps my talent for singing and other creative abilities will fuel my way through life, though it's unlikely that it will be in the ways I'd once expected.

I love being creative, it makes my life so much richer and more worth while.  When I have a daily practice of creativity, I feed my soul and fill myself up so that I can function and participate in the world from a good place.  The catch is, that this creative practice can't have a bunch of expectations attached to it and it can't be enmeshed with my self-identity.  That is where I went wrong as a child and a young adult.  I attached my core identity with the concept of myself as a singer and later as a radical, a healer, etc, etc.  Along with these concepts came multitudes of expectations, which, when I couldn't meet them, left me feeling like a failure.  Be it creative, singer, or healer, it is not something that I am, it is something that I do because I love doing it.  If I don't love it, barring necessity, then there is no reason why I should do it.

This leads me closer to an answer for my title question.  I've approached my life as a though there was always something wrong, because the dream didn't match the reality.  My life always needed fixing and adjusting, and maybe then, I'd finally get it right.  I was always chasing the dream, and never surrendering to the reality, the beautiful chaos of the wonderful life I was living.  It is time to stop trying to make myself and my life into something.  From now on, what I need to do is live my life from the center of my passionate heart, where all questions have already been answered, and all I need to do is listen.

The moral of the story:

You don't need to do anything with your life when you're actually living it.